NOTICE: This review covers both seasons.
Ah, boy, I was in love with this series when I first watched the first dozen episodes. I was left practically speechless with the amount of details, fast pace and lovable characters. I used to consider this series the best fantasy/adventure anime of all times. I remember when everybody was saying “Ah, God, I can’t wait to see what happens next!” The initial episodes where simply awesome, from fast pace to deep character emersion, to a multi-layered story, to secrets, and epic battles, and romances, and slapstick humour, all wrapped up in a setting blending feudal Japan and modern Japan in all its mythological glory. Yup, Inu Yasha was simply the best fantasy series back then. There was also Slayers of course but it was too episodic and random compared to it. There was Record of Lodoss War doing the same, which was cliché as hell, and there was Berserk which was… great for other reasons.
Also, most in my country still had really slow internet connections and it took 5 hours to download a usually crappy quality and subbed abomination. But we didn’t care watching that Tetris thing, with a window 1/4th of our screen. The whole deal was so amazing we simply didn’t mind. It was a series suitable for all ages and tastes, as it has both action for the guys, romance for the gals, and cute drawings for the toddlers, it had mystery, and suspense, and at times it was horror, others it was school comedy, sometimes tragic, and sometimes a fighting shounen. It was a phenomenon, a thing we all talked about and waited with anticipation, discussed and speculated. Yeah, that was a great time for the anime fans.
… But ... sadly the magic didn’t last for long and now I have very little respect for it.
ART & SOUND
[Doggy ears… I want to touch them…]
Visually and acoustically, the series is very good. The colors are bright and the level of detail is good, while it keeps improving as the episodes go by.
The continual switch from daily life of modern times to epic quest during the feudal era was very interesting. There is a huge contrast, as there are episodes full of slapstick violence, as well as gruesome ones full of corpses and bloodshed. It has “normal” areas, such as rural villages and modern day Tokyo, but also nightmarish ones, such a tomb made of myriads of bones and a castle covered in acid fog. The variety alone is enough to keep watching every new episode.
The character figures are generally simple and rather cute-looking, a trademark of Rumiko’s style. Improbable hair colors are kept only for special monsters, so normal people all have black hair. The details on secondary characters are rather poor, so if a new villain looks lame, you know he will die right away. The flashy costumes and the weird shape most monsters have are enough to attract the average viewer.
Special effects are measured by the tons. During major battles, the screen will remind you of disco-fever times, the way flashes and explosions fill it for several minutes.
The music themes range from great to medium and voice acting was more than good. I rarely pay attention to them but here, the voices were so cute or imposing and the songs were so cool that I couldn’t help myself liking them.
There are still many issues regarding realism if you care too much about that. Just like in any shounen, everyone wears only one set of self-repairing clothes and yells the names of his attacks. Severe injuries also tend to be scrubed off easily, as if everybody has fast healing superpowers.
[Get power-up, fight Naraku, repeat process.]
To make a long story short, the first 30 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 avenging a sinister someone, to comedy, to romance, to drama, to mystery, to whatever you can think and love seeing in anime. Story, characters and enjoyment were a solid 10.
But then… Why, oh why did they murder the awesome story? Rumiko, I hate you! You created a wonderful story and a marvelous cast… and then you stopped caring. Go hang yourself. You do the same in all your series; but here… You promised an epic-scaled story instead of a simple slapstick comedy. It is not the same.
Sadly, after the initial masterful 30 episodes, the first series turns to an average shonen anime, full of pointless power-ups, repetitive plot, stale characters and a perpetual on-going hunting for the arch-villain. No matter what you may think the story adds or resolves, it never truly offers a solid resolution for any of its list of unfinished side-stories. Inu Yasha never comes to terms with his evil side, Miroku doesn’t undo his curse, Sango doesn’t find her brother, Kikyo doesn’t resolve her undead nature, Naraku keeps evading them, the Shikon-no-tama is not completed, and nobody admits their true feelings for one another in a serious and lasting way.
The first episodes featured not only fast pace and continual revelations but also had strategy in battle. 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 Youkai with a swing. A few dozen episodes later, he could kill a thousand Youkai at will, without planning anything. Even worse, he kept gaining new tricks that could undo any possible defense even the strongest Youkai possessed, thus clearly becoming the strongest thing alive in about 40 episodes. Only Naraku, the arch-villain, kept escaping and only by continually leveling-up and forcing Inu Yasha to do the same, only to fail in defeating him and beginning another quest for the next power-up. It got tiresome pretty fast and frankly speaking, the only reason each battle lasted more than 5 seconds was because Inu Yasha wasn’t using his super-kill-everything special attack right away. How stupid is that?
