Inuyashiki Ichiro has it tough; he has no friends, is shamed publicly at work on a regular basis, and his family all but hate him. He’s a middle-aged loser whose only source of solace is a stray dog named Hanako. He still wants to be a good person though, so it comes as no surprise that when a freak accident leaves him with an incredibly powerful mechanical body he decides to take his newfound powers and use them to help others.
High School student Shishigami Hiro (Takeru Satoh) has other plans with the powers he developed at the same time and place, as he turns his sights on anyone that has ever tried to hurt his loved ones. Believing that he is now more god than human, and thus has no need for a moral compass, Shishigami devolves into a cold-hearted killer who terrorises the nation as punishment for their mistreatment of him and his mother. As the teen wages war on the whole world, Inuyashiki (Noritake Kinashi) realises that it’s up to him to stop his cyborg counterpart from destroying humanity as we know it.
Takeru Satoh is chilling as the brooding Shishigami, his cold-hearted stare and clear desire to kill ensuring that -as an anti-hero- he is a far cry away from his previous roles. Given how well-known he is for playing likeable characters like the eponymous hero in the Rurouni Kenshin franchise, it is great to see him thrive in such a dark role here. He oozes menace as the misunderstood teen, using the subtlest of looks and movements to add tension to every scene he’s featured in, and even when he uses a literal hand gun to attack people the motion feels threatening, rather than comical. It’s Shishigami that we are most drawn to, mainly because Satoh’s performance is much more compelling than Noritake Kinashi.
While obviously a ruthless killer, we are given such a detailed look at his troubled, and emotional, back story within the narrative that the lines are blurred between good and evil. We, as an audience, can sympathise with Shishigami because of his difficult home life, and we feel for both him and his mother when she is treated terribly by society and the media after he becomes a murder suspect. Inuyashiki is also belittled by those around him so much that it’s surprisingly difficult to feel anything but contempt for most of the secondary characters, and thus root for the Shishigami.
Clearly no expense has been spared when it comes to the film’s visual effects. Shishigami and Inuyashiki’s mechanical bodies are impressively rendered on screen, and the film’s climax proves to be the highlight of the film. It’s a thrilling, action-packed scene which sees the cyborg duo battle each other through the skies of central Tokyo in an explosive fight. Every blow, kick and punch can be felt as the two titans clash, and their final skirmish proves to be the most heartfelt as things get personal.
As an adaptation, and the first of a confirmed trilogy, Inuyashiki sets things up well for the sequels to come. Shinsuke Sato does an excellent job of bringing Hiroya Oku’s original vision to life as a director, and he establishes the film as a clear victor within the genre. It’s a thrilling first outing for the series, and features plenty of action and a powerful central cast to ensures that this is one manga adaptation not to miss.
Directors: Shinsuke Sato
Release: 25 April 2018 (Udine Far East Film Festival)
Age Rating: 15
Review by Roxy Simons
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