This manga exploration biz can get pretty daunting at times. Get hooked on too many series, and it becomes harder to find the time to delve into something unfamiliar. Recently, I started delving into a 56-volume series that’s been mega-popular as both manga and anime adaptation, though: Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha.
Originally running from 1996 to 2008, Takahash’s epic manga fantasy first debuted in American via paperback collections presented in the much-maligned “flipped” format. (Where original manga are laid out to read from right to left, American publishers initially were uncertain of readers’ willingness to “read backwards” and thus shuffled the panels so the works would conform of Western reading practices.) With Viz Media’s VizBig Edition’s current reprints of the saga, though, Takahashi’s work has been happily returned to its original compositional format.
Reprinting the first three paperback (tankobon) collections in a larger trade omnibus, the VizBig InuYasha definitely looks to be the proper package for sampling this hit series. The first VizBig volume was released in 2009, and at this writing the publishers are up to volume 10. I’ve gone through the first two big books and can see the appeal: InuYasha is an enjoyable blend of heroic fantasy, romance and comedy—with some effective dashes of horror manga thrown into the mix.
Set in 1997 Tokyo and Japan's feudal past, the story revolves on Kagome, a middle schoolgirl who lives with her grandparents by a well in a sacred shrine. After our heroine is given a keychain attached to an artifact called the Shikon Jewel, a demonic lady centipede creature emerges to grab our heroine and pull her down into the well. Kagome finds herself in the Sengoku Period, a time in which demons live more openly, and her keychain gemstone turns out to be a demon magnet known as the “Jewel of Four Souls.” In contact with a magical being, we’re gold, the jewel can bestow great power.
Our heroine’s rescuer proves to be the title lead, a dog-eared half demon named InuYasha, who himself wants the jewel and was pinned to a tree 50 years earlier by its original protector, a spitting image of Kagome. (“You stink of the woman who killed me,” InuYasha snarls at their first meeting.) To get the jewel, InuYasha would just as soon kill Kagome, but a string of prayer beads gives our girl the power to make the half-demon obey her. After the jewel is shattered in a second demon battle, its myriad pieces are scattered, and it’s up to our reluctant duo to retrieve them all.