Rumiko Takahashi's new series is completely different, yet strangely familiar

The greatest danger of success is others' expectations -- and after the smash hit RANMA 1/2, both fans and critics of its creator, Rumiko Takahashi, were ready to pounce on her next ongoing work. After much speculation, INU-YASHA appeared in Japan in late November, in SHONEN SUNDAY #50, 1996. Astute observers knew that none of Takahashi's primarily comedic series were exactly alike -- but possibly no one was prepared for INU-YASHA, a combination of popular manga elements with something grim and unique.

INU-YASHA is a fantasy manga in which Kagome, a teenage girl from modern Japan, travels back to Japan's Middle Ages to face demonic creatures from the past... and Inu-Yasha, her unwitting demonic ally, captured by herself in a former life. The art style draws from Takahashi's action-heavy RANMA 1/2 and the moodier MERMAID'S FOREST, and sees some of her first use of computer tone effects, giving it a denser look. Super-powered battles abound, and it wouldn't be Takahashi without humor, but the atmosphere is generally fantastic -- and horrific.

INU-YASHA is similar in many ways to Yoshihiro Kuroiwa's ZENKI THE DEMON PRINCE and Kazuhiro Fujita's OSHIO AND TORA, both successful manga (and anime) in which the descendants of priests summon or release bloodthirsty demons but, luckily, are able to bend them to their will. (USHIO AND TORA has its cat-like "Tora" pinned to a wall with a 'demon spear'; ZENKI has a female heroine.) But the feudal setting, and time travel, recalls nothing as much as Rumiko Takahashi's FIRE TRIPPER. Like any good writer using time travel, Takahashi plays tricks with it, with events that happen in the past 'foreshadowing' events that have already occurred in 1997. Takahashi, though generally influenced by fairy tales and Japanese folklore (down to the style in which some of her creatures are drawn), did not use any specific legends for INU-YASHA; the supernatural elements are all her own, and are some of her most bizarre.

Inu-Yasha (which translates roughly to "dog demon" -- "I wanted a cool, but wild name," Takahashi has said) is an untamed, almost frightening "hero", whose martial arts are gorier than anything in RANMA 1/2. How his relationship with the main character will progress is certainly going to be a major question in the series... is romantic comedy on the way? (Probably not as long as he keeps threatening to kill her.) But Kagome, the main character, is no meek sidekick to Inu-Yasha; she's as strong-willed, smart, and potentially magical as any sailor-suited schoolgirl has ever been.

In INU-YASHA, Takahashi breaks away from the 'expected' Takahashi series, and puts her own mark on another genre -- or possibly a combination of genres. It's too early to know how strong the fan reaction is to INU-YASHA -- the first Japanese tankobon, and Viz Comics' English INU-YASHA, have only just been released this April -- but it's sure to attract a new audience. When asked (in SHONEN SUNDAY #4, 1997) what her resolution for the New Year was, Takahashi said the obvious: to keep writing enjoyable manga. "I'll do my best on INU-YASHA,"" she said. "So please look forward to 1997!"

Inu-Yasha ©1997 Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan, Inc.
©1997 Viz Communications, Inc.