One day, after returning from work late in the evening, Hideo witnesses a traffic accident in which a car crashes into a nearby pedestrian, killing the victim instantly. However, despite severe injuries including a broken neck, the victim's body stands up and walks away. Hideo questions whether this is another one of his hallucinations, but strange events begin happening around him.
Directed by: Shinsuke Sato
. Starring: Masami Nagasawa
, Miho Suzuki
, Kasumi Arimura
, Nana Katase
, Yô Ôizumi
, Yoshinori Okada
, Hisashi Yoshizawa
, Yu Tokui
, Makita Sports
, Muga Tsukaji
, Natsu Andô
, Jin Katagiri
, Kazunori Kaneko
. Music by: Nima Fakhrara
For so long we only have English zombies and Chinese zombies, then this year we got our first Korean zombies and now we welcome the first appearance of Japanese zombies. The zombie apocalypse genre is excessively tried and tired. How Japan, having some of the most crowded cities in the world, hasn't gotten into the act is one mystifying mystery. Shinsuke Sato, adapting Kengo Hanazawa's massively popular manga of the same name, understands the source material and totally transpose the addictive page-turning frenzy onto the cinematic medium. This is one crackerjack of a movie and if you have to force me to make decision, I would choose to watch this again over Train to Busan.
Hideo Suzuki (Yô Ôizumi) is a manga artist still twiddling along long after his sell-by date. He lives with his wife who is tired of waiting for Hideo to score his first success at serialising his comic. Every night Hideo draws and stares at his self-made post-it notes of encouragement - "you rock" and "one day a street will be named after you". If that doesn't work, he will take out his shotgun for skeet shooting and pose in front of a full length mirror. He only stops short at muttering the infamous words of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. One night he is thrown out of the house and all hell breaks loose. Together with the quintessential school girl (Kasumi Arimura) in short skirt, they go on to Mt Fuji for safety because they read in one urgent posting on the internet - zombies can't survive in high altitude.
The moment the zombie epidemic starts, I am a Hero careens into one giddy blood- soaked adrenaline rush. The film doesn't push the zombie genre to new directions, but it takes the established tropes and gives it a fresh twist and out comes one sicko and satisfying monster-tainer. I love the opening establishing and main character building scenes - Hideo represents the typical male gazer, your favourite type of loser. His name notwithstanding, you know you will be watching an extreme character arc of a loser becoming a hero. How many times have you seen that in a zombie film? He is a pacifist in a cutthroat world of running zombies. How long can he stay that way in this world? Pretty long, I have to say. When the heroic moment finally arrives, and he steps up to the plate, a big smile was plastered on my face.
How else did the movie remixed the zombie tropes? Imagine zombies moving and gesticulating in Sadako (Ringu) style; zombies retaining one memory from their lifetime or a muscle memory that they repeat and repeat till someone blasts their brains out. I had a good laugh at one zombie muttering he is a taxi-driver who has won many awards for never being involved in any accident and for being the most courteous driver, and of course you know what happens next. The dark humour is just awesome. Some of them skewers the working class system and I couldn't stop myself from laughing at the absurdity of it all. In fact, I think I was the first one who started giggling. Then my wife caught the cue. Before long the audience in my section was laughing away. The dark humour was spot-on perfect and it works because you recognise the plight of the working class.
The visual effects are stellar - blackening veins, clouding eye-balls and gristly cracking noises. They move and contort like crabs and insects, which gave me the creeps. This is zombies J-pop horror style. The mass chaos on the city streets is superbly shot. Imagine people coming from all directions and you are not sure who are the infected until they get nearer. One particular action sequence on a highway is an adrenaline rush.
The middle act slows down a fair bit as Hideo and the girl reach a duty free mall at the foot of Mt Fuji. I am guessing that some of you who are true zombie aficionados would at this point cry "George Romero's Dawn of the Dead" - my respect to you if you did. But watch how the film puts a Lord of the Flies twist to it and this act comes up smelling like roses. I also love how Hideo's gun serves as a metaphor of his evolvement from zero to hero.
The film's narrative may feel familiar and a little long, but it is still one helluva inventive monster ride and Hideo is a wonderfully drawn character that will slowly but surely capture your imagination. The movie shamelessly sets itself up for a sequel but I can tell you I am so looking forward to another gore fest.
Review by ctowyi from the Internet Movie Database.