Reviewby Rebecca Bundy,
InuYasha the Movie 3: Swords of an Honorable Ruler
The Great Demon Dog, Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru's father, possessed three swords: Tetsusaiga, Tenseiga, and Sounga. While the first two were left to his sons, the Sounga was sealed away so that its evil would not destroy the world.
Everything changes though when Sounga breaks free from its bonds. With a burning desire to destroy the only two swords that can defeat it, Sounga seeks out one whose hatred for the Demon Dog and his sons would give it the chance to destroy the swords and their owners in one fell swoop. Will Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru put their differences aside to defeat Sounga, or will the Demon Dog's bloodline come to an abrupt end?
After a horrid first movie and a second that showed great progress, it's a relief to see that the director decided to continue with what the second movie started: the incorporation of elements that are never seen or explained in the anime. A movie based on an anime is just a drawn out episode unless it uses or does things that the anime never did. In the case of Swords of an Honorable Ruler, that unused element would be the first and only glimpse of Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru's father as well as the full story behind his death and the birth of Inuyasha.
The movie starts off with everything you'll ever learn about dear old dad. Mortally wounded from his battle with Ryukotsusei, Dad rushes off to save his wife Izayoi on the eve of his son's birth. The battle there, the resurrection, and the dual afterwards against one of the movie's villains, Takemaru, show off the various powers of the three swords so that the friends of Inuyasha fans who're being forced to watch it with them will have some understanding of what is going on. After a brief introduction to the main characters and some of their foibles, the movie kicks off with Inuyasha being semi-possessed by the reawakened Sounga, the first of many fights between the brothers, and finally Sounga being exorcised by Kagome's spiritual powers. As Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru's groups trail after Sounga, learn of its story, and discover its brutal powers, Sounga brings Takemaru back from the dead. The brothers never really accept the fact that they're supposed to work together, even when they're told several times that the key to beating Sounga is by combining powers, so much of the story is spent either fighting each other or fighting eachother over who gets to destroy Sounga. The plot falters a bit when Sounga takes on a “human” shape in the final battle, but the final message still gets through to the audience: their father wants the two of them to work together and get along.
It's an interesting story to say the least, but I doubt any non-Inuyasha fans would get anything out of the movie beyond some really nice fight scenes. As for the Inuyasha fans, there's enough here to keep even the most casual of fans happy. The movie does a good job of exploring the brothers' true feelings about their father. As for their true feelings for their companions, Inuyasha's I-like-them-but-have-to-maintain-my-demon-attitude attitude rings through strongly and we lose a lot of the tenderness that the second movie emphasized. Sesshoumaru never loses his edge, even when he realizes what it means to have someone to protect, but the movie uses enough flashbacks to ensure the audience knows that in some tiny corner of Sesshoumaru's soul resides a speck of concern for Jaken and Rin.
Like the first two movies, the third utilizes a slightly edgier character design and animation that looks solid throughout the entire movie. Those who bother to pause during the beginning flashback scene will notice that Dad's character design perfectly shows off characteristics that both sons have and makes it very clear where Sesshoumaru got his sense of style from. Peaceful scenic moments look even more stunning with semi-surreal backgrounds, while chaotic battle scenes move fluidly as swords cut through bamboo and bodies alike. The later is especially important since Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru use every opportunity they can to fight each other.
As far as voice acting is concerned, the Japanese voice actors continue to do an amazing job with their characters, giving just enough emotion in the right places to make their words count. Akio Otsuka is especially convincing as Dad, whose deep and somewhat strained voice works perfectly for a powerful demon on the eve of his death. The dub falters greatly in the fact that it, like the original, uses the same voice actors from the anime. While there aren't a limitless number of ways one can say “Inuyasha” or “Kagome”, the dub would have you believe that there are only three ways to say their names: normal, angry, or concerned. The regulars all sound flat, uninspired, and make the dub difficult to watch. It's only saving grace comes in the form of the newcomers. Jonathan Holmes' Takemaru is especially convincing and when paired up with Alaina Burnett's Izayoi they turn their brief scenes together into emotional moments that outshine the originals. Don Brown's Dad is a hit-or-miss performance, while Ward Perry pulls off a perfectly evil voice that any sword would be proud to have.
Swords of an Honorable Father is no exception to the traditionally superior music that dominates Inuyasha in whatever form it may take. Background music merges traditional Japanese instruments and sounds with modern tones and beats to emphasize the current mood of the scene. All of the music blends seamlessly from one scene to the next and key melodies from the series flow alongside those created just for the movie. The closing, “Four Seasons” by Namie Amuro, adds a lighthearted twist to the closing credits and the amusing little stills that pop up as they roll.
Along with the usual line-art gallery, promotional commercials, and trailers, the special features also have a “Special Footage” section that replays various encounters that Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru have had throughout the entire series. For non-Inuyasha fans, this is a great clip to help them understand the brothers' unique relationship with each other. Of special note is a short scene between them from one of the later episodes that has yet to air in the US. Specially marked copies of the DVD also come with the complete soundtrack of the movie, though I was slightly disappointed to discover that “Four Seasons” isn't on it.
This is definitely not the best choice for first-timers to the Inuyasha fandom, but there's more than enough quality to keep even the most wary of viewers interested. For the fans of the series, get ready to finally learn about your favorite demon boys' father and watch their swords clash numerous times as they struggle to climb out of their father's shadow.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A
+ Solid animation and information not from the anime makes this much more than a drawn-out episode meant only for the screen.
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