In a normal world, Hideo is the oddball; someone people would throw a judgmental glance at before moving away as quickly as possible. He would rant and rave about manga, he’s sexually awkward around women, and he sees…things. While it isn’t specifically addressed in the manga, he seems to have a sort of mental illness and suffers a break with reality. He also illegally owns a shotgun, which he obsessively continues to follow all the laws about even though society is crumbling around him. In fact, my guess would be that he has a severe form of OCD which can lead to hallucinations. Normally, you wouldn’t trust someone who sees hallucinations with a gun…but I’ll come back to this.
As I said, the zombies aren’t your typical zombies. They retain one thing that made them who they were and compulsively exaggerate it. In a Freudian sense, everyone’s superego has been destroyed and their ids have come out to play…hardcore. These aren’t just moaning, groaning brain eaters. The core of their humanity is sort of crystallized in amber and put on display, and in some cases the worst part of their humanity. A segment in this Omnibus shows one of the most frightening, bleak, and captivating breakdowns/transformations into one of these things so far. It’s both terrifying and heartbreaking as you see the character relive a traumatic episode in their life while having the darkest part of who they are magnified through the infection. Exaggerating these ids also plays out in another way. By retaining a piece of their humanity, the characters with good at their core, like Hideo, are truly and deeply affected by the monsters they’ve become. These beats play out throughout the Omnibus in the details, heightening moments as we’re helplessly flung forward into the action.
If you’ve been following along, Hiromi has become ill, infected, but she’s not like a lot of the other zombies. She doesn’t attack Hideo, she protects him. It seems like her id is to protect those that care for her. She’s also the only zombie (I hate calling them zombies, because they are so much more.) whose point of view we get to see. In this Omnibus, she finds someone else who she can protect, a wonderful new character that I’ll leave for you to discover.
Kengo Hanazawa, the creator of I Am A Hero, mines this situation atop the outlet mall in a way that William Golding did with Lord of the Flies or Aldous Huxley did with A Brave New World. Who will gain power in an apocalypse? Those that want to use their power for their own desires, of course. Those who were held back by the rules and laws of society. In exploring these thematic issues, Hanazawa digs deeper into what it means to be a hero and what it looks like to be a hero. It’s more than just wagging a gun around and wanting to look awesome. It’s a question of, when a choice is offered to you, do you take the easy route and succumb to your basest, most selfish desire or do you become better than that. Each character is given these choices throughout the book. How they react defines who they are.
Hanazawa likes to stay in a moment for as long as he can, visually building a landscape of conflicting emotions. He pulls, stretches, twists, and lulls every drop of insanity that he can from every situation Hideo and the others find themselves in. I Am A Hero isn’t so much a story as it is an experience. It’s not often I’m transported by a comic book, but this left me breathless and without realizing it my eyes had suddenly teared up as the events of the comic naturally began to slow down over the final few pages - a combination of relief and grief. Now, I find myself paging back over segments of the book, anxious to read it again and to see what happens when the next Omnibus is released.