Manga: I Am A Hero

He'd better be.

A 2009 comedy/horror manga by Kengo Hanazawa.

There isn't much to the life of a struggling artist. Hideo Suzuki, 35, is starting to believe he hit his prime back when he had a printed series that died after six months. The path to manga stardom has faded from view, leaving Suzuki pitching pandering Moe series and drawing porn to get by. His editor is bored with him, his seniors are short with him, and even his girlfriend seems out of his league. Underneath a happy-go-lucky facade, Suzuki is desperate: what do you do when you play a bit part in your own life?

But there's considerably less-existential trouble brewing in the city streets. News reports have surfaced about a rash of biting assaults in crowded areas - here and there, someone seems to go berserk and sink teeth into the nearest bystander. Being around the same people every day, Suzuki's own risk for infection is low... but protagonism picks today to knock.

Go figure.

A uniquely weird Seinen series. Features realistic artwork that switches from funny faces to grotesque ones with outstanding impact.

I Am A Hero provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The Ace: Nakata, as far as artistic talent goes. There's something to be said about a series where this trope applies to a lisping, pencil-necked weirdo with the fashion sense of Jon Arbuckle.
  • Action Survivor: Mitani, of all people. Who better than a materialistic slob to be Dangerously Genre Savvy?
  • Aerosol Flamethrower: Employed to defeat one infected. Unusually for the threat, it works.
  • Ambiguous Innocence: Hiromi is a sweet girl... right?
  • And Now For Something Completely Different: The series regularly shifts focus at the end of major arcs, and spends a few chapters to show what's happening to other parts of the world outside Hideo's sphere of influence. The first one, done at the end of the mall arc, shows an illicit tryst between a manga artist and her editor masquerading as a "research trip" to the Chinese mainland, while another, set in France, shows how continental Europe is faring after the outbreak. The latter is particularly important, as it implies that the situation is no longer simply a Zombie Apocalypse, what with the appearance of what could only be described as a human centepede zombie, and something that's clearly kaijuu-sized, enough that airstrikes are being conducted against it.
  • Anyone Can Die
  • Badass Adorable: Hiromi after getting infected. She tears the jaw off of another zombie that is chasing Suzuki, and crushes the hand of a man who takes him hostage.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted with Mi-chan and Tetsuko, but played straight with Hiromi.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Taken to ridiculous extremes inside the suburban rail where an infected staff member has just bit a chunk out of a Too Dumb to Live passenger's head who had continued to antagonize it as it tried to get through the door into the other car, spilling his brains out. Then it attacks the nearest passenger who's fighting for his life while calling out to the passengers to help him. What do the passengers do during this commotion? They continue sitting and joking, wondering if they should help out in what they believe to be a molestation. Not until a few more deaths do the passengers finally get it in their skulls that there's a Zombie Apocalypse going on.
  • Character Filibuster: Suzuki has very strong ideas about the future of manga, and loves to philosophize about them at length. Played for laughs when it's clear nobody asked.
  • Body Horror / Facial Horror: Yikes.
  • Chekhov's Gun: With an actual gun. In plain sight. The wait shows the main character is far from an action hero, at best.
  • Catfight: Two of Hiromi's now-zombie friends (who never did like each other even while living) began to fight each other in the most brutal manner possible, with each trying to bite, gouge, and scratch as much as their disgusting undead bodies can muster.
  • Creepy Child: A little boy spotted gnawing on a woman's remains, moaning for his mother.
  • Creepy Doll: From Hiromi's point-of-view, post-infection, both humans and zombies appear as hideously-deformed plush toys.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Hideo proves he knows how to handle a shotgun when properly motivated.
  • Daylight Horror
  • Deadly Lunge: A frequent followup to Enemy Rising Behind.
  • Ear Ache: Here.
  • Eye Scream: right here
  • Erotic Eating: Mocked with Mi-chan fellating a baseball bat.
  • Facial Horror: "Red light, green light, one two THREE!!! (chomps on nearby female passenger)
  • Fingore: Chomp.
  • The Gunslinger: Hideo, a mild type A. This quality makes him an extremely attractive recruit for other survivor groups, most of whom get by with limited arms and training.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Mitani.
  • Horror Hunger: The zombies who completely lose themselves don't stop at the living.
