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For several seasons Inuyasha has been one of the top-rated anime series on Japanese TV, resulting in a run currently over 160 episodes long. Cartoon Network has, to date, aired more than 70 episodes of the series because of the great and continuing popularity it has also achieved in the American fan community. Thus it is only natural that the Inuyasha movies would finally start making their way to the States. The first one – appropriately subtitled Affections Touching Across Time – is a worthy entry into the Inuyasha franchise which should prove popular enough to insure that the others will eventually follow. I cannot imagine anyone who is a fan of the series not being pleased with this movie, since it showcases all the elements which make the series such a big hit – appealing characters, great artwork, and a balanced mix of comedy, romance, action, and drama – and in some cases improves upon them.
Two hundred years prior to the main storyline Inuyasha's father confronted a great Chinese demon named Hyoga, whose demonic host was accompanying the Mongol invasion of Japan with the intent of collecting the souls of the dead. The battle between the two mighty demons created the great kamikaze which destroyed the historical Mongol invasion fleet, but more important to the movie's story is that Hyoga was defeated and imprisoned in a Tree of Ages in the Forest of No Return, with one of Inuyasha's father's fangs as the seal. Two hundred years later Hyoga's only son, Morenmaru, is freed from his own imprisonment by a shard sent flying from the shattering of the Shikon Jewel. He gathers to him the Chinese demons Ruri and Hari and seeks out the “fang of destruction,” aka Tetsusaiga, because it is the only weapon capable of releasing his father's energy. Once released, Morenmaru would absorb the energy and thus become an even greater demon than his father. When a direct approach to get the Tetsusaiga fails, he opts for a more devious course: kidnap Kagome and use her to goad Inuyasha into doing his work for him.
Things look grim for our heroes when Morenmaru not only succeeds at his scheme, and thus becomes tremendously powerful, but also has Kylala controlled by his minions and Kagome temporarily under his own control. While Ruri and Hari keep Sango and Miroku occupied, Morenmaru seeks to gather all the souls of the land to him to complete himself and grow even greater in power. His connection to the Tree of Ages allows the effects of his efforts to pass down the timeline, as a distraught Kagome discovers upon fleeing to her own time after being forced to reenact Kikyo's shooting of Inuyasha. But the Sacred Tree is also a Tree of the Ages, which allows Kagome and Inuyasha to make a connection even across the centuries (hence the movie's subtitle). Thus it is that Inuyasha and Kagome are able to reunite to do what must be done, while Miroku and Sango must each overcome their own personal demons, in both a figurative and literal sense, while doing their own parts to ensure Morenmaru's defeat. Shippo, of course, does what he can, though only occasionally is he more useful than being the group's mascot. (But isn't that the norm for Shippo?)
Where exactly Affections Touching Across Time falls in the Inuyasha storyline is difficult to pinpoint, though it certainly happens after Inuyasha discovers the Backlash Wave ability for his Tetsusaiga. The movie's 99-minute length allows for the telling of a full story without the breaks or dramatic restrictions of 22-minute episodes, which results in one of the strongest and most heartfelt Inuyasha storylines available to date in the States. It also allows for the inclusion of most of the recurring cast members of the series. Myoga and Kaede both have key supporting roles, while Kikyo, Sesshomaru, Rin, and Jaken all turn in appearances which are most significant for providing the first meeting between Kikyo and Sesshomaru. Sota and Kagome's mom, grandfather, and cat also get minor shares of screen time. Noticeably absent is any hint of Naraku or his various incarnations. On the upside, the movie gives Sango a rare opportunity to really show off what she can do in a fight, even without Kylala – and what she can do is quite impressive. Another big plus is the staging of the action scenes, which makes all the heroes seem genuinely imperiled at various points. This is especially praise-worthy because it is not an easy thing to accomplish in anime even when the odds are heavily against a hero.
The technical merits for the movie are a distinct step up from those in the series, which weren't bad to begin with. Animation for key action sequences is more detailed and fluid, with several impressive sustained scenes of motion and hand-to-hand combat being particular highlights. CG effects are used sparingly but effectively to animate certain complicated scenes and give 3D enhancements to others, while integration between backgrounds and animation and between CG and cel art is generally quite good. The character designs (especially for Kagome) are just subtly different enough from those in the TV series to throw off a viewer used to the TV series, though I ceased to notice or be bothered by the difference after 20 minutes or so. Even with the slight differences, the character designs for the main cast are quite appealing, while those for the new demons look good but lack originality. The overall artistry is colorful and vivid without being garish and drawn with an eye towards spectacular visual effects. Only a few minor flaws here and there prevent me from giving the movie a top artistic rating.
The soundtrack for Affections Touching Across Time is mostly composed of themes or variations on themes from the TV series, though it doesn't quite achieve the majestic dramatic support frequently seen in TV series episodes. The closing theme, “No More Words” by Ayumi Hamasaki (who also did “Dearest,” the third ending theme for the series), is new and, like other Inuyasha themes, untranslated.
The English dub for the TV series is an outstanding one, and the movie, which imports the entire regular cast of the TV series, fares no worse. All the English voice actors are perfectly-cast for their roles and turn in great performances, which sometimes results in characters sounding distinctly different in the dub than in the original Japanese vocals. Part of this can be attributed simply to different styles of speaking between English and Japanese, but in no case do I feel that the dub suffers for the differences. In fact, I find some of the English performances to be distinctly superior to the originals, especially Richard Cox's irascible bad-boy-with-a-heart take on Inuyasha and Jillian Michaels' performance as Shippo, and none are worse. The only place where the English dub fails in comparison against the Japanese vocals is when Kagome's grandpa is performing his prayers to stop the snow, which just don't sound right in English (nor could they, since that style of delivery for prayers is peculiar to Japanese). The English script itself is a superb adaptation; you'll be hard-pressed to find another series or movie where the English script stays closer or truer to the Japanese original.
Extras on the DVD include the Japanese trailers for the first movie (which are not translated or subtitled) and a trailer (in English) for the second movie, whose release date in the U.S. is not included and has not been set as of the time of this writing. Also included are character sketches, the Japanese version of the closing credits, and a 35-minute special which provides a subtitled recap of the series up through about episode 60 as well as previews of the first movie; this is not something that you want to watch before watching the movie itself, as the previews border on a spoiler. This and the trailers are properly viewed in a Normal screen mode on a TV rather than the Wide-Screen mode required for the menu screens and the movie itself to look right.
The movie is exactly in line with the series on content. It has a fair bit of blood and quite a bit of violence, but nothing that is terribly graphic or extreme. The movie is also completely devoid of foul language and fan service, with the only “naughty” parts being Miroku's characteristic stroking of Sango's backside in one scene (for which he gets justly punished, of course) and his continued efforts to get newfound beauties to “bear my children.” Parents will have to make a judgment call on whether or not the movie is too violent for their underage kids, but this is considered family entertainment in Japan so it would probably be a safe view for most American preteens.
One final note: if you aren't normally in the habit of watching the closing credits to the end, take the time to do so in this case. Several still scenes, reflecting both past events and follow-ups to the movie, are displayed during the credits, and an epilogue is tacked on at the end.
Although Affections Touching Across Time provides a brief recap of who's who and what's what in the TV series, it is not a standalone movie. It is intended for fans of the series, and those who have not seen a few dozen episodes will not fully appreciate all the backstory intricacies involved in the various character relationships. It could serve as a strong introduction into the world of Inuyasha, though, and is a worthy view by any standard.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : A-
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Outstanding English dub, exceptional scenes of movement and combat.
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