Director: Shinsuke Sato
Cast: Yo Oizumi, Kasumi Arimura, Masami Nagasawa, Hisashi Yoshizawa, Yoshinori Okada
Runtime: 2 hrs 6 mins
Rating: M18 (Violence and Gore)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 20 October 2016
Synopsis: A mysterious virus suddenly spreads throughout Japan causing widespread panic. People infected with the virus rapidly transform into zombie-like creatures and are called ZQN (pronounced zokyun). The ZQN then attack people with superhuman strength and their victims eventually become ZQN as well. Hideo Suzuki (Yo Oizumi), a 35-year-old manga artist, happens to meet a female high school student, Hiromi Hayakari (Kasumi Arimura). They escape from the city together, despite Hayakari being bitten by a baby ZQN. However, the baby ZQN that bit her did not have teeth, resulting in her being half ZQN. The pair then meets Nurse Yabu (Masami Nagasawa) at a shelter. Yabu hopes she can draw an antibody from Hayakari.
‘I Am A Hero’ is based a popular zombie manga of the same name, and is even considered to be the greatest zombie manga ever by a critic. The story is about Suzuki Hideo (played by Yo Oizumi), who was once an award winning manga artist. However, he seemed to have entered a slump and haven’t achieved any breakthroughs since. He leads an ordinary life, an everyday person who goes through the motion for livelihood, accepting his fate of being an assistant at the manga house. Even though his first name Hideo literally means hero, his personality and accomplishment is nowhere near it.
One day, an infectious flu-like virus began to spread throughout Japan. It causes infected people to transform into zombie-like creatures, who then attack other non-infected human beings, biting them and spreading the virus to them as well. This impacts Hideo’s life dramatically as well, when people close to him – namely his girlfriend and colleagues at work – become infected as well. Take flight rather than take fight, he flees away from the panic and meets Hiromi Hayakari (played Kasumi Arimura). She plays a key character which brings the hero out of him.
‘I Am A Hero’ is nothing less than entertaining. Despite the violence and gore from fighting off the zombies, the film is overall light-hearted. At one of the key scenes, there was even an analysis of the zombies based on their respective occupations and personalities, giving each zombie character and individuality. This further amuses and contends the general impression of zombie as being ‘lifeless creatures’.
As expected, the film was also big on action. After all, the non-infected humans are fighting for their survival. There was a good buildup towards the final showdown when Hideo rose up to the occasion as the hero. It was one of the highlights where the character development peaked and mood heightened. Though outnumbered, each surviving person fought till the end for humanity. The emotions and the action were both well captured.
The story appeared to be quite boring at first, with Hideo totally missing the x-factor of a lead character (disclaimer here that it’s not due to the actor, but more of the character design) as well. But the story developed well as it brought us on an accelerated journey to see how Hideo claimed his spot to be the hero of his own narrative. This parallels many ‘normal’ lives, and has a unique appeal. It seems to give a message that anyone can become a hero, for as long as they try and emerge from the slump.
To suit the movie version, there are several points which are different from the original. One of the significant difference is the attitude of Hideo’s girlfriend, Tetsuko. In the manga original, she is someone who understands Hideo’s circumstances, but in the movie, she was always questioning his passion. Also, none of Hideo’s horror fantasies was talked about in the movie. While some people may find this a pity, but these adjustments ensured the movie was not draggy.
‘I Am A Hero’ may not your typical zombie movie, where it’s all about the gore and violence. More than that, it depicts a journey in achieving self-fulfillment, an unexpected outcome in this fight against the zombie apocalypse. Brace yourself for an entertaining and visually impactful 126 minutes.
(Viewer discretion is advised: extreme body mutilation, brain juice splashes and much blood are depicted. But perfect to satiate your zombie appetite)
Review by Tho Shu Ling