In the canon of enduring anime classics, Inuyasha stakes its claim as one of the very best. First created as a manga in 1996, its characters have become nothing short of iconic.
Each new chapter is absolutely action packed, featuring a rogue’s gallery of menacing demons capable of razing entire villages with a single attack.
Sounds intimidating! Indeed, the only thing that may seem more imposing to a newcomer could be wrapping your head around eight seasons and almost 200 episodes worth of content. So much to watch! So many lessons to learn! Too many corpse crows to handle!! …Rule of three.
Fear not, because your friends at AnimeLab have got the info you need to get yourself ready to enjoy Inuyasha to its fullest. After a quick read, not only will you be well-versed in the whimsical tale of the half-demon and his comrades, you’ll also be clued up ahead of the hotly anticipated follow up, Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon, to boot… which is coming soon to AnimeLab!
What’s the story?
Inuyasha ran as part of Weekly Shōnen Sunday from 1996 to 2008, written and illustrated by the decorated and prolific Rumiko Takahashi. She was also behind other well-known franchises such as Urusei Yatsura, Ranma ½ and Rin-Ne.
An anime was soon to follow, initially running from 2000-2004. Two more seasons premiered in 2009 to wrap up the tale’s conclusion, dubbed the Final Act.
Inuyasha opens in the present era, when high schooler Kagome Higarushi inadvertently discovers a portal that leads her to feudal Japan. In this tumultuous age of war and unrest, she encounters Inuyasha, a half-demon miscreant who had been sealed away for half a century.
Unbeknownst to her, Kagome had been carrying a Sacred Jewel within her; one which can unlock fearsome powers in whoever takes possession of it. Inuyasha’s earlier attempts to snatch this jewel were what led him to this dormant state, and now that Kagome is right in the thick of things, he’s not the only demon keen on taking ownership of this incredible item.
The Sacred Jewel is shattered into tiny pieces during one such scuffle (oops!), and its fragments scatter in multiple directions. Now, Inuyasha and Kagome must join forces to collect them all before they fall into the wrong hands.
Isn’t Inuyasha exactly the kind of hoodlum you wouldn’t want on this mission? Therein lies the issue; the more they obtain, the greater the threat he could pose…
Who or what is an Inuyasha?!
The eponymous Inuyasha is the star of the show. His name, when broken down, literally translates to dog yaksha. The first part is fairly self-explanatory, while yakshas (stylised as yasha in Japanese) are spirits from ancient Indian texts, known for being mischievous or even malevolent.
True to this moniker, Inuyasha is rife with his own contrasts. Born to a demon father and human mother, he holds the qualities of both. He inherited his dad’s canine-like agility and ferocity, but he holds compassion and empathy not unlike any decent human being.
Unfortunately, this duality has led to a lonely existence, estranging him from either world and causing him to loathe the humanity within him. He sought after the Sacred Jewel in an effort to shed his perceived human weaknesses, only to be thwarted at the last moment.
Inuyasha’s demonic aspects have moulded him into a fearsome combatant, itching to take on hordes of opponents head-on. That’s how he prefers to fight, incidentally, as he has a short fuse and perennial tunnel vision. This can lead to trouble, compounded further by his arrogance and stubbornness. He dishes out a hurting, while typically copping a hurting in the process.
Underneath it all, he truly has the heart of a hero. It takes a long time for him to warm up to someone, but once he does, he will protect them with his life.
Plus, his doggy ears are totally kawaii. It’s important for you to know this.
Who are his friends and foes?
Inuyasha reluctantly learns to cooperate with his newfound partner, Kagome, in their mission to find the missing pieces of the Sacred Jewel.
She grew up in modern-day Tokyo at the Higarushi family shrine. Though her grandfather had always suggested the existence of spirits and monsters, she never had reason to believe him, peacefully living the unspectacular life of an average 9th grader.
This was until her sudden arrival into another world, courtesy of a secret well with mythical properties. There, she learns that she is the reincarnation of Kikyo, the powerful shrine maiden who sealed Inuyasha away 50 years ago.
Needless to say, he’s been holding a grudge in the meantime, so he’s not exactly pleased to see her.
Kagome never turns away from someone in need, unconcerned with her own safety and rushing to the aid of the vulnerable. Though she’s just a gutsy high schooler for the most part, she does have some of Kikyo’s spiritual aptitude, as well as occasional access to her predecessor’s unrivalled skills with the bow. Key word: occasional. Just duck your head to be safe.
