Inuyashiki plasma
Inuyashiki's plasma beams blinding a room full of Yakuza

Inuyashiki has the propensity to be great. But it’s finding an enemy in its own villain.

Inuyashiki debuted early in October 2017, and I was immediately pleased. I love a good ‘pure superhero origin story’, and especially one in the Japanese sensibility. So to get The Reflection earlier this year, and now Inuyashiki, it’s a great year for it.

Four episodes in at this point, we see a clear progression in both the Hero and the Villain as characters. Both are discovering their abilities, and have discovered each other as well. They are naturally at odds with each other, and have their own personal conflicts as well.

But just because the progression is clear, doesn’t mean it’s good.

Inuyashiki: Grandfather, Office Worker, Hero

Inuyashiki yakuza punch
Inuyashiki sends a Yakuza tough into a tailspin

A man at odds with his own life, when we meet Inuyashiki he’s moving his daughter and her bratty kids into a new house. His work life is unfulfilling, and his recent back pain is the result of stomach cancer. The only affection in his life is a Shiba Inu he recently found in a box.

Following his diagnosis, he finds himself crying in the park one evening. He’s killed accidentally by aliens (or beings from another plane, it’s never made clear). But the next morning he wakes up and goes about his life. Only after a doctor’s checkup does he discover he’s not as he once was.

This has all been covered before, so what’s he up to as of the fourth episode?

His sense of justice has been steadily intensifying, and he laments those he cannot help. Through his eyes, the audience experiences the unfortunate callousness of reality. His desire to help others leads him even to long-term care hospitals.

As a character, he truly is the exemplar of heroism. In contrast to this, the villain is… disappointing…

Hiro: Student, Sociopath, Dumbass

Inuyashiki Hiro Sonic
Hiro charges up a sonic bullet

The ironically named ‘Hiro’ was the other person accidentally killed that night in the park. You’ll have to forgive me for not including ‘villain’ in his introduction, but he really hasn’t earned it. As a character he reminds me of Yagami Light from Deathnote. And I don’t mean this as a compliment.

It’s immediately clear that Hiro is a hardwired sociopath. He carries himself as if being a non-entity in society, with no concept of morality. His only loyalty seems to be a friend from his childhood, whom he protects by assassinating his bullies.

Someone like this would end up a very dangerous person, probably a serial killer, even without superhuman abilities. What makes Hiro such an unworthy villain, however, is his complete lack of focus.

Hiro is using his newfound powers to amuse himself with random murder, traffic interference, and ATM hacking. This colossal waste of power is irritating to me.

I can only compare this to the following scenario: Superman is bored. SO incredibly bored, that he comes up with a game. A game where he flies up into the outer atmosphere, pulls down his pants and tries to shoot elephants with semen. Superman big game hunting from orbit is the closest analogy I can come up with to the value of Hiro’s activities.

What’s the problem?

I find it quite unworthy for the developing hero Inuyashiki to be facing an equally powerful being who is this stupid. Also I worry about the progression of the series if the primary villain remains a bored teenager. He will become a tired character, a one-trick-pony, very fast if there isn’t some serious character development. If you want to be a villain, that’s your deal. But BE A VILLAIN!!

As a connoisseur of both Anime and hero origin stories, I enjoy good characters. I expect better of the villains especially, because no matter how good the heroes are, the villains make the story. A hero without a worthy villain will eventually get bored, or worse: boring.

A superhero story is dependent on the conflict between the opposite ends of many spectra. If one side is too strong, the story collapses. But if either side is too close to the middle, there is no meaning in conflict.

Returning to the west for a moment, Superman and Lex Luthor are equal, but opposite. Within the mythology they both occupy the farthest ends of their moral spectrum. And despite Superman’s overwhelming physical superiority, Lex is equally powerful as a result of his mind and influence.

But what about Inuyashiki and Hiro? The two of them are equal in power, having been rebuilt with the same hardware. But they don’t occupy the equivalent moral space on either end.

Inuyashiki rapidly takes his position as the paragon of virtue. Hiro, on the other hand, occupies no spot. Lacking the concept of a moral spectrum, or perhaps not caring, risks making a villain into a mere obstacle. Fighting a villain with no raison d’etre is like fighting the passage of time. It doesn’t want to kill you, but it will.

Solutions

The creators and writers must take a long look at the archetype of the villain they’ve created to oppose their hero. A truly great hero needs a truly great villain to reach his full potential. Without that interaction, and without that growth, the hero will grow dull.

I need to see Hiro challenge Inuyashiki directly, forcing both of them to their current limits, and I need to see it soon.