Based on the popular manga by Kengo Hanazawa, I Am a Hero follows Hideo Suzuki (Yo Oizumi), a down on his luck manga artist who has succumbed to a life of unfilled dreams and severe bouts of low-self esteem. While visiting his girlfriend’s apartment the day after they had an argument, he notices something strange about her due to her exhibiting erratic behavior. She then viciously attacks him, eliciting a bloodthirstiness for human flesh. Nearly escaping death, and with his trusty sporting shotgun in tow, Hideo fights to survive amidst a growing population that is infected with what has now become known as the “ZQN” virus, which turns any human it comes into contact with into rampaging zombie-like creatures.
One of the many difficulties with adapting any popular manga series into a live-action film is that there is usually so much backstory that has to be left unattended to due to the structuring of the film medium. What is even more challenging is when its source material has not even concluded yet. Director Shinsuke Sato’s I Am a Hero is a demanding undertaking for these two primary reasons, with the added element that is as a film adheres to the oversaturated zombie genre that has crowded the realm of entertainment for the last several years.
Fortunately for much of I Am a Hero, Sato brings his experience working with previous successful manga to live-action films to the table. Having worked on films such as Gantz (2011) and Gantz Perfect Answer (2011), both of which were based upon the popular manga series, Sato once again showcases a crafty eye by helming I Am a Hero through recreating some of the most iconic scenes from the manga series, which is sure to please fans of the source material. Similar to those aforementioned films, Sato delivers a nice homage to the manga series with those scenes being done amazingly well here, such as Hideo’s initial confrontation with his now infected girlfriend or the meeting of his crazed coworkers. The production values are appreciative all throughout the film, from the twisting and deforming nature of the infected to the dilapidated and failing societal surroundings, the film elicits a sense of realism despite its otherworldly premise and farfetched antics.
What is unfortunate is that much of the introspective nature regarding the character of Hideo is sorely absent here, alongside the social commentary regarding a crumbling society. This is surprising since these are prominent aspects of the manga series, which in the film have been delegated to the background as faint whispers amidst chaotically gore-filled action scenes and unconvincing human antagonists. Yo Oizumi does offers an excellent portrayal of the timid and insecure Hideo though, as does Kasumi Arimura as the teenage Hiromi, but star power such as Masami Nagasawa as nurse Yabu offer practically no opportunity for any displays of acting prowess, hindered by the film’s orthodox approach. This is especially the case in the film’s culminating half in which the narrative dilutes down into simply becoming a blood fest in order to appease those particular viewers who want to see dozens upon dozens of infected get massacred. It makes sense considering the dire situation at hand, but it becomes too overly drawn out and hampers the strength of what came before it in terms of providing a plausible outcome.
The film only covers roughly one third of the original manga series, a series which is still continuing to this day. Unless there are any plans for a sequel in the works, in its current state I Am a Hero does very little to cover any new ground in a genre that is sorely lacking much development in the creativity department. The narrative of the film does a relatively good job at keeping the tension high throughout, which is mainly due to Sato’s adeptness as a director to keep things moving along at a brisk pace. The look of the film is superb, especially the special effects of the infected. For those viewers looking for a nice romp into the zombie genre, I Am a Hero offers up a good time despite being plagued by its few shortcomings, just don’t expect anything that strays too much outside of the conventional.