Kagome Higurashi was just an ordinary high-school girl. Then, one day she falls down the Bone Eater's Well, and is transported back in time! There she discovers she's the reincarnation of a priestess, and the protector of the Sacred Jewel of Four Souls. When the jewel is shattered, she must recover the pieces, with help from a half-demon boy named InuYasha.
Author: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Graphic Novel
Welcome to another Manga Monday! This week I’m reviewing InuYasha, by Rumiko Takahashi. First, let’s have a look at the cover. We see the manga-typical Japanese School girl, wearing a green and white uniform, freefloating near the bust of an apparently ‘cat-eared’ teenaged boy with golden eyes, while an insect-like body fills the void space behind them. The colors are from the old manga-standard Copic markers and ink pens, with graphics added of course by the publishers.
This story is MASSIVE. It ran in the Shounen Sunday magazine from November 13, 1996, to June 18, 2008, and exists in 56 volumes, with over 500 chapters. It is by far one of Takahashi’s most well-known and largest mangas to date, and it has a following that is as large as its many chapters.
And now the story: It begins long ago, during the medieval ages of Japan. The boy from the cover, InuYasha, is a half-dog-demon who wishes to become a full-fledged demon. To do that, he must get the powerful and sacred Jewel of Four Souls (aka, Shikon Jewel, Shi-kon no Tama, the Sacred Jewel). He attacks the village and shrine that houses the jewel but is thwarted by the temple’s priestess, Kikyou. As she dies from terrible wounds, Kikyou asks that the jewel be burned with her body, to keep demons and other corrupt souls from abusing it. Fastfoward to the 1990’s, and we meet our main protagonist, Kagome Higurashi. Living with her mother, brother, and grandfather in the shrine in the modern-day, Kagome’s just wanting to pass her exams, attract a cute, nice guy, and just be an ordinary girl. One day, while helping her brother find their cat, she is suddenly grabbed by a centipede monster that was hiding inside of the old, dry well on their property. Kagome is then pulled in to the well, which transports her back in time to feudal times. Once there, she not only comes upon the sleeping InuYasha (pinned to a tree and still as young as ever), but when the villagers come, they note that Kagome bears an eerie resemblance to Kikyou.
Turns out it’s 50 years since Kikyou’s death, and Kagome is her re-incarnation, and the Sacred Jewel was hiding inside of Kagome’s body. After a massive adventure that throws the unlikely duo together, and rips the Sacred Jewel out of her side, Kagome accidentally shatters the jewel, causing it to fragment in to many pieces. With no other way of getting the jewel, Kagome and InuYasha team up to find the pieces and reform the jewel. Along the way, they become allies with Shippo, a small, orphaned fox-demon child, the perverted Priest, Miroku, and the daughter of demon hunters, Sango (with her cat-demon pet, Kirara). They also make many enemies, among them being the wolf-demon Kouga, and InuYasha’s own brother, Sesshoumaru. But none are as terrible as the series antagonist, Naraku, who also desires the jewel, and will stop at nothing to gain it and its power.
This story is really, at it’s heart, a classic ‘hero’s tale’, with both InuYasha and Kagome taking the mantle of the hero. If you don’t know what the hero’s tale is, it is the essential archetype of all fables, and has a sequence of events that all such stories must take. There is first, of course, the call to adventure, and the rejection of the call, with them both. InuYasha’s comes years before when he seeks out the Jewel to be able to make himself a full-fledged demon (only to fall in love with Kikyou and reconsider), and again when he is revived later (he wants the jewel. Done and done); Kagome’s comes after she figures out how to go back and forth through time via the magic well. She returns home, intent on staying there. However, afterward is the moment that forces both in to going on the journey. For InuYasha, it is when he realizes that he cannot fight the demons that find shards alone, and for Kagome, it is when she realizes that she is still drawn toward the past. When both are unable to fight the call, the move onward. They each receive magical boons- InuYasha’s is his father’s sword, and Kagome’s is her ability to sense the Jewel- and meet allies. Miroku fills the role of ‘lovable rogue’, and Sango the ‘stoic warrior’, while Shippo is the youthful helper. Together they form a band and go through battle, the valley of death (Literally! Twice!) and they face the great evil (many, many, many times). They even have temptations that come their way. For Kagome it is in the form of opportunities to go home and stay home. For InuYasha, it comes in the form of former lover, turned bitter enemy, Kikyou, when she is revived in a clay body made from sorcery.
What makes this comic such a pull for girls (though it is initially a ‘shounen’ comic- geared towards boys with action, danger, and plenty of partial female nudity) is the love-story that develops. Yes, there’s a love story here. Very much pulling upon Beauty and The Beast, it entails Kagome’s growing friendship and reliance on InuYasha, as well as his own acceptance of her by his side. Eventually, they come to love each other, though Kagome is more obvious in her feelings. What stands in their way, of course, is Kikyou. Not only does InuYasha see her often in Kagome’s face and her own growing spiritual powers, but when Kikyou is actually revived, he is torn between the girl who has become a friend and a fighting partner (and partner whom he fights with), and the woman he first came to love.
My personal favorite aspect is that here there are other stories. We do follow the main narrative, but we also follow the antagonist, Naraku’s story, as well as InuYasha’s brother’s story (which makes him less of a villain and more sympathetic as time goes on), and my absolute favorite story, the tragedy of the Priestess Kikyou.
Kikyou is my FAVORITE character in the whole series. She’s young, and beautiful, and raised from childhood to be a priestess. To be pure in mind and body, to go with her kind and pure heart, so that she can protect the village from demonic forces. When she is asked to guard the Sacred Jewel, she devotes her whole life to it, only to have mercy on a dog-demon half-breed who comes along one day. She sees in InuYasha some good, and it makes her unable to hurt him. When she and InuYasha fight side-by-side during a very grueling battle, they grew in to close friends, and then finally lovers. Her kindness and pure heart makes him decide, for a time, to use the Jewel to become human, so he can be with Kikyou, and she decides to give up being a priestess to be his bride. Their happiness is shattered, however. An injured bandit, nursed by Kikyou and grown lustful for her, trades his soul for a demon’s body and become the demon, Naraku, then he ensures that Kikyou and InuYasha hate one another, and (seemingly) forever tear them apart. What’s more, Kikyou can’t have peace in death, and has her bones stolen, her body remade from clay, and has to feed on the sad and unhappy souls of the dead in order to stay ‘alive’, all so she can have revenge against the demon that destroyed her future. She becomes corrupt, and a shadow of the pure woman she once had been.
This manga gets 5 stars from me. I know, 56 volumes and such a huge story-line is a bit daunting, but given that the points I’ve hit just BARELY scratch the surface of the manga’s full plotlines (just about EVERYONE has a tragic story and tale, including the Jewel’s creation), and that the artwork (again, all hand-drawn) is just magnificent in detail and design, you’ll easily find the time invested worth it. And trust me, it’s far easier to read through 56 issues than watching 167 episodes of the FIRST anime series, also called ‘InuYasha’, and the 28-episode second series, ‘InuYasha: The Final Act’ (the first series only covered 36 issues of the manga- OI!). Besides, I fangirl HARD on this series, and it is still a dream of mine to save money and purchase the wig and costume needed to cosplay as Kikyou. Someday… Someday v.v
Definitely invest some time and pick up this series today!