A Review by Christopher Kinsey
When I was a younger man I discovered anime. Like most people who became anime fans in the early 90's, I loved a slapstick martial arts romantic comedy called Ranma ½. In this little saga, which spanned a very long television run, three movies and about 8 original video animations, we met Ranma and the women he was betrothed too. It was basically a mix of off the wall martial arts and slapstick out the wazoo. While a great many of the characters were shallower than the swimming pool at the Special Olympics, there was something there that struck me as funny throughout my teenage years. Then, like most sane people, I grew out of it and moved on in my anime tastes.
Now, the creator of this work was Rumiko Takahashi. This female manga artist is one of the richest women in Japan thanks to her creations and subsequent marketing. Before Ranma ½ she had a stream of hits including...
Mermaid's Scar- A romantic drama of the sea... past lives... and other things the ladies eat up with a spoon over in Japan.
Maison Ikkoku- A romantic comedy about a college student, his wacky neighbors, and his landlady who he falls in love with.
Yatsurei Yatsura- An alien warrior princess gets stranded on earth and falls in love with an earthling. Wacky hijinks ensue.
This proved to the general audience that she could do romantic comedy. Well, a little into my Ranma ½ days I learned of her newest series that would be translated and brought out in America. A little manga she was working on called Inuyasha. The differences were staggering. It wasn't a romantic comedy. It was mostly set in feudal Japan. It was promised not to have a cast list the size of the Oregon Trail. It was going to cure cancer. It was going to kick the fledgling (At the time) Dragonball Z's ass six ways to Sunday. It was going to be the best manga and anime of all time.
And out there, right now, there are some people who believe this is true.
Now, there was a sample of the first volume in the magazine I read this in. Frankly, nothing really moved me. Takahashi seemed to be trying too much at the same time, and things she really wasn't conveying well. It just seemed a little lackluster. With Ranma ½ still going strong for years to come, I figured the manga would come out; flop, and we'd be home in time for biscuits.
I remember receiving a free copy of the first volume for some contest. On the front cover it still proudly proclaims "From the creator of Ranma ½". I liked the concept. It was solid and a way to stretch this into yet another saga and merchandizing campaign that would make Ms. Takahashi another mint. The crystal of ultimate badassery had exploded into 128 (Give or take a few) shards, and this half-demon Inuyasha is seeking them out. I can't really recall why at this very moment, but the fact of the matter is Kagome, our heroine, knows a well that travels to the past. She is the reincarnation of the person who can detect these shards, so naturally Inuyasha teams up with her to find them all.
Well, the idea was solid enough, but nothing really hooked me. I gave the volume to my sister and got on with my life.
Cut to now.
I've been a fan of anime for some time. My tastes have changed and so has the worlds. A little while ago Viz media re-released Ranma ½ in it's original right to left panel format. Blazing on the cover of this reprint is "From the creator of Inuyasha".
As my eyeball twitched at this atrocity I just realized that the world had moved on. Inuyasha was on Adult swim damn near every night. Inuyasha had been spawning as many if not more movies than my beloved Ranma 1/2. Inuyasha cosplayers choked the hallways at Otakon. And I mean choked. Being such an easy costume to make every fat kid made one. Each had a big ass sword and took off their shoes. Blech! You think other conventions are bad with bathing issues? Try one where just about every 14 th person has no shoes on.
In short, in the anime community Inuyasha is everywhere. The guy who does VGcats shares my pain, turning the thousands of letters he's gotten on the subject into an abject lesson in mockery. He's my hero of the moment. But right now, it's my turn. Let's start by introducing our cast.
Inuyasha- Our hero is a half dog-demon. Sired by one of the most powerful dog demons of all time, he seeks out the jewel shards to become whole again. He's got family issues with his brother, who shall be named later. Basically it's his job to be in the major fight scene every episode and hold back his feelings for Kagome. Oh, and shout her name about 15 times an episode.
Kagome- Our heroine is a 15-year-old schoolgirl who travels through time in an old well. Her basic function to the story is to be a reference point and to fall in love with Inuyasha. However, since she's just really an Akane Tendo clone, she'd never tell her real feelings, instead using an ancient ward to get Inuyasha to sit down, hard, at any time. Oh yeah, and she's there to shout out Inuyasha's name about 15 times an episode.
Kikyou- Inuyasha's old flame has risen from the grave to destroy him. This was due to an ancient sorcery that made her think Inuyasha killed her. She's really, really creepy and shoots the same type of arrows Kagome does. Which, incidentally, are quite harmful to demons.
Miroku- A lecherous monk who has a penchant for pinching the ladies. Oh yeah, and he's cursed by our main villain (Who shall also be named later) to have a localized black hole in the palm of his hand. He's searching for the shards to help break the curse, so he hooks up with the Inuyasha crew for some payback and peeping. As far as characters go, Miroku seems to be the most entertaining.
Sango- Sango is the resident demon slaying ninja. With a big ass boomerang. And a giant flying, flaming cat that can become small and cute. And issues. Strike that, she has volumes. This does not prevent Miroku from rubbing her butt every chance he gets (I'd be more careful with that habit, being if his seal is knocked away she'd get sucked into a black hole).
Shippou- This young demon is a trickster. He can change into anything as well as perform a few magic tricks. He decided to tag along with the gang since they avenged his father. His role in the party is to save Kagome when Inuyasha and the rest are busy and be annoyingly cute.
Sesshoumaru- Inuyasha's pretty boy, full demon, half brother. He basically is there to take Inuyasha's sword, provide angst, and become slash fiction fodder for hundreds of thousands of girls world wide.
Naraku- Our villain. He is what happens when you take humans and demons and combine them together in unholy rites and the like. He's pretty much a demon with plans for strife and pain and the lot. Compared to his henchlings he's really pretty boring...
