Breaking Down Inuyashiki's Hiro Complex

Despite a promising premise, Inuyashiki was a show that ultimately fell under the weight of its own expectations. You can blame that on Hiro....
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  1. Breaking Down Inuyashiki’s Hiro Complex

    Among the series that premiered in last year’s Fall line-up, you’ll remember the MAPPA-produced Inuyashiki as the one that came with the most hype. That’s mainly because the show gave off the impression that it would break away from the usual superhero ‘verse stereotypes, thanks to its elderly protagonist. By letting old man Inuyashiki go through the awkward first steps of being a super-newbie, it looked like the show was all set to re-interpret the genre from a more mature and realistic point of view.

    Take, for instance, the episode where Inuyashiki fails to save someone for the first time because he got stuck in traffic. Or the little scenes that show him learning how to fly. It’s all capped off in his standalone episode, where he saves a soon-to-be-wed couple from a sex-crazed yakuza outfit. Even if that last one stayed true to a lot of the stereotypes, it still made for an enjoyable watch, simply because it felt so good to see him doling out justice the good-old-fashioned way.

    Funny thing: this also seemed to be the episode most fans didn't like. Go figure.
    And then, there’s Hiro. His appearance as the deuteragonist was not a surprising thing – he’s also on the poster for a reason – and it’s a move that makes sense, as he’s clearly meant to be Inuyashiki’s character foil. What happens if the robotic upgrades were also given to a psychopathic kid, who’s unlike the nice old man in every way? Inuyashiki feels most alive when he saves people; Hiro feels most alive when he's watching them take their dying breaths. It’s a novel concept that has the potential for some real take-off, but because Hiro’s development was derailed by a lack of focus and direction, the entire series ends up getting the shaft as well.

    But look on the bright side – at least he was able to fulfill his role as the story’s villain anyway, huh?

    [Major spoilers for the series finale lie ahead. Continue reading at your own risk.]

    It’s Blubberin’ Time

    The moment Hiro shows up on screen, you already know he’s the bad guy. He’s voiced with such apathy for everything around him, that it’s almost hard to believe he gets by with his good looks alone.

    Oh, wait, I think I get it now.

    Hiro’s also introduced alongside his wimpy best friend, Andou, and as long as they’re together, he can at least still pretend he has a heart. This is because Andou, as is the case for most weak sidekicks of major supervillains, serves as Hiro’s morality pet. As long as Andou’s around, Hiro will be forced to care about humanity and the rest of the world.

    Or so we think.

    After an ill-advised romp through the city to flaunt his powers, Hiro gets dumped by Andou the minute he shows how twisted and evil he really is. At this point, you might believe that this is the thing that'll impel Hiro to go off the rails and start shooting random people in the head. He doesn't. Maybe because he’s already done all that and is probably bored with it, but other than that, his break-up with Andou didn't turn out to be the straw that broke his robotic back.

    Instead, Hiro is given a mother. His mother, as is the case for most major supervillains, serves as Hiro’s morality pet. As long as his mother’s around, Hiro will be forced to care about humanity and the rest of the world.

    Sound familiar?

    Even shonen-lovin’ bad guys gotta love their mamas.

    These two characters were included to add more depth to Hiro’s character, but after having them join the cast, every attempt to humanize Hiro begins to look like a hard sell. After introducing him as this kid with budding potential to become Japan’s next mass killer, the show does a complete turnaround and tries to force us to suddenly care about him.

    Sure, he killed random families for yucks… but his mom has cancer. She’s going to die soon and Hiro’s going to feel so gutted about it when it happens. Insert cry here. Somewhere in the distance, someone’s playing the world’s smallest violin in Hiro’s honor.

    Sympathetic villains always add more spice to the story, but this approach only works if we know why the villain chose his life of crime. It’s important to know the villain’s motives and truly get inside their heads, so that we’ll know where they’re coming from when they start acting out. With Hiro, we’re given little beyond his nihilistic apathy for the human race, and if you've already seen your fair share of edgy villains, then you’ll know that he’s every bit as childish as his dark, “woke” thoughts make him sound.

    It doesn't help that he likes to make all the gun sounds out loud too.

    It’s this inconsistent characterization that makes Hiro’s arc extremely problematic – he’s irredeemable in one episode, then completely romanticized in the next – and because of this, the audience is left in limbo. There’s this obsessive need to explain his every action with his useless angst and personal issues, never mind that he’s killed so many people and committed so many atrocities in the past. This is not character complexity, nor is it the gray morality that challenges the black and white norms. This is just mass confusion rendered in bad CGI.

    To make it worse, Inuyashiki’s storyline gets dropped mid-way, so that the series can start focusing more on Hiro.

    That’s not to say the old man gets ignored completely. He doesn't, but with Inuyashiki’s constant second-guessing and crying, it still looks like Hiro got the sweeter end of the deal.

    It’s a bird, it’s a plane… Nope, it’s an asteroid.
    Even if it takes a while for the two leads to meet and really trade punches, their contrasting personalities and philosophies are still clear to the audience. In a sense, they’re sort of facing off – they’re just not in front of each other when it happens. One thing the show at least gets half-right is the way it builds anticipation. I say half, because all of its climaxes turned out to be such underwhelming duds.

