At long last, the final stretch in the InuYasha saga is being released for English-speaking audiences on Blu-ray Disc. Those who have already been following along ardently will enjoy seeing this last leg of the story in HD, but newcomers aren’t as likely to get caught up with the dozens of episodes that came before. (If there was ever a show set that deserved a recap segment before the main event, this was it—but you won’t find such a thing here.)
- Doesn't neglect character development in its pursuit of the show's climax.
- Requires intimate knowledge of the series -- over 100 episodes -- to make full sense of the goings-on.
- No recap for the uninitiated.
- Director: Yasunao Aoki
- Animation Studio: Sunrise
- Released By: Sunrise
- Released Domestically By: VIZ Media
- Audio: English / Japanese w/English subtitles
- Age Rating: TV-14 (fantasy violence, blood)
- List Price: $54.95 (BD), $49.95 (DVD)
It's up to you to get caught up
If you don’t know the story of InuYasha, a proper recap is next to impossible to cram into a space this small, but here goes. (Deep breath.) Schoolgirl Kagome enters a portal to Japan’s feudal past and finds her destiny is intertwined with that of the half-human, half-demon (and all hothead) Inuyasha. They soon share in the quest to find the missing pieces of the shattered Shikon Jewel, whose magical properties could do terrible things in the wrong hands. At first it looks like those wrong hands are Inuyasha’s haughty brother Sesshomaru, but they turn out instead to be the far more dangerous and cold-blooded demon Naraku.
The full details are of course far more sprawling and complex than that, running as they did over the course of some six seasons and 167 episodes, the last of which aired in 2006 but without bringing the show to its actual conclusion. The Final Act, as the name implies, supplies the missing ending. It’s a season unto itself—26 episodes that started airing in Japan in 2009—split into two sets for the sake of convenience.
The gathering for the final clash
Is it worth the wait? If you’ve followed InuYasha this long, absolutely—if only for the sake of putting the story to bed once and for all. But The Final Act won’t work as a speed-read recap of the series: it assumes the audience has complete familiarity with the franchise, and makes no concessions to you if you don’t. There’s no recap akin to what we got with Sengoku Basara: The Last Party, which brought newcomers up to speed with the franchise before plunging into its feature-film conclusion.
What we do get, though, is a continuation of all the things that clearly made InuYasha such a fan favorite: the complex (or is that “convoluted”?) storyline, the huge cast, the exotic setting, and the super-powered struggles between good and evil. All of that is here, along with Takahashi’s trademark acerbic humor.
As far as plot goes, the first half of The Final Act is mostly a gearing-up towards a final confrontation between Inuyasha and Naraku, with the latter having gathered all but a few of the remaining jewel shards. From what the heroes have gathered, it is possible to defeat Naraku, but only by allowing him to finish assembling the jewel and then having Kagome purify it with her bow. Not easy, and everyone knows it. Plus, the road to getting there is fraught with any number of other complications, such as Sesshomaru unlocking the secrets of his sword Tenseiga (which are, as you can imagine, bound up with Inuyasha’s own matching weapon).
Long on plot, but not too short on character
Even someone unfamiliar with the goings-on can’t help but notice the attention the show does pay to characterization, and character development, over the long run. This being the final stretch of the story, many of those cards are finally getting dealt: there are no less than two major characters who die in this particular installment. (No, I won’t say who.) What’s nice is that their deaths are treated with the gravity and the story repercussions they deserve, and they give an extra jolt of momentum to the goings-on. They’re not just brushed aside like crumbs being cleared from the table.
Much of the blame for InuYasha stretching out to such ponderous length shouldn’t be laid at the feet of the original manga’s creator, the venerable Rumiko Takahashi. The sheer popularity of the series worked against both her and the publisher (Shogakukan), causing the story to spin out to several times its ideal length. It’s a shame, because this is a good show; Takahashi is not considered one of manga’s long-standing luminaries for nothing. But unless its creators adopt the same approach Toei did with Dragonball Z and create a cut-down version that less obsessive fans can watch in a reasonable length of time, it—and The Final Act along with it—are hard to savor without a massive investment of time. But we’re finally getting a conclusion, and it looks to have been worth it.