Inuyashiki has a family, a wife and two kids, none of which care about him. When he learns that he has only three months to live, he realizes that the only one who will miss him is his dog. Shortly after this realization, he is killed in a crash landing by aliens. He is rebuilt by them as a machine with a human exterior. How will his life change now that he isn't human?
Inuyashiki was published in English by Kodansha Comics USA from August 25, 2015 to December 19, 2017. It has been published in Italian by Panini Comics under the Planet Manga imprint since October 24, 2015, in Spanish by Milky Way Ediciones, and in Argentinian Spanish by Editorial IVREA.
Writing a review for Inuyashiki is hard because my feelings for the story have warped so much since the days I first began reading it a few years ago. It starts out so strong and ends up spiraling out of control midway focusing too much on what I essentially consider "despair porn" chapters and moments.
What drew me into this series was the idea of an elderly protagonist. It's rare in manga to see something like this, as many writers tend to gravitate towards highschool students to try and appeal to their target demographic. Instead what we got was a fascinating view of the life of
a humble, modest man nearing the end of his life, and how he copes with protecting his family and dealing with the idea of having new alien robotic abilities. Through his actions we see him question what it means to be truly human or alive. Coming to the aid of innocent people in order to feel any sense of life and to convince himself that even after the accident, he still has a human conscience.
Another character in Inuyashiki begins to undo the niceties of our protagonist in chapters I previously described as just being despair porn. The story begins to focus less on what it means to be alive and the introspective of personal morality, and more about how many innocent people can we show being brutally murdered to try and nail in the fact this guy is a bad dude. I wont mention the characters name due to spoilers but it's frustrating to see an actually interesting character being overshadowed by another generic highschool student who listened to one too many linkin park albums.
The artist Hiroya Oku has a very distinct and expressive art style to his work. However a lot of his backgrounds tend to look like photographs he just filtered to look drawn. Apparently this is a style unique to him and some are okay with it. I however thought at times it looked very jarring. It also took a lot of the enjoyment out of double panel pages.
Overall I would give this a soft recommendation. If you're like me desperately trying to filter your way through the piles of generic cookie cutter manga then I wont lie and say this is what you've been looking for. But the chapters that revolved around Inuyashiki were always a good read. It's a shame this manga ended on such a dull predictable note, but there's definitely some chapters I'd consider a 9/10 near the start.
What it means to be human is a topic that has been discussed and explored throughout many works of science fiction. I've seen this idea and concept brought up so many times, I've lost count. Inuyashiki brings up this concepts but twists it in a way that I haven't really seen before.
I'll get to that when I can but first, an overview of this manga.
The premise of Inuyashiki isn't too horribly complicated. A man by the name of Inuyashiki is living a very boring, unfulfilling life. His family doesn't care all that much for him, he doesn't do a whole lot throughout the day
and is seen as a burden most of the time by the people he loves. One day, he decides to take his dog out to the park. There, he and another young man, Hiro Shishigami, get crushed to death by aliens. The aliens decided to rebuild the two as robots and leave.
From this point, we see how these how these two men handle being robots and how they use their newfound abilities. Inuyashiki decides to become the hero for once and helps out everyone he can. Hiro on the other hand...
Let's just say that he doesn't.
The story of Inuyashiki is about these two men and how their views collide. The story gives a balanced treatment to both Inuyashiki and to Hiro. I'll get into these two in the character section but overall, the story does what it needs to do and is mostly carried by its two main characters.
I find the art of Inuyashiki to be the weakest part of the manga. I know that Oku was going for a realistic art style with Inuyashiki but I just couldn't go with it. A lot of the times, the characters are drawn in a way that makes them look ugly. Again, a more realistic style but it's one that didn't sit well with me. In addition, the backgrounds are a weird mashup of either fully drawn backgrounds, realistic photos or both. There are multiple scenes where there are just real photos plastered onto the background.
The realistic style was one that put me off when I started reading this manga. Other people might praise this for the realism but I didn't like it.
This is where Inuyashiki shines. The two main characters, Inuyashiki and Hiro, are explored in depth throughout. First off, Inuyashiki. Inuyashiki is shown in the beginning as a pathetic person. No one in his family loves him and he's often on his own. He views himself as worthless. He sees that the world is terrible but he's powerless to do anything. However, when he learns of his powers as a robot, that's when he starts to change. As he helps more and more people, he begins to finally have faith in himself and views himself as a force for good. However, throughout the manga, he finds himself questioning his humanity. I'll address this in a bit but before I do so, I want to talk about the other robot in this manga.
