Recommendation: Inuyasha

When I was a kid watching Inuyasha, I’d be thinking: “Aw, man! They’re ruining a perfectly good adventure story with all this stupid romance!”

Our heroes: Shippo, Sango, Miroku, Kagome, and the (dog-)man himself.
Inuyasha: Sunrise and Viz Media.

More information here, here and here.

Funny story, when I was a kid watching Inuyasha, I’d be thinking: “Aw, man! They’re ruining a perfectly good adventure story with all this stupid romance! You have a giant sword, why aren’t you chopping demons apart?”

Now that I’m older and wiser, the thought process has become: “Aw, man! All this adventure is getting in the way of a perfectly good romance story! Why are you still chopping demons apart with your giant sword?”

Like the original English version of Sailor Moon, Inuyasha is yet another anime that technically qualifies as CanCon due to being dubbed by a Canadian studio. Like Sailor Moon, Inuyasha is one of the most popular mangas/animes of the Turn of the Millennium. And, if you’re Canadian and more or less my age, you probably owe your knowledge of them to YTV.

Like Sailor Moon, Inuyasha is fundamentally a romance story. Which, if you’re familiar with Rumiko Takahashi’s other work, should come as no surprise. It’s largely also an adventure story that owes more than a few elements to Journey to the West — incidentally, anyone else remember the Journey to the West cartoon from the late ’90s?

I had a heck of time finding a picture of the main characters all together.
Inuyasha: Sunrise and Viz Media.

The basic premise of Inuyasha is that modern-day teenager Kagome ends up transported back into the Sengoku era via magical well (you know, as one does), where she meets the eponymous Inuyasha, a half-demon (specifically dog demon; that’s more or less what “Inuyasha” means) with a quick temper and generally bad attitude who’s fundamentally a decent guy despite his frequent protestations to the contrary.

Together, they begin hunting for the pieces of a shattered magical jewel (that they shattered in the first place) that promises immense power to whoever can put it back together, contending with various demons, monsters, and miscellaneous ne’er-do-wells. The romantic tension starts pretty much immediately.

Along the way, they encounter the young, mischievous shape-shifter Shippo (he’s supposed to be a kitsune; personally, I think he looks more like a squirrel), the monk Miroku, who is constantly trying to convince female passers-by to bear his children — it makes marginally more sense in context; he’s been afflicted with a curse and needs to father a child to carry on his sworn mission to kill the bad guy (more on him later) before said curse kills him — and the demon hunter (for all intents and purposes, a ninja) Sango, out to avenge the destruction of her clan.

Inuyasha sort of has the same problem as Sailor Moon, in that it takes a while for the main group to characters to all get together, but it’s not quite as bad in that it both happens slightly quicker and that the first season of Inuyasha doesn’t have a major climactic battle in the same way Sailor Moon does for it to feel like they’re going from “just met each other” to “saving the world” nearly as abruptly as the Sailors.

The main, overarching villain of the series is mortal-turned-demon Naraku, who can occasionally be over-the-toply and one-dimensionally evil, even for the villain of a Fantasy anime. He serves the purpose of being the obstacle the heroes must overcome perfectly well, but the most meaningful and interesting conflict in the series is between Inuyasha and his older half-brother Sesshomaru.

The juxtaposition between the Jerk with a Heart of Gold Inuyasha and the Jerk with a Heart of … Less Jerk Sesshomaru allows for a lot of good storylines as they encounter each other throughout the series, And Sesshomaru, who was never really even a villain to begin with, probably has the deepest and most significant character development of any character in the series.

And he’s absolutely gorgeous.
Doubly impressive, given that his dad was a giant Dog-Monster.
Inuyasha: Sunrise and Viz Media.

There’s also the recent sequel Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon, which is about the children of Inuyasha‘s main characters. I can’t really comment on it. I’ve only watched the first episode. Nothing really happened, but it did an acceptable job of setting where the plot will be going.

As with my previous recommendation of Lodoss War, I feel like I should give fair warning that Inuyasha can get pretty violent, and the bad guy monsters can range from unsettling to outright horrifying. The manga is even more graphic, but is somewhat mitigated by the fact that it’s still images in black and white, rather than live in living colour like the anime.

But, for reference, I was watching in junior high and I turned out alright.

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