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I Am a Hero (アイアムアヒーロー) is a Japanese horror manga by Kengo Hanazawa. It was nominated for the 3rd, 4th and 5th Manga Taishō and won the 58th Shogakukan Manga Award in General category. It is published in Italy by GP Publishing, in France by Kana and in Spain by Norma Editorial.
The story follows Hideo Suzuki, a down-on-his-luck manga artist struggling to publish his own work while maintaining both a day job as another artist's assistant and a strained relationship with his girlfriend. Hideo is shown to be mentally disturbed, often having conversations with an imaginary figure named Yajima, hallucinating the presence of faces under his bed and at his window, and fantasizing about how conversations with his co-workers and girlfriend should proceed. Above all, he sees himself as the hero of a manga, despite all appearances to the contrary.
One day, after returning from work late in the evening, Hideo witnesses a traffic accident in which a car crashes into a nearby pedestrian, killing the victim instantly. However, despite severe injuries including a broken neck, the victim's body stands up and walks away. Hideo questions again whether this is another one of his hallucinations; however, strange events begin happening around him, though he refuses to fully acknowledge them, blaming his stress and over-time work is contributing to himself seeing things.
The next morning Hideo goes to his girlfriend Tetsuko's apartment (after having a falling out earlier) to apologize. When peering through the mail slot finds that she has transformed into a monstrous, zombie-like creature (though originally thinking she was drunk). She attacks Hideo, who is easily put into submission by slamming his head through the door; he is also bitten on the hand by Tekko (Tetsuko's nickname). He does not become infected due to her first biting the door (causing her to lose all her front teeth). With his head stuck in the door, he spies a note left by Tekko that says if she dies she does not want Hideo to look at her face without makeup on. A newsboy on a moped passes by and soon returns as a zombie killing an old woman who was the landlady of the same apartment. The zombified newsboy and Tekko (who said early she loves Hideo) fight resulting in Tekko winning but also losing a leg and an arm. Not being able to completely comprehend what is happening, Hideo breaks free of the door, goes inside the apartment, relieves himself then turns on the television. Every channel has breaking news (save channel 12, the anime network) talking about burning and explosions, the SDF (Self Defense Force) fighting the threat, and that people are going mad biting each other. Hideo finally realizes that Tekko is dead and kills her via decapitation with a kitchen knife, then ceremoniously cleans the apartment, worrying about the police. He then leaves a notice under Tekko's prior note that says he is turning himself in.
Still in disbelief of the situation Hideo starts to leave. He sees the now reanimated landlady attacking another tenant, and is soon chased by the reanimated landlady who is running on all fours shouting, "rent". He manages to escape when the landlady is hit by a truck and turns her attention from Hideo to the driver. After witnessing many scenes of zombies attacking people he gets a call from a drinking buddy who says his boss went mad and was biting people, the call is soon cut off by another zombie. Resuming his running through the neighborhood he reaches the studio/apartment where he works with four other manga artists, through the peephole he spies one of them who is soon clubbed to death with a baseball bat by Mitani (the eldest manga artist of the group). Mitani has already killed another co-worker turned zombie, then along with Hideo kills a third, a girl named Mi (who was seen dead earlier in a bathtub full of water) now a bloated zombie. This is accomplished by using an aerosol can as a flamethrower. Upon learning (via television) that there are more zombies in this part , and their numbers are rapidly increasing, Hideo follows Mitani out of Shakuji towards Nerima Train Station to escape Tokyo and head for Hanno. After running through the rain towards the station platform, Mitani (who is fat) falls behind and is soon overwhelmed by zombies but not before stating that for the first time in his miserable existence that he feels truly alive. He says to Hideo that he also feels it. Suddenly, an airplanes landing gear knocks Mitani's head clean off, then crashes in a fiery explosion.
