We’ve got ourselves a new title from Kodansha Comics this time. From the creator of the very popular (and controversial) Gantz, we have a series called Inuyashiki. What does this creator have to offer us with his new series? Is it good?
Inuyashiki Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics)
Written and Drawn By: Hiroya Oku
Translated By: Stephen Paul
Ichiro Inuyashiki is miserable. He’s 58 years old, but looks nearly 80; his family ignores or downright disrespects him despite all that he does for them, he’s constantly feeling ill, and he can’t seem to stand up for himself or for other people. Then things get even worse when his doctor tells him he has stomach cancer and only three months left to live, leaving him to wonder if anyone will miss him beside the family dog. Then that night, as he’s talking the dog for a walk, Ichiro sees a strange, bright light in the sky. The next thing he remembers is waking up in the park the next morning. Something happened when he saw that strange, bright light… something shocking that will change his life in ways he could never imagine.
The first arc of Inuyashiki is similar to a superhero origin story. The tale here begins by introducing us to our main protagonist, Ichiro, and what his life is like. Over the course of the first chapter, you really end up sympathizing for the man, seeing how badly he is treated by the people he loves and the world around him. He wants to be able to stand up for himself and be strong, but he just can’t do that due to his own insecurities and how his body is failing him. The next few chapters after that show what happens to him after the incident in the park with how he reacts and tries to comprehend his new situation. Again, he remains a sensitive character and you want to see what happens next.
I want a dog, but going to a pound to get one? NAH! Too much effort.
From there, we have him stepping up and being a hero in the next few chapters, defending a homeless man from some punks who want to kill him. We see Ichiro in action, whether or not he seems to fully grasp what he is doing, and how he defeats the baddies in a pretty fantastical way. The last portion of the book shows him changing his outlook on life and accepting who he is now, ready to help more people. Also, from the hints dropped, we get a brief look at our main antagonist for the series. All in all, while feeling like a typical superhero origin story, the execution and interesting change-ups (like an old man being the protagonist) give this story its own unique flavor so far. Depending on how the creator does things, I can see this continuing to get better and better now that it is beyond the origin stuff.
Hiroya Oku’s writing is rather strong here and I have only a few complaints. The pacing is good and while the story can feel decompressed at times with its busy layouts, these moments are usually used to build up suspense or tension, usually working and making a scene feel better. There’s no problem with the flow of the story, with plenty of smooth transitions and cuts throughout. The dialogue is fine and nothing sounds too forced or unnatural in anyway. The only sketchy parts of the manga are the characterization of the cast. While Ichiro is a rather well-rounded and three-dimensional character, no one else really stands out. His entire family is stuck in uncaring douche mode throughout the entire book and shows no signs of changing anytime soon. The closest anyone gets to characterization is the person who shares Ichiro’s similar condition, though considering what we find out and what he mentions, who knows if he is really acting normally. It’s nothing too harmful to the overall manga here, but there’s always room for improvement.
Then there is the artwork, which looks pretty dang good overall. Oku’s style goes for a more realistic approach with the art, making things more like our world. As such, the entire settings, locations, items, people, and animals all look great in that regard. The characters all look very different from one another, through obvious to subtle differences in the eyes, noses, body types, and such. The layouts are constructed terrifically, making the movement and action just flow wonderfully and naturally. The sci-fi designs here are interesting to look at and highly detailed. Frankly, the only weaknesses are some of the facial expressions (like the one in the very last panel, where I cannot tell how the person is feeling) and a few areas in the park scene where things looked photoshopped and moved around.
Is It Good?
Inuyashiki Vol. 1 is a great start to this new series. It’s basically the origin story for a superhero — though just enough interesting changes and twists to the main character to make it an engaging read from start to finish. It may not have been the best new series to come out this year in America, but it is certainly one worth your time and keeping an eye on.
Inuyashiki is available from Kodansha Comics. Crunchyroll is currently releasing each new chapter of the series as they become translated. Gantz, the mangka’s previous work, is currently available from Dark Horse Comics if you want to check it out.