★★★★ out of ★★★★★
A live-action take on the award winning Japanese manga brings some freshness to the zombie genre.
Directed by Shinsuke Sato
Fresh zombies! Get yer fresh zombies here!
Are your zombies tired and listless? Have they stopped biting people like they used to? Well, my friend, maybe you’re just watching the wrong movies!
I Am A Hero (2015) started out in Japan as a manga written and illustrated by Kengo Hanazawa back in 2009. From August 2009 until March 2017, it spanned a whopping 22 stand-alone volumes (tankōbon). Dark Horse Comics snatched up the English language rights and published their first (of eleven!) omnibus volumes in 2016.
Loosely based on the first eight volumes of the original manga, I Am A Hero follows 35 year old Hideo Suzuki [Yô Ôizumi; Spirited Away (2001)] who’s a manga artist’s assistant with big dreams. He wants to be a published artist himself, but it’s been 15 years since he won an award as an up-and-coming young creator and he’s got nothing to show for it.
Having been kicked out of the apartment he shares with his long suffering girlfriend, Tekko [Nana Katase; Death Note: The Last Name (2006)], the night before, Hideo hurries back when she calls — sounding a little odd, but apologetic. What follows is one of the most brilliant and gymnastically athletic zombie reveals I have ever seen.
And following that is some of the greatest footage ever shot showing the pandemonium at the very beginning of a zombie apocalypse. It’s a mad scramble through the streets of Tokyo with crowds of people — both uninfected and zombified — where you can literally watch the bonds of civility breaking down.
During this mass hysteria, Hideo manages to share a horrifying cab ride with Hiromi [Kasumi Arimura; Birigyaru (2015)], a high school student caught up in the zombie-induced chaos, and the two decide to travel together. Their goal: Mt. Fuji, where the high elevation is reported to kill the infection and repel the already infected.
The story of I Am A Hero is one of personal redemption and with that in mind the writers do a great job. From Hideo’s own journey to that of Tsugumi Oda [Masami Nagasawa; Your Name. (2016)], a disillusioned nurse struggling with her initial reaction to the zombie outbreak, the motivations behind the characters seem real and well thought out. As with my other favorite Japanese zombie movie, One Cut of the Dead (2017), this is a horror movie with heart.
Heart. And lots and lots of splattery blood. They stop short of the viscera; nobody’s yanking out intestines or any of the other goopy insides that Romero loved to show. But the zombie make-up is extremely well done and wow are those guys juicy! So many exploding heads! It’s like Christmas! (If Christmas was chock full of exploding heads.)
The make-up effects coupled with fantastically produced CG work and a group of stunt people who should be nominated for Nobel Prizes or something all came together for a Final Fight sequence that was out of this world. The carnage was astounding and SUMO ZOMBIE! Need I say more? Seriously.
I Am A Hero is a perfect blend of comedy, charm, and gruesome chompy zombies. Full disclosure, I dropped my rating a tiny bit on account of the pacing faltering in the second act. The movie clocks in at just over two hours and some of that time seemed unnecessary, but overall it’s yet another great zombie movie coming out of Japan.
I Am A Hero is available for streaming from Amazon as well as Netflix (in some countries).
Review by Robert Zilbauer.