I am one who tends to stay away from the thriller and horror genres because they do not interest me. Most anime and manga I enjoy are about the great strides a person makes to become a better person overall. And ever since the “Zombie craze” lead by several video games, movies and manga; I thought nothing great could ever come from this concept. Yet I am a Hero could seem to be another story about surviving the zombie apocalypse, starts off with a different angle… The main character, Hideo, is a mangaka.
I am a Hero has a very strong beginning arc that brings up my favorite part of the series so far, “Brain-Dead” Art and Entertainment. The main character is a struggling mangaka who had a short lived publication and is the shadow of many of his contemporaries. One namely being his girlfriend’s ex, who is highly successful. He shows attributes of his struggle in his story boards, phrases like “the hero is absent” come up a lot. And every time Hideo feels down, he reminds himself, “I am the Hero” (the kanji for his name is the character for Hero). His greatest challenge is to fight against the industry that favors “brain-dead” stories over stories with substance. This is paralleled by the outbreak of a zombie like disease that begins to spread all over Tokyo. In the same way that the popularity of “brain-dead” entertainment affects the minds of the pop culture audience, so does this outbreak. Hideo is faced with a moment where he must take his role as a mangaka, and create his own story in real life. He must create himself to be the hero.
Some of the shows that have the main character be a creative usually never allow it to flourish. Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (ERASED) was a popular anime in the winter season, that had a similar case. A failing mangaka must take the opportunity to become the hero of his own story. This was just used as a plot device, showing no real connections to the main character being a mangaka coming to play into the story’s development. Bakuman takes a similar approach of a team of two boys begin their rise into the manga industry. Created by the creators of Deathnote, it was a glorified and very shonen style autobiography to a degree. Yet, being a mangaka was used as a motivation. It is difficult to use the main character as a mangaka because they fall into the same trap, coming up short with what can be done.
I am a Hero uses Hideo in a way that he is taking the pencil and using himself as the canvas. As the story progresses and the world of the manga business is left behind in Tokyo, Hideo faces several forks in the road. In the several situations he is faced with, he has moments to be able to shine as the hero. Hideo overthinks many things like an author would and gets caught talking to himself many times. In these situations, he is creating his own story by his actions. He has a chance to make his perfect manga and have himself be the hero. He was not able to fight back the industry that was brain-dead and lifeless, but he now has a chance to continue moving forward in the new world as the hero the people will need from this brain-dead and seemingly lifeless virus.
Hideo stands in the middle of the torii. Being in the middle of a torii is meant for Gods and Heroes.
I am a Hero is a great read, and for someone that is not a fan of thrillers or zombie series, this one has a lot more to offer than just another survival story. The several characters Hideo runs into are clearly villains corrupted by the new world or step up to be heroes in their own rights. And those moments when characters take that moment to be a hero, are truly the highlights of the series.
Thank you — swervenights