They are aided by a host of allies, including Kaede, Kikyo’s younger sister who has since grown to become a wise leader, and Myoga the Flea. He gives out critical advice when he’s not sucking blood or fleeing for his life, making him an excellent candidate for the political field.
Along the way, they’ll run into demons, warriors and fiends of all shapes and sizes — from the kitsune trickster Shippo with his magic and deception, to the lecherous monk Miroku.
Some of these encounters turn into unlikely friendships, while others are not nearly as amicable. Perhaps none loom larger than Sesshomaru, Inuyasha’s demonic half-brother and seeker of the Tetsusaiga; a blade formed from the fang of their fallen father.
There is absolutely no love lost between these duelling siblings, particularly as Sesshomaru has a bevy of dreadful techniques in his arsenal, such as toxic miasma and a hulking beast transformation.
What are the demons?
The demons of Inuyasha — known as yōkai — can take on many forms. Some may have the outward visage of the average human, while others can be towering, hideous beasts. They spend most of their time seeking out the Sacred Jewel and messing up the day for entire samurai squads.
Of course, they have abilities just as versatile as their appearances, making any of them a formidable foe. The power to control lightning, a cursed kiln to form warriors from clay, just straight up being a big scary spider, you name it!
As strong as Inuyasha may be, he’ll have his work cut out for him as he encounters each new threat. Should they obtain even a single piece of the Sacred Jewel, their brawn is amplified even further.
The range of demons on display in this anime is an absolute sight to behold, particularly the more gruesome ones that contort their limbs about like some kind of body horror.
What about modern-day Tokyo?
If you’re curious about Tokyo, you’ll be happy to learn that it is a bustling city of more than 13 million residents. Its major industries are in the fields of transport and communications, and it is also one of the world leaders in electronic device manufacturing.
…Oh, you meant the Tokyo in Inuyasha. My bad.
Kagome soon learns that she is capable of freely travelling back and forth between eras, and thankfully her exploits in the past haven’t seemed to have had any negative effects on the present. She’s not exactly cautious as she freely rides her bicycle around feudal Japan, after all.
What has happened, however, is the awakening of demons from a millennium of slumber. It appears that the reemergence of the Sacred Jewel has caused quite the stir on this side of the portal as well, and there may be a few lost fragments to deal with in the busy metropolis.
Inuyasha isn’t exactly cut out for this change of pace, but who else could they possibly call upon to face off against these ghouls? It’s definitely not going to be Kagome’s kid brother Sota — he’s a wimp!
For Kagome, it becomes a balancing act of attempting to maintain some semblance of normalcy while doing everything she can to prevent unprecedented disaster. Ahh, the life of a teenager…
A Sacred Jewel of Anime…
The world of Inuyasha is filled with many balances and checks. The character himself toes the line between crusty antihero and noble protagonist. He’s become guarded through years of betrayal and abuse, equipping himself with as many physical tools as he can to protect his fragile heart.
His progression throughout the series, as he learns to accept the help of others, allows for wonderful development. He draws on the resolve of the humanity within him he tries so hard to escape, resulting in a flawed yet potent champion.
And yet, it’s perhaps Kagome who is most intriguing, transitioning from helpless damsel in distress into a steely-nerved warrior in her own right. As the sole representative of the ‘real world’, she acts as a conduit for the audience, relatable in her vulnerability and aspirational in her courage.
It goes without saying, the lore of Inuyasha is rich and imaginative, and the demons are just as compelling as the heroes. The mind jumps from ‘what is that?’ to ‘how can they possibly topple that?’ in short order.
At its core, this is shōnen at its very best, but it bridges the gap between multiple genres effortlessly. It’s constantly hilarious, beautifully romantic at times, and yes, it knows how to target the feels with pinpoint accuracy.
The dynamic between heroes isn’t stunted as the cast increases in numbers; it only grows stronger. Inuyasha knows how to weave a damn fine tale, adding elements methodically to create something truly wonderful.
So what are you waiting for? I think we’ve made it pretty clear that Inuyasha isn’t a patient sort of fellow, so if you don’t want to get left behind, it’s time to start the marathon now — courtesy of the loveable demons at AnimeLab.