Rumiko Takahashi is one of the, if not the, most famous female manga artist in the world. With titles such as "Ranma" and "Maison Ikokku" in her resume, she has established a worldwide following and has garnered a reputation as the Queen of Romantic Comedy. Her latest undertaking, "Inu-Yasha", has already gained a cult following in the US and, like her other manga series, has been made into a successful anime series that has just a strong following in America. American publisher Viz, having already published twelve volumes in the US, now brings us the anime.
At first glance, "Inu-Yasha" seems like a typical anime series. Kagome, a Japanese high school girl, is transported to the feudal age of Japan through a magical well, where she unwittingly awakens a cocky, imprisoned half-demon called Inu-Yasha. You see, Inu-Yasha was after the Shikon no Tama, a powerful jewel that could grant him his wish to become full demon, but a village priestess called Kikyo stopped him with a mystical arrow. Suffering from untreatable wounds, Kikyo decides to die and take with her to her grave the Shikon no Tama. But get this: Kagome is apparently Kikyo's reincarnation, and she just so happens to have the Shikon no Tama with her! Then, through a bizarre set of circumstances, the jewel ends up shattering and scattering all over Japan, and now Inu-Yasha and Kagome have to team up and find these pieces.
You see, "Inu-Yasha" is a lot deeper than the first set of episodes will have you believe. Sure, it looks like something you'd find in just about every other fantasy anime series out there, but truthfully, the meat of the series is found in later episodes, when Takahashi demonstrates her true (if not bizarre) genius. But even with this in mind, the first three episodes found on this DVD do a really good job of starting the series and drawing you in. The characters are likable and three-dimensional, and the plot is executed at a reasonable pace. And with Takahashi's unique sense of humor spread all over, you know this series is over-the-top as well as dark and intriguing. Overall, the first three episodes are well done and should give the viewer a general idea of what to look forward to, even though Takahashi's plot twists are completely unexpected.
Visually, "Inu-Yasha" is one of the cleanest series around. The artwork isn't as clean as, say, that of "X: TV", but it's definately sharp and crisp enough to make an average viewer go "wow!". Character models present marvelous representations of their manga counterparts, backgrounds are vibrant and fully detailed, and movement is smooth and fluid. In short, "Inu-Yasha" is a beautiful series that does justice to its source material.
Sound wise, the music is a beautiful compliment to the visuals. It's not the most memorable of soundtracks, but Kaoru Wada's melodies are beautiful and wistful and can get emotional when they need to be. The one complaint I have, however, is that the songs tend to repeat themselves quite often and some songs are often nothing more than variations of other songs. But overall, the series' soundtrack has no real complaints. And the opening and ending...well, the ending song is really haunting and ends each episode on a perfect note, but who's idea was it to use a Korean boy-band song as the opening?
As for the English dub...to put it simply, the dub is above average. It does have its problems, but overall it's enjoyable. Richard Cox does a marvelous job as the half-demon Inu-Yasha, bringing the cocky anti-hero to life wonderfully. Monica Stori, unfortunately, stumbles at the beginning as the heroine Kagome. Many complain about her sounding too young, but I feel her biggest problem was that at first she didn't feel comfortable with her role. In later episodes she improves remarkably, but starting out she sounds somewhat stale and flat. Pam Hyatt does a respectable job as Kaede, but she can sometimes sound unenthusiastic and it's somewhat weird that she speaks in Old English and no one else does...
...which brings me to the dub's biggest problem: the script, written by Trish Ledoux, who also wrote the script for "Ranma". Trish has an annoying habit of using "Trishisms," which are cliches and catchphrases, in her scripts and it's these Trishisms that bring the dub down. Adding in her own "touches" such as the phrase, "Toto, I don't think we're in Tokyo anymore" makes the script feel dumbed down. Granted, the script doesn't drastically alter the story in any way, but these Trishisms are the biggest thing holding the quality of the English track back.
So in general, for die-hard fans of the show, the dub will be debatable because they associate the characters so much with the original Japanese voices and thus anything that doesn't fit will render the dub a travesty; nitpicking and complaints such as "they pronounce names differently" or "this voice sounds off" or "Kagome says, 'Sit, boy!'" will definately be popping up in many reviews to come. But for casual anime fans who won't have to go into the show with this kind of baggage for an incredibly popular series, the dub should satisfy.
Overall, the first volume of "Inu-Yasha" is a solid release. The only complaint I have about the show is that the content of the series was toned down from the manga to meet television standards (no full frontal nudity, not as much violence, etc.), but that's only a minor complaint. Many will complain about the episode count per DVD, but just remember that the Japanese got only two episodes on the first disc and you may feel better (maybe). But if you're still unsure as to whether you'll like this series or not, you can catch it on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block in a very, very lightly edited format. And since the show gets better as the series progresses over its 90+ episodes (it's still running in Japan, by the way), there will be plenty more "Inu-Yasha" to get excited about in the future.