Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Inuyasha: Affections Touching Across Time

3/4

Starring (voices): Richard Ian Cox, Moneca Stori, Kelly Sheridan, Kirby Morrow, Jillian Michaels, Vincent Gale

Not Rated (probable PG for Violence and Brief Language)

Let me tell you a story.  For the longest time as a teenager, I hated anime.  I loathed it.  The crappy animation, the embarrassing dialogue, the generic action sequences...I derided it with the same vitriol that I would later regard Wes Anderson (it is here that I should mention that my experiences with anime was from the stuff on Cartoon Network like "Pok√©mon," "Digimon," and the utterly worthless "Dragonball Z," shows that most anime fans regard as the ugly stepchild of anime).  A friend of mine at the time was a huge anime fan.  Fed up with my bitching, he dragged me to the school's Japanese pop culture club, where they were showing an episode of "Inuyasha" ("The Mystery of the New Moon and the Black-haired Inuyasha," for any fans of the show who are wondering).  After watching it, I was instantly hooked.  I watched as many episodes as I could, although it has been only until now that I have gotten the chance to see the whole show from start to finish.

"Inuyasha: Affections Touching Across Time," the first of four films based on the TV show, is not great art.  But neither is the TV show.  The dialogue is pedestrian and the animation is obviously cheap (especially when it's compared to Hayao Miyazaki).  It is, however, great entertainment.  It's a good story with plenty of action, likable characters, some quirky humor (never have the words "Sit Boy" been so explosively funny...a term I use sort of literally) and a few chills.  That's all you can ask for.

A little background is necessary for a synopsis to make any sense.  The TV series is about Kagome Higurashi (Stori), a 14-year-old Japanese girl.  She's a relatively normal young woman except for the fact that she has the ability to travel, via a well in the family shrine, back to the feudal era of Japan.  There, she teams up with Inuyasha (Cox), a half-demon, to track down shards of the Sacred Shikon Jewel, which, when complete offers its bearer extraordinary power.  Also with them are Miroku (Morrow), a monk who will scam anyone and has a habit of asking any woman he comes across if they will bear his children, Sango (Sheridan), a demon slayer with a tragic past, and Shippo (Michaels), a little fox demon who tags along after his father was slain.  Their sworn enemy is a half-demon named Naraku (Paul Dobson), who wants the jewel for himself and will manipulate and betray anyone to get it.

The film takes place between seasons 2 and 3, although it's a self-contained story.  After Inuyasha inadvertently insults her cooking, Kagome storms off.  The others go looking for her, and they all run into bad ends of Menomaru (Gale), a moth demon with two minions, Ruri (Venus Terzo) and Hari Lalainia Lindbjerg).  Menomaru has a beef with Inuyasha's father, and since he died centuries ago, he intends to exact revenge on Inuyasha himself.  However, with his friends held up in various ways coupled with his arrogant nature, Inuyasha ends up making matters infinitely worse, allowing Menomaru to resurrect his father's power, a feat that will lead not only to world domination of their era, but Kagome's as well.

The movie is essentially a 90 minute long TV episode, which has its good and bad qualities.  Thankfully, the story is strong enough to last that long, and is constructed in a way that doesn't make it seem like 3 episodes strung together (which is what happened with "Family Guy's" movie, "Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story").  The stakes are high enough, and the plot fits into the series like a glove.  Director Toshiya Shinohara understands "Inuyasha's" appeal and what makes the series so much fun. On the other hand, it lacks breadth.  Surely with 90 minutes to play around with, Shinohara could have found ways to flesh out the story more.  He also has difficulty keeping track of all the characters, which can lead to momentary confusion.

Also curious is the fact that Naraku is missing from the film entirely.  While Naraku doesn't always appear in the TV series, his presence is always felt, and the series never forgets that his defeat is the ultimate goal (something that the film doesn't bother to mention).  More importantly, while Menomaru is certainly an imposing villain and often makes us question how our heroes will get out of their situation (even if in the back of our minds we already know), he's got nothing on Naraku, who is essentially evil personified.  Naraku lends an air of menace to the series that Menomaru can't make up for.

"Inuyasha: Affections Touching Across Time" is a must for fans of the series.  If nothing else, it's a chance to spend more time with some old friends.

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