Sunday, June 5, 2016

Inuyasha the Movie 3: Swords of an Honorable Ruler

3/4

Starring (voices): Richard Ian Cox, Moneca Stori, David Kaye, Kirby Morrow, Kelly Sheridan, Jillian Michaels, Jonathan Holmes, Michael Dobson, Richard Newman

Not Rated (probable PG-13 for Graphic Violence and Some Language)

"Inuyasha" is not great art, but it is good storytelling.  It understands that characters we like, a fun atmosphere and attention to the rhythms of story development are more important than good dialogue or flashy special effects.  The first "Inuyasha" film was fun but the second one lacked a coherent story.  The third, like the others, has its pluses and minuses.

250 years before the events in the story, The Great Dog Demon (Don Brown) raced towards certain death.  A mortal woman named Izayoi (Alaina Burnett) is giving birth to his child, and the humans guarding her will not let him near.  They are led by Takemaru (Holmes), who has loved Izayoi, and who would rather kill her than see her give birth to the child of a demon.  Takemaru and the demon fight in a burning mansion, but Izayoi escapes with her newborn child in tow, who is named Inuyasha.

Cut to the present.  Inuyasha (Cox) has come to Kagome's time unexpectedly.  He surprises her by attacking the volleyball she and her friends are playing with, presumably under the impression that it's a demon trying to attack her (Inuyasha fails to understand even the most basic concepts of our era, but to his credit, the ball was flying towards her).  In any event, Kagome's family is "airing" out a treasured sword when it mysteriously awakens.  Sensing danger, Inuyasha tries to contain it, but it is too powerful for him and fuses to his arm.  Fearing his potential to hurt Kagome, he takes it back to his own time to dispose of it.  It turns out that the sword belonged to Inuyasha's father, one of three that he owned (the other two were bequeathed to his sons).  But the sword has a mind of its own, and it reawakens Takemaru to destroy the only people who are a threat to its existence: Inuyasha and his half-brother, Sesshomaru (Kaye).  The only way to stop him is for Inuyasha and Sesshomaru to join forces.  Considering that the two can't be in the same place without trying to kill each other (literally), this presents a big problem.

The good thing about this film is that it gives Sesshomaru his time in the spotlight.  Of all the supporting characters in the anime, Sesshomaru is definitely the most complex.  There are complexities beneath his cold exterior that make him an engaging, and intimidating, character.  He despises humans yet has one accompany him.  He hates his half-brother to the point where he would like nothing better than to kill him, yet warns him of danger.  Sesshomaru has always straddled the line between villain and hero (but not an anti-hero), and that makes him very compelling.  Sadly, little of his complexity is revealed in the film, but it gives a taste at least.

The rest of the cast members do their jobs well, which is all that a fan can ask for.  And it's nice to see that David Kaye and Moneca Stori are voicing their characters after they were recast for "Inuyasha: The Final Act" (Stori because she retired and Kaye because he moved to Los Angeles).  While Kira Tozer and Michael Daingerfield did respectable jobs, they felt like posers after spending time with different actors for 7 seasons.

"Inuyasha the Movie 3: Swords of an Honorable Ruler" takes the film into some pretty dark places.  While the TV series did the same thing (especially in the later seasons), it comes at the cost of the fun-loving charm that made the series so much fun.  There's very little humor in this film, which is a shame because it was something the series is known for.  Just the aforementioned volleyball scene and the obligatory "sit" after the end credits.  There's no sense of fun and adventure here.  Still, when you have just about every character in one battle, there's fun to be had.

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