Life is not easy for 35-year-old Hideo Suzuki. He suffers from hyper-realistic hallucinations, he’s stuck working in a meaningless job, and he lives in the shadow of his girlfriend’s successful ex-boyfriend. Hideo is a nobody and a supporting character in his own life… that is, until a zombie outbreak threatens to destroy all of Tokyo, and he just might be the one person to save them all.

Right off the bat, author/illustrator Kengo Hanazawa introduces us to Hideo and his many personality traits: he stands out from other heroes because he’s a regular guy who is ill-equipped to deal with serious situations. He lacks leadership and direction in his day-to-day life and merely goes through the motions, hoping things will work out for him. Additionally, he is deeply disturbed, and for the better part of the manga, he has conversations with an imaginary figure openly and in front of his coworkers. Developmentally, he also struggles to behave appropriately around others and can’t understand why his actions are wrong, as when he asks complete strangers very sexual and inappropriate questions without thinking much of it. Since we have such a good understanding of Hideo’s identity, it will make it more impactful when we (hopefully) get to see his growth as the story progresses.

Unfortunately, the story itself has such a slow pace that many will undoubtedly put it down before the action begins, which isn’t until the second volume. Hanazawa spends so much time developing Hideo’s character that the outbreak takes a backseat, seemingly forgotten; there are subtle glimpses here and there, but they’re so overshadowed by Hideo that one begins to wonder if zombies will ever appear. Similarly, the beginning is so clunky and confusing that we never get any clarity about Hideo’s daily hallucinations. While they clearly hinder him as a person, they’re never addressed, and instead only serve to interrupt the flow of the story and leave readers scratching our heads, thinking, “what just happened?” Once the zombies do show up, it gets good—but sadly, the manga will have lost many of its readers by that point.

The manga’s saving grace is Hanazawa’s art, which carries the story to the very end. Physically speaking, Hideo is Hanazawa. He’s drawn to look almost exactly like him, which is awesome and makes him the hero of his own story. He also plays to his strengths: everything is drawn in a vivid, realistic manner, adding to the eeriness of the impending apocalypse. The disgusting, decaying zombies increase the reader’s fear and anxiety whenever they appear; they’re also dangerously fast and don’t care if they are ripped apart, limb by limb, as long as they reach their prey. We especially see this when Hideo’s girlfriend attacks: it’s nonstop, vicious, and she never relents, even when all of her teeth have fallen out.

Hanazawa also takes the reader on this frightening journey using numerous first person shots to immerse us in his scenes. We are right there with Hideo each step of the way through every decision, both good and bad, and we get to experience what it’s like to have a zombie coming right at us: pretty terrifying. Similarly, the way he uses color to transition between volumes is effortlessly done, signalling to the reader when one volume is ending and another begins. The pop of color is nice, but it also makes us realize how much more effective the story is in black and white; by eliminating color, he forces the reader to focus solely on the art and nothing else. Less really is more.

I am a Hero is meant for mature audiences, not only because of how graphic and violent it becomes, but how crude it is as well. While this crudeness works for the story, together with the violence it might be offensive to some, and not for everyone.

Had Hanazawa tightened the writing up more, I am a Hero would have been flawless, but sadly, it just missed the mark.

I am a Hero Omnibus, vol. 1
by Kengo Hanazawa
ISBN: 9781616559205
Dark Horse, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: Mature

  • Marion Olea

    Past Reviewer

    Marion Olea is the Teen Services Librarian at the Northlake Public Library District in Northlake, IL. She is in charge of weeding and ordering Teen Fiction, Graphic Novels, Manga, and Video Games, as well as implementing all sorts of geeky and crafty programs for her teens. Her first real introduction to the world of manga and anime were Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, which she would rush home after school to watch, and while they continue to be her favorites, many other mangas have since found their way into her heart. Similarly, the animated X-Men series on Fox is what introduced her to the world of comics and opened up a whole new world of reading to her. When Marion isn’t reading or binge watching anime, she enjoys gaming, going to conventions, crocheting, baking, traveling, and running 5Ks.

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