[Review] Inuyashiki – episode 1

Ichiro Inuyashiki is down on his luck. While only 58 years old, his geriatric looks often have him written off as a pathetic old man by the world around him and he’s constantly ignored and disrespected by his family despite all that he’s done to support them. On top of everything else, his doctor has revealed that he has cancer and it appears that he has little time left in this world. But just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse, a blinding light in the night sky strikes the earth where Ichiro stands.

Source: Anime News Network

Let’s get this out of the way up front: I viscerally disliked Inuyashiki. It is an unpleasant premiere about unpleasant people. I did not have a good time watching it and I have no desire to watch more of it. I’m not even sure it was “bad”—I think it probably did what it wanted to do very effectively—but it’s hard for me to gauge because of how much I could not fucking stand the series of events marching past my helpless eyeballs.

So this write-up is off to a great start, huh?

A group of teenagers wearing hoodies hold up baseball bats at an older man, who stands at the center of the group, his hands held up as if to shield his face.
The old dude is Inuyashiki and the punkass kids are me. Welcome to the review.

In the show’s defense(?), Inuyashiki wants to be unpleasant. The art design makes that clear, as it’s aesthetically unappealing, full of a lot of hyper-detailed, grotesque faces and expressions. It’s pretty well-animated, mind you, including some reasonably well-integrated CG, but that doesn’t stop it from being off-putting. Again, though, that’s kind of its whole bag. Inuyashiki hates the world and wants you to hate it, too. (But then, what else would you expect from the writer of GANTZ?)

Our protagonist is Inuyashiki Ichiro, a middle-aged man who looks about eighty, thanks to, I guess, a rough life that we are given no real insight into. In fact, the episode opens with him buying a new house, preparing for a follow-up doctor’s appointment, and ordering extra food to cover a delivery minimum, so forgive me if I don’t immediately understand why the home-owner with the steady income and good health insurance has aged beyond his years.

A two-story house with a pointed roof, lined on one side by a taller building and on the other by trees. A boy, a girl, and an older man and woman stand outside, facing the house.
Truly, his is a life comprised of the hardest of knocks.

Granted, all of these activities occur to the tune of the people around him being absolute ratbags, and the first half of the episode is basically “Man Getting Hit By Football” on repeat. His kids don’t like the new home. His wife either ignores or yells at him. Some young punks on the subway threaten to beat him up. He finds an adorable stray doggo (the only likable character in the show) and for some reason his family is angry about this.

Oh, and he got the results of the test back: he DEFINITELY has cancer.

By the time he’s sitting dejectedly on a swing set like an Arrested Development bit gone awry, the unrelenting shitstorm has gone from depressing to parody. There’s a single, brief scene where Ichiro throws his arms around his cute pupper’s neck and starts sobbing, and it’s genuinely affecting. Everything surrounding that moment is over-the-top miserable (what kids aren’t excited about a sweet new dog?!) and, frankly, cliche as hell. It reads like a checklist of Sad Middle-Class Everyman, without any unique or distinguishing characteristics.

A park at sunset. An older man sits on a swing set by himself, his head bent slightly.
[Insert Sad Trombones Here]
To be clear, I’m not saying middle-class, middle-aged dudes can’t have reasons to be unhappy or that those stories shouldn’t be told, because they can and they should. Exploring that in a healthy way would be great to see, in fact, given that a lot of men, especially older ones, have been conditioned to believe they need to bottle up all of their “unmanly” emotions. A series that allows a seemingly well-off man to be depressed and work through that could be really beneficial for a lot of people.

But, to be equally clear, that’s not what this premiere is doing. Instead it’s just making the people around Ichiro a bunch of asshole stereotypes. Ungrateful children? Check. Naggy wife? Check. Damned entitled millennials thinking they can do whatever they want? Double-check. The only humans we’re supposed to sympathize with are two middle-aged men: Ichiro, of course, and a homeless guy who plans to reunite with his estranged wife, IF ONLY THESE EVIL TEENAGERS WOULD STOP TRYING TO SET HIM ON FIRE!

