NOTICE: This review covers both seasons.
A few years before the Big Three became a thing, Inu Yasha was the show everybody was raving about. Even I was in love with it, during the initial episodes. The sheer amount of things that were happening at the same time, along with fast pace and lovable characters, made it an instant hook for everybody who loves action adventures. We were all hyped for what was going to happen next, since everybody could find something to like in it. It was a series for all ages and demographics, with character emersion, a multi-layered story, mystery, epic battles, romance, slapstick comedy, all wrapped up in a setting which was blending feudal and modern Japan in all its mythological glory. It was a phenomenon, a thing we all talked about and waited with anticipation, discussed and speculated.
But over the years, this image changed completely, and by now it became the reason I consider perpetual ongoing shonen to suck, romance anime not being about romance, and having high expectations for anything can only lead to disappointment.
Visually, the show remains consistently very good throughout its duration, something very rare if you have watched enough long series. The constant switch from the daily life of modern times to the epic quest during the feudal era was very catchy, and there is variety in moods, as some episodes are comical, others are serious, and some are borderline occult horror. The character designs retain their level of detail, and overall fidelity improves in later seasons.
Small issues include how obvious it is to tell who is important by the way he is drawn. If a new villain looks lame, you know he will die right away because not much thought was put behind his conception. Also, although there are tons of visual effects that make it seem very epic, it can’t be denied how much more interesting the battles were at first, since there were far fewer energy attacks, and far more battle choreography. You know, stuff where the characters are moving and use martial arts, instead of throwing fireballs, or just dodging the other guy’s fireballs.
A simple Youkai-of-the-week needed at least one episode and lots of planning in order to be defeated. Yet, this wonderful feature went away in just 8 episodes, when Inu Yasha got himself a super sword that could kill any normal monster with a swing. A few dozen episodes later, he could kill a thousand monsters, without planning anything. After a hundred episodes, he was the second strongest creature in the world, with the first being the archvillain, and only because he was also constantly leveling-up.
STORY & CAST
To make a long story short, the first dozen or so episodes are amongst the best an action anime of its kind can possibly offer. They had a gazillion ideas, from time travel, to demon slaying, to a quest for magic relics, to revenge, to comedy, to romance, to drama, to mystery, to whatever you can think and love seeing in anime, unless you are an emotionfag who only watches them for cute girls doing cute things.
Beyond those episodes, everything starts to slow down, before going on an endless loop of chasing after the same villain again and again and again. It’s like Rumiko Takahashi forgot what show she was making, and went on producing more Ranma ½. And even then, she stopped caring because instead of wrapping everything after a couple of seasons, she kept making more and more arcs, where nothing actually changes. And by that I don’t mean the usual stuff all shonen have, like, how everyone wears only one set of self-repairing clothes and yells the names of his attacks, or how severe injuries are scrubbed off easily, as if everybody has fast regeneration. I mean, actual change.
Despite secondary characters being constantly introduced, and everybody constantly getting more power ups, nothing matters in the longrun, since the former do not add more character dynamics, and the latter become meaningless after a few episodes. Character development comes to a halt and gets replaced with shallow power creep. The different personal goals characters had at first, get replaced by having them all going after Naraku, which took away their individuality. There are many cases where you think something is finally going to change, only to regress back to status quo by the next episode. All you are left with, is watching fights with no tension, since you know Inu Yasha is the strongest, and the only reason each battle lasts more than 5 seconds is because nobody is using super-kill-everything special attacks right away. Let’s go over the major ones, and see how they evolved.
Inu Yasha is the main character, but not the leader, since he is a pet at the hands of a Japanese high school girl, which of course constantly mistreats him, because Rumiko loves to have women torturing men. He begins as a tragic hero who hates his human side, and ends up as a delinquent, running after bad guys and the chick he likes.
Kagome is said chick, which expresses her feelings by having the otherwise bad-ass half-demon that can kill a thousand monsters with a swing, being her lap dog. She starts off as a scared girl trying to return home, but as soon as that is over, she becomes more worried about getting to college than saving the time-continuum by a merciless demi-god.
