Reviewby Alexander Harris
Except for the fact that her family lives in and runs the local shrine, Kagome Higurashi is a typical fifteen-year old Japanese schoolgirl. One day, while searching for her missing pet cat, Kagome is violently dragged into a nearby well by a huge, centipede demon that asks her if she has "the Jewel of Four Souls." Kagome, having barely survived the attack, later wakes up at the bottom of the well, finding that the demon has left. When she climbs to the surface, she discovers that she is no longer in contemporary Japan; she's in ancient Japan, a Japan where demons, monsters, and violent swordplay still exist and thrive. Confused, scared, and unsure of herself, Kagome is at a loss at to what to do. She soon crosses paths with a half-human, half-dog demon boy named Inu-Yasha, who has nasty claws, an acidic mouth, and a violent temper. After Yasha easily deals with the resurfaced centipede demon, he turns his attentions and his claws toward Kagome, demanding the Jewel of Four Souls from her.
Thus begins the macabre, violent fantasy saga that is "Inu-Yasha." The story itself, technically, focuses around the Jewel of Four Souls, which can give any demon ultimate power, and Yasha's/Kagome ongoing, relentless quest to find it and keep it out of the hands of malicious, power hungry demons. On the surface, it sounds like a simple, straightforward action Anime/Manga. In actuality, it turns out to be much, much more than that. Inu-Yasha is a pleasantly surprising character oriented tale. Slowly but surely, you start caring less and less about the Jewel and more about those who hunt it. Love, hate, circumstance, and fear gradually change and remold all of the characters over time, particularly Inu-Yasha, who seems to be full of surprises. As soon as you think you have him figured out emotionally, Takahashi throws us curve ball about Inu-Yasha that just leaves you gaping in shock and wanting more. The people/demons around Yasha and Kagome, whether they be friend or enemy, are often a treat within themselves, too. The young, mischievous, shape-shifting fox demon named Shippio. Yasha's elder, placid, confident full demon brother, Lord Shessho Maru. The wise, elder sister of the deceased village priestess who once killed Inu-Yasha (yes, killed!), Kaede. Myoga, the blood sucking demon flea who was a servant of Inu-Yasha's full demon father. And Naraku, a mysterious demon with a huge hatred for Yasha.
For those who are big on action, Inu-Yasha has plenty of that to go around, as well. The violence, which usually involves Inu-Yasha slashing and hacking away at demons, can be a bit graphic and bloody at times, and is not for the younger readers. It's a good thing Yasha is part demon; if he were fully human, he'd NEVER survive most of the fights that he takes part in. Indeed, because of the violence and bloodshed (and brief, rare nudity), I'm inclined to give this the "Teens Only" label. Fortunately, the characters and story DO NOT take a back seat to the fighting, so it's not like watching "DragonBall Z" with demons.
The artwork for Inu-Yasha (both the Manga and the Anime) is excellent, as is expected from Takahashi. She has a smooth, clean shonen artwork style; it could be viewed as a bit cartoonish because of the lack of details, but it's simple, and pleasing to the eye; very similar to the later works of Kosuke Fujishima (creator of "Oh My Goddess!" and "You're Under Arrest!"). The Manga, as to be expected, is in black and white. The Anime artwork and character designs are based straight from the Manga, so (art wise) it's basically the equivalent of a moving Inu-Yasha Manga with color.
For those who don't want to wait for that all-important Viz or Bandai announcement, the Manga is available in comic book and graphic novel format, and is easily accessible mail order/online from Viz or any comic store/retailer. Whether you're looking for some interesting, cool characters to get attached to, or for some superb, ultra-violent action, or just a fun fantasy story in general, Inu-Yasha is the way to go.
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