Hiro is the opposite of Inuyashiki. Rather than using his powers for the greater good, he decides to use them to perform mindless evil. I don't want to get too into spoilers but what I will say is this: Hiro performs some sickening atrocities throughout the story. He's compared to by characters in the manga as a modern day Hitler, which isn't far off from the truth. However, despite all of my claims that Hiro is made a villain, he isn't completely evil. He still views himself as human and he struggles throughout the story on his value and his humanity, even though he is no longer human. Despite the truly horrible things he does, he still has feelings. There are moments in the story where I really felt sorry for the man. However, actions have consequences and Hiro spends the whole manga trying to prove that they don't.
Throughout the manga, these two characters try to deal with the fact that they are no longer human. Even they look human, and think like humans, and feel like humans, they aren't human. They are robots with incredible abilities. They can fly, they can fire weapons, they can perform miracles or atrocities. They can do all these things but they aren't human. However, both these characters realize by the end that it doesn't matter whether or not they truly are human.
There are two main ideas presented to the reader in this manga. The first being that we define ourselves as humans. Inuyashiki and Hiro learn this by the end, with the help of some side characters. It doesn't matter whether or not you're physically a human being. If you can think, feel and look like a human, then there's nothing else saying you aren't human. The second idea brought to us is that we give meaning to life and the way we do so is with death. Hiro doesn't learn this until the very end. Throughout, he commits these horrible acts and views life and death as meaningless. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that he learns his mistake at the end.
The main characters are the best thing about this manga. They have hopes and fears, feelings and emotions, and above all else, a desire: to be human. As for the side characters, they're alright. They serve their purpose but really, the meat of the characters fall on these two.
I read this entire manga in one sitting. I found it incredibly engrossing, as I learned more and more about these characters and how they act with their powers. I smiled when Inuyashiki performed miracles of God, I winced when Hiro mindlessly killed dozens of people. I laughed at the image of an old man standing shirtless in the middle of a field as people looked at him confused. I cried when tragedy hit Hiro where it mattered the most to him. This manga gave me the story of two men doing what they wanted with their powers. One decided to do purely good while the other indulged in evil. It was a treat to see it all play out.
"I think, therefore I am." This line provides the notion of what it means to be human. I myself can't exactly say what it means to be human because there's a lot of little details that need to be discussed. What I will say, however, is that Inuyashiki brings some idea of what it means to be human right to its reader. For anyone who wants some science fiction and some philosophy sprinkled in, look no further than Inuyashiki. I highly recommend any fan of science fiction to give it a read.
The thing about this manga is that it started out pretty interesting.
We have Inuyashiki, a man who hasn't aged as well as you'd hoped. Burdened by the responsibility of being the main breadwinner of the family, a wife who is no longer affectionate with him, a daughter who introduces him as her ''grandpa'' because she's ashamed of how he looks and a son who harbors resentment towards his father because he's being bullied at school (i.e. bullies take his lunch money and pick on him because he doesn’t have enough of it. Though his father is unaware of what his son is dealing
with), has left this family man an awkward, shivering and borderline anxious mess. But despite how unfavorable his family treats him, he still loves them very much.
One day, Inuyashiki is diagnosed with stomach cancer and whatever light he still had in his life, quickly went out once he realized he wouldn't be able to be there for his family anymore. Naturally, he had to tell his family about his dire situation, but their continued blatant disregard kept Inuyashiki from sharing the news; too afraid to have confirmed that they wouldn't care whether he lived or died. In tears, Inuyashiki ran away from home and that's where our story picks up pace.
Caught in an explosion from an alien invasion together with the charming young high schooler, Shishigama, Inuyashiki's and Shishigama's human bodies are destroyed. The aliens, realizing that they had just killed two people and might have a war on their hands if anyone found out, tried to fix their mistakes by putting them back together. But without any human flesh left, they were forced to transform them into machines.
