It's hard to admit it, but with volume seven of Rumiko Takahashi's never-ending feudal fairy tale Inu
Yasha, things are starting to get better. The show started out as a thoroughly average monster-of-the-week style action series but has become a little more than that. An arching storyline has been introduced, and the action has been turned up a notch. Inu Yasha has yet to reach the high quality storytelling standards set by other long-running action series like Rurouni Kenshin, but it's clear with this seventh volume that at least they're trying harder to tell a compelling story.
The biggest reason for the turnaround is the slow (and I do mean slow) development of the series' major characters. The almost kindergarten-esque relationship between Kagome and Inu Yasha has matured slightly into an awkward but mutually protective one. Kagome tries really hard to be helpful and succeeds about thirty percent of the time. Most of the time she winds up getting in trouble, being hurt, or whatever else it takes to distract the nigh-invincible Inu Yasha long enough to get hurt by his enemies. Kagome is intended to be Inu Yasha's Achilles heel, and she is, for the most part, but the show tends to exploit this device, and it starts getting a little repetitive. Still, it's better than “We're not in love! I hate you!” over and over again.
Sesshomaru remains the most interesting character in the show, even if he is a little one-dimensional. Typically, bishounen villains like Sesshomaru are given at least two sides: a really, really evil side and a soft, mushy, vulnerable side that the fangirls just love to exploit. Sesshomaru doesn't seem to have the latter, which removes some depth from his personality, but it's refreshing to see a villain who's just evil. Here's hoping the series doesn't decide to waste episodes showing how Sesshomaru was abused as a child or forced to watch a hundred episodes of Dr. Slump or some other equally ridiculous thing that would have turned him into such a rotten-hearted nogoodnik.
The same can't really be said of Naraku, who turns up again in this volume (and, it's been said, every volume for the next hundred or so episodes) and once again doesn't really have much to do aside from wear his silly baboon costume and do the usual things super villains do. There are some interesting (and convenient) revelations in this volume about what Naraku did to Inu Yasha and Kikyo, and while they give the villain a few more points for style, these developments take a little of the edge away from Inu Yasha himself. By now we know Inu Yasha is an anti-hero, but he's a little less anti and a little more hero after these revelations. He was a more interesting character beforehand; hopefully they won't go down the wrong path and remove every black spot from the half-demon's track record.
The animation remains top quality. Sunrise has never been a slouch in this arena and Inu Yasha is clearly a flagship title for them. There are moments of weak motion and off-model character designs, but by and large, the show is a joy to behold, especially on DVD where the vibrant colors of the series are allowed to shine. Musically, there isn't much to say; we're still in OST one territory here so don't expect any new background music. There is a new closing, though, which is pretty and accompanied by some nice visuals.
The dub remains one of the most dreadful English language adaptations ever produced. It's hard to think of a show that's been miscast as badly as this one has. With the sole exceptions of Sesshomaru and Naraku, who have appropriately deep-sounding bad guy voices, the rest of the English voice cast are either being directed very poorly or couldn't have acted their way out of a paper bag in the first place. Inu Yasha is far too old and deep sounding and frequently mis-delivers his lines. Miroku has absolutely none of the underlying humor inherent in the Japanese voice; the character is supposed to have comic moments, but all of the lustful monk's jokes fall totally flat in English. Half the time it's hard to tell if he's making a joke or being serious (witness the scene in which he asks Kagome for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation; in Japanese it's clearly a joke, but in English he says it with the seriousness of a bad Shakespearian summer festival actor.) Kagome is whiny, high pitched, and again, couldn't deliver a line it if it had an address attached to it. By far the most annoying voice is Kaede-baba, who says ‘ye’ instead of ‘you’. Whose idea was this? It isn't that way in the subtitles. Why does she say that? The problem isn't that she says 'ye,' it's that saying ‘ye’ is totally inconsistent with the rest of her vocabulary. Other than that one word, she speaks like your average 21st century grandma. It's strange and sounds totally awful. To top it off, they seem hell-bent on mispronouncing every Japanese word they can. 'Kagome,' which should be pronounced “Kah-gomay,” is pronounced “Kuh-GO-may". There are a few instances where they say it right, but I'm sure those were accidental. In contrast, the Japanese track is perfectly suited to the characters. How anyone can watch this series on Cartoon Network is beyond me completely.
So, while Inu Yasha isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, it's certainly more interesting to watch now that the story's picked up. Audiences will be genuinely curious to see where things are going now that the characters have risen above their previously one-dimensional, archetypal roles. It's no Rurouni Kenshin, but Inu Yasha is far from being a bad show. It's fun, entertaining, and a good way to flush twenty-five minutes down the drain. Just don't be expecting a masterpiece.