Hiro’s sins catch up with him when he is publicly outed as a murderer. Now seeking refuge with a classmate, Hiro tries to find absolution but his chosen method might just be killing and vengeance.
Hiro Shishigami’s life was changed forever that day in the park when he mysteriously became part-cyborg and was given incredibly dangerous powers. Instead of using his powers to save people like old-man Ichiro Inuyashiki, Hiro decided to use his powers to entertain himself by killing people. Quickly becoming known as a mysterious and vicious killer, Hiro’s actions finally catch up with him when he is outed publicly to the nation, forcing him to go on the run. Finding refuge with an affectionate classmate, Hiro bides his time but finds that while he might be able to escape the nation’s vengeance his loved ones may not be so lucky.
How Was It?
The moral core of Inuyashiki has been the powerful juxtaposition between Inuyashiki’s value system versus that of Hiro, and the way that this has been overlaid with the tension of the old versus the young has created an exceptional inversion of the archetypal superhero storyline. After a previous couple of volumes which really focused on Inuyashiki striving to utilize these powers for the good, this volume turns its focus exclusively to Hiro as he runs from the police. This ends up being an extremely powerful thematic counterpoint the Inuyashiki’s process of finding his own inner absolution through healing and saving, and I found myself drawn into this deep-dive into Hiro’s moral process. Part of what makes the process so interesting is because Hiro has always been held at arms-length emotionally throughout this story after being characterized fairly uncompromisingly as evil, and I really enjoyed seeing his moral struggles laid out so clearly in this volume.
Hiro’s descent into the abyss in this volume picks up immediately after he becomes cornered by the police at the conclusion of the previous volume, and instead of merely showing him wrecking shop I really liked that the series takes this opportunity to really examine his character as he remains in hiding. Throughout this story we’ve seen Hiro more or less abstracted from any sort of emotional or tangible responsibility for his cruel actions, but we see things finally catching up with him while seeing his process of attempting to process all of this really brought to the forefront. This is powerfully portrayed as his denial is slowly eroded by this process – we see him go from treating his actions almost as those of a player in some sort of video game to his realization that they are real and catching up with him. A powerful series of panels shows this happening fairly rapidly as he begins laughing before becoming more strained, and after he finds out the real consequence of his actions this culminates in an anguished nighttime flight that is a direct contrast to a panel a few volumes ago showing Inuyashiki in pure joy as he flies. The contrast between the two is laid on thick, and I felt that this really gave Hiro’s arc a real emotional grounding because of this juxtaposition with the opposing emotions we’ve already seen Inuyashiki experience.
Hiro’s arc in this volume is also informed by his dissatisfaction with society and its pressures, and this becomes an increasingly interesting part of the story as the volume proceeds. We see Hiro feverishly following the message boards as they talk about him and his mother, and this culminates in another killing spree. While the brutality of this scene served to really show his anger, what I really liked was the way the art simultaneously continued to emphasize his moral decay by using increasingly prominent levels of shadow to obscure his face as the scenes progressed. This was utilized in a previous volume, and I thought that this progressive obscuring of his face being continued was a fantastic way to track his descent into darkness. This created a sense of foreboding and unease on the part of me as the reader, and I was really impressed with the way that this tension was built up heading into a culminating scene as Hiro faced his classmate in baring his true and unvarnished self. This was an incredibly powerful scene because it felt like Hiro was really facing the full weight of his actions for the first time, and his face was shown as almost completely in shadow to represent this. The line that really delivered for me was a recognition from him that his reason for killing was that it really made him feel alive, and this brought this series thematic contrast full circle in a powerful moment with this call back to Inuyashiki’s statement in the first volume that using his powers made him feel alive. This was an impressively powerful way of bringing all of the emotional work done in this series together, and I really enjoyed this bit of payoff.
The final stretch of this volume follows Hiro after he reaches this breaking point as he tries to repent in some sense for his actions. I’m not sure that the emotional points here were grounded as well as they could have been after we saw him at his darkest – it felt like his turnaround happened almost jarringly fast considering the care with which was saw his moral decay. It was sort of hard to process his dramatic and sudden about-face, and while I understand that this was supposed to be the result of some sort of moral epiphany on his part, I thought that this should have been grounded more effectively in his emotional development. The basis by which Hiro’s moral turnabout happens felt a little bit flimsy, and I thought this robbed the emotions in play during this stretch of a lot of their potential resonance. The end of the volume still poses a powerful cliffhanger regarding his ability to run from his sins, and I’ll definitely be interested to see how this progresses heading into the next volume.
Inuyashiki Vol. 5 is a powerful, dark, and compelling character study of this series’ primary antagonist, and I was definitely enthralled by the emotional starkness with which Hiro’s emotional unravelling was portrayed with. Inuyashiki has done a fantastic job focusing on its core moral themes, and I really thought the series nailed portraying the powerful contrast between Inuyashiki and Hiro’s respective experiences in grappling with their powers to create a really effective emotional and moral juxtaposition which made Hiro’s emotional arc that much more resonant. While the latter part of this volume showing Hiro’s subsequent turnaround felt much less effectively grounded, this volume should absolutely be picked up by anyone interested in stories with powerful dueling moral systems.
Inuyashiki Vol. 4 was translated by Stephen Paul and published by Kodansha Comics USA on October 18th, 2016. Authored by Hiroya Oku, the series is currently ongoing in Kodansha’s Evening magazine.
Date of Publication: October 18th, 2016
Translator: Stephen Paul
Author: Hiroya Oku
Publisher: Kodansha Comics USA