Narrowly escaping zombies time and again he first states that he is going to die, but soon afterwards exclaims, "Do you think I'm just going to roll over and die?!". Then, a zombie who was about to nab him is hit by the oncoming train. Hideo rushes to the platform and boards the train before it leaves, panting as the doors shut he listens to the other passengers who have yet to comprehend what is happening. Talking to himself to try and come to terms with the situation he begins to realize that Tekko, even though she was zombified, protected him by losing her teeth. Passing by the next stop, the passengers continue to act normal, while Hideo sees zombified SDF soldiers trying to climb over the fence by the tracks. Later, a connecting door on the train opens releasing a zombie that soon begins to spread the plague, causing the passengers to start panicking. Still thinking he's a minor character he gets down on the ground like a turtle to dodge the zombie (which is supposed to be a technique for avoiding a bear attack), he says the manga's title "I Am A Hero" soon afterwards is stepped on and over by the now zombified passengers that attack the remaining uninfected. As the train screeches to a halt Hideo finds himself in an unfamiliar part of Tokyo called Irumonshi.
After escaping the Irumonshi Train Station, Hideo calls a taxicab. The cab driver asks what's the destination, to which Hideo states, "just drive for now", soon after a couple rush up to the taxi, the man demands to be taken to the hospital for his girlfriend. The cab driver denies them saying he already has a passenger, but Hideo says he is also injured (a truthful statement when he was stepped on his head by a zombie). The couple sit in the back with him when an African American tourist rushes up as well speaking English, which most of the group (except the man in the back) does not understand, the word hospital is heard. He sits in the front with the driver. Driving by several car wrecks and noticing all the trains have stopped, the cab driver interprets that the road to the hospital ahead may be blocked. The African American says in English to go to Yokota base and then to gate 5, there is a hospital nearby there. The driver still unable to understand him is told by the man in the back the same. As they set towards their new destination the man in the back says the African American, possibly an American serviceman stationed at Yakota airbase, says something about bio-terrorism. Soon afterwards Hideo realizes that the other passengers have all been bitten.
Trying to find a way out, he tells the cab driver he is a manga artist, and he is planning on doing a manga about a taxi driver while in reality he wants to escape the vehicle. Questioning the driver in this way he finds out the unlock lever is by the cab driver's seat. The couple in the back soon succumb to the infection as well as the African American who leaves shortly thereafter to be shot by the troops on the other side of the fence as he approached them. Conversing with cab driver about their next destination, they see many signs of zombies and infection, in the end Hideo suggest they take the highway out of the city; while en route to the highway Hideo finds out the cab driver has also been infected by his grandchild and the zombified couple in the back are embraced while literally eating each other. Fearing infection, the cab driver opens the door with his lever and Hideo kicks them out. After this occurrence, the cab driver succumbs to the infection and attacks Hideo, who is protected by the plastic shield that separates the front and back halves of the taxicab. Still in motion, the taxi collides head-on with a vehicle driven by another zombie. Hideo escapes the taxicab through the window as the zombified cab driver and his vehicle ignite into flames. The driver, acting perhaps on instinct and habit despite the circumstances, says the toll is nineteen-thousand yen. In responses Hideo leaves two ten-thousand yen notes under a rock nearby the crash; afterwards he says, "keep the change" and then "I'm sorry" repeatedly. Running through the rain and off the highway, Hideo comes across an amusement park nearby to Mt. Fuji that is now abandoned. He walks through the underground entrance, states "I survived", and soon afterward passes out from stress and exhaustion.
Waking up 8 hours later, the rain has stopped and it is nighttime. Leaving the tunnel and soon afterwards catching a cold, Hideo heads into the woods nearby the amusement park; while noticing a sign about gun prohibition he sneezes and the only tissue he can find on him is the one with Tekko's teeth to which he soon drops a few, and then again saying he's sorry. Checking his phone that has no service or video link, he uses it as a flashlight as he journeys further into the woods; when Hideo hears rustling from somewhere else in the woods. Frightened and sick, he once again crawls into the turtle position and states the title. Making a symbolic circle of protection around himself with his gun equipment, Hideo starts talking about food and an idea for a story. But his nattering is cut short when the clouds block the moonlight and when his phone's battery dies leaving him in darkness. Unable to cope with the darkness, Hideo imagination runs wild as sees himself drowning; continuing to talk to himself while seeing ghostly creatures which is soon followed by scenes with people saying he is all alone. Panicking, Hideo reaches out for a hand, only to his surprise he sees a hand in his hand; not knowing if it's real or imaginary, he grasps the hand then falls asleep.
