Well that didn’t turn out as good as I had hoped, but it was still pretty darn great none the less. Is that an oxymoron? Maybe, but going into this Fall 2017 Anime season, Inuyashiki was the series that I had expected to really wow me. I first heard about the series at Anime Midwest earlier this year, at a MAPPA Panel no less, and the whole thing reeked of cool and original. Even beyond the core premise which features robotics and action packed sci-fi, there was the fact that there are some pretty notable names attached to this series.
First and foremost is the source manga itself, which is the work of none other than Hiroya Oku (creator of Gantz). Then there’s the director Satou Keiichi, who’s directed stuff like the original Shingeki no Bahamut, Tiger and Bunny and Gantz itself. Finally, we’ve got script writer Seko Hiroshii, whose script work includes Attack on Titan, Aijin and Mob Psycho 100, just to name a few. And then of course, there’s animation studio MAPPA itself, which has been on fire lately with some excellent production work on mostly all series that they’re associated with (Garo Vanishing Line for example, which is also airing this season).
With a deck like that, it’s hard not to have really high expectations for Inuyashiki, going into this premiere. And here’s the thing, I’ll flat out profess to the fact that I liked the premiere episode. It was good, it was good enough to where I’d say I’m most definitely going to be watching and probably enjoying the show throughout its run. The first episode really did its job, it sold me. But…. But at the same time, what the first episode didn’t do, is exceed or match my rather odd and lofty expectations for the series as a whole.
What were those expectations? Well, I was really hoping for something on the level of Parasyte – The Maxim. That’s the vibe I got from this show’s early promo images, and then the teaser trailers and the like. I expected to be really excited and hooked from the get go. I expected that the show would just fire on all cylinders and really open up in a big way. In retrospect, that was really unfair, and I think that’s why I still want to say that Inuyashiki is the best premiere of the season, despite whatever expectations I had for it.
Now before I get into the episode itself, I think its important to point out that I originally had no intention of covering this particular show. No, that doesn’t mean that this show is necessarily good or bad. Its just that my blogging choices can be… a bit complicated, to say the least. Every season or so, there are just some shows that are really good, but just don’t play to my strengths as a blogger and writer. There are certain types of shows that I can cover really well, and some I try to write about anyway. What determines whether I cover a series is really based on the whether I actually have something noteworthy and different to say about it or not. And given how good Inuyashiki is, I was fully expecting someone to do a really good job of talking about it.
Except… Reception for the show has been markedly mixed though, and that in itself is so surprising to me. Most people like it, sure, but I don’t believe there’s been a real championing of the show to the degree that I’d say is adequate. There’s a reason I don’t cover shows like Welcome to the Ballroom (Guardian Enzo over at LiA does a fantastic job) or why I’m still debating covering The Acnient Magus Bride. There’s enough people talking about those shows, and saying all that needs to be said, that I don’t feel like I have to say anything.
But Inuyashiki? Inuyashiki is different, and while there’s a good collection of opinions out there, mine are different enough to where I think its worth me attempting to talk about it. So… I suppose its time we actually get into the meat of what I thought of Inuyashiki’s first episode. To put it simply, I liked “all of it”.
That’s the real controversial opinion here because this first episode is really a sum of two very distinct halves. The two halves are definitely part of the same general narrative, but are definitely tonally very different. The first of the two halves, the beginning section of the episode is really about introducing us to the protagonist of the show, Inuyashiki Ichirou. And Ichiro is the biggest reason why I’m so interested and excited about this show. Ichiro is a 50 year old man, he’s what you’d call middle aged (at least in countries like Japan and the US, where life expectancy is a bit higher), but he looks like he’s much older because of his white hair.
Ichiro is just not like your typical protagonist, and that alone makes this show so darn interesting. For one thing, Ichiro is what you’d call a nice old man. He’s the typical salary man in Japan, who works his hardest, and is basically shit on and taken for granted by everyone around him. Ichiro is a dad, and a family man that’s providing for a family that just doesn’t respect or appreciate him.
And I think the thing that worked so well for me, is that perspective of the old man who’s done everything properly, as society has asked of him, and is still pretty much in an unhappy situation. He’s been able to save up for a small house, he has a family, he’s got a stable job and from the outset he should be really happy. And Ichiro, to his credit, takes it all in stride and keeps smiling. It’s only after he learns that he’s got cancer, that he finally breaks down.
