I am a Hero – Our September Shot-gun Shonen

Our thoughts from the monthly Mangaforum 

 

For our September read, we took a request from our esteemed guest star, award-winning manga artist, resident Japanese gaijin and Lara-cousin, Luca Fruzza, and read I am a Hero by Kengo Hanazawa, adapted to a live action film by by Shinsuke Sato.

This is a tale of Hideo Suzuki, a 35-year-old manga artist assistant, who was stuck in unfulfilled but in-active state of discontent, including an exhausting but low-paying job, competition from talented rivals, strange hallucinations and unsatisfying relationships – until he slowly realizes the world around him is crumbling, as the population of Japan is affected by a severe psychotic, fatal infection. All he wanted was to go to his shooting club meet… now he may have to use his shot gun.

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So, What we all thought in a nutshell;

We all agreed it’s got a gory, savage, unsettling realism, unlike anything we’ve read before, portraying the out of control zombie Apocalypse unfold, centered around a guy who would much rather just hide.

  • Luca and Lara;
    • Loved it for the uncomfortable wack-ness, the element of comedy, macabre theme and the pure tension.
    • I found it maybe a bit too engrossing and found I was still semi-living it even after I put the book down.
  • Lexa;
    • Saw it from a different perspective; Highlighting how  the aspects of hallucinating mental illness were concerning and upsetting; Is it all in his head???

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What we liked

I love it and I’m not usually into gore or scary films/ tv shows; Yet I devoured this, like I myself, was infected. The story is essentially a slice of life thrown into an apocalypse, with a truly otherwise pathetic anti-hero being asked more of him than he could ever handle.

It therefore absolutely broke me to find out that the English translation for volume 5 onwards isn’t being released until January 2018 – and it has been my internal battle, not to look up what happens in detail, on the wikipedia page.

As Lex pointed out, there is a “Shaun of the dead” black comedy element, which comes from the absurdity of the gore with the normality of how people are reacting. I really enjoy this sort of juxtaposition but it also made me think how this kind of reaction would actually probably be more realistic than the “gun-ho-Kill-them-all” reaction presented in most “zombie” themed stories.

…And are they actually zombies, i.e “the undead”? It’s proposed in the books that they are having some kind or organ-failure mental breakdown, which i also really liked as a plot tool, bringing reality (not the supernatural) into consideration.

Of course as the story progresses, the level of “Ape-shit-ity” increases, with vigilante characters and survivalist nutters being introduced, which it’s fun to read sand which i think would probably reflect the real life outcomes in this kind of situation too.

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The most impressive thing about the manga however is the art work. It’s the most impressive manga I’ve ever read artistically – From the fish-eye, photo real landscape drawings, to the purposefully drawn “weird-ugly” human characters, to the pure gore of the zombies and their attacks. It’s breathtaking.

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Luca also talked as well about the film adaptation that, after reading the manga, neither Lex nor I could watch alone but he may ave sold to us after our recording. He was impressed, saying how it was “disgusting in only the way Japanese can” but actually rounded out the world a bit more and gave the main character more of a human feel.

 

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What we disliked.

I think Lexa raised some interesting issues with the Manga. Firstly, it’s certainly not to everyone’s taste; It’s purposefully uncomfortable and gory and hard to look at sometimes, even for entertainment.

But secondly, the elements of mental illness at the beginning, which are more or less forgotten about as the story develops, was the most disturbing thing for her and something that made her just want to know the end, without having to read on. The fact that it isn’t raised again (yet) is interesting, and maybe Lex has already picked up on how the real ending will pan out; but for the start, it was more off-putting for her, than engaging.

And I actually agree with Lex on this, but my own criticism is around how slowly the start is. The first omnibus is the width of my finger but the reader isn’t lead to thinking anything is really happening until about half way through. It’s all about Hideo’s mundane life and his self-centered thoughts (and hallucinations). He’s not written as a likable character in the beginning which made it hard to carry on; If i didn’t know the Zombie apocalypse was pending, i don’t think i would have cared to read on. I sort of like the way the “outbreak” is gradually reported because i think that’s what would really happen (reporting of weird behavior as one off news stories heard in the background on the tv while Hideo is working…) but this could have started sooner alongside Hideo’s “life”

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And also, How is it going to End? I’m definitely more of a fan of the concise and tidy endings, rather than the multi-volume ongoing saga where the story weakens and repeats it’s self with no further character development. I will read on, but if it starts to go down the “money-spinner” manga route, I will be so disappointed, because the premise is so strong to begin with; It would be such a waste!


Anyway, I’m sorry this is such a late post; We’ve actually done a totally new read between I Am A Hero (check out our new youtube upload and review of Ouran High School Host Club – aired 24th October) Which i’ll try to write the review for on time…

 

Until our next one, follow us on twitter  https://twitter.com/themangaforum We’ll be heading to the MCM in London on Sunday 29th in full on Cosplay so might do a live stream or 2.

As always, We look forward to hearing what you think so comment below!

Lara and Lexa

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