Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Inuyasha (manga, vol. 33) by Rumiko Takahashi

Inuyasha has traveled with his friends through the gate to the borderland between this world and the afterlife in order to get what is nearly the last Shikon Shard (in the book, it's referred to as the last shard, but Sango's brother still has one). Unfortunately, he'll have to fight Lord Hosenki in order to get it. Things get more complicated for Inuyasha when Naraku and Sesshomaru arrive. At first, Inuyasha has to fight both of them, but Sesshomaru doesn't really like Naraku all that much either, and it's not long before the two of them are fighting, too. In the end, Inuyasha has to decide between a dangerous attempt to strengthen his sword and saving the lives of his friends. By the end of the volume, Naraku has encouraged Hakudoshi to lure Kikyo out any way he can - Hakudoshi's plan involves using a Shrine Rat.

Takahashi was the very first manga author I ever read. This series was the second manga I read and the first one I actually decided to buy a volume of (I'd mostly just gotten stuff from the library). For that reason, this series still gives me warm, fuzzy feelings. I haven't kept up with it very well - I mean, it's over 30 volumes and still has a ways to go. If you don't have easy access to this title through the library, it's daunting to contemplate buying it at a store. Just getting to this point in the series could cost you $300.

It's nice to see that things seem to be wrapping up. I love the characters, but everything needs to end sometime. Naraku does not, of course, die in this volume, but I think this is the most seriously wounded he's ever been. I'm not entirely sure what Sesshomaru's goal was in this volume, other than to beat Naraku up, but I always like it when he show up in the manga - in some ways, I think he's a more complex character than Inuyasha.

The battle in this volume is a little more confused-looking than some of the battles in previous volumes, mainly because there are so many characters involved, some of them with very different motives. The neat part about this battle beyond the gate, however, is that Inuyasha's choice (between strengthening his sword and saving his friends) results in a new power.

I'm looking forward to the next volume, when poor Sango and her brother may have to fight each other. Kohaku, Sango's brother, is no longer as much in Naraku's control, but he still depends on a Shikon Shard in order to continue to live. If Kohaku doesn't fight Sango and keep her from shutting the shrine doors (tons of little demon rats are pouring out of the doors and devouring villagers), then Naraku will know he's no longer under his control and kill him (technically, allow him to finally die, since Kohaku is already dead). Sango has absolutely no idea about any of this, so the events of the upcoming volume will be torture for her.

Viz is still publishing Inuyasha in flipped form - this means that all the artwork has been flipped so that Western readers can read it from left to right, rather than in the original Japanese right to left format. There are no extras, other than a mostly unhelpful "the story thus far" section (it tells you the general series premise and then barely anything about what happened in the previous volume) and character information section (includes information about Inuyasha, Kagome, Naraku, Miroku, Koga, and Sango - there are many characters who show up in this volume who are not explained in this section, so it, as well, has only limited usefulness). None of this is enough to get brand-new Inuyasha readers up to speed, so I'd seriously recommend starting the series at a much earlier point.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Buddha (manga) by Osamu Tezuka - Tezuka tells the story of the life of Siddhartha, who eventually becomes Buddha. Many other characters' stories become entwined with his. Tezuka could've taken an entirely serious approach, but he chose not to - in addition to its serious and dramatic moments, this series has a good deal of action and humor. I haven't read the entire series yet, but I hope to one day. Those who liked Inuyasha's action, mythical feel, and almost old school artwork might like this series.
  • Blue Sword (book) by Robin McKinley - After the death of both her parents, Harry Crewe goes to live with her brother, a soldier stationed in the desert area of Damar. When Corlath, the mysterious and unsettling king of the Hillfolk, visits the settlement, something about Harry catches his eye. His magic urges him to take her with him, so he and his people kidnap her, but make sure to treat her like an honored guest. In order to properly face her destiny, Harry learns to fight and ride like one of the Hillfolk. Those who'd like something else with amazing swords and a battle against evil might like this book.
  • Samurai Jack (non-Japanese animation, TV series) - A samurai is sent forward into the future by an evil being named Aku. Stuck in a world now ruled by Aku, Jack fights to return to his own time and does his best to help those he meets along the way who've been hurt by Aku. Those who'd like something with action, sword-fighting, and a never-ending battle against evil might like this series.

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