INUYASHA (2000-present)

 

Format: Ongoing TV series, 24-minute episodes, 1st 60 or so (of over 150) episodes reviewed

Rating:  PG-13 (GV)

Type: Supernatural Action/Romance/Comedy/Drama 

American Production: Viz

Japanese Production: Sunrise

 

Grading

 

Premise:

B+

Story:

B+

Writing:

A-

Character Design:

A-

Animation:

B+

Artistic Merits:

A-

English Dub:

A-

Musical Score:

A-

Opener:

not reviewed

Closer:

B (all)

 

 

Humor Content:

B

Action Content:

A-

Drama Content:

B+

 

 

DVD Presentation:

not reviewed

DVD Extras:

not reviewed

 

 

OVERALL:

A-

 

Synopsis

      Once in Japanese feudal times there was a half-demon named Inuyasha, who possessed tremendous physical prowess but was forever marked as an outsider by his dog ears and lustrous silver hair. Because he came to believe that strength always prevailed, he sought out the Shikong Jewel (the “Jewel of Four Souls”) to use its power to turn himself into a full-fledged demon. Instead he fell in love with Kikyo, the kind-hearted but powerful priestess who protected and purified the jewel, and she fell in love with him despite the absolute commitment required by her duty. A tragic turn of events orchestrated by a villainous demon set the potential lovers at odds against one another, though, resulting in Kikyo falling mortally wounded from a blow she believed was struck by Inuyasha, but not before she had used her sacred arrows to pin Inuyasha to a tree. There he remained trapped for a long time in a deathlike sleep, while the Shikong Jewel burned along with Kikyo’s body.

      In modern times a 15-year-old girl named Kagome, who lives at a temple with her mother, brother, and priestly grandfather, is dragged down a well on the temple grounds when she is grabbed by a demon. As she falls the mystical Shikong Jewel emerges from her body, turning the well into a time portal. When she crawls out again it is fifty years after the confrontation of Inuyasha and Kikyo, and the land is being rampaged by demons intent on one thing: coming into possession of the Shikong Jewel so that they can further their own powers. Kagome stumbles across Inuyasha, frees him to assist in a battle, and later fires an arrow that shatters the Shikong Jewel as a bird-demon attempts to fly off with it. The shards scatter across the land, and it falls to Inuyasha (who has the fighting and physical skills) and Kagome (who has the ability to sense the jewel shards) to team up to recover the jewel shards before demons can take advantage of them. It is an uneasy partnership at first, one coerced by a magic necklace that allows Kagome to flatten Inuyasha with a simple command, but the two gradually grow on each other as they carry out their mission. Along the way they gather potent allies – the elderly priestess Kaede, who is Kikyo’s younger sister; Shippo, the young and quite cute fox demon; the lecherous young monk Miroku; and Sango, the teenage female demon hunter. Their quest also brings them against many potent enemies, most prominent among them being Inuyasha’s full-demon half-brother Seshomaru and the demonic master trickster Naraku, who draws the personal ire of all the heroes for the great harm his machinations bring to all of them. Kikyo also returns to haunt them all when she is restored to a tragic state of half-life by another demon, a situation which causes no end of consternation for Inuyasha and presents a great problem for the time-traveling Kagome, since she is supposed to be the future reincarnation of Kikyo. . .

 

Quotes

      “Sit, boy!” (Kagome, to Inuyasha)

      “It was worth the pain.” (Miroku, after being slapped by Sango)

 

The Long View

      Inuyasha has already racked up more than 150 episodes in its six seasons on Japanese TV, during which time it has consistently been a top ratings performer. It is scheduled to end in September of 2004 with its 166th episode. Based on the episodes that have made their way into the American market so far, it isn’t hard to see why Inuyasha is so popular: combine good open-ended storytelling with interesting characters, a great soundtrack, excellent artistry, and an effective balance of humor, drama, and action and you have the makings of a winner among anime series. Keep the character concepts relatively basic and the themes straightforward and you have a series that’s also accessible to a wide audience. Though seemingly aimed specifically at teens and preteens, this is a series that can be appreciated by children as well as adults. (It is, in fact, considered a “family series” in Japan, although I think it’s a little too dark and violent for the youngest viewers. Consider its rating to be a mild PG-13.)

      As with any good series, Inuyasha is what it is because of its characters. Inuyasha is irascible, immature, impulsive, and stubborn, the kind that would rather act than think and talks big; trash-talking in a fight is not beneath him. Kagome more than once has proclaimed him to be a “big softie” underneath his gruff exterior, however, and the feelings he still has for Kikyo weigh so heavily on him that they distract him from trying to form a more serious relationship with Kagome. In many ways Kagome is his perfect match: though a caring individual by nature, she is just as strong-willed as Inuyasha, does not back down any more easily, and is as much a slave to her emotions as he is. It is not difficult at all to see how the two gradually fall in love with each other even though both are reluctant to acknowledge their feelings. Their squabblings with each other help define the series and assure that it never gets boring even when there isn’t any action present.