The first series ends without solving anything. The manga it was based upon was still going on and after the airing shares fell too low because of the boring stories, the series was discontinued.
Several years later they finally continued and finished the story with the second series. There was rejoice from all the old fans, some talking to the dusty topic of the series, some reminiscent of those times… And then almost squat. It was just half a dozen people making a few comments per episodes and that’s it. Almost nobody cared about the continuation of the series, me included. As sad as it sounds, the passion had died out years ago and most of the fans, me included, went on to love other series. Not because we were asses, forgetting old loves at the drop of a hat and dumping one fad for another (although that was partly true too). It was because there was very little to look forward to in this series after all these years. The manga was still going on for years after the anime ended and I did follow through it, expecting to see how all this mess would end. And when it finally did, I felt very little about it. It was conclusive and left no major sub plots open but it had grown so boring from all the repetitiveness, I was relieved rather than happy it was finished.
So, let me explain why this series was not interesting anymore in simple words:
1) We knew how the story would turn out. During the first series, we had no idea what comes next as the manga was still unfinished. But now it was all just expecting to see things we already know. The suspense was lost.
2) Said suspense was quite diminutive during the ending of the first series to begin with. Because 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 dozen episodes and Inu Yasha over-exceeded that amount ten times more!
3) Said story, despite being now complete, was still cheesy to the most part. Ok, it was always cheesy to begin with, like a soap opera with monsters, but it revealed its bad side more and more, tempering with our patience and suspension of disbelief for so long. After the very good first parts of the story, it became mostly an endless loop of power-ups and chasing the Big Bad who simply had more hit points than the Emerald Weapon, yet could also teleport away everytime he was about to lose.
4) The pacing of the series itself was quite ridiculous after a point on. Leaving aside the pointless power ups, the battles themselves were stupid. Inu Yasha was practically wasting his time with weak attacks when he could use his mountain-levelling sword any time he wanted, for as many times he wanted, to kill even The Devil in one attack. Yes, it was THAT powerful. And it kept getting more powerful just for the sake of dealing with Naraku and his cockroach-resilient stamina. The same can be said about all powers of all characters. It was simply stupid.
5) After the ending of the first series, dozens of similar series came along to win us over this one. From 12 Kingdoms, to Serei no Moribito, to all those silly shows with characters who had cat ears or dog tails. There was such a plethora of similar elements found in newer series and there was nothing to talk about in a series which ended years ago.
6) When the first series was discontinued, many felt so disappointed that they hated it afterwards for showing them the middle finger as reward for watching all these years. How could you not be fed up with it?
7) All the above counted as a really bad promotion of the second part. The first series had a huge positive image before it aired. It was all “Yay, Takahashi is making another great series!” and stuff like that. The image of the second part was “Oh, so they continue the story. What’s for dinner?” Yes, it was that cold. Because of all the bad aftertaste. No matter how much the industry tried to rekindle the flame, it simply did not do the trick. 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. And so on, and so on… Hey, what can I say, trends and elements come and go and if you don’t keep the audience pleased, it will dump you before you can yell Kazenokizu. And to be honest it is kind of unfair for the series, as it was not so bad after all.
8 ) The continuation in the second series was very rushed. It felt like all its several dozens of side stories and secondary characters that were building up for hundreds of episodes were over in about 5 seconds of totally boring ways. Most die in a totally pointless way and the rest are neglected.
9) The motives and the resolutions to most of the conflicts in the series were stupid. Especially Naraku, who made several blunders for no apparent reason and presented the whole thing like a masterplan that took hundreds of episodes to happen and it turned out to be one big facepalm. Failure is not a strong enough word for what Rumiko did with this story.
10) The ending is a total cop-out. It even feels like it contradicts the rules set by space-time in the well, and even neglects to offer a good finale for most secondary characters who were there for years and didn’t really do anything.
11) The remaining fans went crazy with the cheesy finale, just for the sake of having one. It ends! It leaves no loose ends! Many die! Many get happy endings! Oh, God, a kiss; finally a kiss! And stuff like that. If you are one of those romantic types, the fairy tale ending will definitely bring tears to your eyes. Too bad that the rest of us just thought “All this fuss for nothing.” I mean, really, Kagome dumped Inu Yasha to finish school, just so she would dump her career and return to him??? What was the point??? “Kids, finish school before you elope because having a diploma in feudal times is very useful for women.” And surely, what kind of a retarded masterplan did Naraku have??? “I was in love so I felt like killing stuff for 300 episodes. Including the person I loved… A thing I did three times.” Really now? Not to forget to mention Miroku’s curse, which ended up saving their asses a million times and was otherwise something Naraku placed there to make him suffer. How about taking the curse away after the nth time it was used against him? This is total croc!
