Timid failed manga artist Suzuki Hideo finds himself in the midst of a ZQN virus outbreak that is turning all of Japan into zombies. Together with high school student Hiromi and a Nurse Yabu, they journey to the peak of Mt Fuji.
Having seen this after seeing the critically-acclaimed Train To Busan, it is with no doubt that a comparison is to be made. And it will. Except I Am A Hero is on a whole other platform altogether. It’s distinct manga style (well it is adapted from the manga of the same name) and unique characters sets it apart from its predecessors of the same genre, including the incredibly popular Train To Busan.
The protagonist is Suzuki Hideo (Hideo as in Hero), a timid manga artist who has spent 8 years trying to get published and is seen as a failure in the eyes of his girlfriend and society. Yet by sheer luck and the coincidence of a series of events, he manages to escape uninfected despite getting bitten by his infected girlfriend (watch the movie and you’ll know why). Much like Train To Busan, I Am A Hero is a zombie movie commentary on the society we live in, but unlike the former, I Am A Hero focuses on themes restricted to Japanese society. This results in some very interesting ideas like having the zombies retaining memories of their human lives and even continuing their daily habits. Multiple striking images of zombified businessmen still holding their briefcase and talking on the phone drives home the zombified state of Japanese society’s emphasis on hardwork.
The scene of a taxi driver who laments his 30 years of top-notch service, never breaking the law and never getting into an accident. As if parodying the idea of an “ideal citizen”. Materialism is another theme talked about through various symbolism. A zombified woman who spends her time shopping and buying things, and Hideo’s use of the many Rolex watches (a watch costs up to thousands of dollars) as a shield for his arm. Finally we have our hero Suzuki Hideo who is cowardly but refuses to use his powerful shot-gun since it is “breaking the law”. Frustrating as it seems, it reveals the rigidity of Japan’s social culture and the idea of an “ideal citizen”. The entire time we see Hideo running through a group of zombies and almost getting killed yet he refuses to take out his shot-gun. (Like wts Hideo?) An irony of cowardice and strength.
Yet the real climax of this movie is not the endless crowd of incoming zombies, but Hideo making the decision to leave the safety and protection of the locker for the sake of Yabu and Hiromi (though they didn’t need to hear his voice to escape =.=). The multiple scenarios aren’t there to add opportunities to see our hero being gruesomely eaten up (it was satisfying in a way) but to illustrate his apparent inability (armed with a rubber hammer omg) and our worst fears of what might become of him.
The direction was almost spot-on, with minor details set-up early and bringing development to the plot. The scene of Tekko (Hideo’s girlfriend)’s transformation was so sophisticated yet intense. Yeah you can tell I have a thing for contortionist stuff, well except in horror films. The comedy in the beginning lightened the chaotic, suspenseful mood, leaving you confused on whether or nor you should be laughing or feeling scared. (I chose to laugh cuz it’s funny lol).
The ending was a little lackluster despite the brightness of the scene (for those who watched it you’d probably get it) and I expected Hiromi to be more than just a lifeless doll acting as a liability. I really expected her to at least sacrifice herself or suddenly come in to save Hideo like she did earlier in the movie. But then sacrificing herself is kind of pointless and saving Hideo makes him seem less like a hero…? Because men save the damselS in distress right?
I Am A Hero is not without it’s flaws but I think it’s use of symbolism gives it a much more layered commentary on society and adds much more depth to an otherwise-ordinary zombie movie. Personally I much prefer this to Train To Busan but really, it’s just personal preferences.