The zombie genre gets a refreshing shot in the head in Shinsuke Sato’s I Am a Hero.
A grisly and bloody live action adaption of the popular manga.
I Am a Hero review
by TS Alan
By Japanese standards Hideo Suzuki (Yo Oizumi) could be considered a loser. He’s a 35-year-old manga artist assistant stuck in a low-paying job where he goes unappreciated. He also lives with his girlfriend and dreams of having his own work published. Although he works hard at his drawing, he is repeatedly rejected by the same publishing company that finds his work less than inspiring. Not too long after being thrown out of his girlfriend’s apartment, he finds himself in the midst of a zombie uprising. Luckily he has his prize possession with him, a skeet shooting shotgun — if he can only find the courage to use it.
I Am A Hero is based on the 2009, ongoing manga series of the same name. I’ve viewed a lot of live action adapted manga, which of late has been pretty horrible (Terra Formars / Attack On Titan 1 &2). However from what I understand the live action adaption is pretty faithful to the original source material.
I’ve also watched quite a few Japanese zombie films. With the exception to Tokyo Zombie and Z Island (aka Deadman Inferno), I’ve been pretty turned off by the Japanese contributions to the genre. They are mainly low budget schlock with a lot of T&A, bad acting, no substance, and horrible special effects and make up. However, I am a Hero rises to the top of the genre.
Toho Co., Ltd., the studio who put out the fantastic Shin Godzilla in 2016, put some money into this film, not only with hiring actors who can truly act, but also plenty of budget for visual effects. Add this to Akiko Nogi’s solid script and Shinsuke Sato’s (Gantz, Library Wars, Death Note) excellent directing, and you have the foundation for a fantastic film. However, as most moviegoers known, just because you have a big budget does mean the film is going to be any good.
For fans of the genre the main fault in a bad zombie film is not always the acting or script, it’s the zombie action and makeup. I’m happy to report that I Am A Hero delivers on both fronts. The zombies in the film are also not your typical Romero zombies or Danny Boyle/Alex Garland infected. In Kengo Hanazawa’s manga the infected do not have to die to become the reanimated dead. As a twist and adding something new to the well-worn genre, the zombies remember what they had been in their previous existence. We get an Olympic jumper who cannot stop jumping, a salary man re-enacting riding on a train to work, and a woman who was a shopaholic.
Then there is Hideo Suzuki our anti-hero. Hideo exemplifies many struggling workers, not only in Japan but everywhere, who are stuck in a meaningless job trying to make ends meat. Further complicating his life is that he is meek, unassuming and has low-esteem. Yes, Hideo is a loser, and you wonder how this poor schlep is going to survive. But survive he does, and when he reaches his breaking point, he rises to become a hero in one thrilling and intense blood-splattered finale. Director Sato ratchets up the battle with nail-biting cuts to Hideo reaching into his ammo pouch hoping to find more shells to stop a seemingly never ending horde of zombies. It’s one of the goriest and intense ends to a zombie film I’ve seen in a long time.
I Am a Hero is by far the best zombie film to have been made in the last couple of years. The director, script writer, and the actors have created a well-crafted zombie action/thriller. This is a film all zombie movie fans should see.
>I Am a Hero
Directed by Shinsuke Sato
Written by Kengo Hanazawa (manga), Akiko Nogi (screenplay)
Cast: Masami Nagasawa, Tsugumi Oda, Miho Suzuki, Kasumi Arimura, Yô Ôizumi, Nana Katase, Yoshinori Okada, Hisashi Yoshizawa
Run Time: 126 minutes
Release Date: Official theatrical release in Japan was April 23, 2016. Non-Japanese released Blu-rays and DVDs with Japanese language and English subtitles are available on Yesasia.com as well as eBay.