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?
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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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