The lack of love and support from his family, and the strained connection to the point where Ichirou doesn’t even feel like he can talk to them about his devastation, is a really sad and emotionally powerful part of this premiere. The whole moment with Ichiro picking up a stray dog (a rather large Shiba Inu?) makes for a nice example of just how kind and loving Ichiro is, and how much the people around him suck.
And here’s the thing about that, that’s not so unbelievable. There are tons of people in the world who are just nice, and kind and who are surrounded by unreasonable, ungrateful and flat out bad people. I feel for people like that, and while I myself have never been in that situation, I can see how someone like Ichiro, in a society like Japan, could be in the sort of situation that this episode depicts.
And while the show spends the first half really showing us how bad Ichiro has it, its the second half that really got me excited. Which, incidentally, is contrary to what I’ve read. Some people have found the first half of Inyashki to be really good, while they weren’t so crazy about the second half. Others have hated on the fact that the show depicts such a bleak situation for Ichiro, that feels so foreign and almost emotionally exploitative. Those are definitely opinions, and while I respect them, I can’t say I agree with either.
To me, Inuyashiki’s first half is really building up to the moment in the second half. This is the part of the story where Ichiro gets a cybernetic body by some visiting aliens that accidentally kill both him and another young man in a deserted part of a park. The whole aliens thing isn’t really the focus of the show, but merely a device to give two characters powerful cybernetic bodies, ones that could potentially destroy the entire planet.
It after this point, I think, that Inuyashiki really started to get close to what I was always expecting it would be. There’s a brief moment, where Ichiro starts to understand his new powers and body, that reminded me of a similar experience that the protagonist of Parasyte had in his own story fantastic series. But I think beyond that simple moment of self discovery, there’s not many parrallels between this series and Parasyte. Inuyashiki just doesn’t feel like the same sort of show. Its not some coming of age story, and nor is it the male power fantasy that some people are touting it to be.
I’m not exactly sure what the show is actually going for just yet to be honest. What does Ichiro having these new found powers really mean? I mean, He saves a homeless man from a punch of sadistic teenage punks, sure. There’s hints at the idea of what humanity is all about, but I suspect that there’s going to be more to this show than just a focus on empathy. That whole sequence itself is just… different, the one where Ichiro finally uses his powers I mean. The whole idea of an old middle aged man using his robotic body to save a homeless man and then punish the people responsible? There’s just nothing like it that I’ve ever seen before.
In any case, that whole story itself, is actually done really well though, which is the important thing here. The homeless guy is developed nicely, with a pretty strong back story. He’s shown as having had a rough life that he’s slowly piecing together. There’s the whole fact of the guy just being on the cusp of fixing everything after having had a hard life, and then running into the worst band of disgusting human scum RIGHT as he’s about to get out into the light. Then there’s Ichiro, who’s heard the whole thing, and who just can’t ignore the man, someone who’s even worse off than he’s been, and just rushes in. At that point, the show had me rooting for both Ichiro and the homeless dude, and the ending we got, well, it all just worked.
And from all of that, it seems like Ichiro is very much on the path to becoming some manner of a super hero. The exploration of how a middle aged salary man becomes a protector of the weak? well that’s definitely something that’s both new and really appealing (at least to me). Plus there’s the whole idea of another cyborg, a teenager who’s younger, who may very well serve as the antagonist in this story. So there’s a potential of a good old “older generation vs younger generation” here, but its going to be told from a perspective that actually favors the older one.
That too, is pretty darn unique. With the history of anime and japanese media seemingly really dumping on the older generation of Japanese society, its just refreshing to see a story that takes a different perspective on the whole idea. To me, the appeal of Inuyashiki is around where the show goes from here. We have a fairly unique character in Ichiro, and we have this sci-fi setup that’s ripe for some good exploration of some really uncharted territory.
And it seems, quite shockingly, that I’m in the minority (at least of those writing about anime) with that particular opinion. So yeah, I guess I find myself in the rare situation where I’m almost motivated to act and cover this series because I just don’t see my particular view point being represented online. Inuyashiki is good, and I’d say despite it not being the second coming of Parasyte that I was hoping it to be, I still fully expect the show to impress, by the end of the season. I suppose we’ll find out in the coming weeks if I’m right or not.
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