Miroku is a perverted monk who doesn’t miss the chance to feel some girl’s ass and be slapped really hard in return, since Rumiko loves to have women torturing men. It was funny the first 30 times but then it just became annoying, as he clearly loves someone, yet keeps cheating on her. He is cursed with a wind tunnel, which conveniently does more good than harm, since it can wipe out entire armies of monsters. It is also capable of defeating Naraku, who happens to be the one who gave him the curse, but magically couldn’t take it away after realizing how stupid that was.
Sango is the girl Miroku loves, and is looking for a way to save her brother. But since this is not important up until the last episodes, she spends her time slapping Miroku and nagging like an old maid.
Shippo is the cute mascot all such stories need. He had a reason for being with them in the first episodes, since he was trying to avenge the death of his father. But once that was achieved, he quickly turned into a comic relief character and moe-attraction for the fan-girls.
So did Kirara, the bestial demon cat that was supposed to play a major part in defeating Naraku but ended up being just flying means of transportation for the gang and another cute kitten for the neko-lovers. And by the way, there is no fun in adventures, if the characters are no longer passing through interesting areas, and are instead flying over them.
And let’s not forget of Sesshomaru, the coolest character and main antagonist, who starts off as trying to be the strongest youkai, and ends up becoming a babysitter and bishonen attraction for the fujoshis.
As you see, all the characters were cool and interesting at first, but the lack of a plot and the repetitive jokes, turned them into obnoxious idiots.
The show was eventually discontinued, and left everybody disappointed for not getting any closure. Most followed the manga thereafter, and even then they were getting more of the same shit for several years, until the damn thing finally ended. Nobody cared about it anymore, and yet a couple years after the manga was over, the rest of it was animated regardless. There was some rejoicing by the old fans but it quickly died out as soon as the sequel series began, for the following reasons.
1) We knew how the story will play out. During the first series, we had no idea what comes next as the manga was still unfinished. But now, we were simply expecting to see things we already know about. The suspense was lost.
2) Said suspense was quite diminutive during the ending of the first series to begin with. The plot had grown so slow, repetitive and filler-like, we lost interest in it. Fillers and pointless power-ups can be fun for only a few episodes, yet Inu Yasha exceeded that amount a hundred times.
3) Said plot was very cheesy. It’s like a soap opera with monsters, revealing its bad side more and more, while constantly tempering with your patience and suspension of disbelief. If they are constantly time travelling, why isn’t the present affected in any way? How can Inu Yasha be in love with Kagome just because she has the same soul as Kikyo? Did Naraku waste hundreds of episodes running away from the wind tunnel he created himself, and chasing for dozens of episodes the shard he gave himself to Kohaku, and caused all this harm because of a simple crush he had on Kikyo?
4) The pacing was very erratic. The first series was moving too slow without going anywhere, the second series was moving too fast to let you care about anything.
5) After the first series ended, dozens of similar themed anime came out and attracted the interest of the fans. Horo’s sexy wolf ears were now the new trend over Inu Yasha’s ears, the Bankais in Bleach were far cooler than his Tetsusaiga, a schoolgirl going to a feudal magic world was far catchier in the 12 Kingdoms. What can I say, if you don’t keep the audience pleased, it will dump you faster than you can yell Kazenokizu.
6) The ending is a total cop-out. It contradicts the rules set by space-time in the well, neglects to offer a good finale for most secondary characters that were there for hundreds of episodes, and made Kagome to seem like she dumped Inu Yasha to finish school, for the sole purpose of dumping her career and return to him. What was the point of that??? “Kids, finish school before you elope because having a diploma in feudal times is very useful for women.”
The show is watchable if you seek mindless entertainment, but it gets really hard to care when you don’t get something new after dozens of episodes. It eventually wraps up things, and although the finale is a complete mess, it is still something most anime do not get to have. If they ever remake this show, then all they will need to adapt, is the first dozen and the last dozen episodes. And if they correct the terrible problems with character motives and inconsistent rules of time travel, it can be one of the best action adventures ever made. Until that happens, I consider this show to be a complete let down, and the reason I began hating shonen in general.
video version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9x-ePDmXOLM