Reviewby Theron Martin, Aug 10th 2006
Inuyasha the Movie 4: Fire on the Mystic Island
50 years ago Inuyasha and Kikyo discovered Horai Island, a place of legend which only appears out of the mists every few decades. There they found several half-demon children subject to the demonic rule of the Four War Gods but had to leave before they could do anything about the situation. In “modern” feudal times the island reappears and one of the children escapes, seeking out Inuyasha to rescue them all from the Four War Gods. But this time Inuyasha has the Tetsusaiga and capable help, and Sesshomaru and the reborn Kikyo are also involved for their own reasons.
The last of the Inuyasha movies made to date, Fire on Mystic Island was originally released three months after the end of the TV series and stands at some point after episode 157 in the series timeline. (Was it just a coincidence that the movie, which shows Inuyasha using the Adamant Barrage, was released on the same day that Adult Swim aired the episode where Inuyasha gained the ability?) Like the previous movies, it's a stand-alone story unconnected to any of the series plotlines; break its content down into four parts and it could be just another series mini-arc.
In fact, that's the main problem with the movie: for being a series-based movie, it doesn't do anything special. Sure, the graphics are a bit better, but the movie isn't any flashier than a normal episode, nor is it any grander in content. This is just another series of battles against demonic opponents tough enough that Inuyasha and crew have to get a bit creative to defeat them, and a contrived excuse to revisit Inuyasha and crew, Sesshomaru and crew, and Kikyo and show off all their abilities one more time. The Four War Gods will likely remind viewers a lot of the Band of Seven, as there's the sword-wielding leader, the effeminate one, the cannon-using one, and the “tank” (in this case the turtle) amongst them, but none of them are shown enough to develop much character.
The only aspect of the movie that's even moderately fresh is its use of the half-demon kids. One mid-run series story arc did use a child half-demon, but this time there's a whole posse of them and their situation has a more genuinely tragic feel to it, enough so that the inclusion of their story almost saves the writing from mediocrity. Their characterizations are basic, but Asagi gives a good show as the elder child who feels it's her duty to sacrifice herself for the well-being of the others and the twins provide some comic relief by taking over Shippo's role as the characters who don't know when to keep their mouths shut. By doing so, the twins get a couple of the movie's best scenes.
The artistry shows all the signs of a project with more time and budget, resulting in artwork that's generally a bit sharper than in the series. Unlike in previous movies, character designs for recurring characters remain completely consistent with the later stages of the TV series, while designs for new characters are generally uninspired; the three humanoids of the Four War Gods in particular look generic. The animation is better than in the series and there's more of it, including several sustained scenes of Kylala flying around dodging artillery shots, but you'd expect nothing less. While it lacks the visual spectacle of some of the earlier movies, it's the most artistically solid of the lot.
Most of the soundtrack is just a retread of themes used in the series and previous movies, although it is enhanced with theater-quality sound production. The one new theme is “Tamaokuri no Uta,” the beautiful, melancholy song Asagi is singing when Inuyasha's crew first meets her. Though translated into an English equivalent for the English dub, it sounds and is performed equally well in both languages. The group Do as Infinity, which provided two of the series closing themes, also provides the closing theme “Rakuen” here, which is stylistically typical of any of the series closers.
By now it's pointless to debate the merits of the core cast members in English vs. Japanese. It's the same people giving the same performances as in the series and previous movies, so you either like what Ocean Studios has done with the dub or you don't, and this movie won't change your opinion one bit. Among new roles, Asagi shines in the English dub (she and the priestess Kanade were voiced by Rebecca Shoichet, who's better-known to Inuyasha fans as the English voice for Sota), while some of the other half-demon kid performances are lackluster, but it does at least sound like they're actually voiced in English by kids. The Four War Gods and minor characters all sound typical for generic bad guys and bit players in the series.
For those who play the Inuyasha trading card game, the key extra is the limited edition foil card included “in specially marked packages.” On-disc extras include an extensive Line Art Gallery, Japanese trailers, and clean opener and closer. The feature extra is the Special Footage, a collection of favorite scenes and lines (in original Japanese) from the TV series as selected by the seiyuu for the featured character and the cast and staff in general. Most of the picks won't be surprises and are hard to object to, since they span some of the series' finest moments. As with previous movies, the DVD case has a foil cover.
Don't skip the final credits when viewing the movie, as there are bonus stills scattered throughout and a 100 second-long Epilogue tacked on at the end which isn't on a separate chapter. If you're an Inuyasha completist then this is a movie you will want to have, but as Inuyasha tales or anime movies in general go, it's nothing remarkable.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Good song, improved animation and visuals over the series.
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