Story and Art by Rumiko Takahashi
Published by Viz Communications
Contents: Part 5 #9 through Part 6 #2
My Verdict: Buy it.
Fans of Takahashi know that she is one of the rare manga artists who doesn’t stick to any one genre in her fables; she’ll combine the best of adventure, horror, humour, and even romance with a touch of magic or the occult. Inu-Yasha, her current title, is no different.
The story takes place, for the most part, in feudal Japan, the Warring States period of the Muromachi era, where a half-breed dog-demon, Inu-Yasha himself, has just been betrayed. He has been searching for the Shikon Jewel, a mystical jewel that will grant him the power to become either fully demon or fully human at last. His beloved, a Shinto priestess named Kikyo, has been convinced that he is evil, having given way to his demon side. She fires a magical arrow into him, pinning him to a tree, and Kikyo, killed in the encounter, is cremated with the Jewel. Fade to the modern era, where fifteen-year-old Kagome, a normal Japanese girl, just might be Kikyo’s reincarnation. Falling through a time portal in her family shrine, Kagome is transported to the feudal era just in time to free Inu-Yasha.
[ad#longpost]Takahashi is the only manga artist I would trust to have, on one page, a demon who beheads people right and left with her razor hair, and yet on the facing page make jokes about Inu-Yasha’s dog ears. She combines the disparate genres with such professional deftness that there is nothing jarring at all in the combination.
Inu-Yasha is peopled with interesting characters, as deep as any you might meet in a novel. Kagome is kind, but klutzy, Inu-Yasha is conflicted and sarcastic, and the other characters, small and large, possess a host of faults and virtues, from arrogance to lechery to true courage and resourcefulness. The characters have also grown during the progress of the series, and by Volume 10, Kagome, for example, has lost some of her naivete, and Inu-Yasha has learned that there are consequences to his sarcasm.
The bulk of the plot is taken up as Kagome, Inu-Yasha, and a small host of side-kicks search for the shards of the Shikon Jewel. Many of these shards have been absorbed by various demons, who are able to use the jewel shards to gain more power to deadly effect. Our Heroes must try to defeat these demons, recover the jewel shards lest they be misused again, and along the way avoid killing each other. Upon occasion, Kagome must return to her own time for school and things, but the time-hopping never gets overly complex or even too convenient.
In this latest installment, Takahashi has introduced and explained a new character, enriching the group, but complicating the plot. A water-goddess has decided that what she really needs is to sacrifice many children, and Inu-Yasha isn’t terribly impressed with that idea. Will he, Kagome, Shippou, and the rest be able to defeat her in time? And if so, how, when Inu-Yasha’s Grass-Cutting Sword only works when he’s defending a human?
If you have not been able to pick up the first nine volumes, you would be better served to read them first before picking up Volume 10. However, if you want to just dive in, feel free. You’ll figure out who’s who soon enough, and there are a host of online resources to answer any “what the heck is that” questions you might have.
If you are a fan of some of Takahashi’s other work, such as Ranma 1/2 or Lum, be aware that Inu-Yasha is somewhat darker and less comic in its approach. While the comedy and lightheartedness are still there, this is, as a whole, more action-oriented than either of those two earlier titles. There are some truly gruesome moments that wouldn’t seem out of place in some of our other favorite shonen titles, like Blade of the Immortal or Vampire Princess Miyu. If you’re new to manga or to Takahashi’s work, this is a good place to start, and there’s something here to engage any fantasy or adventure fan.