Friday, November 30, 2012

DaWaRou Posts: My Gateway Anime/Manga: InuYasha, a Feudal FairyTale

NI HAO! This is John Cortez, bringing you his FOURTH post! Expect these on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays because that's typically when it dawns on me that I have to do one! Today, I'll be talking about a series that's very very dear to me so I hope you'll stick with me as I blather on about it!

Now I'm pretty sure that everyone remembers the anime of our childhood. Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, YuYu Hakusho, Ruroni Kenshin, Sailor Moon, G Gundam, Tenchi Muyo, DragonBall, and Cardcaptors have all earned their spots in our collective nostalgia when it comes to anime but what was the FIRST anime that got you hooked on the rest of it? Well, I remember mine and I'll never forget it. See, about the time I was in middle school my friend Camille told me about this anime series called InuYasha and (largely due to my having a massive crush on her) I decided to check it out!

InuYasha began as a manga written by Rumiko Takahashi not long after finishing her most well known series up to that point, Ranma 1/2. Now InuYasha stands in stark contrast to most of Takahashi's works due to how overtly dark and action packed the series is. This was intentional as Takahashi wanted to do a darker and more serious story and decided that the Sengoku era of Japan would be the best possible setting for this kind of story. For those of you who don't know much about Japanese history, the Sengoku Period lasted from the 15th century all the way to the 17th century and was full of violent wars and bloodshed so it definitely fits. Taking this into account, all the characters, with the exception of our leading lady, are dressed like people of that era and further boosting InuYasha's points in my book, the characters all actually look Japanese, with the right eye and hair colors excluding the Yokai and Hanyou.

The plot is this: Average 9th grade school girl, Kagome Higurashi lives a fairly normal life on her family's shrine where she's grown up hearing all sorts of stories and legends from her grandfather. All is well until the day of her 15th birthday when she's suddenly dragged down a well by a half naked half centipiede...woman...thing...Yokai, which proceeds to lick her and pull her down deeper into...where ever the hell this damn well leads to. After Kagome freaks and blasts it away with pink light, she climbs out of the well and finds herself in a forest wherein she runs towards a giant tree thinking that it'll lead her back home. There she meets a sleeping bishonen boy with long white hair and cute doggie ears and after playing with them she's assaulted by the local villagers until the decrepit priestess Kaede decides that Kagome isn't evil and invites her to dinner. Well, later on Mistress Centipede shows up looking for the Shikon no Tama or Sacred Jewel of the Four Souls which she believes Kagome has. Kagome runs back to the forest and the white haired bishonen boy named InuYasha wakes up due to sensing the pressence of the priestess Kikyo, the woman who originally stuck up to the tree 50 years prior to this. There seems to be something of a mix up as InuYasha mistakes Kagome for Kikyo due to her scent though they hardly have time to worry about that as the Centipide lady rips the Shikon Jewel out of Kagome's body and swallows it whole which prompts Kagome to set InuYasha free resulting in the death of the insect bitch. The Shikon Jewel is a mystical bauble that greatly increases the power of Yokai possessing it and our Bishonen desperatly craves it to become a full Yokai as he's only half. Kagome ends up breaking the damn thing and thus she and InuYasha join forces with various others in order to collect the whole damn rock while fighting the evil Naraku who enjoys manipulating loved ones into killing each other. These others include Shippo, an orphan fox Yokai with no actual grudge against Naraku, Miroku, a lecherous monk with a cursed Wind Tunnel in his hand that's a gift from Naraku and will soon kill him, Sango, the badass female Yokai Exterminator who lost her entire clan and family to Naraku while he used Mind Control on her gentle little brother Kohaku, Kikyo, InuYasha's once dead lover, Koga, a Wolf Yokai who has his entire clan whipped out by Naraku's incarnation Kagura (it's a long story) and the powerful Sesshomaru, InuYasha's older half brother.

That's a very simplistic but accurate plot description which doesn't even go into Kagome being the reincarnation of the Priestess Kikyo who later comes back from the dead  and has a habit of dying and coming back, Kagome constantly going back and forth between her time and the Sengoku period for school, InuYasha's fucking AMAZING half brother Sesshomaru the series most BADASS MOTHER FUCKER, the fact that Shippo is useless and Sango and her brother Kohaku's repeated attempts to kill each other every other week. InuYasha is a very long series to say the least and as with all series of this length there are pros and cons.

