Warning: this is a long post! Between the last post and this, I have been jumping back and forth between modern and medieval Japan, pursuing the adventures of a certain modern teenage girl, Kagome, and a silver-haired half-breed dog demon, Inuyasha. If anyone had told me two months ago that I would fall in love with Anime (Japanese animation, pronounced a-nee-may) series and manga (comics, graphic novel), I would have laughed my head off. But ever since I caught my first episode of the animated series – episode 39 in season two of the series’ screening on local television – I became possessed.
That’s right, there’s no other word to describe my indecent obsession with the two characters and their adventures. My husband taunted my feverish pursuit of this ‘cartoon series’. Hah, what does he know? Anyway, I have his niece to thank for introducing me to this exasperating and reluctant half-demon hero.
(image attached) is a time travel fantasy adventure based on the hit comic series of the same name by Rumiko Takahashi, launched as a weekly manga serial in 1996. (Where was I while this was happening????). Kagome (pronounced Ka-go-may) discovers on her 15th birthday that she can travel back and forth between the present and the Sengoku-jidai, typically referred to as the “Warring States” era of Japan’s Muromachi period (approx. 1467-1568 CE), through a dried-up well at the shrine near her house.
As she is transported to another time, she is also drawn into a quest with Inuyasha for a powerful, sacred gemstone (the Shikon jewel or Jewel of Four Souls). However, many demonic, monstrous and some human enemies hinder their way to success. In her earliest battle (think it was her second), Kagome unintentionally shattered the jewel into shards while saving a child from a demonic flying creature with the stone embedded in it, making their job all the more difficult. Inuyasha owes his demonic strength to his father, a legendary dog-demon, but his mother was a mortal woman. Though Inuyasha has the outward appearance of a full demon, his strength does not compare to a full demon’s. For this reason, he wants the Shikon Jewel, which has the power to transform him into a full-fledged demon.
But he’s not the only one who wants it- the jewel can increase anyone’s powers with its magic, and over the course of the series, humans and demons alike are seduced by the jewel’s dark powers. As the saga continues, Kagome discovers powers within herself that she never imagined existed — she’s supposed to be the reincarnation of a powerful priestess (miko) Kikyo, Inuyasha’s old flame. She also developed a tendre for Inu as they search for the stone together. The relationship between Kagome and Inuyasha was complicated by the revival of the dead Kikyo at the hands of another evil sorceress after the powers of the jewel. Let me backtrack a little here.
When Kagome first frees Inuyasha from Kikyo’s spell, his first thought is to destroy the woman he quickly identifies as his “killer” by her scent and her resemblance to Kikyo, but an enchantment cast upon him by Kikyo’s baby sister, Kaede (an old woman now and the village leader), enables Kagome to control Inuyasha by invoking a spell in the prayer beads Inuyasha wears around his neck with a word. That word, thought up by Kagome on a spur of the moment, is a sheer stroke of Takahashi genius – the magic word is “SIT,” as one would say to a dog. (Hahaha … and boy, when she invokes this spell in a fit of anger, Kagome’s expression is scary!!)
Right from the start, Inuyasha maintains that he dislikes Kagome, which leads the reader to suspect that there was more to his relationship with Kikyo than he’s telling (this is confirmed in an episode later). As their quest continues, Inuyasha reveals more of his human nature, and protects Kagome and other humans, although reluctantly and many a times under the pretext of saving himself trouble, from danger. Likewise, Kagome proves to be much stronger than he ever suspected she could be, standing up to their monstrous and supernatural opponents to protect others, even at great risk to herself. I think her compassionate and selfless nature is one of the greatest source of her powers. The pair is eventually joined by a lecherous monk, Miroku, and a kick-ass demon slayer, Sango and her pet cat-demon, Kiara, and Shippo, a young fox demon.
These companions bring out different aspects of the budding Inuyasha-Kagome romance, and made the series a whole lot more entertaining. Oh, how could I forget Inu’s full-blooded demon elder brother, Lord Sesshomaru, an aristocratic assassin who also became more approachable after ‘adopting’ a human girl he saved from death. Rather the little girl ‘adopted’ him. This is one demon who never loses his cool even under the most dangerous and trying situations … despite being dressed in fur.
Besides the entire video series, I also read the manga written for the big screen, translated into Chinese. These three movies, namely “Love that Transcends Time” (Toki wo Koeru Omoi in Japanese; “The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass” (Kagami no Naka no Mugenjo) and “Tenka Hadou no Ken – The Sword of World Conquest” are little adventures that stand on their own, yet add new interesting angles to the series. They are a must for any Inuyasha fan. Another confession: I love the songs from the series too. Quite a number of popular Japanese singers, example V6, Ayumi Hamasaki, Dream, Do as Infinity and Hitomi, had their songs chosen as either the opening or closing theme for each season. My favourites are “I Am” by Hitomi, “Fukai Mori, Deep Forest” by Do As Infinity, “Itazura na Kiss” (Mischievous Kiss) from Day by Day and “Angelus” by Hitomi Shimatani while my kids adore “Change the World” by V6.
Think the only thing left for me to get my hands on is a compilation of all the theme songs and music featured in the series and movie. Hmmm …. Get to know the characters and the series at Inuyashaworld.com and InuyashaPlus. The latter has a comprehensive listing of the discography, and ringtones (!), while the former has detailed episode summaries. For now, I’ll leave you with this quote that aptly describes the powerful connection between Inuyasha and Kagome:
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. ~Emily Brontë
More quotes on love in The Quote Garden. Ja, ne …