Inuyashiki decides to use his new found abilities for the greater good. Shishigama decides to use his powers for evil. You might think this would end up in an interesting clash between a unconventional old superhero and a charming young villain, while Inuyashiki attempts to also retain his humanity and live up to be the husband and father his family might love. And perhaps we might also get to learn about these suspicious aliens that suddenly showed up on earth.
But you're only half right. That's what the story was going for. Most of the story is dedicated to showing us the good things Inuyashiki has done and the bad things Shishigama has done. And don't get me wrong, that was pretty interesting to read about. We get to see how saving people gives meaning to Inuyashiki’s life, and with the old guy being treated pretty unfairly at home, you can’t help but feel for him and smile when you see how fulfilling his life has become. On the other hand, you get to see Shishigama’s warped and downright psychopathic tendencies; killing for the heck of it, and yet he still loves his mother and later on a high school girl. But what had seemed like a solid story line, quickly changed course. We were almost supposed to feel sorry for Shishigama because everyone found out that he had gone on a crazy killing spree, simply because his mother ended up taking her own life after she found out that her son was a mass murderer. He became an outcast and wandered around, running from the police and not doing anything worth mentioning. When he fell in love with the high school girl, I was left to wonder what Shishigama’s deal was. Why did he like killing people, but was he able to fall in love so quickly at the same time? What drove him exactly, what was the reasoning behind his actions? Sometimes you’d see him cry in grief over losing his mother, be a good and kind friend to one of his closest friends and treat the girl he likes with love—and all of that was genuine. And yet, he could also indiscriminately murder hundreds of people—and for what? I didn’t understand the balance. I could never grasp how both of those opposing feelings could live side by side inside of him without any reasoning. What exactly drove Shishigama? We never find out.
The clash between Inuyashiki and Shishigama was anti-climactic too. It was wrapped up quickly and Shishigama was once more left to wander the world, and finally decided to save the planet alongside Inuyashiki, because the girl he loved and his good friend were still there.
Which brings me to another point. The way this story ended.
Donald Trump—yes, you read that right, Donald motherfucking Trump—shows up nearing the end of the story, calling Shishigama the greatest terrorist ever. And the next time Trump shows up, he’s talking about how a meteorite is about to fall on the earth and wipe out the entire civilization so now everyone is free to rape, steal and kill whoever they want (don’t get me wrong, Trump is crazy as hell and I don't like him, but was that really necessary to put inside this story?).
And yes, you read that right. Donald Trump called for the purge.
I’m confused as well.
So I thought, hey, maybe that part was put in there to show us how quickly people change when all rules are stripped from them? Will this turn into a philosophical question? With the veil of standards and morals stripped away, are people actually that warped inside? Leaving you to wonder whether Shishigama was really that crazy compared to the rest of the human population.
But none of that was ever explained. Again. Seriously. Inuyashiki and Shishigama end up saving the day in the way every tragic hero does (and apparently in Shishigama’s case, unexplained evil guy who does something good for once?) and the story ends. Everyone just goes back to their daily lives in the span of about 5 chapters nearing the end. We don’t get to find out anything about the aliens, we don’t get to understand Shishigama, we don’t get to see Trump ranting about Shishigama on his twitter, but hey, at least Inuyashiki’s family ended up giving him the love and respect he had always deserved... except for the rest of humanity. From being known as a godlike superhero with videos of him healing people everywhere, people sure forgot about Inuyashiki quickly.
I have to give props to the art, though. It was very detailed. Very beautifully done. Though it seems opinions vary on this matter. I personally enjoyed how realistic it looked and the details that had been put in the background scenes. Well, to each their own, I suppose. But all in all, what started off interesting and had a good plot line, wasn’t executed very well and ended as though the author had ran out of ideas.
TL;DR with a brief, spoiler free comment on the ending: the initial premise is very solid and gripping, the art is alright, the characters are unappealing except for one, the pacing is somewhat grueling at times and the ending genuinely made me feel like this whole affair was a waste of my time. Read this series only if you deeply enjoyed Gantz for whatever reason, or if you're curious to find out why I hated the ending as much as I did.
As for the review itself:
I initially decided to pick up this series upon seeing some out of context panels floating around on
the Internet. The art style looked vaguely similar to one of my not-so-favorite manga, Gantz. And as it turned out, they were indeed made by the same author, Hiroya Oku. I was willing to overlook his past transgressions and give him another chance with this story. It started out quite good, with an original premise that I hadn't really seen before, some decent art (compared to the early days of Gantz, at least) and one very unconventional protagonist, both visually and in the context of other manga that I have read.
