58 year old Ichiro Inuyashiki is a down trodden loser working in sales for a company who doesn’t want him, to pay for a mortgage for his wife and kids who couldn’t care less about him. Ichiro’s life seems like it can’t get any worse, until a letter sends him to the doctor’s office, where he is told he has a terminal illness. He attempts to confide in his family, but is completely disregarded due to their disdain towards him. Upon arriving home one night, he finds a dog that was left on his door step who he so wishes to befriend, but in keeping up with his wife’s wishes tries to abandon in a park. In his attempt to discard the dog, a bright light in the sky renders him unconscious and upon awakening the next day, he begins to experience new found abilities and a new found body. This leads him to a feeling of self worth and purpose in life, unlike anything he’s ever experienced. He uses his new found powers to heal with his hands and fight crime, becoming the secret hero Japan and its people need. Unbeknownst to him, someone else was in the park that night and they’ve decided they could use the abilities for other, more sinister purposes. 

“Inuyashiki” screened at the 17th New York Asian Film Festival

Shinsuke Sato is no stranger to bringing manga to life, after helming the entire “Gantz” live action films and this is very apparent with the ease of story telling he displays here. His direction of a Hiroshi Hashimoto penned screenplay is character focused, within a genre that is normally completely reliant on action. He makes you genuinely feel for his characters and the experiences they are taking part, which is accomplished film making at its best. These aren’t things normally said about superhero movies, but Sato manages to tell an incredibly human story in one of the most vain and characterless genres in cinema. 

Noritake Kinashi (“For Business”) plays the role of our hero with such depth, there are moments where you genuinely feel for him and his misfortunes. It’s something completely new to the superhero genre, actual dramatic acting. The supporting cast includes Mari Hamada (“The Cat Returns”) as his harsh daughter who is unrelenting in her hatred towards her father, Takeru Satoh (“Rurouni Kenshin”) as his psychopathic nemesis who wants to see the whole world burn and Yusuke Iseya (“13 Assassins”) as the detective trying to stop him.

The action and fighting scenes are exemplary, with Atsushi Doi (“Death Note”) bringing it all together with very realistic and believable special effects. The huge scale of the film is proficiently displayed with some very entertaining flying sequences, showcasing the cityscape and the cinematographer’s ability to engage us with exciting camerawork. It’s a slow burn to begin with but the pace steadily increases with the final act coming at the viewer at break neck speed. 

This film is really an example of a what the over used superhero movie could be, with the right story and director behind it. Sato manages to not only tell an action packed thrill ride, but a story with genuine heart and characters you actually care about. If the plague of repetitive Hollywood superhero movies is getting you down, “Inuyashiki” may just be the cure.