When I first saw the trailer for the anime adaptation for Hiroya Oku’s Inuyashiki (Inuyashiki: Last Hero) and added it to my watch list, I was reminded of my single hope for the anime, Alice To Zouroku (Alice And Zouroku). I was excited to watch an anime focusing on the point of view of an unexpected hero, an adult male who was in his late sixties, trying to cope with the wondrous yet strange happenings around him.
Well, Alice To Zouroku satiated my thirst in its first two episodes before the plot revealed that the storyline was about Alice’s growth and her learning what it means to be human. Hence, the first name appearing in its title.
But there is a greater hope for Inuyashiki.
Because the title of this anime is literally the protagonist’s last name.
In its first episode, Inuyashiki establishes Ichirou Inuyashiki as a lonely timid fifty-eight year old, living with his family comprising of his wife and two children through a metaphor and a foreshadowing in its beginning shot. An extreme close-up image of an ant crawling underneath Ichirou’s orange vehicle before being crushed under Ichirou’s foot tells the audience of Ichirou’s hardworking spirit. Despite this characteristic, his actions appear small and insignificant to those around him insomuch that he is ignored by his family members. After moving from their old apartment into a small house beside a large mansion, for instance, Ichirou’s son is both disappointed and upset by the meager size of his new home. As Ichirou tries to encourage his family to help him unpack their belongings, they all decide to go out for dinner and leave him behind.
As a realistic protagonist, it’s a bit difficult to watch this old family man being shunned by his own blood, despite it also being his fault for not pushing himself to be more than his looks. His character design depicts Ichirou as an old Japanese man who may be in his eighties rather than someone in their late fifties, with his pure snow white hair, his wrinkled complexion sprinkled with age lines, thick rimmed glasses and a lower back problem. His demeanor is somewhat closed off because of his failed attempts to communicate with his family, which may be one factor in forcing him to become more hesitant and fearful in standing up for himself.
The one aspect of his character that I like is the irony of his first name in relation to his personality. Ichirou, is occasionally assigned to the first-born male child of a family. The role of the first-born child in most Asian families is of a leader, the decision-maker and the one person possessing and dealing with a huge shitload of responsibilities when it comes to his family. Although Ichirou is capable of providing for his family and does make decisions based on the well-being of his family, he isn’t considered a “true leader” by his own blood.
In the first episode, Ichirou’s family exist to highlight his frail personality and his loneliness. The anime also showcases Ichirou’s solitude by placing him in camera shots alone.
One character who seemingly supports Ichirou is Hanako, the dog he discovers and quickly adopts on the riverside one afternoon returning home from work. Ichirou shares an affinity toward Hanako as a living being who was left abandoned by her family. Hanako isn’t a wild dog. In fact, she’s rather tame and friendly when she is first introduced in a large cardboard box. Therefore, it’s easy enough for me to assume that she was taken care of by people prior to her first meeting with Ichirou.
Hanako is also a pretty chill dog, despite having witnessed Ichirou’s death, which leads to his transformation from man to machine, and remaining at Ichirou’s side as he experienced his strange bodily changes.
And can I say that Ichirou’s first act of heroics compared to his daydream was pretty badass and insane considering that he doesn’t even know how to use his new body properly at all…? From the information gleaned from the episode, his new body uses a lot of fluid to function and needs to expend steam from overheating. #SeemsLegit
Two characters briefly appearing in the first episode is the son of Oda, the Inuyashiki’s neighbor who is a popular mangaka and the sudden appearance of the young man on the hill prior to Ichirou’s death. I’m not quite sure if these two individuals are, in fact, the same person, since Oda’s side burns look longer than the male’s on the right. But they do have the same hair length.
The art used for this anime took me by surprise slightly because it is a hybrid of 3D and digital animation, so in some shots, the figures look a bit awkward to me. The look is slightly jarring at first when you realize that the characters don’t have a clear shadow and pop off the background (or is my understanding of light sources in art just really skewed). However, I feel the 3D effects do well in adding interesting visuals to this action, science-fiction story like lightning beams shooting out from the protagonist’s back.
The backgrounds that the animation studio MAPPA create are beautiful to look at.
Significant background shots of dusk designate moments where Ichirou expresses his own desires freely. Dusk signifies a transitional moment when daylight blends to night. This period is Ichirou’s reprieve where he can freely eat what he wants alone, where he came to the conclusion of adopting Hanako and where he finds a moment in time to console himself about his stomach cancer that leaves him three months to live.
Tender moments that Ichirou experiences is accompanied by warm guitar strumming and light piano music plays during Ichirou’s sad moments. The music in the first episode doesn’t overpower Ichirou’s soft voice but plays underneath his audio or matches the audio in action sequences or moments where the mood is intense.
I think that Inuyashiki definitely caught my attention.
But, is it enough for me to keep watching?
I think I will stick around for him… and the mysterious guy.