When people think of filler in anime, I assume they’re thinking of things like Bleach or Naruto, two series that thrived off stupid side plots that weren’t in the manga but people still watched. You see, filler is what happens when a series is popular but has an unfinished story manga-wise so the anime creators decide to screw it and make up plots. Now, I don’t know exactly where the filler arc originated, but the first time ever really noticed it was in the series Inuyasha by Rumiko Takahashi. The manga ran from 1996 to 2008 and the anime… Well the first series ran from 2000 to 2004 before the rightly named Final Act aired in 2009 to 2010. Rumiko Takahashi is also known for her work on Ranma ½ and most recently Rin-ne. However, I think, Inuyasha next to Ranma ½ is her most influential and long lasting work as it has continued to be prevalent in anime culture to this day.
The story follows Kagome Higurashi, your normal high-school girl who lives at a shrine in Tokyo who is magically transported to “Feudal Era” Japan. It’s there that she meets Inuyasha and wacky shenanigans ensue. They meet a multitude of other characters and have crazy love triangles all while trying to save the… “Feudal Era.” Also, there’s some stuff about a magic jewel that, completely by accident, is shattered into like… 99 shards if I remember correctly. I could make the joke about the main characters yelling each other’s name dramatically, but honestly, everyone’s sort of made that joke at this point. Besides, there’s a lot of other things I can make fun of! Like the fact that random characters seriously use “Ye” and that this is a series that continues the early 2000s tradition of reading out loud the horribly translated title cards. I’m also probably exaggerating the whole “filler arc” thing as well, but somewhere along the way it felt like the story stagnated and keep repeating the same three story lines when the anime ran out of manga to transcribe.
This is a series I watched every Saturday on Adult Swim’s anime block and it was actually one of my first anime series! It holds a special place in my heart, but like many things I have grown out of it and recognize that there are some things that could be better about the series. This is basically a repeat case of Chrono Crusade but with infinitely better end results.
For characters, we start with Kagome of course. She’s the traditional student who’s just trying to get the boy and graduate. Everything changes naturally when she falls in an ancient well on her family’s property. Then she’s transported to “Feudal” Japan with only a little emotional trauma. It’s there that she finds out who she is, or who she used to be, and what she has to do. It’s also there that she meets Inuyasha.
Inuyasha is a half-demon boy who only wants to become a full demon, mostly due to tragic backstory and yadda yadda. He’s rough around the edges, but he means well. He’s your typical early 90s/2000s male protag that’s honestly just trying his best. He and Kagome work well as characters together, often fighting and creating a lot of humor with each other. He does have a lot of issues though, especially in concern to that big ol’ who Kagome used to be thing.
We also have Sango a demon hunter with anger problems and a tragic backstory. She’s there to act as… Well, a love interest for another character. She is awesome, using a huge boomerang to kill demons alongside her companion who’s… A giant cat or something? I was never really sure what Kirara was, but I knew she was cool. Sango’s on both a path for revenge and character growth. She spends a lot of time being one of the actually more helpful characters in the series, but is held back by your typical early 2000s character type that almost echoes the tsundere but not completely.
Then finally, last but not least, Miroku a perverted monk who also surprisingly has a tragic backstory. He has a magic deus ex machina hand hole, it’s actually called the Wind Tunnel, and it sucks up everything from demons to land. One day though, it’ll probably consume Miroku too, which would be more worrisome if the cast didn’t seem to either forget about it or somehow have it incapacitated. Like, it’s literally an OP skill that gets sort of pushed to the side so Miroku can be a pervert and the comedic relief too often.
There’s also a multitude of side characters that don’t really add much to the story. That’s one of my major issues with this series, we’re introduced to a really big cast that just don’t really do anything, like they’re there but in the grand scheme of things Kagome and Inuyasha are the important ones. That and a lot of these characters are just… Not the greatest? It feels like everyone has a tragic backstory but it doesn’t really excuse their awful personalities. I mean, a lot of the characters grow eventually, but I felt the story suffered from the abundance of characters.
The art is… Frankly a bit dated in the style itself. You can see it in the way the face and eyes are shaped compared to more recent series, the eyes are squarer while the faces are sharp, short, and round. That being said it’s not entirely bad though, some parts of it still hold up to this day, especially fight scenes. Inuyasha in any fight still looks clean and each frame, well not each, is a good screenshot. I would say that while dated this series animated art holds up a lot better than late 2000s series. It doesn’t fall into horrible anatomy or cringe worthy moe-bait. Both animations were done by Sunrise Studio who is most recently known for the Love Live! series, but more popularly known for the Gundam series or Cowboy Bebop to name a few series. It was licensed by the all too familiar companies Madman Entertainment and Viz Media. These are all studios that are great and have accomplished a lot and it shows with Inuyasha how far they had come then and how far they have since then. Now, I didn’t read the manga, but from the art I’ve seen it comes off farm more simplistic in design, at least character-wise, but also charming at the same time. Also, you can see how Rumiko Takahashi has grown in terms of her art as Inuyasha comes of a bit sharper compared to later series she has done.
Sound wise, I’ve only watched the dub and I always, and still do this day, thought it was a pretty good dub in terms of voice and execution. Now, translation wise…. I won’t be praising that. There is a character that says “Ye” to make us believe we’re in the far long past but literally no other characters from the past speak that way. That aside though, the main characters were well voiced and acted, I never had an issue with that. For instance, Inuyasha was voiced by Richard Ian Cox, who also voiced Ranma in Ranma ½ and Kai Shiden in like five different versions of Mobile Suit Gundam. Honestly though, none of the actors have done a lot in terms of anime beyond Inuyasha, at least not big roles unless you’re counting Kelly Sheridan as… Starlight Glimmer in MLP: Friendship is Magic… However, I don’t think that takes away from the show at all, rather it sort of gives a different feel of how unique the show was. This is still one of Viz Media’s strongest dubs, I would say, personally at least, and it still holds up compared to other works they’ve done. The acting is on point and never feels contrived like some newer series might. Music wise, I remember most of the themes being amazing, even if there felt like there was a new one every twenty episodes. The ones I remember most clearly are probably the first seasons ending themes which were done by Dream and Do As Infinity. Both were sweet and slow ending songs really showed the softer side of the series that would get bogged down by all the drama and growing violence in the story line. Ultimately, I think much like the art this sound holds up just as equally as the art.
I know that these days Inuyasha can sort of come off as a joke in most anime circles, but I like to think that’s because for many people it was a starting point for an interest in the anime format. It was for me at least. While there are things that could be better, translations and reused plots, but beyond that it holds up nicely. If you ever want something that you could binge watch or just enjoy in the background, I’d say this series is perfect for that!