Most of the live-action adaptations of manga/anime that I’ve seen were poor compared to the source material —like Attack on Titan, Ghost in the Shell, Tokyo Ghoul, Netflix’s Death Note and Gantz — just to name a few. Every time when I do decide to watch one, I just hope that it’s watchable enough and not too frustrating. So needless to say, I was absolutely skeptical with this film based on Hiroya Oku’s sci-fi manga series, Inuyashiki (2014 – 2017), especially when it’s directed by Shinsuke Sato, who’s the director for the live-action of Oku’s Gantz, which I thought was terrible. But surprisingly, the film turns out to be very good.
The story mainly follows Ichiro Inuyashiki (Kinashi Noritake) who’s sad, pathetic 58-year-old man with no friend and a family that dislikes him. His wife and children don’t respect him at all and usually ignore him while his boss at work threatens to fire him before his retirement due to his poor performance. When he is diagnosed with cancer, he doubts anyone would bother crying for him. One night at a nearby park, he and a high schooler named Shishigami Hiro (Satō Takeru) are struck by a mysterious explosion that turns their bodies into powerful machines. Both of their lives begin to change when they discover that they have abilities to effortlessly save and take lives.
The film has a great first act as its narrative takes its time to fully flesh out its complex characters instead of impatiently jumping right into the action without substance like most adaptations of manga. The performances by Noritake (Initiation Love, Postman) and Takeru (Bakuman, Ruroini Kenshin trilogy, Kamen Rider Den-O) are fantastic, providing the depth which makes their respective characters highly engaging and compelling. And there aren’t many moments that felt too cheesy or corny. The screenplay written by Hiroshi Hashimoto (Flying Colors, Star Watching Dog) probably contributed to that. It starts out like a family drama before going all weird and violent. It is definitely not your typical superhero flick. The only glaring flaw in the storytelling is that it obviously rushed certain story arcs, most noticeably in the second act. So obvious that I can tell even before reading the manga.
The CG special effects of the mechanical body and action scenes are quite impressive considering that it isn’t a big-budget production. Though the third act does feel like the final fight in Man of Steel (2013) where two indestructible pointlessly try to injure each other and the emotional moments just don’t really work. I’m also a little disappointed that it isn’t as disturbingly obscene or graphically violent as I was expecting it to be (from watching Shishigami’s murderous “bang-bang” compilation video that went viral).
Inuyashiki may not be a perfect but it is still an extremely entertaining film with well developed complex characters and a roller coaster of emotions. It is certainly one of the very few live-action film adaptations I’ve seen that’s done with heart, and maintains the soul of its source material.
Post-credit scene: There’s a mid-credit scene. It might be a hint that there’s going to be sequel… or not. Those who have finished reading the manga would definitely know better.
Malaysian censorship: Nothing is noticeably censored. Despite the high death toll, it is quite graphically mild compared to the anime adaptation.
Second opinion: My girlfriend, too, thought that the film was nice and engaging, largely thanks to the acting performances.
Verdict: Not only that it doesn’t suck, it’s actually good. As someone who hasn’t read the manga or watched the anime series, I find Inuyashiki to be quite a unique and satisfying superhero film.
Rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Sci-fi, drama, superhero
Running Time: 127 Minutes
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Screenwriter: Hiroshi Hashimoto
Cast: Noritake Kinashi, Takeru Satoh, Kanata Hongo, Fumi Nikaido, Ayaka Miyoshi, Nayuta Fukuzaki, Mari Hamada, Yuki Saito, Yusuke Iseya
Malaysia Release Date: 5 July 2018 (TGV and MBO only)
Local Distributor: AtriNaga