Inuyashiki has learned to use his powers, but it turns out he wasn’t the only one turned into a robot that night in the park. Faced with a startlingly brutal killer, Inuyashiki might be the only one able to stop him in this new series from the creator of Gantz.
High-schooler Hiro Shishigami reveals that he has become a powerful robot with tremendous abilities to convince his friend to come back to school. Although Hiro says his powers will be used to protect his bullied friend, it soon becomes clear that he has a more sinister pastime. Meanwhile, Ichiro Inuyashiki has started to put his powers to use to help people, feeling alive for the first time in years. However, when he hears a girl calling for help he races off only to have a fateful meeting, discovering he was not the only one turned into a robot that night in the park.
Inuyashiki’s first volume provided an interesting reversal of the usual shonen story arc, staring a feeble old man as the protagonist who miraculously gains the powers to change in life. Volume 2 provides the other side of this story, introducing high-schooler Hiro Shishigami and following his actions as he more or less gets his own short origin story. This conflict provides the basis for this volume’s story, with Inuyashiki’s family left completely off-stage as the focus centres upon the contrast between Inuyashiki and Hiro in the use of their powers. Like Inuyashiki, Hiro was also turned into a robot in the park that night, but has decided to use his powers purely for his own selfish purposes. This is shown in unflinchingly brutal fashion as Hiro goes on a horrifying rampage that was very effectively done. The art tells the story effectively with very few words used, and I thought that the continual emphasis on Hiro’s eyes during this segment conveyed his lack of emotion and seeming disconnect from the consequences of his actions well.
One of the best parts of this volume was how confident it was in its portrayal of its chosen themes, with the juxtaposition of Hiro in this volume with Inuyashiki’s portrayal in the first volume a key example of this, keeping me captivated the entire time as I attempted to understand Hiro’s motivations. I thought that Hiro’s portrayal linked in very well with the reversal of the old and young this series has accomplished, with the older Inuyashiki eventually tasking himself with handling Hiro in a reversal of the usual shonen structure. The contrast between their personalities aside from their age is also done extremely well, effectively emphasizing the difference in the realization they come to from using their powers. Although not much explanation is provided for Hiro’s actions, this volume does a great job emphasizing a distinct capriciousness to his violence that is later contrasted effectively to Inuyashiki’s purpose resulting from his newfound ability to save people. To emphasize this point and bring the two volumes together effectively, Hiro has a moment where he reflects on his violent actions, noting that he “feels alive” in a mirror image of Inuyashiki’s realization in the first volume. This created an extremely strong comparison of each of their character progression as the two land on a collision course, strongly investing me in this conflict.
While the first half of the volume focuses on Hiro’s actions, the second half of the volume return to Inuyashiki as he continues learning to use his powers, this time with a clearer purpose in mind. An enjoyable sequence reminiscent of many shonen series (as well as Superman) follows him attempting to fly, portraying wonderfully a sheer sense of willpower on his part that would have seemed quite unlikely a short time ago. Inuyashiki’s heroic awakening also continues as he attempts to save more people, providing the catalyst for a number of enjoyable sequences as this unimpressive old man surprises his adversaries. I continue to enjoy the way that Oku keeps a firm grasp on the tone of this series, balancing out the utter darkness of the first half of the book with more hopeful moments later on. These are satisfying in helping to establish Inuyashiki’s character in the way he uses his abilities, making him a more relatable protagonist while providing an effective counterpoint to the corruptive effect these same powers have on Hiro.
Oku’s art continues to be an extremely effective part of this series, creating a hyper-realistic style that really emphasizes the unsettling feel of the first part of this volume. For a series about robots and aliens this groundedness is extremely effective, with the scenery portrayed with a startling realism that makes the violence seen disturbing in the sense that it could easily be imagined taking place in the real world.
Additionally, Oku does a fantastic job utilizing shadow for dramatic effect in this volume. This is used most effectively during the first half of the volume following Hiro, as his face becomes progressively more shadowed as his rampage continues. While this is left open to the reader to interpret, I personally took this as a window into his soul as he is slowly corrupted by his powers, but more than that it created an impactful dramatic effect that gave the sequences a lot more punch.
Inuyashiki’s second volume is thrilling and unsettling, creating a powerful juxtaposition between Inuyashiki and Hiro which reverses the archetypal young vs. old moral dynamic, in a dark subversion of the superhero genre. This volume expertly intersperses a twin dynamic of horror and hope to create an uneasy read which is heightened by Oku’s uncomfortably realistic art style. This is an easy recommendation, and fans of seinen manga or those tired of the usual youth focused superhero stories should definitely be taking notice.
Inuyashiki Vol. 2 was published by Kodansha Comics USA on November 24th, 2015 and covers chapter 9-17 of the series. Authored by Hiroya Oku, the series is currently ongoing in Kodansha’s Evening magazine. Volume 3 is scheduled to be released in English on February 23rd, 2016.
Inuyashiki was one of our favourite new series of 2015, check out the rest:
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