InuYasha Movie 2 Anime Review
Eiga Inuyasha: Kagami no Naka no Mugenjou
Movie InuYasha: The Castle of Dreams Within The Mirror
US Release By
After many months (and 95 episodes) of hardship, InuYasha and his companions have finally succeeded in defeating their arch-enemy Naraku. But there is little time for celebration as they are immediately faced with a new threat. Two of their old foes, Kanna and Kagura, have resurrected the spirit of an ancient celestial maiden named Kaguya, apparently on the grounds that the series always needs more characters with names that start with the letter K. Kaguya, in turn, seeks to defeat Team InuYasha and conquer the world because... um... it wouldn't be much of a movie if she didn't?
So InuYasha, Kagome, Miroku, Sango, and Shippo must cancel their shore leave and team back up for a showdown at Kaguya's castle, which happens to be beyond a looking glass. Who saw that one coming?
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This second InuYasha movie starts out with an amazing action sequence, but its downhill from there. The film's biggest flaw is that it splits up the main cast, sending characters all over the place without any clear destination or purpose, and doesn't bother getting them back together until the final battle; while they're good in pairs, they're at their best as a full-scale traditional adventuring party. Other issues are that the motives of the villains make little to no sense, it wastes a lot of potential for cool locations, and the subplots seem unrelated and largely unnecessary. At least it has the top-quality music fans of the TV show love, some great battles, and excellent animation. The TV voice cast is also all in place to reprise their roles.
While this isn't a bad movie by any means, it is a pretty big disappointment, especially compared to the first one and the TV series. It starts out great, but then quickly veers way off course, and the decent final battle comes too late to save the film from mediocrity.
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If there is one thing to be learned from this movie, it's that you can't predict much about a film from the first ten minutes.
The opening of this movie is simply amazing. The team's epic fight to defeat Naraku easily ranks up there with the best action scenes I've seen in any of the other InuYasha episodes or movies. It's fast paced, intense, and, best of all, it heavily involves all five main characters (six if you count Sango's demon cat Kirara). But after that everything starts to decline. The team splits and goes their separate ways; Kanna and Kagura go off to resurrect Kaguya without any explanation of why, while the other characters slowly learn about Kaguya's existence through a series of disjointed discoveries that don't say enough about who Kaguya is and what her long term goals are. When they link back up at her castle, by random chance all arriving at the same time even though they started from different directions at different times, it's time for the final battle, and any chance for a coherent story goes out the window. The film still isn't bad overall; the great animation, music, fight scenes, and characters are enough to make this a decent way to spend 100 minutes. But the complete and utter lack of a driving story and character interaction puts this well below the quality of the first movie.
The first thing that sticks out is that most of the motives and actions of the main villains are either unexplained or simply make no sense. Why does Kanna want to revive Kaguya? How did she even know about her? No explanation is provided at all. Kagura is understandably jubilant that she finally has the freedom she's been seeking all this time. But then she goes to assist Kaguya after she is told it's the only way to achieve "true freedom." Why? Kagura isn't bound by Naraku anymore (at least as far as we know). She can go anywhere and do anything she wants. What is this "true freedom" she supposedly needs, and how could Kaguya provide it? Again no answer, but it's enough to get her going on a series of boring fetch quests to get items from the main characters, which in turn gets them started on their search for Kaguya. Really, the whole thing seems to be set in motion more for convenience than anything.
Meanwhile, we also have a subplot with Sago's younger brother Kohaku, which, while not entirely wasted, doesn't really feel necessary and doesn't change anything already established in the series. And there's an utterly pointless appearance by Kikyo. This movie's insistance on including so many characters even though they don't have important roles for all of them really doesn't help matters, though at least they had the decency not to condemn Sesshomaru to the same fate.
Even more problematic is the lack of interaction between InuYasha and his friends, mainly since this was the driving force behind the highest quality of the series. In this movie, they all split up after the first battle, and don't fully reunite until the last. Not counting the battles, the five main characters have roughly 5-10 minutes of a 100 minute movie in which they are all together at the same time. They are still good individually or in pairs, but they are at their best when they are together as the traditional adventuring party. Not having them all together at once when the film is supposed to be advancing the story and setting up the final duel was a major let down. Instead they all go off in separate directions, and through a convenient series of events just happen to arrive at Kaguya's castle at the same time. By then it's time for the final showdown, so there's no room for development and substantive character interaction from that point on.
The one thing InuYasha fans might be glad to see is a bit more development and progress between the two leads, InuYasha and Kagome, than is shown in a typical episode. It's great for all the I&K fans who have been waiting all this time for something significant between them, but it's not enough to make up for the lack of storyline involvement from everyone else.
The final major gripe I have with this movie is its title. I called the title of the first movie deceptive because the "Affections Touching across time" only applied to small part of the overall story. But here, the title "The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass" is just plain false advertising. There is a Castle beyond the looking glass, and the main characters have to go there, but there is nothing really important about it. It's just where Kaguya happens to be. Any large ornate structure could have served the same purpose. And it's not like they have to navigate a castle infested with traps and enemies, as one would expect. They just go there to fight Kaguya, end of story.
But, other than all that, I'd say this film is okay. As I said before, the opening battle sequence is simply outstanding. Really, it alone is good enough to make the entire movie worthwhile. The battle at the end is pretty good as well, though not quite on par with the first one. The animation is also excellent, though the environments in the film don't include a lot of interesting locations. It's really a shame we don't get to see more of the castle, since the room where the final showdown takes place looks pretty cool. As with all other InuYasha films, this one features the same excellent soundtrack as the TV series and all the original voice actors--always a plus. The film also introduces an amusing new character named Akitoki Hojo, an ancestor of Kagome's friend Hojo in modern times, who is good enough that he later shows up in the TV series for a few episodes.
While this isn't a bad movie by any means, it is a pretty big disappointment, especially compared to the first one and the TV series. It starts out great, but then quickly veers way off course, sending characters all over the place without any clear destination or purpose. By the time they get back together there isn't anything left to do but fight the bad guy and call it a day. While the final battle is fairly good, it's just too late to save the film from the depths of mediocrity.
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Similar to other anime shows that use the "Schoolgirl transported to fantasy world" theme, such as Fushigi Yuugi and Fire Tripper.
Notes and Trivia
Based on a popular manga series by Rumiko Takahashi, consisting of 56 volumes published between 1996 and 2008. From this series came a 167-episode TV series, four movies, nine video games (Four of which were released in the US), and, most recently, a sequel TV series consisting of 26 episodes to complete the story called "InuYasha: The Final Act." The subtitled version of that series is already available streamed in North America, and the dubbed version is scheduled for release some time this year.
This is the second of four films based on the InuYasha TV series. The movies were released after episodes 55, 95, 136, and 167 respectively.
US DVD Review
The The DVD (available alone or in a set with the other three movies) has Dolby 5.1 audio in both Japanese and English, anamorphic widescreen video, and an English subtitle track. Extras consist of Japanese InuYasha promos and some special InuYasha footage.
Ranks about a 13-up on account of action-movie violence and a bit of skin.
Violence: 2 - Moderate action-type violence.
Nudity: 1 - One bath scene
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - InuYasha and Kagome get bit more intimate this time, but not by much.
Language: 0 - Nothing of note.