This week brings pitches for dungeon treks, alien bug raids, and a nightmare long thought over. Plus Silent Hills, BlazBlue, and the results of an anime-editing contest!
Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Aug 8th 2003
DVD 1: Down the Well
Kagome is your average high school girl. She lives at home with her superstitious old grandfather and precocious brother, both of whom seem to be out only to make life harder. When her grandfather hands over a mysterious jewel called the Shikon no Tama, it leads Kagome to the Bone Eater's well, which sucks her in and deposits her in Feudal Japan. There, Kagome (who happens to be the reincarnation of Kikyou, a legendary priestess) unleashes the half-man-half-demon dog boy InuYasha, an ill-tempered antihero who craves the chance to become an all-powerful full demon.
Few shows have risen to the level of maddening fan obsession like Inuyasha. Airing on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim is typically a surefire formula for success, and Rumiko Takahashi's latest fantasy opus is practically tailor-made for American-style fame and fortune. It has everything your average anime fan wants: cute guys and gals, super magical powers, a never-ending parade of freakish villains, an episode count that can no longer be tabulated by our rudimentary numbering system, and even a splash of anime-style humor. It's enough to send fanboys and fangirls alike into quivering fits of near orgasmic glee, right? Well, almost. Inuyasha is like the capable player you don't want to put on the bench, but misses the ball enough to make you consider it.
To continue the baseball metaphor, Inuyasha hits just enough of the bases to knock a few episodes out of the park. The first episode, included on this disc with two others, is one such installment, setting up the story nicely and introducing enough of the show's relatively limited cast to keep the viewer engaged. While the characters haven't really blossomed yet, we do get a glimpse of what's to come, even if any potential growth (aside from the woefully underdeveloped semi-romance between the titular anti-hero and our female protagonist, which is implied from the second they first meet) is masked by the relative brevity of the proceedings. Then again, it's silly to expect any show with an intended run as long as this one to adequately develop any of the characters within the first 30 minutes; still, Inuyasha manages to give our heroes just enough background information to be endearing. It's hard to imagine anyone being instantly turned off by the first episode of this series, especially considering how many other shows of this kind have inexcusably weak initial outings.
The animation is nothing to sneeze at, prod, poke, or otherwise cajole. Sunrise did a fairly fantastic job bringing Takahashi's sparsely detailed feudal realm to life, adding flavor and color where the source material had none. The backgrounds are vibrant, beautiful paintings, and they really stand out on DVD. The character designs are your average ‘streamlined Takahashi’ stuff; remodeled from the manga to be a little less generic. Inuyasha stands out as a particularly well-designed hero (although his baggy red pants would probably make Hammer a bit jealous). Kagome suffers from ‘generic Takahashi girl’ syndrome, being stick-thin with black hair and a totally blank, uninteresting face. It's a good thing she's a royal pain in the neck, otherwise there'd be nothing to like about her.
The music is appropriate but unmemorable, for the most part. The opening theme seems to have been penned and performed by the same evil robots responsible for today's oh-so-five-minutes-ago boy bands like N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys, except in a different language. The score is fairly average “classical Japanese”, with Taiko drums and flutes and all the instruments you expect to hear playing whenever a Heron takes off from a serene Asian pond or an old Japanese guy sips tea in his “totally Zen” backyard. The closing theme, for some reason, plays over various images of Kagome looking sad while it snows. Snow in Japan seems to exist simply to make cute girls look sad, so they can stand in a big pile of it under a dead tree and look up at the camera with tears in their eyes, while their little pink mittens and coats (which are always worn with miniskirts; what's the point, ladies?) contrast with the endless field of white. Yawn.
The dub is arguably one of the worst available on the market today. They make a concerted effort to mispronounce all of the Japanese words in the script and the characters are frightfully (and, oftentimes, hilariously) miscast. Kagome comes across as even more of a whiny, obnoxious git than she does in Japanese, and Inuyasha's voice is just a little too “spunky” for me (any more spunk and I'd have to be sent to the hospital, I'm afraid. Can we turn down the spunk-ometer on this guy, please?). The most infuriating voice belongs to Kaede, Kikyou's withered old sister who hangs around and insists on opening her mouth from time to time, much to the dismay of the viewer. Kaede says “ye” instead of “you” and the result is perhaps the most forced-sounding dialogue ever. “How would ye do that, child? Ye aren't capable!” Ocean Group would do well to take ye job from ye voice actor and ye scriptwriter and restaff it.
Overall, Inuyasha is off to a mostly promising start. The characters aren't really developed at this point, but again, it's ridiculous to expect any real development this early into a show that's supposed to run more than 150 episodes or so. Simply put, you're going to have to watch more than the first three episodes of Inuyasha to decide whether or not you're going to like it. There isn't anything particularly off-putting about these episodes, but then, they aren't exactly the grand slam a lot of fans seem to claim they are. There's a bigger story to Inuyasha but it moves along at the pace of a dead snail; what we're essentially stuck with is a hastily constructed monster-of-the-week formula that may or may not provide enough entertainment to keep you watching after seeing 50+ episodes of the same thing happen again and again, with little bits of the bigger picture tossed in at seemingly random intervals. If you dig that sort of thing (meaning, if you enjoyed Dragon Ball, Rurouni Kenshin or any one of the myriad other shows like this), then Inuyasha is destined to be your favorite show ever. If you don't, you're probably still going to have to consume at least 5 episodes before flushing the entire ordeal down the drain.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : B-
+ Fun show, good animation.
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