The plot has a great hook, that of a gentle but dying old man and a psychotic teenager being accidentally killed by aliens, only to be recreated by the aliens as super powerful machines with godlike powers. A showdown between these two characters will obviously happen at some point since their ideals are completely opposite from one another, and it really shows as almost every chapter focuses on fleshing out these two characters as they continue living their day-to-day lives and attempt to cope with the changes made to their bodies in their own ways, using their new powers for both good and evil things in accordance to their own respective morality. It's a very dualistic set-up, kinda like Jonathan and Dio from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Speaking of which, there's some slight body-horror in this work, like a character opening up their body like you would do with a computer case only to reveal the complex machinery that's inside it, with nothing human or even organic remaining. The idea of what makes someone ''human'' came up in my mind a lot as I read this manga. Overall, pretty interesting concept that I've no problem with at all.
I'm not a very huge fan of Hiroya Oku, truth be told. Without getting into too much detail, I find his style of drawing to be very bland and inorganic, since he relies a lot on his assistants creating 3D models for him to trace over with a pen in order to create a scene. Characters often looked very rigid and samey-looking in Gantz because of this. And I was happy, for a while, when I realized his art had improved since Gantz. Characters have way more variety in their facial expressions, there's a lot more motion going on a lot of times and it generally looks pretty appealing, with a nice coat of realism in a lot of places. I'm giving the art a 6 because some panels look very similar to others for no reason, and could be positioned more appropriately to create a better flow and a less repetitive reading experience. Some assets aren't ''drawn over'' either, being left as their original 3D models, like airplanes and certain objects in the environment, for instance. Things like these looked particularly ugly and jarring since they obviously aren't 2D objects like the rest of the things on the page. I've seen this sort of ''2D mixed with 3D'' technique applied before, especially in Asano Inio's works like Oyasumi Punpun, and seeing it being done so poorly here only makes Oku seem more like an unskilled artist to me.
The plot had me deeply invested in the titular character, Inuyashiki. I couldn't recall reading any other manga that featured such a relatable character, that of an old family-man who has one foot in the grave and whose family isn't very fond of him because of his frail nature. He had me interested in the plot until some cracks started showing in the character department; some characters behaving in rather jarring ways that felt unnatural, which broke my immersion at times. That's one of my main issues with this manga, the characters suck, safe for Inu. There's barely any progression going on for them.
One very early example of this that I can think of are the aliens that accidentally kill Inuyashiki and a nearby youth called Shishigami in the beginning of the story by crash landing on Earth with their spaceship. Immediately upon realizing they killed two earthlings, they begin to swear and curse each other out like teenagers in a VERY uncharacteristic manner (maybe a creepier portrayal would've been more effective) and proceed to revive the two men using alien technology, turning them into two incredibly powerful machines with godlike powers. It just so happens that Inuyashiki is a very kind person who intends to use his new powers to help humanity, while the young Shishigami happens to be the edgiest, most brutal psychopath on the planet.
Although Inuyashi felt relatable and grounded, like someone that could really exist, Shishigami just doesn't. He's a cold-blooded, cruel monster who kills other people for pleasure with his powers and uses those he doesn't kill for his own personal gain. But at the same time he's also a loving son who cares deeply about his mother and would do anything for her happiness... These two contradicting elements just don't add up, but I'll admit they probably could've worked if Shishigami had been written better as a character, like Guts from Berserk, who can simultaneously be portrayed as a murderous demon and a caring, protective person on the inside, with both traits pertaining perfectly to his character. The rest of the cast is quite forgettable. Overall, Inu is the only one worth paying any attention to.
Started off strong. Weakened in the middle part. Turned into complete disgust by the time the final chapters rolled out. Never seen a story go south this quickly in terms of enjoyment. It had some pretty whacky moments of intense escalation that raised my eyebrows, but it's all ruined by how the story ultimately ends.
Only read if you've enjoyed Gantz, any of Oku's other works, or if all the negative things I said in this review don't sound all that bad to you. Just remember to enjoy yourself. Cuz by the time I finished this, I wasn't enjoying myself anymore.