From Shinsuke Sato, director of the excellent manga adaptation, I am a Hero, comes the fantastic Inuyashiki. No relation to the former film, Inuyashiki is a sci-fi thriller, based on another manga, created by Hiroya Oku, which offers decent effects and a cracking story. I am a Hero was a pretty cool zombie effort, which I also reviewed here a year or two back. This could be considered Japan’s first serious entry, that I know of, into the “super-hero” genre, but don’t let that put you off.
We’re in the habit of shitting on superhero movies on this site, and rightly so – they’re generally bloated turds and I’m a particular hater of them myself. Let’s face it, Marvel movies make you dumber. But this Japanese offering is pretty different. I despise anything to do with Marvel or DC and I fucking loved this. This isn’t a movie for kids or man-children.
Ichiro Inuyashiki is a 58 year old salaryman, who looks older, scorned by his family and his boss, without a friend in the world apart from a newly acquired stray dog. To top if off he’s recently been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Meanwhile, Hiro Shishigami is an angsty teenage boy who’s also something of a loner. The pair of them happen to be in the same place at the same time when a UFO makes a pit stop on Earth in the middle of an otherwise deserted park one evening and accidentally vaporizes both of them. Before leaving, the aliens (for no particular reason, other than to erase any trace that they were ever there) resurrect the man and the boy as cyborgs. To begin with at least, neither of them is aware of what has happened.
Then, strange things happen. The kind hearted Mr. Inuyashiki discovers he has the power to heal people, bringing them back from near death and curing terminal diseases. Once he’s learned this he makes daily pilgrimages to local hospitals, curing as many patients as he can before he arouses suspicion and is forced to flee. Shishigami realises that he can shoot people dead by pointing at them and saying “bang” like when kids play cowboys and Indians. When he shoots people there are no bullets, but their bodies react as if they’ve really been shot. This film doesn’t shy away from showing blood. After practising on birds he starts going into random family’s houses and murdering everyone inside, including the kids. He’s clearly unhinged. Later, after his identity is revealed and his mother is hounded by the press, he declares war on all of Japan, promising not to stop until every person in the country is dead.
Eventually, inevitably, the pair must meet in a rip-roaring battle to the death. Old geezer vs teenager.
I was lucky enough to catch this movie purely by chance on a flight, but as such I didn’t manage to get the full effect of the spectacle. I think Inuyashiki would look great on a bigger screen. CGI effects were impressive. I’m usually the first to pick holes in anything CGI, or just to be bored to death by it, and I thought this looked really good. Crucially, the effects support the story – the story isn’t just a flimsy vehicle by which to showcase the effects. Anyone reading this knows that Japanese films don’t rely on special effects anyway – they have more sense. I went into the film quite half-heartedly, having no idea what it was about. But I was soon drawn in. The characters are complex and as evil as Shishigami is, even he evokes some sympathy. The scenes where he goes after online trolls, exacting lethal revenge upon them through their phones and computers is hilarious. Another ability these two have is to tap into the internet, televisions and mobile phones. So there are vibes here not only from classics like The Terminator, but also well known Japanese horror films like The Ring and Pulse. If Shishigami wants you dead he can just shoot you through your smartphone or computer screen – a true villain for the 21st century.
I really recommend this film. If you see it and you like you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s also an animated TV series comprising 11 episodes, although that is rather more disturbing, even depicting the cruel murder of children in bloody detail. Not for kids. The film is a little tamer, but still great.
8 out of 10