At 58 years old, Ichirou Inuyashiki, is ignored by his co-workers, his family, and everyone else around him. His life spirals down in a depressing manner, then he learns he has cancer. Believing his life has finally come to an end, Inuyashiki sits in the middle of a field only to get hit by an alien spacecraft, glimpsing another person in the field just as they both “die.” Later, Inuyashiki awakes to find himself largely unhurt, but with a few changes. Now a robot, Inuyashiki works hard to save lives of many people while someone else murders in the background.
Inuyashiki explores what all android and robot stories explore: humanity. What does it mean to be human, and at what cost is human life? Inuyashiki lived a sad life where he would have died of cancer from an unsupportive and, frankly, uncaring family. Hiro, the villain in this tale, comes from a seemingly well-to-do family, though his parents are separated. Both use their powers for vastly different purposes in the beginning, Inuyashiki saving lives and Hero taking them, to feel what it is to be “alive.”
What makes this show different is the main character- it’s an old man who is several decades older than most protagonists in anime today. There is nothing cooler and more satisfying than a refreshing, non-traditional protagonist.
Let’s get into the meat of it:
Inuyashiki learns over the course of the show that being human is an idea, not a physical construct. Hiro learns that being human requires sacrifice and selflessness. While both men reach different version of this nirvana, these are great take-aways at the end of a very bloody battle.
However, the journey to each boy’s revelation is a little touch and go.
Firstly, Inuyashiki’s sadness largely stems from his terrible family who only come to love him after they realize he is, basically, a superhero. This in no way makes the viewer forgive his family for the years of rudeness, but as a father and husband Inuyashiki loves unconditionally- which caused me personal frustration at the mentally unhealthy lifestyle this man leads. However, it’s Inuyashiki’s family that helps him find his humanity again, so you can’t discount their influence and care at the end of the day.
Hiro experiences a far less forgiving journey in that he learns killing people to feel alive isn’t a good thing, and no matter what you do you just can’t come back from killing hundreds of people. Hiro experiences true growth over the story, no matter how childish, but as an audience member I find it hard to care since he murdered children. The creator is obviously drawing some social commentary with Hiro, and understanding this point of the character makes me dislike Hiro more. I actually have such a deep seated distaste for Hiro that I have typed and deleted so many soapbox descriptions that I couldn’t include in this review.
The thing is, Hiro experiences a profound arc that brings some depth into story and his character execution is on point. He’s written so well that I actually hate him, and I think that says more than enough about his part in this show.
Past characterization, Inuyashiki has a very solid first episode that could actually be a stand alone work. It’s tonally the same as the rest of the show, but it encloses a singular idea into one 25 minute stint. This first episode is great example of letting characters breathe and showing rather than telling. Though, Inuyashiki attempts to keep this pacing and story form as it progresses through the season, the violence and largely stagnant main character bring a sort of contrast between our initial introduction into the series and the later half. Interestingly enough, the final episode of Inuyashiki does bookend the show with solemnity much like the first which, again, deviates from the cream center of the show which is, honestly, a little hyper-violent at times.
In regards to animation, Inuyashiki uses a lot of CG. The art style itself reminds me of a modern Ghost in the Shell, and the CG enhancements only help solidify the feeling. There are a lot of posters of GANTZ (also created by the writer of the Inuyashiki manga) in one character’s room, so the anime studio (some of which worked on GANTZ) obviously drew some inspiration there.
Other than some clipping issues that a friend noticed, the animation and CG had basically flawless integration. The road to full hand-to-CG melding is tough, but Inuyashiki does an amazing job avoiding the dangerous uncanny valley.
Inuyashiki is definitely a top dog for the fall season. The story itself is a common enough trope, but the execution, writing, and animation on the show make it far too interesting to put down. The more I think about the show, the more I find I loved it. I would personally like to see more of this kind of anime in the coming years.
Please be advised that Inuyashiki is very violent, so if you can’t handle blood this isn’t the show for you.