Monday, May 18, 2015

Manga Review: InuYasha: A Feudal Fairytale Series (Rumiko Takahashi)

InuYasha: Turning Back Time (InuYasha, #1)InuYasha: Curtain of Time (InuYasha, #56)

Series Title: InuYasha: A Feudal Fairytale
Author: Rumiko Takahashi
Volume(s) Reviewed: 1-56 (complete series)
Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: April 2003 to January 2011
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Content Rating: Older Teen (strong violence and gore, minor language and sensuality, partial nudity)
Format Read: Paperback (own & library)
Find It On: Goodreads


Transported back to Japan's feudal era, high school student Kagome teams up with half-demon dog boy Inu-Yasha and others to collect the shards of the Shikon Jewel and keep it out of the hands of half-demon Naraku who is bent on reforming the Jewel and becoming all-powerful.

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In a Sentence: Fast-paced and action-packed, this classic feudal adventure series was one of my first and shall always be one of my favorites.

Story: At 56 volumes, InuYasha sounds like a daunting story possibly too long for its own good, but it's a quick and engaging tale about the struggle of good versus evil and encompasses a lot of moral conundrums: love and hate, power and control, betrayal, sibling love and rivalry. Predominantly action, some volumes can take only a half-hour to read, and even the "slower" volumes only an hour. With all now released, I re-read the entire series in about two weeks. The plot arcs slide right into the next with very few downtime scenes as the group progresses from finding Shikon Jewel shards and slaying evil demons to defeating Naraku and his many minions. Considering the long journey of soul-searching all the characters go through, the end is rather profound and completely satisfying, and most get their happy ending.

Setting: At its heart this is a story of time travel, so there are two worlds: "present day" Japan (late 90s here) and a demon-infested feudal Japan. We spend most of the time in the past where an unrealistic amount of civilians are slaughtered by bandits, warriors, and demons, but it was necessary to the story. The trips back to the present were for the most part a peaceful respite from the carnage, especially for the characters, and set in the 90s it's interesting to see what has and hasn't changed compared to the more recent present-day manga.

Characters: Kagome was a pillar of human strength and perseverance. She accepted her destiny and didn't shy away from a fight or get squeamish despite the carnage. After the first few volumes she never even complained about the rough living and traveling conditions (although her bulging backpack from the present helped ;). InuYasha was his own pillar of strength in the face of adversity. As a half-demon he had vast limitations that he had to overcome to protect those he came to care for, and to find the power within him to grow stronger. I felt he was at his strongest and most impressive when he was at his most human (the night of the New Moon when he lost his demon powers), and those will always be my favorite battles.

The gang Kagome and InuYasha accumulated were a fun bunch - philandering monk Miroku and his deadly curse, demon-hunter Sango with her tragic past and serious family issues, little fox-demon Shippo and his blessed comic relief, and occasionally the wolf-demon Koga who added a much-needed love triangle on Kagome's side to rise some jealousy out of InuYasha. Priestess Kikyo was an interesting twist that, despite the wedge she placed between Kagome and InuYasha, was basically the heart of the entire conflict and added a lot of quality emotional resonance to both the good and evil sides. On the evil side, Naraku was the formidable adversary that you couldn't help but love to hate, although his final moments were a bit bittersweet and a little conflicting.

As a large series there were a large number of regulars, from Naraku's many spawn to the family and friends of all main characters involved, and each were unique and added clarity and depth to the story and its players.

Favorite Character: No contest my favorite character is InuYasha's older and full-demon brother, Sesshomaru. He's gorgeous, almost infinitely powerful, broody, and a man of very few words. But he was really nothing but a disgruntled sibling until he saved little orphan girl Rin, and Sesshomaru & Rin's scenes together, however brief, were pure perfection for me. His arc and growth were the highlight of the whole story, and I couldn't have been happier with his [open] ending.

Romantic Relationships: The romances in this book are seriously complicated, but InuYasha and Kagome's relationship is a doozy. InuYasha was previously in love with Kagome's former incarnation, Kikyo, so when Kikyo comes back into the picture he is conflicted. Still, he and Kagome maintain a strong bond that threads through the entire series, and their relationship was different and engaging. Miroku and Sango were another fraught couple, although their strife was mostly due to his wandering eye. ;)

Favorite Scenes:
  • The New Moon battles (when InuYasha is human): He seemed to have more stamina and strength and determination during these battles, and it made him all the more heroic.
  • InuYasha & Kagome in the present time: Although there were a few battles, most of the time these scenes were downtime for both of them, and InuYasha's clumsiness and vulnerability couldn't have been more adorable.
  • Anything with Sesshomaru & Rin
Pet Peeves: I did have two major pet peeves that I have yet to get over:
  1. Kagome's Father. Where in the heck was Kagome's father?!? The whole series was fraught with father issues (InuYasha/Sesshomaru, Shippo, Miroku, even Sango/Kohaku), yet she never once pondered her father's status (alive and out of the picture, dead, abandoned them??). She and her mother and brother live at her grandfather's temple, but she nor anyone else even so much as prayed to a butsudan home altar so I was simply left confused and without an answer.
  2. Where was Naraku during the opening 50-year gap? We get a little insight with Miroku's backstory, I guess? But that's about it. Naraku seemed to have existed in a black hole while InuYasha was sealed and then emerged back into the world of the living with him. Considering his ruthless ambition, how could he have not at least tried to make a name for himself in the over 50 years InuYasha was out of the picture?
Art: The art began a little rough, and over the eight-year run eventually became a little too simplistic, in my opinion - after 56 volumes I think Rumiko just wanted to finish it as quickly as possible. But cute characters were cute, grotesque characters were grotesque, the action was well paced, the movement smooth, and no matter the volume Sesshomaru was magnificent.

Conclusion: While a lengthy series, InuYasha is a fast and entertaining read that I recommend for fantasy and feudal manga lovers who can devote a few weeks of open reading time - because once you start, it's hard to stop.

Scribble Rating
4 1/2 out of 5 Scribbles

1 comment:

  1. I have read and enjoyed a few volumes of IY, from both the normal manga and the Ani-Manga. I'd love to read the entire series someday.