(I did say the torment levels in this premiere reach the point of parody, right?)

A photo of a man and a woman sitting with the sea behind them. The edges of the photo are on fire. Part of someone's hand is reaching to grab the photo by its corner.
NOT THE PHOTO OF HIS WIFE! HAVE YOU YOUNG HOOLIGANS NO SHAME?!

The plot, by the way, is about Ichiro getting (I think) crushed by an alien spaceship and the aliens uploading his consciousness into a high-tech robot body. It involves unsettling body horror and the ability to record and live-stream events to every screen in the metropolitan area. There’s also an underlying, paradoxical theme at play where, in gaining his robot body, Ichiro is able to take risks, help others, and “feel human” again for the first time in a long time. Which, hey, is a neat concept!

There are ways you could do this story that wouldn’t be such a miserable slog. There are also ways you could do this story that wouldn’t pin all of life’s problems on The Wimmens and The Dadgummed Kids These Days. Ways that could actually examine why there’s a disconnect between Ichiro and his family, and how he might be complicit in or responsible for some of the dissatisfaction in his life.

But, nah. Let’s just make everyone around him a bunch of selfish shitheels. Really just refuse to do anything new or interesting with this premise.

An older man's face is split down the middle, revealing mechanical parts inside. He looks more exhausted than scared.
We can rebuild him. Stronger. Better. Less Banal.

You know, maybe I picked the wrong Simpsons reference. Maybe this isn’t “Man Getting Hit by Football.” Maybe it’s just another Old Man Yells at Cloud.

 

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  • TheSojourner

    I was really looking forward to this one – the idea of a middle aged man being the hero is almost unheard of in anime. I’ll likely still give it a shot, but now I know the opening is rough. Hopefully it gets better.

  • Roman Komarov

    I don’t agree with that review that much, as a lot of the things you’re talking about _could_ be explained later, but I’m not going to argue — I’ll wait to see how the things are going. It would be also interesting to see/hear what other members of this site are thinking (though, one thing: calling 58-years middle age is very strange for me, but I’m from Russia, where the average life span of men is 64 years, and that’s Japan, but yeah; still, that’s not your average protagonist in anime).

    Like, from the feminist standpoint the worst in those premiere were a) the naked (but not fanservicey) shot of one of the future characters (?) in opening, and b) the overall absence of women characters for now (in it seems that there won’t be any of them in the main cast). Other than that it seems that if you’d forgive the plot making anyone around the Inuyashiki that awful (though, that’s totally something that can happen and happens in real life, and I’m not even sure they are awful — there is probably also a part of Inuyashiki’s fault for being that detached from the family, for example), we could see that the themes that anime brings up are not that bad? But yeah, that’s just the first episode, and it could get worse later. But I’m intrigued and as there were no anything _that_ bad from the feminist standpoint, I won’t drop it yet.

    Thanks for review though, the more different opinions on things we have, the better!

    • Dee

      For me, at least, an adult male power fantasy grounded in gross, over-simplified “good old days” ideas about how women and children are all ungrateful monsters who don’t appreciate Dad’s Sacrifices is absolutely of feminist relevance.

      The premiere goes out of its way to paint him and other older men like him as the only decent human beings in this world, trying their best while women and teens crap all over them to a cartoonish degree. Through narrative framing, it implies that the misery in Ichiro’s life is all due to external factors and he personally bears zero responsibility or control.

      And never mind that Ichiro has all the actual power: he still bought a house and kept a dog without asking for his family’s opinions first. Yet the series depicts him as the sympathetic figure and vilifies the people around him who would probably like a say in the decisions that affect their lives. Maybe the reason Ichiro’s family doesn’t like him is because he doesn’t actually care what they, as other individual persons, think—he just wants them to mindlessly praise and agree with every choice he makes.

