InuYasha Movie 3 Anime Review
Eiga Inuyasha: Tenka Hadou no Ken
Movie Inuyasha: Swords of Peerless Military Rule
US Release By
InuYasha and Sesshomaru: Two half brothers bound by the same demon blood, but virtually nothing else, they seem destined to live as eternal rivals fighting an endless duel with the swords they inherited from their father, the Tetsuseiga and Tenseiga. However, it turns out this is not the full story, as InuYasha has learned his father possessed a third sword, the Sounga, a weapon so evil and terrifying that he did not feel he could entrust it to either one of them. Following the death of the great dog demon, his faithful friends Myoga and Totosai agreed the Sounga must be sealed away forever. But after hundreds of years, the seal has weakened, and Sounga has broken free, seeking out a new wielder to lead an army of the dead on a campaign of conquest and genocide. The only hope for defeating the Sounga is for InuYasha and Sesshomaru to join forces and combine the power of their respective swords against this new menace. But the bitter hatred between the two of them will not be so easily resolved, and getting them to work together seems nearly impossible, even with the fate everything they care about on the line.
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Swords of an Honorable Ruler is a clear improvement over the last movie, but that's not saying a whole lot. It's great to finally see an InuYasha film that is intimately tied to the series, has an accurate title, and has Sesshomaru in a prominent role--definitely the one to see for Sesshomaru fans. Unfortunately, the lack of relevance of InuYasha's teammates, simplistic goals for the main character, and a piece of steel as a main villain drags it down quite a bit. It certainly looks good, though--extravagant backgrounds, creative locales, and excellent animation. It also has the whole voice acting team from the TV series, and the same wonderful InuYasha battle music.
For all the flaws, it's still a good movie overall, but those who don't consider InuYasha or Sesshomaru to be the best characters of series will probably finish this film feeling legitimately short-changed.
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The third film in the InuYasha series brings a few new concepts that were sorely lacking in the previous two. First of all, the title of this movie is accurate! The "Swords of an Honorable Ruler" actually have a major role in the story. It's kind of pathetic that this is something that needs to be highlighted, but after two movies with titles that had little or nothing to do with what the story was really about, it's nice to finally finish an InuYasha film without feeling deceived.
More importantly, this is the first movie that truly felt connected to the TV series. It relies heavily on prior events and delves deep into the troubled relationships of InuYasha's family. Better yet, it expands on this by showing the events surrounding InuYasha's birth and the reason behind Sesshomaru's hatred of humans and half-demons. We get the first actual image of InuYasha's father when he was alive, some great shots of InuYasha from his younger days, as well as some depictions of the difficulty of fitting in in a human world that for the most part rejects him. It wasn't quite as good as I would have liked; things like the reason for Sesshomaru's affection for Rin and the reason he allows her to travel with him are not dealt with at all. Still, it felt great to finally conclude an InuYasha film with the feeling that I actually learned something new, rather than just watching the completion of an unnecessary side-quest.
But most of all, this is a movie for all the Sesshomaru fans out there. Sesshomaru and his minions had only a minor cameo in the first film, and no appearance at all in the second, but in this one he really gets to take charge, with a role just as important as InuYasha himself, if not more so. His traveling companions Rin and Jaken also have pretty strong roles as well, with their contrasting styles and personalities setting up some good comedy.
The other strong points of the movie are pretty much the same as the first two. Once again we've got the whole voice acting team from the series, the same wonderful InuYasha battle music, and the animation is excellent. I'd say it's better than the previous two movies, mainly because it shows off a lot more settings. As usual there is some imagery of Kagome's modern world to offset the Feudal era, but this time we also get to see different time periods in InuYasha's realm, some hundreds of years apart.
There are also some great interior and exterior castle shots, both in the flashbacks and current time frame. The castles are extravagantly detailed, inhabited by a diverse populace (I was able to identify certain troop types based on my limited knowledge of the actual time period) and go through a lot of transition as they suffer battle damage and catch fire. Ironically, the castle settings in this movie are a lot more impressive than they were in the previous one, called "Castle Beyond the Looking Glass." Again, kind of pathetic that a movie with a castle in its title fails to deliver in that regard as effectively as one that doesn't, but that's another story.