Now, I personally believe that in order to consider yourself a fan of something and not an annoying fanboy you need to be able to acknowledge the flaws of any series that you like. InuYasha is no exception, in fact I think that it has some rather serious flaws and I'm sure that there are many out there who'd agree with me. First of all, the main cast is severely lacking in brain power. Every trap set by Naraku is a trap that our heroes seem to just blindly waltz right into, sometimes they know it's a trap and they still walk right into it. Now, that's all well and good, as it shows that our villain is that much smarter than our heroes, but just the sheer number of times that Naraku is able to pull one over on our heroes just makes you wonder if they're all half stupid or something. Koga, InuYasha, Sesshomaru and Sango seem to get the worst of this and I suppose it's justified in a sense. Koga and InuYasha are both too hotblooded to care one way or another if it's a trap or not, but then you've got Sango an experienced Yokai Exterminator who practically jumps head first into Naraku's traps, though once again, it's slightly justified. Honestly, if you knew that the bad guy had your kid sibling under their control wouldn't you try everything under the sun to save them or die with them? Then there's Sesshomaru who I suppose can somewhat be excused by the fact that he's realistically the strongest member of the cast so he also doesn't care if it's a trap or not. But when you've got the likes of Kikyo, who at times seems to be the smartest member of the important cast besides Naraku doing shit like giving him HALF the damn Jewel! She claims that it's the only way to kill him but...I don't know. Also, there's the whole dog thing. A big running gag throughout the show is the fact that InuYasha is half Inugami or Dog Yokai. Early in the series he gets a magic necklace put on him which for all intents and purposes is an electric shock collar you get for dogs that are hard to train. Every time Kagome says "Sit" it forces him to the ground. Also once Koga gets introduced there's that whole mutt comparison constantly being made to InuYasha as he's half Yokai and half Human and finally there's InuYasha constantly running back to Kikyo like a dog constantly running back to his master. There's also the Takahashi Relationship issues that rear their ugly heads once again. We've got Miroku and Sango who have lots of Sexual Tension but not as much as the tension between InuYasha, Kagome, Kikyo  and Koga. Let's see, InuYasha and Kikyo were once lovers but Naraku drove a wedge between them so they hate each other so when InuYasha first meets Kagome he hates her too because she looks and smells just like Kikyo but soon he begins to fall for her and she for him and then Kikyo comes back to life and wants to drag InuYasha to Hell with her but he loves her and kissed her in front of Kagome but he couldn't see her at the time but Kikyo could and that's how she found out about Naraku and she and InuYasha keep making goo goo eyes at each other and so Kagome gets mad because whenever Kikyo's involved InuYasha becomes completely absorbed in making sure that she's alright but he also still cares for Kagome so he's kind of two timing and then Koga shows up and kidnaps Kagome and he falls in love with her and wants to kill InuYasha so that he and Kagome can be together but Kagome never does anything to discourage his affections just as Kikyo never does anything to discourage InuYasha's repeated advances towards her and she gets jealous of Kagome and sometimes tries to kill her as Koga tries to do to InuYasha but Kagome really loves InuYasha and goes back and forth between hating and not hating Kikyo and loving and not loving InuYasha but she sees Koga as a friend while he see's her as his future lover and wife until Ayame shows up in the anime and then it becomes a love polygon because technically Koga's engaged to Ayame but he loves Kagome partly because she can see the Shikon Jewel Shards which is something that causes conflict in Kagome because Kikyo can also see the Jewel Shards so InuYasha technically doesn't need Kagome and...You can see where this is going. There's also the multiple fillers from the anime and it's length overall that while allowing for great character development makes the series drag an awful lot.

But with all that in mind, let's get to the pros. First of all I love the animation for this anime. Mainly the first couple of seasons where it had this kind of darkish look to it. I'll assume it was simply a budget issue or something because while the look of the animation "improved" in the later seasons, I liked how it looked during it's first few seasons. The voice acting in either language is perfect, everyone seems to be made for the roles they play namely Richard Ian Cox who does the title character. I truly must praise him for what I believe to be the best role he's ever been in as a voice actor. As much as the series drags itself through the mud at a snail's pace, it allows for very good character development and when the series wants to be funny or serious or romantic or dramatic it often does so very well. While it lacks a single shred of originality or innovation in it's genre, it manages to hold it's own and do whatever it sets out to do in any given episode. All of the characters are flawed and not a single one of them is perfect which I notice Takahashi seems to do very well. She never makes completely flawless characters so people who bitch about Kagome being a Mary Sue are obviously stupid and haven't watched the entire series all the way through, then again neither have I. The world is also very well constructed and fully immerses itself in it's own mythology and ideas. There are enough shades of grey in the series that no one is completely good and that's good because a series with strict black and white morality while easy to follow is simply just boring. Plus...there's this. THIS is a pro!
She's so CUTE! This is Rin...she's ADORABLE! And she's important to the series overall.

