Reluctant hero's believable journey

When Tokyo is infested by zombies, manga artist Hideo Suzuki (Yo Oizumi) ends up protecting a schoolgirl.
When Tokyo is infested by zombies, manga artist Hideo Suzuki (Yo Oizumi) ends up protecting a schoolgirl. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION



127 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3.5/5 stars

The story: A manga artist, Hideo Suzuki (Yo Oizumi), is going nowhere in his career and his girlfriend is on the verge of dumping him. When a mysterious virus turns citizens across Tokyo into zombies, he must try to become the hero he has always imagined himself to be. Adapted from Kengo Hanazawa's best-selling manga series.

For a gory zombie movie, I Am A Hero contains a surprising number of laughs - albeit not the kind one gets from straight-up zombie film parodies such as British film Shaun Of The Dead (2004), where everything from the genre is exaggerated and mocked.

First and foremost a horror movie - and one filled with some of the bloodiest and most satisfying gut- spilling scenes in the genre - I Am A Hero trades in humour through meticulous details, such as a sumo-sized zombie barging down the road, threatening to do more harm to the protagonist with his weight than his teeth.

If there were a zombie apocalypse, of course there should be an obese one in the mix - it is an element most other zombie movies and television shows have omitted.

Most subtly funny of all is leading man Hideo, who is the opposite of the typical hero in zombie flicks, never mind that his name written in Kanji literally means hero.

He is certainly a far cry from the slick and macho Gong Yoo, the lead actor of South Korea's recent mega-hit zombie movie Train To Busan (2016).

While Gong's Seok Woo throws himself at zombies to protect his daughter - and looks good doing it - the well-meaning but cowardly Hideo chooses to escape into his wild fantasies as much as he can.

He keeps coming up with excuses to get out of doing the expected heroic thing and, more than once, gets saved by two women he befriends along the way.

There are no surprises as to whether he rises to the occasion to do the right thing, but his journey to get there is believable.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline Reluctant hero's believable journey. Subscribe