Still the movie is beset by a host of problems, the biggest being the main villain. That can be summed up in one sentence: It's a freaking sword! I mean really, that's it, just a sword. Sure it's a super evil sword with the powers to tear open the gates of hell, raise the dead, and possess its wielder, but that doesn't change the fact that it's nothing but a hunk of metal. I'm not saying cursed weapons and items aren't appealing. After all, we know how cool the One Ring was. But how lame would it have been if the ring had been the master and Sauron the servant? When you think about it that way, it doesn't work out so well. I mean really, what are Sounga's motives? To take over the world? Why would a sword care about things of material, personal, or societal gain? Basically the Sounga ends up as another stock villain of convenience whose sole purpose is to do bad things because the plot requires it.
Even more disappointing is the lack of involvement from InuYasha's teammates. For the second film in a row, there are hardly any points in the movie where all five main characters are teamed up at the same time. To see it happen once was frustrating, but to go through it again was downright infuriating. Is it really so hard understand that the chemistry between the main characters works best when they are all together? But even worse, InuYasha's friends don't really have any impact on the story. Their only purpose seems to be occasionally helping InuYasha kill things, and even in that regard they leave a lot to be desired, especially in the final battle with Sounga, where they spent the entire time cowering behind a protective barrier as InuYasha and Sesshomaru do all the heavy lifting.
Now, the creators might say, in their defense, that it was because they wanted to focus more on Sesshomaru, and since InuYasha is the only one with his name in the title, they are under no obligation to give everyone from the series an important part in the film. That might be acceptable if they just left a few of the characters out, but not for including them but not having them do anything significant. This is an all-too common problem in anime films that are part of a major franchise: The insistence on including all of the established main characters even when there isn't enough room for them to be particularly relevant to the story at hand. It does the characters a great disservice to reduce them to insignificant support roles when they were previously established as key elements of the overal franchise story, and clearly in this case they would have been better off sitting this one out than just pointlessly tagging along.
The final flaw is that the goals for the main characters are a bit too straightforward and linear. Basically, it comes down to finding the castle containing Sounga and killing him (or it), and it turns out getting there doesn't take a whole lot of effort. Also, some parts of the story are contradictory, such as a scene where Miroku discovers he can't use his wind tunnel on the undead warriors raised by Sounga because they are full of poison... until later in the film where he sucks up a whole legion of them with said wind tunnel. Supposedly this is an act of noble self sacrifice for his friends under dire circumstance, but all it does is give him a few minutes of discomfort. Not exactly what I'd call giving your all for the sake of the team.
Swords of an Honorable Ruler is a clear improvement over the last movie, but that's not saying a whole lot. It's still a bit short of what one should expect from a movie that's part of such a powerhouse franchise. It's great to finally see an InuYasha film that is intimately tied to the series, has an accurate title, and has Sesshomaru in a prominent role, but the lack of relevance of InuYasha's teammates, simplistic goals for the main character, and a piece of steel as a main villain drags it down quite a bit. Still a good movie overall, but those who don't consider InuYasha or Sesshomaru to be the best characters of series will probably finish this film feeling legitimately short-changed.
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Fushigi Yugi and Fire Tripper join this franchise in the "School girls transported to alternate worlds" category.
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 third of four movies in the series, released after episode 136 of the TV series. The others were released after episodes 54, 95, and the finale, respectively
US DVD Review
The DVD (available alone or in a set with the other three movies) lists Japanese and English audio, anamorphic widescreen video, an English subtitle track, and a line-art gallery.
Qualifies for about the 13-up range on account of the expected level of non-graphic action-movie violence.
Violence: 2 - Moderate action-movie violence.
Nudity: 0 - Nothing.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Nada.
Language: 1 - Mildly off-color language.