  • Hot Scoop: Mitani never misses the news. Not because he cares what's going on, he just likes to slobber over the anchor ladies. They are the first clues that something is extremely wrong.
  • The Immune: Hiromi. When she returns to "normal" after the operation done on her (to remove the crossbow bolt in her head), Oda evens tells her as much. Whether it's due to something unique to her, or just her own innate willpower it's not really clear, but Oda says that she's probably the closest thing anyone's got to possibly combat the outbreak, which is why it's important to keep her safe.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. The infection is indiscriminate of age, and the fact that there are infected or zombified children becomes a frequent source of trouble, as adults are less likely to suspect them (see the gathering of refugees close to Mt. Fuji).
  • I Taste Delicious: Hideo and another survivor glimpse one zombie chowing down on its own feet. This prompts them to wonder if the zombies' goal is to destroy everything by eating humans, each other, and then themselves.
  • Kaiju Defense Force: The SDF's having a hard time in combating infected civilians. The survivors pass by an abandoned APC with the interior drenched in blood to prove the point.
  • Madness Mantra: Those who have been infected. And it is terrifying... - "Thank you for your patronage"
  • Marionette Motion: As if the zombies themselves weren't pants-shitting enough.
  • Meaningful Name: The Alternate Character Reading for Hideo is why he keeps saying he is a hero. Later we have Hiromi.
  • The Medic: Oda has some experience in medicine from her stint as a nurse, but obviously can't do too much without proper facilities.
  • Message Board: Online communities play a role. They're the most Genre Savvy about a Zombie Apocalypse, have less direct human contact, and so have better odds of survival. Not that it prevents the flaky, morally questionable types from running things...
  • Mind Screw: See Unreliable Narrator.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Hideo of course, being a mangaka and all.
  • Murderous Thighs: The added strength, agility, and lack of pain means the thinner infectees use their entire bodies like a vice. Squickier than the usual version.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: With Tetsuko. He understands the situation, though - it's out of respect.
  • NEET: Many of the characters of the parallel plot are this, who survived the initial outbreak due to being holed out in their rooms.
  • Nightmare Face Have a nice sleep everybody
  • Not a Zombie: With a few exceptions, the entire city is under this impression as few people who encounter them survive long enough to pass it on.
  • Not Using the Z Word: The online term for the infected becomes ZQN, a portmanteau with the Japanese slang DQN. At least one scanlation uses "zombfags", in stride with English-speaking chan parlance.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Zombification in this series comes in two phases:
    • The first phase is the Technically Living Zombie phase. Much like the Infected in Left 4 Dead, these are living people (with an increased heart rate that might be fatal to a normal person), except hyper-violent, immune to fear and pain, and possess increased strength. Barring a few examples shown in-series like Hiromi and the new Kurusu, they're also impossible to reason with. When these receive physical damage that would otherwise be fatal to a normal person (like, say, an impacted cranium from from a three-story drop or a gunshot wound to the head), they move on to the second phase...
    • ... Where they transform into true undead flesh eating zombies. These have no pulse, don't need to breath, and are no longer inconvenienced by a lost limb, or even being cut in two. What's more dangerous about this phase is that they still retain the speed and strength of the previous phase. The only real way to stop these is a good and old-fashioned shot to the head.
  • Panty Shot: Let's just say that the few instances this happens in the manga is not played for fanservice.
  • Police Are Useless: Lampshaded for laughs as Suzuki obsessive compulsively keeps mentioning laws long after they have nobody to enforce them.
  • Potty Emergency: Oda experienced one while driving with Hideo and Hiromi, complicated by the fact she was handcuffed to Hiromi. Resulted in Bring My Brown Pants when Hideo uses a sledgehammer and a chisel from a hardware store to free them.
  • Rape as Drama: Oda was basically used as a sex toy by Sango's goons.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Oda and Hideo, although Oda refuses to officially acknowledge it.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: It's hard to say just how much is necessary for the latter as several of the infected have partially crushed skulls. Just knowing the method isn't an easy ticket for the police to control the outbreak.
