Image source: アニメ「いぬやしき」公式@2017年10 on Twitter

The antagonist of Inuyashiki, Hiro Shishigami, tried to turn over a new leaf. He’d put his days of random killings behind him and instead devoted himself to saving the ill and dying in need. Despite the carnage that followed, he genuinely tried to make up for his wrongs. But, should he be forgiven for the crimes he’s already committed?

[Note: This article contains spoilers for Inuyashiki: Last Hero.]

In Inuyashiki: Last Hero, two individuals, Ichiro Inuyashiki and Hiro Shishigami, were reborn as cybernetic organisms with unimaginable technological powers. Right away, in a search to regain their humanity and feel alive again, both individuals began walking down paths of heroism and villainy, with Inuyashiki helping those in need and Shishigami killing random families.

As events progressed, however, things began to change with Shishigami. Faced with the terminal cancer in his mother, Shishigami discovered that he could use his abilities to help her. He cured her cancer and went apartment shopping for a new home, telling her that she would never have to work another day in her life. Then, it all came crashing down around him. His identity discovered by the police, Shishigami became a hunted man and his infamy turned public opinion against his mother, driving her to suicide. Having lost perhaps the most important thing in his life, Shishigami lashed out, killing those he felt were responsible for wronging him. In the end, he found comfort with his classmate, Shion Watanabe. Under her guidance, Shishigami decided that he would make up for what he’d done by using his healing powers to cure people, much in the manner that Inuyashiki has already been doing.

Image source: アニメ「いぬやしき」公式@2017年10 on Twitter

So now here is where the series asks a difficult and complex question of its viewers. Should Shishigami be forgiven for his previous crimes? Not in any legal sense or even by the world of Inuyashiki, but in the eyes of the viewer. Looking at the events that have occurred throughout the series, as an individual, should Shishigami be absolved of his sins?

The instinctive answer that most people will immediately go to is very likely “no.” Shishigami killed entire families in cold blood. Not only did he kill them, but he reveled in their deaths. He is a monster. But let’s go a little deeper…

Shishigami was killed and rebuilt with alien weapons technology. When he awoke from that explosion, his entire sense of self had been torn away from him. He was literally a mechanical gizmo that was superficially made to look like himself. He was a teenage boy who was suddenly faced with the realization that he no longer existed. In testing what he was, he discovered his new powers. Given these new abilities, he did what anyone would do. He tested them. In Shishigami’s mind, he was no longer human, and therefore human rules no longer applied to him. So he killed people. And in seeing people desperately clinging to life, Shishigami found something that made him feel real again.

For Shishigami, being killed and reborn as a machine was an instantaneous affair. There was no process for him. Just flip the switch, and boom. Watching other people struggle to live while they’re dying allowed him to digest and understand what had happened to him. Seeing their emotions allowed him to reflect and feel the emotions that he was robbed of. We’ve already seen that Shishigami loves manga stories and cries over them. For a tragic event like death, he expects, nay, practically craves an emotional release. Watching people die gave him that. The problem is that doing so requires people to die.

Image source: アニメ「いぬやしき」公式@2017年10 on Twitter

Now, while we may have unpacked some of the reasoning behind Shishigami’s initial actions, that still doesn’t excuse them. However, after his interaction with Shion, Shishigami decides to use his powers to heal people. We see him helping numerous people who are gravely or terminally ill. We see that Shishigami is attempting to make up for the lives he’s taken by saving the lives of others.

It’s a very interesting quandary that Inuyashiki asks. It’s easy to immediately condemn Shishigami when given the overview account of what he’s done, but—as is true of almost everything—things become much more complicated when you have a more detailed picture. Shishigami has suffered. He was killed and had his humanity torn away from him when he was rebuilt. He lost his mother, one of the most important people in the world to him. He recognizes that what he did was wrong and wants to atone. But, is that enough?

Sadly, it appears as though if such a redemption for Shishigami exists, it’s not in the immediate future. Hunted by the police and special forces, he has again gone the way of fighting fire with fire—or rather, fighting guns with water-powered alien overtechnology—and taken the fight directly to the police, wiping out an entire precinct and special forces battalion. It’s obvious from how things are going that the journey of Hiro Shishigami is far from over. While, as viewers, we can see his side of the story, to the world of Inuyashiki at large he is still an uncontrollable mass murderer. There are hints appearing of what is to come, but despite any sort of act of compassion or kindness Shishigami may do, will it balance out what he’s done? And if not, where exactly is the line of forgiveness? Is there even one?

Inuyashiki: Last Hero can be viewed with English subtitles on Amazon Anime Strike.

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