So, why spend my time going on and on about InuYasha? Well, because it really is the very first anime series I ever seriously got into. Yeah, I grew up with Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh and Ruroni Kenshin and YuYu Hakusho but I didn't know that the technical term for them was anime. At the time I just knew it as cool cartoons or as my babysitter's then boyfriend would call it, "that shit from Japan". InuYasha was the first thing I fully recognized as anime and I fully immersed myself in it. Ranma 1/2 came next though I was far more into the manga of that than I was with InuYasha partially because at the time, I was really just starting to get into manga and because Ranma was just more available. InuYasha got me through a lot of middle school but it got me in a lot of trouble in middle school For example, there was one  kid I knew who was also an InuYasha fan so sometimes he'd lend me his manga. He told me once while borrowing his volume 18 that if anything happened to it damage wise, I might as well keep it and buy him a new one. Me being stupid, ripped a corner page and tried to steal it. Very soon after our after school program got out, a large mob of students was waiting to beat the ever loving crap out of me. There was also the time I tried to pull a Miroku and grope a girl I liked and her friend with a couple of other boys. We tried hiding in the boys bathroom and got either detention or Saturday School. I also remember giving my then crush volumes 3, 4 and 5 of the manga that I had. Also...InuYasha was my first exposure to female least as far as manga goes. I recall rather distinctly one of my best friends licking a page in volume 15 that featured Kagrua getting her clothes torn off...twice.

But what is it that I love about this series, flawed as it is? Well, I think one of the things I love the most about InuYasha is first of all how serious it takes itself most of the time especially in the earlier parts of the series. Yes, there's some funny moments but the real serious moments really do tend to leave an impact on you as a viewer/reader depending on which you're going by manga or anime. A lot of moments in the series are extremely memorable simply because of how well they're handled and portrayed. For example, I very distinctly remember the episode when Koga's tribe was brutally killed by Kagura. But not only do I remember that but I very vividly remember the episodes that followed it. Kagura was stationed at Naraku's castle waiting for Koga's clan to raid it and she killed all that came. She then used her "Wind Magic" to bring one back to life and make it go all the way back to Koga's hideout to inform him that they'd all been attacked and to give him a fake Jewel Shard to replace the one he'd previously lost to the Birds of Paradise and then to InuYasha and his group. Koga took it without hesitation unaware of who was behind the slaughter. InuYasha and his friends made it to the castle before Koga and when he arrived, Koga believed that InuYasha was responsible for his clan's analiation. The two fought a serious battle where InuYasha had his arm broken by Koga who was then almost killed by Kagura. The group only survived because of InuYasha and Kagome working together to create the Wind Scar, a powerful attack that's capable of slaying 100 Yokai in a single swing. After this, Kagura starts to resent Naraku and Koga vows his revenge. Another moment that clearly resonates in my mind is when InuYasha meets Kikyo again for the first time after she's revived. From the moment of her revival the set up was that InuYasha and Kikyo were former lovers who were ready to settle down with each other and just be normal people, not Hanyo and Priestess, but just a normal boy and girl. Kikyo completely resented InuYasha for betraying her but he never stopped loving her. Besides the memorable scenes, I also really liked the character development which starts in the very second volume of the manga. When InuYasha takes Kagome back to the past to defeat Yura of the Hair, Kagome grabs a bow and arrow, not because she's Kikyo's reincarnation, but because she knows that InuYasha alone won't be able to defeat this Yokai and she wants to help in some way seeing as how it's mainly her fault to begin with. Another thing I like is the bonds between the characters, particularly the bond between Sango and Kohaku. Now, sibling relationships in anime and manga are generally a big deal if the siblings are main characters and it really speaks volumes for how and why the characters do what they do. Sango and Kohaku probably have the most horrible situation I've ever seen a pair of siblings in as far as anime and manga are concerned. Sango is the older sister, so of course from what little screen time he has, it's implied that she's the favorite of her father. She's battle hardened, yes but she's still a person and being a badass isn't the only part of her character. She's, to put it bluntly, a woman. She's feminine, she's beautiful, she's passionate, she's emotionally supportive and tender and kind. She's very much the mother to her younger brother Kohaku who's very much a shy, gentle and tender boy who really should not be out killing Yokai. Look at this boy!
That is not a child who should be out killing things! see him effortlessly kill his entire family and almost kill Sango, and then CRY once the mind control has worn off and the two siblings are fired upon by castle guards. That was tragic, that was horrible. And even worse to see Naraku constantly using Kohaku as a part of his plans in the hopes that he and Sango will kill each other was probably one of the most despicable things he's done. I like the music of the series, I like the character designs, I like pretty much everything about it, even it's flaws...sometimes. I want to thank my friend Camille Ybarra for introducing me to this series in the first place.I'm also very greatful to InuYasha because it allowed me to meet my best friend Ana Carrillo! I'm John Cotez, and I'm proud to say that InuYasha is my favorite series and my Gateway Anime/Manga. DaWaRou~!

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