It's October and I've been re-watching some great horror anime series like Shiki andHigurashi: When They Cry. I also watched ,Yamishibai, that series consisting of thirteen 5-minute episodes with a couple anime bloggers. While some did a fairly job creating an eerie atmosphere and presenting creative scenarios, most were just laughable or too dull. I thought about writing about the horror genre for Halloween, but I've decided to save that for sometime later and write about some manga instead.
And yeah, I've been reading quite a lot of zombie manga, four to be exact. But for Halloween I would like to bring attention to just one manga in particular that I find to be quite brilliant.
I Am A Hero's story basic premise revolves around a zombie apocalypse. Just the good ol' virus spreading around the world and the dead coming back to life to eat some brains. There is a small point about the zombies having a twisted subconscious while possessing some old distorted memories of their past self, but overall it's pretty familiar material where fantastic presentation and delivery propel I Am A Hero far above every title of its genre.
To begin, the artwork is gorgeous with a captivating, brutal nature. The life-like attention to detail is stunning, drawing out a stunningly gritty and surreal atmosphere. Not akin to many zombie series where the visual focus tends solely be on the action, its imagery is real and all-encompassing grasping a sense of destruction with perfection. Zombies also look flippin' awesome too. It's like Attack on Titan where every zombie looks very distinctive and unique rather than the conglomerate mass of carbon copies we usually see from zombie flicks.
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I really appreciate that society doesn't immediately jump to the conclusion of a zombie apocalypse, but instead, amidst the brewing chaos, people try to live their normal everyday lives. The slow realization to what the world is becoming is brilliant with how well-paced everything is, which leads me to talk about how fantastic the timing is too. There's just the right amount of build-up so climaxes and twists make their debut at all the right moments.
It's absolutely griping and so many scenes have took my breath away.
One scene in particular happens quite early in the manga. The male lead, Hideo, is running from the destruction with an acquaintance. But as they run up the stairs, the acquaintance is taken a hold of by a couple zombies. As he recognizes his demise, he states "I've never felt more alive in my life" and right as he says those words, Hideo watches in bewilderment as his head is lopped off by the wheels of a berserk airplane as it flies and crashes nearby.
God damn brilliant imagery. You thought World War Z had great imagery? Screw that shit.
That's not all the praise I've got for this manga though. Because the apocalypse is set in Japan where the gun laws are much more stringent, characters aren't constantly wielding firearms that they've been able to scavenge. Hideo is the only character who has a real gun throughout his journey, putting an exciting spin on everything. Later on in the series, we encounter a couple survivors hiding out on the roof of some buildings. They're divided into factions, where the predominant leader takes charge due to the fact that he wields a bowgun, but when Hideo joins up with the survivor, he turns the table and things escalate pretty quickly after that.
Hideo is quite the character who's not some typical motha fuckin' bad-ass or some average joe. Instead, think Sato from Welcome to the NHK. Delusional, awkward, naive and constantly muttering the line "I am a hero" to make himself feel braver, his idiocy can make for some titillating moments, comedic moments and also some seriously insufferable moments. But as the manga progresses, Hideo begins to adapt to the Hell taking place on Earth and slowly he truly does become a hero.
And finally, I want to say that I really dig the psychological aspect of it all.
Zombie series can tend to overdo their drama, and in my opinion, poor melodrama really sucks all the entertainment out of a zombie series. Drama is important and focusing on human psychology during the chaos of a zombie apocalypse can be titillating, but when it gets out of handyeahit kinda sucks. I don't want to see forced melodrama in my zombie story. *Cough* Walking Dead *Cough*
The I Am Legend film was kinda close to getting the psychological aspect down in a zombie shtick delving into the descent of lonely madman, but in the end, while there were some compelling moments, it failed to truly break the surface of its themes and Will Smith's acting came off as involuntary Oscar-bat in the end. I Am A Hero, however, strikes the perfect balance between the grueling acts for survival and the emotional affects that stem from such acts. Paranoia and panic, tranquility and happiness, resentment and rage, a whole flurry of emotions are effectively captured while never putting its foot on the brake.
I've recently grown extremely tired of the zombie genre aside from when it's played out comedically. Zombieland, Evil Dead, Shaun of the Dead, etc.? Brilliant stuff. But zombie films played straight haven't clicked with me in a while and I Am A Herohas been a breath of fresh air for me.
It's amazing, so go read it.