      All of the key supporting characters and even some of the villains are also fully-realized characters, a remarkable accomplishment for any anime series. Take the dashing young monk Miroku, for instance, a skilled fighter and exorcist who first appears a dozen or so episodes into the story: he is weighted down by a family curse that gives him great power but will also ultimately kill him, yet this does not keep him from carrying out money-related scams, copping a feel or sneaking a peak at young female flesh at every opportunity, or trying to convince every young woman he meets to have his first-born child. Then there’s Sango, the tragic demon hunter troubled by the loss of her family and village and the corruption of her beloved younger brother. She is demure and gentle (but still very much a teenager) in civilian clothes but a fierce and relentless foe when armored and ready for a fight; she appears a bit later than Miroku but becomes a regular. Shippo, the young fox demon who seems remarkably mature for his age, adopts the group as his replacement family (his parents were killed and skinned by another demon) and becomes an ardent protector of all of them even though he doesn’t really have the means to do so – but his determination is impressive. Accompanying Sango and serving as the team’s mascot is Kylala, a doubled-tailed catlike creature that can transform into a flame-footed flying sabertooth tiger capable of ripping demons apart or serving as a mount for Sango and Kagome. He seems quite intelligent and displays a good amount of character on his own.

      Every good series needs good villains, and Inuyasha has some excellent ones. The first confronting the heroes is the noble and proper but still evil and deadly Sesshomaru, Inuyasha’s older brother. He despises Inuyasha for his “impure” blood and the fact that his brother has inherited their father’s powerful weapon – the sword Tetseiga – rather than him. An even greater foe is the diabolical Naraku, a treacherous demon who splits his time between collecting jewel shards and orchestrating nasty plots to ruin Inuyasha and his companions. He is the main reason that the group is together, as all of them have personal reasons to despise him, but he is very dangerous because of the slick way he can manipulate people and even other demons (including Sesshomaru) to serve his ends. The Wind Sorceress Kagura, who first appears around episode 40, is another recurring villain associated with Naraku that brings them no end of grief, while the wolf demon Koga starts out as a villainous rival (and a rival to Inuyasha for Kagome’s affections) but appears to be shading more in the direction of an occasional ally as the series progresses. Other villains come and go, lasting an episode or two at a time as the series progresses.

      The writing for Inuyasha is crisp, lively, and well-paced. Though much of the story happens in the feudal era, occasional episodes shift back to modern Japan when Kagome returns to catch up on schoolwork or because of occasional disgust with Inuyasha. The change of venue helps keep the series from getting repetitive, although the writers have been quite effective so far at always throwing something new at the characters. Storylines – and there’s always at least a couple of different story arcs in the background – are not rushed but are not needlessly dragged out, either, which has been a problem with other long-running series. Although the series has a tendency to be dark and dramatic, enough humor is peppered through it to keep audiences from taking everything too seriously.

      The action, though, is one of the series’ strongest points. Battles are dynamic because the heroes rarely have it easy (Inuyasha, Miroku, and Sango repeatedly get injured badly in fights) despite the fact that all of them have potent abilities: Inuyasha has the powerful sword made from his father’s tooth and an energy claw attack called “Iron Reaver Soul Stealer” to go with his physical prowess, while Miroku has his “wind tunnel” – a hole to a void in the palm of his right hand that can suck everything in a cone directly in front of him into it. (This is the curse that will ultimately consume him.) Sango, besides being a skilled, strong, and agile warrior, also has the fearsome Kylala at her side and wields a sword and a weapon akin to a giant boomerang which has been specially-made for combating demons. Shippo, though not of much use in a direct fight, is nimble and has access to illusory-based fox magic and a limited transformational ability. Even Kagome, who seems the weakest link since she does not come from a warrior’s background, is not helpless; as a reincarnation of Kikyo she possesses tremendous spiritual power, which allows her to perceive things that others cannot, resist spirit-based baleful influences, and use a bow to shoot “spirit arrows” whose charged tips can shatter spells, break through the abilities of demons, and deal disproportionate damage to anything demonic they strike. (Even the most powerful of demons are vulnerable to these arrows.)

      Artistry is another strong point for the series. Kagome is often depicted with legs that are a bit too long and the fact that she almost always wears her school uniform even when back in feudal times is a bit irksome, but otherwise the character design is superb. (How she gets through the series without ever flashing her panties is a continuing source of amazement for me.) The vibrant coloring of the series is often complimented, and the series effectively walks a fine line between being too tame and too graphic in what it depicts. The musical scoring is also a winner, as is the English dub, which really brings the characters to life.

      The openers and closers for the series episodes both change periodically. I have never seen the openers so I cannot comment on them (Cartoon Network always snips them), but all of the closers used to date are pretty good.

      If you are not watching the Cartoon Network broadcast of Inuyasha then you should be. It is a great and engrossing series that I heartily recommend.

 

DVD Extras

      20 or so DVDs of Inuyasha episodes are available in the U.S. as I write this, but this review is based off of the Cartoon Network TV broadcast so I cannot comment on the DVD extras.

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Kagome

Moneca Stori

Inuyasha

Richard Cox

Miroku

Kirby Morrow

Sango

Kelly Sheridan

Shippo, assorted guest roles

Jillian Michaels

Kaede

Pam Hyatt

Kikyo

Willow Johnson

Sesshomaru

David Kaye

Naraku/Onigumo, assorted guest roles

Paul Dobson

Koga

Scott McNeill

Kagura

Janyse Jaud

Sota, Eri

Saffron Henderson

Grandpa

French Tickner

Kagome’s mother, assorted guest roles

Kathy Weseluck

 

      . . . And too many others in prominent 1-2 episode guest appearances to list them all here.

 

 

 

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