Wow... first of all, I've never had the chance of seeing Inuyasha on
screen before, so I think that just added to the experience. So I'm
not to have too many stars in my eyes throughout this review, but yes,
enjoy the movie in itself that much. It was a beautiful adventure for
Inuyasha-tachi, complete with new friends and enemies, and a lot of
stuff up. Talk about starting off with a bang, and leaving few moments
quiet to breathe in between!!
This movie, in a way, felt like a throwback to a "land of the lost" type of story, with the characters being called to a land of legend from times past. So it felt a bit like "Inuyasha meets Atlantis." For what it's worth, however, it didn't feel as if the storyscape of Houraijima was a forced setting to the Inuyasha world. It's kind of hard to explain that, but somehow, I suppose because the series is already full of mythological creatures and strange happenings, it felt more natural for the characters to be on Houraijima than I might have expected.
The movie opens up with the six hanyou children staring up at what looks like the form of Kikyou. Then when the Guren appear on their backs, they realize that the attack on the island has begun again, and send little Ai out to the outside word. Then we switch to battle against the turtle-god Goura, and Inu-tachi rescuing the near-unconscious Ai after she's found exhasted and collapsed on the shore. Seeing Inuyasha in his red kimono, kneeled in the trees and searching after the scent of youkai, I just felt... well, so amazed. That's when I realized just how cinematic the movie was going to be.
This also brings me to Kaoru Wada's music. Throughout the whole movie, it was your usual Inuyasha fare, with a bit of a new flavoring to it that fits with the atmosphere of the movie. Man, have I MISSED hearing that Inuyasha theme playing amidst the action-packed sequences of battle. The main title theme goes back to the traditional "hanyou Inuyasha" style, quick and high-paced for the fight, with a bit of ancient-sounding flute accompaniment to once again add to the all-around Atlantis-like feel of the movie.
This battle brought Moment of Cuteness™ Number One, when Kagome is holding Ai, and Inuyasha flies up through the trees beside them. Ai recognizes Inuyasha and screams "INUYASHA-NII-CHAN!!", which prompted a good "Huh?" reaction out of Kagome. Once the battle was over, it was time to lay down the groundwork for the story. Here, Ai brings Moment of Cuteness™ Number Two, where she throws herself into Inuyasha's arms, and while the flustered dog hanyou tries to get her to let go, it gets a "WTF is going on?" reaction out of the rest of the cast. Of course, they're not about to let Ai's troubles go unheeded, so that night (while sitting 'round the campfire, no less), Inuyasha explained the legend of Houraijima.
"Once upon a time, there was a magical island where everyone was free and happy to live in peace and harmony..." was kind of how it played out. When Inuyasha and Kikyou had come to the island years before, they found that the Shitoushin had already laid seige to the island. That's where they met the six hanyou children for the first time, and also how Inuyasha received his Guren wound while fighting against Ryuura. For some reason, that battle played out quick, and I think it was also kinda weird seeing Inuyasha fight with his hands again, and not Tessaiga.
A few smores, a bit of an argument to get Inuyasha to show his back, and one osuwari later, Inuyasha-tachi see that the Guren wound on Inuyasha's back has reappeared. They book the next flight to Houraijima, and there they meet the other five hanyou children. Of course, they have to get past the welcoming committee, which consists of one very hotheaded Ryuura, and his two uber swords of ELEMENTAL POWAH!! He and Inuyasha have their opening spat, which is basically Tessaiga vs. Fujinga and Raijinga (that would be "Wind-blade Fang" and "Thunder-blade Fang"). And Inuyasha gets his ass fried. I think Kappei Yamaguchi probably lost a lung screaming the way he did in that scene.
INUYASHA: Fight? Hah! Let's see you fight my... REALLY POWERFUL SWORD!! RYUURA: Oh yeah?? Well let's see you fight my... TWO REALLY POWERFUL SWORDS!! INUYASHA: DAMN YOU!! DAMN YOU ALL!! The path through Houraijima to the hanyou village was painted to be filled with waterfalls, and dense jungle-like trees. And lots and lots of fireflies. The village itself is gives the impression of a "city in ancient ruins." Actually meeting the other hanyou children in the city was a bit sobering after all the fighting sequences, for some reason. That's where Inuyasha and the others walk in on Asagi singing the ancient song... which was really quite lovely. Not your typical "Rock-a-bye baby" lullabye.
Chichi wa iwareta ayakashi no te wa mamori no te, Haha wa iwareta hito no te aru wa hagukumi no tame, Ryou no te awase tobira o hiraki guren no naka ni nare o kaesu, Na ga kora o hikari to narite mamori tamae.
Father has said that the hand of youkai is the hand which protects, Mother has said that the hand of human is to nurture, Both hands join together and open the door to retun thee to the crimson, And ask thee to be the light that protects the children.