    Superhero logic dictates that arch-enemies must pick a fight with their sworn rivals on a constant basis (if not every other week), so that the hero is given no time to relax and get rusty. Even then, major smackdowns shouldn't happen as often (if not every other month), so that both parties get the time they need to properly prepare for the big match.

    It’s clear that Inuyashiki’s chosen to buck the trend by choosing to follow none of these conventions. By going ahead with its big match without giving either party the necessary prep time, the thing that was supposed to be their main fight looked more like an undercard bomb. For a real, serious fight between men, Inuyashiki and Hiro should have had some real hurt to bring to the ring for that added personal investment factor. Did the show really think this was going to work if Hiro didn't even remember Inuyashiki existed until the last minute?

    It doesn't matter what the answer is, because the match ends almost as soon as it begins. And even if they could meet up again for another fight, they wouldn't even be able to, because of the asteroid.

    Even the anime doodle speaks better English than the man himself.

    Yes, the asteroid. With its sudden introduction as the bigger plot device, the series now has a convenient excuse to avoid a meaningful rematch between Inuyashiki and Hiro. Dramatic exchange of contrasting world views? You can forget about that too. Thanks to the asteroid, anything that would have advanced both characters’ developments is put on hold, as both leads become forced to save the world together. Unfortunately, their team-up is just about as forced as Hiro’s mommy issues.

    In brightest day, in blackest night… Ooh, shiny!
    So: no believable character development for Hiro and giant asteroid outta nowhere. What else is wrong with this series?

    Right, the unimportant side characters and side plots.

    Believe it or not, her more embarrassing nickname is Morality Pet #3.

    Inuyashiki has this bad habit of giving everyone and their pet dog a story of their own. While it’s a neat way to build the world, it’s difficult to care about anyone else when you’re still struggling to connect with the two main characters. It doesn't help either that the show picks up side plots the same way my baby cousin used to play with his toys – by examining them closely with interest, then throwing them to the floor four seconds later.

    A severely short attention span is the real problem here, which makes you wonder why they wanted to cram everything in just 12 episodes. You could blame it on the budget, but if Inuyashiki was really serious about its story, then the show would have found a way to lock down on its two leads without all the distractions.

    This brings us back to Hiro, who went through all that angst, only to get blown up by an asteroid in the end. The kid didn't even bother to properly redeem himself in his dying moments, saying instead that he was only making the sacrifice to protect the two people he cared for – and that’s not counting his own mom (I know, right?). So even if he never expressed real remorse for his actions, and even if he was able to escape punishment for all the stunts he pulled, Hiro’s story ends with him looking like a hero.

    Meanwhile, Inuyashiki managed to have a good last-minute cry with his family before making his heroic sacrifice. So… good for him, I guess?

    You and me both, kid.

    One other thing that made the series a chore to watch was the never-ending cocktease of death scenes. Much like Hiro’s eternal personality flip-flop between Angsty Teen and Killer Next Door, it’s clear that even the show itself can’t make up its mind about character deaths. Like the unbelievable relationship of Hiro and Morality Pet #3, the answers remain unknown and it’s probably best that they stay that way. In this series, things just happen on their own for no good reason, or at least, without any attempt to explain anything.

    Do I still need to explain my feelings about that stupid troll-killing episode? I hope not, but here’s a self-explanatory screencap anyway.

    In the end, Inuyashiki was a series that wanted to look “mature,” but because it didn't know what it wanted to do, it missed the mark completely. “Mature” is just not a term the series deserves, but I guess the joke’s on me for expecting this to be any better. It’s gritty, only because a lot of people died. It’s dark, only because we were able to take a look inside the mind of a psychopath. It’s edgy, only because it had a lot of violent and adult elements to spice up the story.

    It’s all very exciting stuff if you’re heading into this with zero expectations. But if you’re like me and you’re looking for deeper things to come out of your anime, then steer clear of this overhyped show at all costs. If you watch this the same way you watch trashy schlock movies, then maybe you’ll find the Inuyashiki Viewing Experience at least a little bearable.

    The world of Inuyashiki is a bleak one that assumes the worst in humanity, even if some small sparks of hope peek out from time to time. By choosing not to go deeper into the things that make us human, or the things that might push us over the edge, it’s clear the author only needed an excuse to make a story with blood, boobs, booze, and (invisible) bullets. Maybe it’s all he ever wanted to do from the start anyway.

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    Oh Snape, Kuze and tripplej like this.


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  1. Oh Snape
    Yeah they screwed the premise up by making Hiro a psychopath before he even has a chance to let absolute power get to his head and everything else to pull it back makes things more muddled and pointless.

    It has its 'edgy' and seriously laugh out loud moments but....these kinda seem unintentional. Like the aforementioned scene at end when the Inuyashiki finally reveals his true form to his family and they all have a group hug and cry. Camara pans out to son who is just staring in disbelief with a wtf look on his face. Laughed my ass off. And the dog falling down the stairs......comedy gold.

    I'm looking forwrd to the live action though, I think with tighter pacing and more focused storyline we'll get what the anime should've given us. Not familier with the manga or its ending.
      Tonto-banchou likes this.
    1. Tonto-banchou
      lol my memory of that episode was doing just fine until you mentioned that bit about the falling dog. Too bad about the son, too. I'm not sure if I should be relieved or annoyed that they didn't make a sub-plot for all his suspicious side-eye moments.