Inuyashiki is in his fifties but looks older, is overlooked at work and by his family, has been diagnosed with cancer, and one night while on a walk with his dog gets killed by an alien space craft and has his body rebuilt as a machine. While he is coming to terms with whether he is still human or not, he realises he isn’t alone as someone else was on the hill that night in the park and they have a very different view of how to use their new power.
Review – Some spoilers:
I really enjoyed watching Inuyashiki. Partly this was because a friend of mine agreed to watch it with me so we could discuss at the end of each episode what we thought and we watched it over a couple of nights so there wasn’t a long wait to find out where it was going. And partly that’s because the show is just kind of a ride. That isn’t necessarily the best description, but emotionally that is kind of how it feels.
You get on board at episode 1 and then you take that first sharp drop or corner as Inuyashiki is killed before you go through a series of dips and turns building up more tension and excitement before they pull out all the stops and throw an asteroid at the planet. This anime is very much focused on keeping you looking forward at what is coming next and it never allows too much dwelling on what has happened before and while that makes for a great popcorn viewing experience, what it misses out on is a chance to explore any of the underlying themes in this story.
Both Inuyashiki and Shishigami are struggling with the idea of whether or not they are still human. They struggle in different ways and draw different conclusions about how to ‘feel’ human but the fact remains that the same event triggers both characters. Yet rather than explore this idea and their reactions, the anime pits them against each other in a good vs evil (hero vs villain) show down without any real dialogue ever being exchanged between the two. For the audience, this means we see how the change directly contributed to their future actions but little about their internal struggle or the nuances of their view points.
The generational gap between these two characters is exploited through technological know-how and superficially through their values, but again, this idea could have gone much further and instead remains surface level. There are a number of other digs at the younger generations such as scenes where characters continue to carry their smart phones because they would ‘die without their phone’ or they throw their support behind a serial killer because he looks good. And while these could have been explored as interesting social commentary, the story uses them simply to paint a picture of a society that is breaking down from within and then does nothing with that idea.
Ando, as a supporting cast member, also has any chance for real exploration taken from him as he cuts Shishigami out of his life saying he can’t be friends with a killer but we never see him actually try to reason with Shishigami or try to change his mind. It is like Ando just assumes that Shishigami is a lost cause and he seeks out someone else to ‘stop’ him. Again, not to reason with him or try to change his mind, but to stop him.
Though, perhaps the character who is the most wasted here is Mari, Inuyashiki’s daughter. She was in the same class as Shishigami, lives behind Ando and is Inuyashiki’s daughter so she’s literally the one character connected to all the major players and for the first half of the series she’s too wrapped up in herself to notice or care what is going on. Once she finally does notice, the show looks at her ambitions to become a manga author, a brief show of affection for her father, and makes her play the damsel in distress. Though at least she isn’t as hopelessly underdeveloped as Inuyashiki’s son who I don’t think plays even one meaningful role in the narrative.
Outside of the characters, the visuals are a bit hit and miss. Some scenes look truly spectacular but other scenes are a little cringe-worthy. Fights between Shishigami and Inuyashiki end up being a laser show affair with little variation. And an someone please tell me what is with every single character leaking fluid from everywhere every single time they cry (and there’s a lot of crying over the course of the show). Whoever was responsible for the fluid animation in this really went over board.
Likewise, the music is hit and miss. Some scenes it nails the tone whereas others, particularly the scene with the planes (those of you who have seen it will know which one). The music there just didn’t match what was happening at all and then we see Shishigami conducting the affair (very reminiscent of V in V for Vendetta) but without a score impressive enough to back up the visuals.
However, it is the final turn in the narrative that kind of left me feeling that this was a real lost opportunity. The meteorite threat to the earth that even has a character in the show ask whether or not we’re watching ‘Deep Impact’. It was such an unnecessary complication. There were so many other ideas and conflicts to explore that we didn’t really need a natural disaster thrown in for the final arc of the story. And while the threat was dealt with in a way that will probably leave you on the fence about whether that was satisfying or not, it is the lack of impact on the world that really got to me. We see the characters’ lives and the city after the events and really it is as though nothing changed. And again, this could be great social commentary, but the show has never spent enough time on this aspect for it to make an impact.
All and all, as long as you don’t mind a bit of blood and violence, Inuyashiki is kind of a fun watch without too much down time in the story. While certain aspects leave you wanting more, what you get works for the most part even if it is a little superficial.
As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on the series, so please feel free to leave a comment below.
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