Actually, this is all looking like a rehash of old characters from Ranma 1/2 to me. Let's take it from the top.
Inuyasha = Ranma
Kagome = Akane
Miroku = Mix of Happosai and Kuno
Sango = Ukyo
Shippou = Mousse, but endearing.
Sesshoumaru = Actually, the serious evil pretty boy demographic is a first by my reckoning.
Kouga = Ryoga
I have said to people that Leji Morimoto (Space Battleship Yamamoto [Star Blazers]), Galaxy Express) can only draw about five different people. It looks to me that Rumiko Takahashi can only create about five different characters. Oh well, no one in the age demographic will notice. Instead I predict messenger bags and plush dolls bearing their likenesses will sell like hotcakes.
For my subject material this time I taped an average episode of Inuyasha on Adult Swim. For starters we find an old man watching as villagers throw a dead body into a river (Way to destroy your water supply...) and as the sight frightens him, he runs into a samurai. This one's worse off for wear, leaning heavily on his sword and struck with like a dozen arrows in him. Then we cut to the title screen, and the main story opens.
Wait just a second there. Don't most cartoons have an opening theme and animation? Why is it that Adult swim must trim/expel every opening animation from every anime they get anymore? They didn't to it to Big O. They don't do it to Cowboy Bebop. But I digress.
The episode is called "Trap of the Cursed Wall Hanging". And now I'm expecting the seven lucky masters of Crane style kung fu to bust out with a title like that. Of course we now cut to the old man telling the tale of what he saw to the Inuyasha gang. Now, why an old man, obviously frightened by everything, would tell a known half-demon of "Demon women" throwing the body in the river is anyone's guess.
So while out heroes discuss whether or not to investigate, we're treated to another exposition on why they're looking for jewel shards in the first place. They may be right, this could very well be Dragonball Z for girls.
We cut back to our wounded samurai who falls for the oldest trick in the book. Get taken in by the village of women only to get a roofie in your sake. Then get carted off to their shrine where a painting comes to life and eats you after you touch it. Of course this perks up Miroku's spidey senses for evil. They rush towards the disturbance and find the marsh the old man described. There they find a young man floating unconscious and face up (Convenient that...). He tells them of his search for his fiancé' who he may have lost in the wars. He learned of a village populated only by women whose men were taken by the wars, so he was on his way there.
But in order for things to keep moving, an unknown presence breaks a twig underfoot and Inuyasha takes notice. It's the women from the village. The plot moves on at a breakneck pace where they are simply told the fiancé isn't there and he will keep his vigilant search going. But of course the women bid them all stay the night. Miroku, of course, cannot say no to an offer of a village full of women needing "comfort". However, the men folk must keep to themselves.
I'm sure that entire exchange was supposed to be hilarious... But as it turns out I gave up the hope of ever being Japanese in high school, so my humor needs to make sense.
Anyway, as it turns out the young man's fiancé is in the village, just stuck in the room with the freaky man-eating painting, who's bidding her to bring the man there... But then we cut to Miroku, thinking back to a previous episode where he saved Shango... Bleh! And Shango does the same when prompted in the women's camp! Double Bleh!!! It's this kind of thing that ratchets down the manliness level of an anime by a good 20%. Pretty soon we're stuck playing "Mystery Date" while watching Midori Days. I think the deal is about every dozen episodes or so the Inuyasha gang grills those two on weather or not they have feelings for one another. It's eating into game time people! Go cut a demon in two or something!
Anyway, Sango finds the women of the village walking, mob like with torches. She heads to follow, ignoring Kagome's idea to bring backup. But Inuyasha always get's a 20 on the old listening checks, so he awakes and takes Kagome towards the disturbance he feels. And as we cut around Miroku is put in the box shrine o' doom. Meanwhile, Sango is pulled under the waters at the marsh. Finally Inuyasha, Kagome and Shippo come to the marsh as well only to be surrounded by the possessed women of the village. Back at the shrine Miroku also figures it out as he challenges the painting of doom!
Let's talk pacing for a second... Before the commercial break it was all exposition. Every scene lingered on and you felt nothing happening. Now like a teenager during his first backseat romp, the scenes cut off so quickly you can't even bother to keep up. At least "Return of the Jedi" gave you the common courtesy to let you SEE what was going on in a scene before cutting to the next.
Anyway, Sango's also in dire straights. The old woman of the village tries to get her to swallow a snake egg that will turn her possessed like the rest of the women here. And I hear the best line ever...
-Old Woman: "You must swallow it without biting and you too shall become one of us"
-Sango: "No way! You're not gonna make me swallow that thing!"
And I know... I just know that somewhere an erotic fanfiction was born and raised off that exchange.
And then, the end! We get to watch ALL of the pretty ending theme and animation. Yeesh...
OK, so each episode of a story arc cuts off abruptly before the big fight? Boo! I mean, it's been done before. Here I sit, unsatisfied. And what of our poor young couple? Oh, wait... Let me predict what's going to happen. Inuyasha and the gang will struggle, Miroku will have to fight Sango, and only his love will set her free. The young betrotheds will also snap out of it too, because Inuyasha will kill the big demon thingie with his BLAZING SWORD and the women will snap out of it too with no casualties. Just when I thought you grew a pair by killing that man in a fit of huge bloodspray.
Inuyasha is this and only this... mediocrity. No original plot, the pacing is strictly Dragonball Z and you're left not wanting, but knowing how everything's going to turn out! How can this be so popular? Because Adult Swim demands it? I'm left with a sense of deep foreboding... With the popularity of this anime...
These people have a chance of getting laid. My mission is clear, Inuyasha must be stopped!