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InuYasha, Yomiuri TV
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Caution: spoilers.

In feudal Japan long ago, there was a sacred jewel called the Shikon no Tama, or "Jewel of Four Souls." Many youkai (demons) coveted the jewel for its great power, but it was protected by a priestess named Kikyo. She fell in love with a half-demon named Inuyasha, who wanted to use the jewel to become a full-fledged demon. But they were tricked by Naraku (who had been created when a man named Onigumo merged with many youkai) into believing each had betrayed the other. Kikyo shot Inuyasha with a sacred arrow, pinning him to a tree. She died soon after, and the Shikon jewel was burned with her body.

Inuyasha would remain pinned to the tree for fifty years, until released by a girl named Kagome Higurashi. She came from modern day Tokyo, but when she fell down a well at her family's shrine, she was transported into the past, 50 years after the incident with Naraku. Kagome is the reincarnation of Kikyo, and was surprised to find that the jewel was within her. It emerged during an attack by a demon who tried (and failed) to steal it, but was later shattered into many shards. Now Kagome has to work with Inuyasha to search for the jewel shards, though they don't get along very well at first, because Inuyasha's so stubborn, and doesn't like needing help, especially from humans. But anyway, there are powerful enemies who also want to find the shards (each of which can bestow power when embedded in one's flesh, or in a weapon), so there are plenty of fierce battles. There's also an old woman named Kaede, who was Kikyo's younger sister. She's now the priestess of Kikyo's village, and occasionally advises Inuyasha and Kagome.

Anyway, Kagome occasionally returns through the well to her own time (where she lives with her mom, grandpa, little brother Sota, and cat Buyo), but she spends most of her time in the past. Her grandpa always makes up fake medical excuses for her missing so much school. Her friends worry about her illnesses, but they worry more about her love life (they talk a lot about the guys she knows in the past, though they don't know it's in the past, nor really understand her relationship to them, or anything). There's also a boy in the present named Hojo who likes her a lot, but he knows even less about her life than her friends do.

Anyway, the present is mostly used for occasional comic relief, so, back in the feudal era, where the real story lies... there's a flea demon named Myoga, who occasionally shows up to give Inuyasha advice, not that Inuyasha's ever particularly interested. And there's a fox-demon boy named Shippo whose father was killed, so now he travels with Inuyasha and Kagome. And after a while a monk/con-man named Miroku joins them. He wants revenge against Naraku as much as Inuyasha does, for having cursed his lineage with a scar on one hand, a wind-tunnel which serves as a powerful weapon, though ultimately it destroys each man who bears the scar, so he follows the tradition of trying to maintain his lineage, by asking almost any girl he meets (to no avail) to bear his child. (Miroku, unfortunately, can't use his wind tunnel against Naraku, because Naraku's poisonous insects, called saimyoushou, would infect him. They cause trouble fairly often in any number of other ways, as well.)

They are also eventually joined by a youkai slayer named Sango, whose entire village of youkai slayers was killed by demons sent by Naraku. This village was where the Shikon jewel was created. Sango has a fire-cat youkai named Kirara (pronounced "Keelala") who can change between a cute little pet and a larger, fierce, flying beast to carry her and aid in battle. Sango's main weapon is a giant boomerang called a hiraikotsu. Sango and Miroku develop feelings for each other, but Sango is constantly upset by his flirting with any pretty girl he meets.

Oh, and Inuyasha's half brother Sesshomaru (who is fully demon, like their father) occasionally shows up to fight Inuyasha, or Naraku, or whatever he feels like doing at any given moment. Sesshomaru has a sort of toad-youkai servant named Jaken whom I kind of think of as the equivalent of Myoga. Jaken is pretty weak, except for his Staff of Two Heads, which shoots fire. Sesshomaru never seems very interested in Jaken, who is a total sycophant, but he abides him, at least. Anyway, Sesshomaru wanted the sword Tetsusaiga, which was forged from one of his and Inuyasha's father's fangs, but Inuyasha ended up with it instead. Sesshomaru eventually gets his own sword, Tenseiga, which was also forged from one of their father's fangs, though each sword has different powers (and Tenseiga's power of reviving the recently slain seems pretty much useless as far as Sesshomaru is concerned). He later gets another, powerful, sword, called Tokijin. There is also a young girl named Rin who follows Sesshomaru around, and he seems more tolerant of her than of Jaken. She rides on a two-headed, sort of dragonlike youkai called Ah-un, and also seems to respect and care about Jaken, though not nearly as much as she does Sesshomaru. Anyway, Tetsusaiga, Tenseiga, and other important swords were forged by an old swordsmith named Totosai, who shows up from time to time. (I should probably mention that it takes Inuyasha awhile to learn to use Tetsusaiga, and of course different powers are learned at different times. The power he most commonly uses is called "Wind Scar," though he eventually learns to use various other powers, such as "Backlash Wave" and "Adamant Barage," among others.)

And eventually a witch named Urasue resurrects Kikyo's spirit in a new body she made, and Kikyo (who now has to steal souls to live) will usually be at odds with Inuyasha whenever they meet. (Though he still has strong feelings for her, in spite of also growing closer to Kagome. And Kikyo wants to defeat Naraku, herself.) There are a few other occasionally recurring characters. Like Hachi, a tanuki (racoon dog) friend of Miroku's, who can turn into a sort of giant balloon to ferry our heroes around. And Kohaku, Sango's younger brother who was killed, but brought back to life by Naraku, without his memories and under Naraku's command. (He has a shard of the Shikon jewel in his neck; if it's ever removed, he'll die.) Then there is Koga, the leader of a tribe of wolf demons, who hates Naraku and cares for Kagome, though he and Inuyasha can't stand each other. The last two surviving members of Koga's tribe, Ginta and Hakkaku, follow Koga all the time, but they always lag behind him, because he has jewel shards in his legs that make him extremely fast.

And there are various incarnations of Naraku, demons he has created and released from his own body, and though he controls them, they have minds of their own. His first incarnation was Kanna, a void demon who looks like a young girl, and can steal souls with her mirror; she seems to be Naraku's most loyal incarnation. The one of these we see the most of is a woman named Kagura, a wind demon who wishes to be free of Naraku, but cannot escape or disobey him. One time he discarded Onigumo's heart, which loved Kikyo, and the faceless incarnation it assumed stole the face, and name, of a monk named Musou. Naraku later reabsorbed this incarnation. Another incarnation was an infant that could read people's hearts and minds. He was eventually split into two halves, one of which remained an infant, which was taken away by Kanna, but the other, called Hakudoshi, aged into a young boy, who began travelling with Kagura. Several other, less important incarnations, have been killed by our heroes.

Anyway... I really like this show, because the animation just seems so lush, and the story seems sort of quintessentially Japanese. It's also a quintessential fantasy story with, you know, a group of disparate adventurers banded together. It's a really cool, action-packed, amusing, emotional show. Plus there are a bunch of really great closing theme songs (I'm afraid I haven't heard the opening themes, since Adult Swim didn't play them). I'll probably get one or two soundtracks eventually.... Well, the show was fairly long, 167 episodes, but by the end, there wasn't really any story resolution. Besides which, I'm so used to all these characters that I'm going to miss them, and the show. I kind of wish it would continue longer. Still, there have been several movies. So far I've seen Affections Touching Across Time and The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass. There are a couple others I still need to see. And I suppose maybe someday I could read some of the manga. There's also another 26-episode series called Inuyasha: The Final Act, which wraps up the story.


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