Midnight. I trudge into the house after a longer-than-it-should-be workday, exhausted. Everyone sleeps, and the quiet is welcome. But I need time to decompress. I slump onto the couch and channel surf. MTV nonsense. Saturday Night Live. Not my cup of tea. Movies. Oh, what’s this? Cartoons on this late?
I had stumbled across Adult Swim’s anime lineup for the first time.
If you don’t count Voltron and Pokémon, that late night of channel surfing was my first encounter with anime. The show I stumbled across was Fullmetal Alchemist. Next, I remember watching Inuyasha. The shows grabbed my attention. At the time, I was working on my bachelor degree in computer animation. My world was Pixar movies and video games, but these shows, these old-school, 2D animated shows sang to me. The vibrant colors and slick action looked good. The minimalist designs were far different from the detailed designs we pushed toward in class.
I was hooked.
Fullmetal, the original, has long since ended. Only recently has the final arc of Inuyasha aired. The third anime I watched that night, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, is also long past. Of course, both Fullmetal and Ghost are in my personal library. Inuyasha, strangely, doesn’t have a slot in my library. I enjoy the show, but yet not enough to watch it periodically. This is rather strange. The show was an old friend after long weeks at work and university. It was there during the weekdays whenever I was awake, sick with stress or some disease I caught from the public (I worked at a grocery store). The reason why I didn’t add the show to my collection is partially because it was always on. Adult Swim ran Inuyasha on weekdays and at a 5am block on Saturdays that I fondly dubbed the “Inuyasha Power Hour.”
Inuyasha isn’t a terrible anime. I would call it a high average, but I am comparing it to the likes of Samurai Champloo. I have seen worse, far worse. The series had a magical feel to it, a modern day fairy tale. As a fan of folklore, I greatly enjoyed this. The monster-of-the-week format allowed the series to cover much of Japan’s rich folktales and monster lore. The plot was thin: gather shards of the Sacred Jewel in order to destroy it and keep it out of the hands of Naraku. But anime doesn’t away need a complex, twisted story to be interesting.
Speaking of Naraku, he was a classic mustache twirler. He loved to weave intricate plots to create as much suffering and sorrow as he could. Sometimes all his plotting felt contrived, but as the story progresses, you learn he actually had few real powers or combat ability. He weaponized his intelligence. Naraku made a great foil for Inuyasha, as well. Naraku sought to remove his human side and embrace his demonic side (he is a half demon in the story). Inuyasha, as another half demon, wanted to get ride of his demonic side. Both pined after the priestess Kikyo. Naraku’s love for Kikyo twisted his soul with jealousy and hate. He didn’t want to admit how much he loved her. He feared it. Who hasn’t had such problems in a relationship? Trusting someone leaves us open for pain. Naraku’s human nature drove everything he did, as much as he denied it.
As you can see, characters are where Inuyasha shined. Battles usually devolved into Inuyasha just Wind Scarring things into submission. He was a meat head in fights. But they were still fun to watch. I enjoyed the relationship between Inuyasha and Kagome along with Sango and Miroku.
Together with Fullmetal Alchemist, Inuyasha introduced me to anime humor. I’m glad these two shows weaned me into it. I’ve seen some doozies that became uncomfortable (extreme panty humor) to downright annoying (Bleach’s comedic relief characters). If I ran into these attempts at humor early on, I may well have forgone anime forever. The humor of Inuyasha was generally chuckle worthy. The episodes where Inuyasha visits Kagome in the modern world were the best. The series was as a good introduction to anime humor. There were some pervert jokes, but they were mild. Likewise, there were some annoying humor episodes, but they are not as extreme as some anime take it. Fullmetal introduced chibification and other odd transformations that are unique to anime. Outside of Shippo, Inuyasha lacks these transformations (chibis, cut-outs, and some of the other visual motifs). Between the two of them, I had a good primer in anime’s humor, motifs, and methods of story telling.
So, when Inuyasha ended, it was bitter sweet. Bitter in that it ended. The show ending also ended the last link to my early years as an anime watcher. Sweet in that it ended well, trying up all the loose plot strings and closing with a satisfying note. The final season felt rushed compared to the pacing of the rest of the series, but at the least, it ended well.
In many regards, Inuyasha is better put together than long anime like Bleach. The feel remained consistent, as did the characterization. The simple plot avoided becoming a Swiss cheese of story holes. The show is also valuable as an introduction to Japan’s rich folklore and monster mythology. It inspires people to ask “where does that creature come from?” and, hopefully, research for the answer.
So how does Inuyasha rank? I have an affection for the show as being among my first experiences with anime. The series ranks higher than Bleach because it avoids most of Bleach’s problems, but Inuyasha isn’t as enthralling as Ghost in the Shell or Samurai Champloo. So, I would give Inuyasha a silver medal. Few shows keep me interested for their duration. Fewer still lend me warm feelings of nostalgia.
I am grateful Inuyasha was among the first anime I watched. It is one of the main reasons why the medium grabbed my interest. It also helped spark my enjoyment of folklore. It seems silly to say an animation or movie can change how you view the world, but that is the power of stories. It is the reason we are drawn to them. Inuyasha, along with Fullmetal Alchemist and Ghost in the Shell, changed the types of stories I find interesting. They also changed the way I consider stories and storytelling.
What was your first anime? How did its story change you?