I Am a Hero is a live-action film adaptation of the manga of the same name. It centers on Hideo Suzuki, a down-on-his-luck manga artist who continually fails to catch a big break after fifteen years of trying. While waiting for his seemingly impossible-to-happen dream to come true, he works as an underpaid, unfulfilled assistant to a published manga artist, much to the frustration of his girlfriend. His only source of cheer in his wretched life is his most prized possession: a sporting shotgun, which he hasn’t even used. One day, an epidemic called ZQN suddenly breaks out across Japan, transforming the infected into zombies. With civilization crumbling down and Hideo running for his life, a zombie apocalypse may turn out to be the perfect opportunity for him to find the inner hero inside him – or, at least, finally get to use his shotgun.
I became interested for I Am a Hero because something I read marketed it as “the Train to Busan of Japan.” But after watching it, I found that that’s not true at all. It’s far from being as thrillingly paced, thoughtful, and visceral as Train to Busan. (It also currently sits at 100% in Rotten Tomatoes. But its present rating is misleading since it’s only from five reviews.)
I Am a Hero does have entertainment value. But it’s also packed with zombie clichés. I don’t find anything that can make it distinctive from the multitude of zombie movies and shows out there. Now, I haven’t read the manga. But I looked up what it’s about, and my conclusion afterwards was this: it’s a shame the movie didn’t faithfully adapted it, because there’s some cool stuff in the manga that would have made the movie amazing if they have been included in it. For example, the manga has an intriguing villain in Kuruso (he isn’t in the movie). Also, certain characters – like Hideo and Hayakari – seem to have better characterizations in the manga. The manga’s Hideo, for one, gains the ability to control a zombie like a puppet after he gets bitten by his infected girlfriend, but in a manner in which the bite didn’t penetrate his skin to draw blood. The movie’s Hideo is also bitten by his toothless zombiefied girlfriend, but he doesn’t gain powers from it.
I didn’t like the live-action Hideo. His arc has him as a pathetic loser for a long time. True, there’s something refreshing from having a flawed, clumsy, nerdy, daydreaming character as main protagonist of a zombie movie instead of the typical badass one. But there’s also something stupid and boring in having the main character’s hero journey be hinged on him finally gaining the chance, and the balls, to shoot his shotgun.In the end, there’s fun to be had with I Am a Hero. The repulsive-looking practical effects work on the zombies look superb. There are some genuinely funny moments. It has exciting, gory, violent action scenes, though they are few and far between (the climax, particularly, is pretty kickass). And there’s satisfaction from seeing Hideo become a shotgun-slinging badass for the first time (but it takes a tedious while to get there). Overall, I Am a Hero entertains, but in a rather superficial, eventually forgettable level.