With over 150 animated episodes, 50 manga volumes, and ten years under its belt the InuYasha franchise is a beast to be reckoned with. Since 1996 this creation by Rumiko Takahashi (of Ranma 1/2 fame) has been a Japanese juggernaut and continues to thrive here in the States. As proof of this I challenge you to go to your local anime convention and not see a single InuYasha walking around; it simply won't happen. But what makes the show so universally liked?
Essentially, the story begins back in feudal Japan when InuYasha, a half-demon tries to steal some jewel. He winds up becoming sealed inside of a tree and is released when a present day girl is brought back in time. She possesses the bloodline of the individual who sealed him and ever since that day their lives have never been the same. More demons spring out of the woodwork and as the two attempt to recover some shards of another jewel there are several things that stand in their way. Now, if you have seen the series then you already know there is much, much more to it than that brief summary. Rather than drone through the plot summary let's just say that InuYasha is a fun show with a lot of nuances to appreciate.
In addition to the multitude of episodes from the TV show there have also been a collection of movies released. Staggeringly enough there are a whopping four films to date with the most recent coming out in 2004 after the series wrapped up. Over the years VIZ has released these on DVD here in America but fans that have held off or simply folks who have come into the series may be interested in the collection. This set is essentially a re-release of the original VIZ DVDs but the lower price tag may appeal to some.
The first film, "Affections Touching Across Time" originally came out back in 2001 about a year after the show began airing in Japan. Like most anime to movie endeavors this one branches out from the known storylines of the series and introduces a new villain. Basically what goes on here is a Chinese moth demon appears and is seeking power that InuYasha controls. You see, InuYasha's father defeated the moth demon's father a couple hundred years back and there's quite the grudge there. There are a few other interesting characters introduced here but for the most part the story focuses on the main cast from the show.
After a brief set up and introduction to what InuYasha is all about "Affections Touching Across Time" gets going and never looks back. For the most part it's a fast paced affair and it's one that balances all of its components well. No character feels lost in the shuffle and the story stays engaging enough to entertain fans and newcomers alike. This wasn't the best anime film I have ever seen but it was quite good and stood out as one of the better out of the four included with this collection.
The second film from InuYasha, "The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass", came out a year after the first. After watching this one I have to admit that it felt significantly more like the TV series than the previous movie did. With a plotline involving jewel shards and a big battle against Naraku and company, it's hard to deny the ties that this one had to the show. That fact made "The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass" kind of a double-edged sword. On one hand I appreciated it because of the interesting storyline and higher caliber animation (this one is closer to Takahashi's original works) but on the other I couldn't shake the feeling that I was watching an extended episode. This is a problem that plagues most anime movies and unfortunately it keeps this particular one from really breaking free on its own.
A step up from the second movie is the third, "Swords of an Honorable Ruler". This one brings us back and forth between feudal Japan and present day with a story that revolves around InuYasha's father once again. Kagome's grandfather discovers an ancient sword and once it's unearthed it begins to call out to InuYasha. It would appear that this cursed blade was his father's and it's up to our favorite half-demon to destroy it. The real kicker here is that his brother Sesshomaru gets into the mix and is seeking the sword as well.
"Swords of an Honorable Ruler" was one heck of a ride. There was plenty of action and the plot was very entertaining throughout. I do have to admit that the pacing felt very off and the way things played out I got the impression that they were attempt to stretch the story to fit a movie's typical run time. Like the previous movie it feels like an extended episode but I suppose that's to be expected. There's still plenty to love about it and fans will appreciate seeing InuYasha and Sesshomaru go at it but you'll probably still feel cheated somehow in the end.
Speaking of films that are drawn out episodes, "Fire on the Mystic Island" takes the cake. One would have hoped since the show had ended by this point that this movie would have had a worthwhile plot or maybe had the potential to begin another series. Unfortunately neither was the case. This one is more about the eye-candy rather than story and it feels like a very lazy effort when stacked up against the other three InuYasha films. Almost right after the movie began the plot involving four war gods tormenting an island lost me due to boredom.
The InuYasha Complete Movie Box Set is a worthwhile purchase for fans but I can't imagine newcomers appreciating the material as much. The first three films are all entertaining with the first and third being the best in my opinion. The second movie was "ok" and the final one nearly put me to sleep. Admittedly I haven't seen every episode of InuYasha and I'm not a rabid fanboy so some of the subtleties were probably lost on me. However, I do enjoy the show whenever I get the opportunity to watch it and these films served their purpose. The bottom line is pick this up if you're a fan and if you're not then you should probably watch some of the series first.
In all four cases, the InuYasha movies impressed me with video quality that stood a cut above the production values of the show. This is typically the case with the larger budget presented to film projects but sometimes the differences are negligible. Each movie is presented with anamorphic widescreen and as they progress you'll notice some subtleties in quality. There is some grain in the transfers here though it's more noticeable in the first two films. Compression artifacts are non-existent and at no time did I see aliasing of any kind. Overall the picture quality is significantly higher than that of the show and each showcases what anime producers can do with bigger budgets.
Each of the InuYasha films are presented with English and Japanese languages like you'd expect. The nice surprise here is that you actually get to select between 2.0 and 5.1 outputs so you can really customize your experience. The dubbing quality for both English and Japanese is fantastic and mirrors what you'd expect to hear from the show. The kicker here is the 5.1 output which really fleshes things out and picks up when the action starts. Make sure you have your surround system calibrated for this experience because the sense of immersion is very good.
Again, each of the films has something in common with one another. The bonus material here is spread throughout and each of the discs offer similar content. For the most part you'll be seeing original Japanese trailers, character sketch and line art galleries, and closing or opening credits. The kicker here is the inclusion of a Special Footage video on each DVD. The first brings viewers up to speed with events from the first two seasons, the second offers a fan favorite compilation, the third focuses on the battle between brothers, and the final one features moments picked by the cast. There isn't necessarily anything groundbreaking in either because they mostly use clips from the TV show but they do serve the purpose of bringing newcomers up to speed.
InuYasha is a very enjoyable series and its one that continually becomes more popular here in America. While the show has been off Japanese television for a while now we are still seeing releases on this side of the ocean. The complete movie box set is a must have for fans who have not picked the films up already. This is essentially a re-release of the original discs just with new packaging so there really is no need to double dip. However, new fans will find the set's pricing and quality hard to resist and it's safe to say that this release certainly stands out. Newcomers may want to check out the series first but if you're just looking for some quality standalone anime films then you've come to the right place. Recommended
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