If nothing else, at least mangaka Hiroya Oku finishes off the low-rent crime/revenge story he started off in the previous volume quickly here. Just one chapter and it’s behind us. What follows is certainly an improvement as we get back to having the story be about the different approaches the aged Inuyashiki and the teen Hiro have taken with their new all-purpose alien-made robot bodies. The bad news is that it’s not really all that interesting because of the simplistic black and white moral contrast between the two.
After taking out all of those bad, bad Yakuza, we see Inuyashiki going around to hospitals to cure the sick with his abilities, and working with Hiro’s friend Andou to test the limits of his abilities in amusing ways. The reason Andou is working with the old man is because his friend’s killing spree has convinced him that Hiro needs to be stopped.
The funny thing is that we don’t actually see Hiro kill anyone in his volume. Yeah, he may have roughed up some of those cops pretty good, but we actually see a kinder, gentler side to him here. This comes through in the scenes with his mother as Hiro uses his abilities to cure her terminal cancer and score enough cash for them to move out of their small apartment. He’s playing the part of the good son, in a fairly selfish way. I realize that it’s hard to argue that curing someone of cancer is a selfish act, the scene in which Hiro does it has the character acting as if it’s the disease which has done something personally to him.
Then you have his casual theft of (I’m assuming) several hundred thousand yen to pay for their new high-rise apartment. Not that his mom is all that excited about the place, but it’s what Hiro thinks she wants. With things going so great for him and his mother, the teen then decides that he’s not going to kill anyone again.
Which is great, right? We should all be able to cast away our sins so easily with a level of self-assuredness and delusion that can only be called Trump-ian with the proper perspective. Oku is quick to point out to Hiro that it doesn’t work that way and his life quickly falls apart as a result. The volume ends hinting that the boy may be redeemed through the love of a good woman, or that the title’s gender politics are going to become extremely uncomfortable to witness in vol. 5.
Given that this is coming from the creator of “Gantz,” I should be more worried about seeing the latter come into play. However, Oku has made it emphatically clear with “Inuyashiki” that he wants to buck whatever reputation he earned from his signature series. “Gantz” relentlessly targeted an older teen audience with its gratuitous amounts of violence, gore, and T&A. Oku knew his audience and clearly reveled in the freedom the series gave to display these things.
In contrast, “Inuyashiki” has used them fairly sparingly. Wheeling them out only when a point is needed to be made about the destructive power of its protagonists bodies. While I miss the over-the-top action storytelling that fueled “Gantz,” Oku’s approach is still pretty effective here. The other-ness of Inuyashiki and Hiro’s abilities still has some kick to it when they wheel it out as the story demands.
You could argue that Oku is demonstrating some maturity with what he’s doing here. Except that it’s the kind of maturity that comes with demanding that those kids get off of your damn lawn. As I mentioned above, there’s really no moral ambiguity to the positions of Inuyashiki and Hiro. The old guy may have some doubts about his humanity, but he’s basically a friggin’ saint in the way he utilizes the abilities that he has been given. Hiro, on the other hand, is someone who murders random people because he can, stops because he decides it’s not cool anymore, and helps out his mom to feel better about himself. Clearly, one of these is meant to come of as more sympathetic than the other. It’s also hard not to think that the circumstances Hiro finds himself in at the end of the volume were directly meant to separate him from anyone who may have been able to halt his slide into further villainy. Now I’m even more worried for that poor girl…
Vol. 4 essentially sets up the conflict of a GOOD OLD MAN vs. A BAD TEENAGER. Admittedly, there’s some fun to be had in seeing Inuyashiki fight the good fight against the ills of society and push his own limits, while I appreciate the depth added to Hiro’s character here. Oku’s storytelling abilities haven’t completely deserted him here even though he’s utilizing them in the service of a setup that I don’t find to be desperately compelling. It’s as if he came out of “Gantz” with the desire to stop pandering to teens and make a conscious effort to pander to adults instead. It’s a thought that depresses me and makes me question if I should keep reading this series to find out how all this is going to end when everything seems so obvious right now.