      As for whether or not they’ll expand upon this or address some of these issues later… I mean, the stuff with his family, maybe? You could theoretically pull an “unreliable narrator”-style shift and make his family more sympathetic. But this first episode also contains a bunch of one-off teenagers who are all stereotypical sadistic monsters. That sets a misanthropic tone the series will be hard-pressed to pull back on in an effective way, should it choose to do so (and given its across-the-board disgust for anyone who isn’t an older man, there’s zero evidence in this premiere that it’s planning to).

      We always encourage folks to pop into the comments for our mid-season or end-of-season check-ins and let us know if a show improved. If that happens with Inuyashiki, you’re welcome to let us know. But I have no intention of going back to this unpleasant world myself.

      • Roman Komarov

        Thanks for the answer! I don’t agree with anything, but not going to argue, and I don’t see Inuyashiki being worth it anyway 🙂

        Offtopic: does AniFem has plans on reviewing “Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau”? I know its probably not available at USA due to Netflix stuff, but anyway?

        • Dee

          We don’t have legal access to it, so we will not be reviewing the premiere. Once it’s available on Netflix, we’ll welcome article pitches on it.

      • fallendark

        as someone who has read the manga i will say, your issues will be addressed.

  • Caitlin

    I’m sorry you felt neglected or ignored earlier. Our moderation team – myself included – does not keep constant watch over the comments, so it can take several hours, even days, for a comment to be approved, especially if it’s made late at night.

    I saw your comment while I was riding the bus to work this morning. I’m slow to wake up and had a rough evening the day before. Because of that, I wanted to wait until I was fully awake so I could read the comment more thoroughly and make sure there was nothing against our guidelines in it – approving things while I’m tired had allowed things to slip through the cracks. I don’t use a computer at my job, so now was my first opportunity.

    Most of our team is in our late 20s and early 30s, like you, so I’m sure you understand how hectic life can get and certain things fall by the wayside.

  • ImaniToo

    When I read the synopsis I was a little worried that the show might focus too much on the One Man Against the World angle. But the older protagonist was too much to resist. (I haven’t seen Gantz.) This review was on point even though I’m willing to give it two more episodes. By the time we got to the homeless guy sobbing on the phone I was ready to laugh at his wife’s, “No thanks.” (Plot twist there, I guess.)

    The character design and animation for Inuyashiki was all that I found emotionally affecting. The situations around him were preposterously over the top, with the kids’ robotic response to the cute doggo the most incredulous. Or was it the office in which he appeared to be the only employee in his dept over 25? How has cruel society not laid him off yet? Maybe that’s the next episode.

  • As a person who started going gray at age 17, I can testify that people can indeed present as much older than they actually are.

    Also (thankfully not from direct experience), a potentially terminal illness like cancer can wear people out prematurely.

  • Also, I think healthcare in Japan is managed by the government. It’s not an indicator of wealth.

    It’s a little more complicated than that sounds, but you are essentially correct. That cancer screening (and treatment, had it been treatable) is supposed to be accessible to every citizen of Japan.

  • Teka the Budgie

    If Ichiro works full time, he’s not going to be the one actually taking care of the dog, which will require attention, exercise, and house training. Not something I would want dumped on me unilaterally.

  • Roman Komarov

    Ok, I’ve watched the second episode and I’m dropping it. Not because of the main character or anything, but because the second character that got power and the one that would be an antagonist. He is a psychopath and they show the violencefest he induces on one family killing them all. The whole episode was dedicated to showing that he is a psychopath that doesn’t know it and tries to live the normal life, but when gained the superpowers — uses it for fun and then finds out he feels alive when killing people in the worst ways. Shown in a different way it could be a nice antagonist for our main character. But they show him in a way a lot of people watching would actually enjoy those killings and sympathise with him in a way. He loves manga! He called this girl in a class “bitch”! They mentioned “One Piece”, “Gantz” and “2chan”! Ugh. Just ugh.