Waking up Hideo does a dance (for no one in particular) for the joy of his survival. Checking his watch that says 13 minutes till 7 o'clock, Hideo looks around and finds his gun equipment stacked in a pile and cleaned, as well as a jacket on his back (which he unknowingly used as a blanket). He finds a park sign that says "The Kenkubi Lava Flow", which explains when Mt. Fuji erupted, it left a natural path made from volcanic gravel, to which Hideo states that he is somewhere in The Sea of Trees. Hideo goes to find the owner of the jacket and just incase the owner is zombified, he wraps it around his arm and picks up a dead stick. As he begins his search for the owner, he realizes he needs to urinate; he picks a tree to stand by and as he is halfway through, a voice from behind the tree asks him for a tissue. Stopping himself, Hideo once again grabs the tissue holding Tekko's remaining teeth and loses the rest of them in the process. When he looks behind the tree he sees a young girl in a school uniform holding the tissue, when their eyes meet she smiles and states, "I'm glad that you're still alive".
The story shifts point of view to the currently unnamed girl by a flashback that follows the story of the girl and how she ended up in The Sea of Trees. It shows a high school girl named Sae who has a bandage on her right hand from getting bitten by a teacher "who went nuts". Sae, the girl from the woods, and two other girls talk about how the teacher was acting strange all day. The teacher was hospitalized and possibly "canned" for her actions. When Sae start bleeding she pulls out some tissues that has an address for a questionable business called "Girl's Bar". When they question if she has a job there, the girl from the woods and another girl both do an impression of Sae which was apparently spot on, due to the other girl laughing. Sae turns toward the girl from the woods and says, "Hiromi, you've got a lot of dandruff", after which the other girls start chiming in about it, leaving Hiromi embarrassed. The other two girls then start talking about no cellphone reception or television, and that making fire and visiting ice caves is boring: this shows that the four girls are part of a class on a fieldtrip to Mt. Fuji and the nature park that surrounds it.
Thee other girls continue to complain also stating that it is Golden Week, and one of them says they want to spend the last day of Golden Week (May the 5th) at the amusement park (the same one that Hideo was sleeping by) because it is supposed to have the ultimate test of courage. When Sae says that they can have their own test of courage, the two other girls say yes immediately without knowing what it is; Sae explains that the class had gone to see the ice caves and that the guide had said The Sea of Trees by Mt. Fuji is a place famous for suicides. They will play the game Rock, Paper, Scissors; the loser has to go into The Sea of Trees at night, find a person who has killed themselves, and then take pictures of the suicide with their cellphone camera. Hiromi is then conned by Sae and the two other girls that they are all doing rock first, she does rock and they all do paper.
Losing the hand, Hiromi states, "I thought we were doing rock first", but unable to make them budge and some encouragement from Sae she heads out into the forest. After taking directions from a sign and singing a song, Hiromi finds her phone has no cell reception. Killing some time until she gets reception, she begins reading her incoming texts from a boy name Shinji Oguri. From the texts we find Shinji caught a cold, and is unable to enjoy his vacation, wishing Hiromi would come back and make him something to eat. From the phone screen we learn important facts; 1. Hiromi's last name is Hayakari, 2. That it is fifteen minutes till midnight, and finally 3. it says that the day is Sunday on May the 3rd. Continue to read the remaining texts she laughs, when the moon comes back out she thinks she hears a voice, and while she stretches she sees a payphone. She tries to make a call, only to find out the phone is dead. She hears a voice again. Following the path with the moon clouded over again, Hiromi forges ahead; she states she wouldn't want to die in a place like this, then she hears someone singing a vulgar song.
Hiromi continues walking even after the song stops, listening for the voice again only to hear the sounds of the woods. Feeling more comfortable in The Sea of Trees she states, "the guide was right, the forest is alive". Hiromi has a flashback of school in class, while all other girls were making bets and talking, she was listening to music with ear phones and covered herself with a window curtain to block out the light. Resuming to walk through the woods, she comes across Hideo who is bent over, after which she hides behind a tree, surprised there is actually someone there. Wondering what to do while Hideo natters on, he starts talking about the people in his life and that he is scared, Hiromi comforts him by putting her hand in his (to which he then passes out). Cleaning up his stuff, then eating a snack, Hiromi worries about the curfew. Since she thinks that Hideo is suicidal she can't just leave him here. Resuming back to current time (the morning of May the 4th), trying to introduce himself, Hiromi cuts him off trying to convince him that suicide is a bad idea; flabbergasted, Hideo explains he's not trying to commit suicide, then he states, "I Am A Hero".