  • Revenant Zombie: The infected have some elements of this; while decidedly unintelligent, they are often seen mindlessly attempting the daily routines they kept in life. And for reasons yet unknown, they all seem to be heading south...
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot
  • Sealed Badass In A Sleeping Bag: Hiromi is used in this way, after she becomes infected.
  • Sequential Artist
  • Shaky P.O.V. Cam: Impressive in a rather detailed comic.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The change in mood makes Suzuki unable to imagine Yajima any more.
  • Staking the Loved One
  • South Koreans with Marines: The infection has reached Korea that the South Korean military's being called in all the way to the DMZ to take out anyone who's a confirmed infected civilian, even if those include genuine refugees fleeing the North.
  • Tainted Veins: Infected people are marked by both Prophet Eyes and full-body standout veins.
  • Technically Living Zombie: However, the infection gives them the unnatural resilience more often associated with traditional zombies, and increased strength to boot.
  • This Is Reality
  • Too Dumb to Live: The bit characters, which includes our hero. Apparently nobody watches the news.
    • On a commuter train, rather than running as fast as humanly possible, an angry youth continues to yell at a staff member staring through the window on the other side of the car even while it's clear blood is seeping from the staff man's eyes, nose and mouth, is constantly spouting Madness Mantras ("Thank You For Your Patronage"), and has tainted veins sprouting all over his face. Once it gets through, it takes a nice bite out of the youth's head, who stares disbelievingly at the mush of brain falling out before passing away.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: There are actually two parallel plots to the manga. The main one obviously follows Hideo, as he first struggles to survive, then as he becomes more confident, culminating in his resolve to protect both Oda and Hiromi and get them safely to Tokyo. The other plot focuses on another group of survivors, mostly NEETs, who survived the outbreak, and have banded together under a deadly man who goes by the moniker Kurusu... And they also happen to be heading in the direction of the Tokyo area.
  • Uh-Oh Eyes: The first sign of infection.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Suzuki hallucinates on a daily basis. Most of the time it's harmless, like his pudgy little imaginary friend Yajima... but it does throw the veracity of his account into question.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Society is depicted at its most apathetic. And then there are the infectees who haven't completely lost their minds.
    • Although as the new chapters show even those who have long been dead appear to not have completely forgotten their humanity. A hanged zombie finally dies when it's handed a portrait of its family (although it could have just been the head separating from the body after much straining on the zombie's part)
      • Ditto for the Hiromi's former friend (whom it's implied got killed after Hiromi left the house to go on a stroll in the woods at night) who appears to offer her a shoe.
    • Hiromi herself is infected after being bitten by a zombified baby. She is still able to maintain some of her mental faculties and so far has not tried to attack or eat the main character, Hideo (she even tries to protect him when watching him get chased by a zombie). However, she often experiences periods of dissociation where, after tearing off the aformentioned zombie's jaw, she experiences herself in her room washing dishes when she is actually using the the ripped jaw to rub the zombie's now jawless face. She then mutilates the unfortunate zombie, thinking she is performing surgery on her stuffed toy. Her behavior may explain the zombies' erratic violent behavior and tendency to spout Madness Mantras.
    • Takashi also maintains most of his mental faculties after being infected, and his interactions with another infected imply that they still maintain some self-awareness after turning, though he briefly succumbs to their violent behaviour once he realizes Kurusu killed a member of the group he had a crush on. He even goes on to become the leader of the group of survivors he was part of. It's also implied that Kurusu had actually been infected for quite some time before Takashi joined his group, which would explain most of his Psychotic Manchild personality.
  • World of Pun: Boob Morning! (Oppai-yo Gozaimasu!), done by appropriately busty models and actresses acting as hosts for a morning variety show.
  • Zombi Apocalypse: A weirder than average one, in any case.
  • Zombie Infectee: Played with. Most infections are too instantaneous to hide but some characters, or even others around them, cannot tell if what they got counts as a bite. Some survivor outposts are shown to get very savvy about potential infectees, keeping multiple lines of defense and stalling entrants for several hours to test for symptoms.