This week, I’ll begin my reviews of anime and manga items in the Dublin Library’s collection. And I’m going to start with one of my favorite series, Inuyasha.

On the surface, Inuyasha is a classic shoujo series, complete with a schoolgirl heroine who pulled into an alternate world to fulfil a magic quest, handsome men who aid her in her quest, and romance. InuYashaWhat distinguishes Inuyasha from other entries in the genre are the fine characterizations, and the genuine jeopardies that face our heroine and her friends. Bad things happen to good people in this series, and the characters are frequently forced to overcome their own weaknesses and past deeds as well as facing the monster of the week. 

 Kagome Higurashi, the 15-year-old heroine of the series, is the daughter of a Shinto shrine family. When a demon appears and pulls her into an old well on the shrine grounds, Kagome manifests unexpected spiritual powers, and manages to fight off the demon–only to find herself stranded 500 years in the past, in the time known as the Sengoku-jidai, or Warring States era.  InuyashaAlmost at once, she is recognized as the reincarnation of a famous demon-fighting priestess, Kikyo, who was the guardian of a mystical jewel before her tragic betrayal and death 50 years earlier.  And then she unseals an infamous half-demon boy named Inuyasha, and things get really interesting…

 Kikyo, though a sworn shrine maiden, found her duties as the jewel’s guardian onerus and longed to rid herself of it. She fell in love with a half-demon boy named Inuyasha, and together, they planned to use the jewel to purge him of his demon half so that they could marry. However, they were each betrayed on the eve of the big day, and Kikyo died believing that Inuyasha had murdered her and stolen the jewel. For his part, Inuyasha fell into a 50-year coma, believing that Kikyo had betrayed him.

 He awakens into a world where Kikyo is only a memory among the old people of the village, Kikyo’s young sister is now the aged village priestess, and Inuyasha himself has become a story used to frighten the village children into behaving. 

 When Kagome unseals Inuyasha, and then inadvertantly shatters the sacred jewel, the two of them find themselves bound on a quest to find the fragments and reconstruct the jewel. The jewel, dangerous when whole, is just as potent in pieces, and demons and evil men can use the fragments to wreak great havoc.

Thus begins a long quest that is part adventure, part romance, and distinguished by excellent characterizations and the development of interesting relationships between the characters. Inuyasha is a gruff, foul-mouthed, rude boy who has lived his life as an outcast in both the human and demon worlds. Under the influence of Kagome’s determined kindness, her trust in him, and her friendship, Inuyasha slowly begins to shed his mistrust, revealing his sensitive and noble character (he never does get rid of his potty-mouth, though the English translations of both the manga and anime series have toned down his language considerably to make the work suitable for teens).

 Inuyasha and Kagome are soon joined in their quest by new friends–Miroku, a charming scoundrel of a Buddhist monk who seeks to undo a long-standing curse that will eventually kill him; Sango, a demon-slayer who saw her entire village slaughtered by an evil presence seeking to use the power of the jewel; and Shippo, an orphaned fox-demon cub whose parents were killed for the jewel fragments they possessed.

And then there are the opponents–Inuyasha’s full-demon brother, Sesshoumaru, who hates and resents Inuyasha; Kikyo, whose legacy haunts Kagome and poisons her relationship with Inuyasha; and Naraku, a human-turned-demon who lusts after power and who revels in the corruption of good.

 The anime series drew to a close after 167 episodes and the quest still incomplete; the weekly installments of the manga series are still running in Japan, and at last count, 519 chapters had been published, with no end in sight.

Is Inuyasha suitable viewing for your kids?

InuYashaThere is quite a bit of violence, some of it fairly gory.  There are demons and rotting corpses and various supernatural storylines, some of them fairly frightening for children. Bad things happen to good people, which may distress younger viewers. And there are bawdy jokes and some circumspect mentions of sex and sexuality. The Anime News Network Encyclopedia rates Inuyasha as suitable for teenagers (May contain bloody violence, bad language, nudity), and I agree with this rating.