[Sit! Play Dead! Shake hands! Good boy!]
The cast of the series is simply stunning. Each one of them has a different demeanor, personal goals, backdrop story and special attacks. Very conveniently, all their goals end up being the defeat of Naraku, so that took away the initial feeling of individuality.
- Inu Yasha is clearly the main character, as the series’ name implies, so everyone pretty much becomes an underling in his quest. Or not… For even he is just a lap dog for Kagome, the cute Japanese schoolgirl that keeps abusing him and punishing him in the most ridiculous ways. I mean, they are supposed to like each other and yet express their feelings by having the otherwise bad-ass half-demon that can kill a thousand monsters with a swing, being the slave to a nagging high-schooler, who seems more troubled in getting to college than saving the time-continuum by a merciless demi-god. I don’t know if you dig this sort of tsudere thing but I find it ridiculous.
- Miroku is an ero-monk who doesn’t miss the chance to feel some girl’s ass and be slapped really bad by his love interest. It was very funny for the first 30 times but then it just became annoying, as he clearly loves her and yet keeps cheating on her.
- Said love interest, Sango, is looking for a way to save her brother, but since she finds one only in the final episodes, she spends most of her time hitting Miroku and nagging like a Japanese housewife. Rumiko clearly loves having her female characters beating the crap out of her male ones, as means to steam-out for all those millennia of male abuse. Pf!
- Then there is Shippo, the cute mascot animal of the story. He had a reason for being with them in the first episodes but quickly turned to 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 being just flying means of transportation for the gang and another cute kitten for the neko-lovers.
- And let’s not forget of Seshomaru, the coolest character and main antagonist, as well as the big bad, Naraku. Their motives are stupid as their common sense is not present all the time, despite their genius intellect.
There are hundreds of other characters, who exist purely as dressing and fan pleasing. They are all likable but remain stale as well. Heck, most of them never appear for more than 5 episodes.
In general, the characters began cool and awesome at first, but their repetitive jokes, continual nagging and total lack of development (power-ups are not character development, if you didn’t know) made them simply likable but not memorable in any way. Heck, the best character development you see in the second part is the villains getting killed like flies and the heroes getting more pointless power-ups. Damn that Rumiko; all those years of Urusei Yatsura and Ranma taught her nothing! Or maybe she does it on purpose, as she knows fanboys and fangirls will keep watching, no matter what she offers them. Anyways, the finale does offer catharsis for the major ones, although even that is not something that couldn’t have happened a few hundreds of episodes ago.
[I need money… No, don’t perform the diamond-shower attack!]
Clearly Rumiko Takahashi’s best work to date but still storyless to the point of madness. Rewatchability for the initial episodes is pretty high. Most thereafter will probably be skipped entirely. The second season has very low value for the reasons I stated above of why the second part was uninteresting to the majority of the anime community. Inu Yasha follows a tired formula to tell a story and there are now far similar series which have done a better job at each section. So, it is not captivating anymore, in the same way the first vampire movie Nosferatu is not scary anymore.
[Oh, what a cute kitten! .. Hey, who’s feeling my butt?]
Despite the lack of development, most episodes are still bearable, with many of them being hilariously funny or very mysterious or epic in action. If it had a faster conclusion and no fillers, it would be a masterpiece. IF you manage to watch the series as unbiased as possible then chances are you WILL like it a lot. It eventually wraps up things and that is enough of a reason to like it. Me? I didn’t give a damn after awhile, as it wasn’t fresh or exciting or anything special anymore. It should have been a 50 episode solid series, rather a long, boring and mostly storyless one. The first 30 of the first series and all of the second would make an excellent show.
The Vision of Escaflowne
Serei no Moribito
The 12 Kingdoms
Spice and Wolf
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (looks nice)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (lots of fancy light shows)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 0/2 (very loose and aimless to the most part)
Complexity 2/2 (rich context)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 2/2 (cute/funny)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (messy)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 6/10
Historical Value 1/3 (still remembered by some as an interesting retro title)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too much overblown drama)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely tragic to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 5/10
Art 1/1 (looks nice)
Sound 1/2 (sounds ok)
Story 1/3 (great ideas but poorly presented)
Characters 2/4 (they are likable but their development is a mess)