by Jenny Williams
He's a selfish, stubborn, careless half-demon, with long white hair, fangs, and the ears of a dog. I'm talking about InuYasha, the lead character in Rumiko Takahashi's current manga series, InuYasha. Yes, you heard right. Takahashi's the same one responsible for series such as Maison Ikkoku and the ever-popular Ranma 1/2. Just take one of these two series, relocate it to ancient-day Japan, add demons and a bit more fight scenes, and you basically have InuYasha.
Takahashi's tale starts off in ancient Japan, as InuYasha is in the midst of stealing the Shikon Jewel from a village. He is stopped by Kikyo, a wounded but beautiful priestess who puts a spell on him with an arrow, binding him to a tree. She then takes the Jewel and has it burned with her remains, while InuYasha is kept in a deep sleep.
In present-day Tokyo, we meet Kagome, a high-school student who looks a whole lot alike Kikyo and lives in a shrine. She didn't care much for legends, until the day she gets pulled into a well. For when she comes out, Kagome finds that she is no longer at the temple, but in ancient Japan, fifty years past the incident with InuYasha. She finds the sleeping half-demon bound to the same tree, but only to be interrupted by arrows. Kagome is then taken to the village that had been ransacked by InuYasha, and there, she meets Lady Kaede, the younger sister of the deceased Kikyo. But just as soon as she enters the village, a centipede demon attacks the village, in search of Kagome, who she seems to think has the Shikon Jewel. Kagome, realizing the demon is after only her, leads her into the forest Kagome originally came from. There, InuYasha, alive and well, greets her rudely from his tree, thinking she's the one who "killed" him. Kagome, distracted by his rude comments, gets bitten in the side by the centipede demon, and out falls the Shikon Jewel. InuYasha, unable to move because of the binding spell, angrily watches the demon swallow the jewel and gain power by the second. Because of the desperate situation, Kagome releases InuYasha by pulling out the arrow, and he defeats the centipede in no time at all. But in saving herself from the centipede, did Kagome only worsen her chances of survival by setting InuYasha free?
InuYasha's ruthlessness is put to a temporary stop when Lady Kaede puts a subduing spell on him, so that whenever Kagome says "sit", InuYasha comes crashing face-first in the ground. But that's not the end. Demons from all over the land come for the Shikon Jewel, and in one incident, the jewel gets broken into shards and spread out for miles. Who else but our favorite couple gets sent out to retrieve the missing shards and protect what they retrieve. And one can imagine the kinds of challenges they handle along the way, including demons and each other.
Takahashi does a wonderful job in keeping the audience interested. Besides the beautiful art that, believe me, can be enough, she writes in adventure, comedy, drama, and romance. And as far as romance goes, it's different from any other shoujo story, since InuYasha *is* a half-demon, and it is hard for him to open up his heart to just anybody. Kagome isn't someone to mess with either. If and when InuYasha gives her lip, she always ends up winning the argument. More loveable characters join the band later on, as well as characters we dislike.
Rumiko Takahashi is currently working on a 16th volume and counting in Japan. For all readers unable to read Japanese, Viz has just recently finished the fifth volume. In this recent volume, Viz has included a "story thus far" and description of the characters, for new readers to the series. This volume has to be my absolute favorite thus far, and if you are only looking to pick up one volume, I would recommend grabbing the fifth and running as fast as you can.