Episode XIII: InuYasha
By: Sean Wall
Inuyasha is the kind of show that many fans love to hate. Some of Inuyasha’s most regularly ridiculed elements include its obscenely long duration, its propensity to re-use animation during action sequences, as well as the fact that Kagome never wears anything but her school uniform while battling demons. Hell, some people simply despise it because of the insane level of popularity it is amassing. Despite its failings, however, Inuyasha is a show that more than compensates for its weaknesses by virtue of its strengths.
Synopsis: Higurashi Kagome is a typical high school girl whose family takes care of an ancient shrine. One day, a giant centipede-like demon breaks through a boarded up well in the shrine and drags Kagome inside in an attempt to get at the Shikon jewel inside Kagome’s body. Kagome awakens to find herself in feudal Japan. In the ensuing battle with the centipede demon, Kagome frees a half-demon, Inu Yasha, from a spell that was to make him sleep for all eternity. In the confusion after the centipede demon is defeated, the Shikon jewel is shattered and its shards scattered all over Japan. Kagome and Inu Yasha team up to recover the jewel shards to keep them out of the hands of demons who would use them to increase their powers.
The plot serves only to tie the monster of the week episodes together. For every fifteen or so monster of the week episodes something significant happens and a little beam of light shines through the dark clouds of repetitive storytelling long enough to provide a little hope of real entertainment. This hope is then dashed on the rocky spires of endless filler. Inu Yasha’s greatest sin is not the endless merely-slightly entertaining episodes, but that after four years of airing on TV, there is no conclusion to any of the events in the story. It’s truly unforgivable.
Deeply tied with the story of Inuyasha are its superior characters. Like most of Takahashi’s work, Inuyasha has a penchant for emphatic characterization. Indeed, much of the plot here is dedicated exclusively to endearing us to the cast and deepening our concern for them on an almost personal level. When I watch this show, I feel pain when Kagome’s heart aches over Inuyasha’s affection for Kikyo and joy when both she and Inuyasha move closer to one another.
Moreover, I feel strongly for each and every one of the other main characters. One of the best and most intriguing individuals though, is Inuyasha’s older brother Sesshoumaru, a full-blooded dog-demon that initially has a tremendous disdain for not only his half-demon brother but also for all of humanity. His growth during the series is slow but deeply interesting as his dark, brooding persona becomes gradually lighter, making it difficult to call him good or evil in any conventional sense.
The aspect of Inuyasha most deserving of contempt is the animation. In fact, it is quite good. However, the immense difficulties that exist in animating such a long action show are formidable for even the heartiest of budgets. As such, when an action scene can be reused, it probably will be. For example, many of Inuyasha’s special attacks, such as the “Soul Scattering Iron Claw” or the “Wind Scar”, have used the same animation from the very beginning of the show. Another thing done to presumably save money during action sequences is to create the illusion of action by freezing and then panning an image while adding sound effects. It is a weak substitute for action but if it saves us from simply having to deal with horrible moving art, I am all in favor of it.
Despite all my negativity, Inu Yasha does have a few things going for it. The individual episodes are rarely terrible and the whole show does have an epic feel to it. The animation quality stays consistent throughout with only the occasional dip in quality (you try animating the same show for four years without some outside help). The openings and endings combine fantastic music with appropriate images of the characters in a way that really sets the mood. When the tone of the show changes, the openings and endings reflect the change.
So what do I have to say to all those that despise Inuyasha out there? Well, you are of course free to your opinion, but my impression is that sour frame-rates, some rehashed animation, and a long run on television do little to ruin a title that has a worthy storyline and so strong a cast of characters. Granted, the show has problems that are significant enough to tarnish its luster slightly, but in the end, Inuyasha still shines.