Every once in a while, I stumble across a Japanese movie that I say “what the heck”. Such is the case with “I Am A Hero”, a 2016 zombie movie from director Shinsuke Sato, based on a horror manga series by Kengo Hanazawa.
Now I’m not the biggest zombie fan in the world, but something about how it was described sounded different enough to me, particularly one element, that I decided to give it a go. This is a good thing and a bad thing because that element never actually happened in the movie. But I’ll talk more about that below the fold.
35-year old assistant manga artist Hideo Suzuki is stuck in a dead-end job with a girlfriend who wants him to give up his dreams, get a real job and become a responsible partner. But when people get infected by the ZQN virus and start becoming zombies, Hideo runs for the hills where he meets high schooler Hiromi Hayakari, who was bitten by an infected baby, but has developed symptoms, but has not become a zombie. Together, they find shelter at a mall with a bunch of other survivors as they try to survive the apocalypse.
Now the one thing that I thought sounded great was the idea that they could use Hiromi’s blood to create a cure, and this might be something that came from the manga, but it had no place at all in the movie. In fact, pretty early on, Hiromi gets hit in the head with an arrow and spends the rest of the movie being a barely-alive vegetable being dragged around by Nurse Yabu, who feels ashamed that she ran away from her patients when the zombie plague happened. I was a bit disappointed at that, but since the only real interaction between Hideo and Hiromi was a very awkward and uncomfortable scene where Hideo got upset that he was looking at Hiromi the wrong way, it didn’t wind up being a big issue.
And this is where I am very happy that Japanese movies, and largely TV shows, don’t try to shoe-horn relationships into them like so many American shows do. I was afraid that they would try to stick Hiromi and Yabu together, as they were some of the last survivors, but they never even made an attempt.
Also, the zombies here were really interesting and unusual, especially if you’re used to the typical Romero zombies that you tend to see everywhere. Here, they weren’t trying to get your brains, in fact, they didn’t even realize they were dead. All of the zombies just relived their strongest memories and were attracted by loud noises. Each one had a distinct personality which made seeing how they dealt with the situation quite different.
So on to the cast. Yo Oizumi played Hideo and was about as perfect in the role as I can imagine. He’s had voice-acting roles in both Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle as well as Lucky Seven, which I reviewed here. Kasumi Arimura got to play Hiromi, even though she just sat around for a lot of the movie. She’s been in SPEC ~ First Blood and SPEC: The Movie. Then there’s Masami Nagasawa, who played Nurse Yabu. She’s been in Godzilla: Final Wars, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S., as well as Galileo: Episode Zero. That’s a pretty great cast!
I really do recommend this movie, not because it’s a fantastic zombie movie, but because it’s just a fantastic movie full stop. There’s a ton of action, it’s got heart, the characters grow and we get to see Hideo come into his own, from the weak man he starts as into the hero he learns to be.