[My thoughts on Inuyasha (anime), with mild spoilers.]
Inuyasha is a rather long story that takes place over two television series – the first released in 2000 and spanning 167 episodes, and the second, released in 2009 and comprising just 26 episodes. It was my friend who recommended the show to me, back when I was in my early teens. They were playing it on a local TV channel at night and I would stay up to watch it, and then have a very very serious discussion about whatever happened with my friend the next day. So yes, I was (and probably still am) a major fan of this story.
Here’s the thing that I did not realise about Inuyasha until the end: it is, essentially, a love story, and a really good one at that. What makes this a wonderful love story is the way the couple (Inuyasha and Kagome) take their time to fall in love, and this happens so gradually and naturally that it feels perfect. Both of them grow as characters, especially Inuyasha, and we see how he transforms from a rather selfish and aggressive asshat to a kinder and more considerate asshat, primarily because of his developing relationship with Kagome. The way they interact is a relatable portrayal of two young people who not-so-secretly harbour romantic intentions towards each other. Even the love triangle that forms when Inuyasha’s zombie ex-girlfriend enters the story, only served to strengthen their relationship. Although it is set in a fantastical universe, the love story between Inuyasha and Kagome is very realistic and forms the backbone of the entire series.
Inuyasha also does an excellent job in the development of its many other characters and explores their motivations in depth. We see these characters change over the course of the story, through their losses and gains: families and loved ones are ripped apart and ambitions are shattered, but there are new companions to be found along the way – friends or allies with a shared goal to help carry the burden. We are able to understand why the characters think and act the way they do.
One of the characters that I particularly loved (in terms of character development) was Sesshomaru. Although he begins as a narrow-minded villain, his experiences alter his perspectives and he learns compassion and peace. Given the way he was introduced, I never expected the sea change from Sesshomaru. The length of the story was put to great use in his case, creating the changes in his mindset slowly, and making his eventual decisions inevitable and completely believable. His journey, I would say, is as important as the one that Inuyasha takes.
Character development aside, the characters themselves were pretty memorable and well-done. In fact, one of Inuyasha’s greatest accomplishments was the villain. Naraku, the story’s primary antagonist, is a vile, cruel and despicable fiend whom I thoroughly hate. Naturally, this makes him one of the best villains I have ever encountered in a story. His malice is the product of very human qualities such as greed and selfishness. He never pulls his punches and has no regard for anyone. It may sound simple, but this made for a character that ruins the life of almost every single person he meets and essentially, makes him completely evil with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He’s the pupper-master, the archenemy and the final boss all at once; his birth sets the story in motion and his death marks the conclusion. Inuyasha is as much the villain’s story as it is the hero’s and that makes it quite unique.
I do believe that character development is the best thing about Inuyasha, but there are many other wonderful things about this story as well. There is a generous serving of comedy and the plot itself is rather good. This show was made quite some time ago, but the quality of the animation is not terrible, either. While it got many things right, there were still things that I didn’t like too much. Chief among these is the setting of the show. For the most part, the show takes place in a magical version of what seems to be feudal Japan. I had no love for this backward and demon-infested world, although I concede its necessity. I did, however, like the idea that Kagome can go back and forth between her modern world and Inuyasha’s historical one, and that the two realms were tied together was quite intriguing.
I was also not terribly fond of the fights, and Inuyasha’s power-ups, necessary as they may have been. Frankly, I found the design of his sword, the different powers it acquired and its overall performance in battles quite ridiculous. However, these negative aspects of the story are minor things and some audience may even like them, because it’s really just a matter of perspective.
Looking at the whole picture, Inuyasha is something that I would peg as an anime legend. Many of the long-running anime that I watched either didn’t end well or haven’t ended at all. Inuyasha was an exception, and a rather good one too. Although the first television series, which ran for a few years, ended abruptly without a conclusion, there was eventually a sequel (Inuyasha: The Final Act), which wrapped everything up in good time. Together, we get a wholesome story, with some heart-wrenching moments and heart-warming ones, about people – what they may love, lose and learn. As far as longwinded stories go, this is easily one of the best out there.
If you have any thoughts to share about Inuyasha, feel free to leave them here!