Story: Ichiro Inuyashiki (Noritake Kinashi) still has a few years to go until his retirement, and apart from his family, he has not that much to show for in life. His children are not happy with the new house the family has moved into, and his wife also complains about the fact that Inuyashiki's low salary will not be enough to pay off the mortgage, even though she also works herself. Inuyashiki's son gets bullied at school, and the daughter Mari (Ayaka Miyoshi) despises her father. In fact, Inuyashiki is not at all in charge of his life and never says what's on his mind. He is not even able to tell his family that he only has a few months left to live. The only support he gets seems to be from an abandoned dog, which found its way into his yard. But his wife doesn't want it in the house, so he goes to the park to leave it there. Then he suddenly sees a bright light flying towards him. But he is not alone, as Hiro Shishigami (Takeru Satoh), one of Mari's classmates, sits on a bench nearby. The two get hit by the light and lose consciousness. The next day, Inuyashiki wakes up alone and over time he realizes that he is no longer human. Apparently, his mind has been put into a machine that looks exactly like him. One of his abilities seems to be that he can heal sick people now. Finally, his life has some meaning, even though he can't tell his family about his transformation. But Hiro also realizes that he is a powerful machine now. He is not only able to control other machines, but he can also shoot people by just using his finger. Something he soon tries out just for the fun of it. That's why, the city soon has a villain, who calls for a hero as an opponent. But is Inuyashiki able to answer this call?
Review: Most of us are probably already oversaturated by superhero movies. That's why it is all the more surprising that "Inuyashiki" never gets boring. The reason being that the movie is more personal, and, especially at the beginning, feels more like a drama. The story revolves around two characters cast out by society, and how they deal with their newly acquired powers. In the meantime, we slowly realize that the two "cyborgs" will ultimately have to clash in a superhero finale. And when it comes to this it is surprising how epic the finale turns out to be. So does this mixture of initially slow-paced drama and then action spectacle not quite fit together? On the contrary. It would have been inconsistent and would have indicated a lack of budget if we had been deprived of a bombastic finale. On top of that, even towards the end, the director does not lose sight of the fact that the story is about the relationships between the individual characters.
The introduction is painful to watch, as Inuyashiki is a boring white-collar worker who is neglected or even despised by his family. He never stands up for his own convictions and this leads to people treating him as if he weren't there. In addition, he is terminally ill and never finds a moment to tell his family about it. But the pity that we feel for him also ensures that we are immediately interested in this elderly gentleman. Actor Noritake Kinashi conveys his character's uncertainty while still wanting to help others with the necessary authenticity, but there are also some moments with deadpan humor. As the story progresses, it also becomes clear why the daughter Mari, played by Ayaka Miyoshi ("Dance With Me"), is so incredibly arrogant and vicious towards her father. On an interpersonal level, the relationship with her father is a key point of the story.
One of the special features of this movie, which is based on a manga by Hiroya Oku, is that it turns away from certain superhero conventions. Because here, the villain is not the elderly gentleman, preferably a mad scientist, instead this role is taken on by a teenager who lives alone with his mother, the only positive thing in his life, and who more or less murders innocent people out of boredom and a secret hatred for his father, who has a new family. Takeru Satoh, who usually plays the hero roles like the eponymous swordsman from " Rurouni Kenshin: The Final", goes in a completely different direction with this role. His indifferent, often cold gaze truly turns Hiro (or "Hero" as it sounds if you read it aloud, which could be seen as a reversal of his actual role) into the machine he actually is. Hiro is a complex personality you can't quite grasp. He turns into a mass murderer because he gets a God complex and rationalizes his murders with the fact that the laws for humans no longer apply to him, as he is a machine, after all.
As is customary, the villain is also a victim of his own environment. But Hiro has to realize that no matter how invincible he might be, his actions have consequences, and those hit him hard. This creates a downward spiral that turns him more and more into a villain. Only his friendship with Naoyuki, played by Kanata Hongo ("Gantz"), creates a calm anchor and, to a certain extent, even an anchor of humanity. Hiro would never do anything to harm his friend, but Naoyuki wants to stop him and eventually joins forces with Inuyashiki, even though he is always happy to see his friend. Hiro also has a little romance, which is actually rather one-sided, but he likes the feeling of being loved. However, this side plot does not quite work because it seems too condensed. Be that as it may, it also becomes clear that, despite the fact that he becomes a mass murderer, Inuyashiki's hateful opponent also has a human side somewhere. This contradiction is sometimes hard to bear, but in the end, there is no doubt that Hiro has to be stopped.
Eventually, there is a big showdown, and it is truly a lot more spectacular than we would have expected. While we were already amazed by the special effects at the beginning, they become a lot more bombastic towards the end, even if you can't expect the level of a Marvel-movie here. At the same time, the movie does not just go up in smoke like most Hollywood productions, instead it holds onto the emotional basis of the story. Towards the end, the focus also shifts back to the family-father, and we get a well-done, even if not really unexpected, resolution. Director Shinsuke Sato has already done some quite acceptable manga movie-adaptations with "Gantz" as well as "Bleach", and with "I am a Hero" he also put a somewhat unusual heroic story to the screen. His experience shows, as he tells his story with a steady hand. The only serious problem with this interesting action drama is that some aspects and subplots have clearly been cut down, but this is a well-known problem of the movie medium.