Upon escaping Tokyo, Hideo and Hiromi join a large crowd of people fleeing on foot up Mt. Fuji for the imagined safety of thinner air at higher elevations. As the infection spreads through the crowd they barely escape the stampede with their life. They meet up with a middle aged camera man named Araki, all of them trying to survive in the apocalyptic environment where one bite from the "infected" will induce a zombie-like state. Through Japanese national broadcasts and YouTube videos, the trio find hints to the beginning of the zombie infestation with a psychotic man named Kurusu who claimed he couldn't kill his mother no matter how many times he brutally beat her. This implies his mother may have been one of the first to have been infected. Many netizens have gone on to form a quasi-religious cult around Kurusu, proclaiming him as their prophetic leader in the new age that will emerge from the disaster. Further research by Hideo proves futile, as Internet rumors and mass hysteria begins erupting across Japan.
Hiromi soon falls prey to a bite from an infected baby but only becomes partially infected. Despite this she somehow retains aspects of her humanity and is able to communicate with Hideo and not attack him, forging a bond between the two. Together with Araki they're forced to relocate from one hiding place to another until they come across a team of homicidal bandits who promise to keep them safe until they all can find a solution to the on-going zombie apocalypse.
Encamped on top of the Gotemba outlet mall, the bandits wish to lead a revolution and take control of a new society in the wake of the zombie outbreak. Their puppet-leader, Sango, wants to punish everyone who held a position of authority in the old world order, blaming them for his own social estrangement; who is being used by Iura, the brains behind it all. The fledgling group is however low on food stock, and requisition Hideo and his shotgun in a mission to delve into the food court mall and retrieve supplies. Hideo's presence however soon causes a power struggle in the convent, leading to its destruction and Hiromi being gravely injured when she is shot in the head with a crossbow bolt. Hideo escapes, along with Hiromi and Yabu, a former nurse and member of the bandit group, who understands the significance Hiromi's condition may play in potentially understanding and curing the disease.
Meanwhile, the ZQN (Zokyun) epidemic is shown to have spread to western Japan through a series of vignettes in Osaka and Kyoto, as well as Taiwan. YouTube videos display attacks from infected North Koreans on the South Korean border. Anonymous message board posts in the style of 2ch, refer to outbreaks allover Japan and rumors of them all over the world. The infected individuals are referred to as "ZQN," a play on the 2ch parlance of DQN (Dokyun), meaning a delinquent or idiot.
Hideo and Yabu, after finding that hospitals are too dangerous, finally remove the bolt from Hiromi's head using the equipment in a veterinary clinic. Meanwhile, Kurusu and his cult scout for members on the message boards, aiming to form their own country from the ruins of Japan.
- ↑ "News: 10 Titles Nominated for 3rd Manga Taisho Awards". Anime News Network. 2010-01-18. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2010-01-18/10-titles-nominated-for-3rd-manga-taisho-awards. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
- ↑ "News: 13 Titles Nominated for 4th Manga Taisho Awards". Anime News Network. 2011-01-16. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2011-01-16/13-titles-nominated-for-4th-manga-taisho-awards. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
- ↑ "15 Titles Nominated for 5th Manga Taisho Awards". Anime News Network. 2012-01-16. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2012-01-16/15-titles-nominated-for-5th-manga-taisho-awards. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
- ↑ "Silver Spoon, I Am a Hero Win Shogakukan Manga Awards". Anime News Network. March 10, 2013. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-01-24/silver-spoon-i-am-a-hero-win-shogakukan-manga-awards.
- ↑ "I am a hero". GP Publishing. http://www.gppublishing.it/shop2.asp?c=244. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
- ↑ "Norma publica I Am a Hero de Kengo Hanazawa". Ramen para dos. 2012-11-03. http://ramenparados.blogspot.com.es/2012/11/xviii-salon-manga-bcn-norma-publica-i.html.