The children all have distinct personalities, some of which I could take or leave, but even saying that, somehow, they were written so that I actually did care about what happened to them. Asagi was probably the one who actually had the most presence throughout the story. Ai was always just really huggable and cute. The twin boys Roku and Dai were brats that I could take or leave at times, but they were still fun. Moegi and Shion were the two weakest of the children. Shion's timidness got on my nerves after a while, but even he had a way of making me care about what happened to him. After introductions and a brief "soo... now what's up with you guys?" explaination, Asagi realizes that she's being "called" by the magical powers of Houraisan (Mount Hourai)... and of couse Inuyasha and the others accompany her, to where they encounter THE RUMBLING KETTLE!! Er, rather, the meidou no kama.
Meanwhile... Sesshoumaru has also sensed strange things happening.
I was a bit confused at how Sesshoumaru had really gotten himself involved with Houraijima. Apparently in the past, he's approached by two youkai who had been Inu-papa's followers (named Kujaku and Seiten), and asked to help protect Houraijima and fight against the Shitoushin. At first he turned them away in his typical "As if I should help insignificant peons like you!" manner. Then when Kujaku and Seiten get into battle with Kyoura, Sesshoumaru kinda saunters in (fashionably late, no less), starts fighting, and gets himself a Guren of his very own!! In a way, his appearances and fights seemed a bit forced (to appease Sesshoumaru fans, in other words), but despite all that, HE LOOKED AWESOME. Unfortunately because his appearance is already sort of weak, Jaken and Rin's appearances are your usual "we're just here just because Sesshoumaru is" fare.
Meanwhile... Kikyou has also sensed Houraijima's reappearance.
Kikyou's involvement with Houraijima makes sense, because of the past she and Inuyasha had on the island, but to be honest, her actual scenes seemed a bit weak. Anyhow. Years before, when she and Inuyasha had visited Houraijima, the Shitoushin managed to get some of her blood. And now, they use it to create... BATTLE ARMOR KIKYOU!! WOOHOO!! Battle Armor Kikyou seemed to have more presence in the movie than the real Kikyou did, actually... Not only that, she appears nude (covered up by strategically placed hair and camera angles). Either way, because of what's going on with the island and the surrounding area, Kikyou goes to investigate.
Back in the cavern with the meidou no kama... I was getting a bit confused. Asagi and Inuyasha get caught up into the kama and get pulled into some sort of Fiery Pit of DooOoOoOooom™!! Lucky for them, they somehow survive being pummeled through what looked like an abyss that Anyone Other Than the Main Characters of the Movie would have been killed in. ;) That's where we get an explaination of the Shitoushin and how they attacked Houraijima years ago, the powers that protect the island, and all the wonderful bedtime stories that, honestly, I wish I could remember and explain in greater detail. Here we learn about the Shitoushin using the powers of hanyou children in order to regenerate their own strength. This is also where Inuyasha and Asagi find the spirit of Kanade, and she gives them the sealed box where she'd sealed away the Shitoushin's power.
KANADE: It's not chocolate, mind you. So no opening that until Christmas, you hear? INUYASHA: WOOHOO! Christmas is in two days! KANADE: ....
Outside, Kagome and company are trying to open up the now-closed door of the meidou no kama, using the riddles written on inscriptions along the walls, and the words of the ancient song to help them out. (I think this is where the parody of the Ayashi to Matsuri no Houraijima CD came into play...) That brought a few funny sequences. It also brought more action when Forces of Evil!!™ try to thwart their progress. Things like, evil poison cockroaches and stuff!! I missed the explaination of where the roaches actually came from, so I'm not sure if they were just Attack Roaches meant to guard the meidou no kama from intruders, or actually sent in by the Shitoushin or something.
But in the end... how do Inuyasha and Asagi manage to fight their way out of the kama? First Kagome and the others and the hanyou kids manage to open the sealed door, but then... oh, I can't resist talking about this. Heehee. Inuyasha whips out Tessaiga and gives the door one hugeass blast... WITH KONGOUSOUHA!! I just about hit the floor when I saw they put Kongousouha in the movie. Me, being the "OMG, I get to hear Kappei scream KONGOU....! SOU HAAAAAA!!!!! in Dolby Theater Surround Sound!!" person I am, yes, I was one very happy Inuyasha fan at that point. :P
After that, we meet BATTLE ARMOR KIKYOU!! She comes swinging in, all Tarzanlike and snatches the Shitoushin's box away from Inuyasha, which prompted him to chase her, which prompted a "He's a two-timer, isn't he?" from Roku and Dai. That kinda made me blink, since I couldn't think of how the boys would know about Inuyasha, Kagome, and Kikyou. Then I remembered that they probably remembered that he'd been with Kikyou from before, and seeing that he was with Kagome now... uh... yeah, well, that's the best I could figure. Just a nitpick, in any event. Both times I saw the movie, the audience really seemed to love this part, where Kagome goes into Pissed-Off Kagome Mode, gives the twins the Evil Eye and storms off, scaring everyone. Following that, Battle Armor Kikyou brings the box back to the Shitoushin, opens it, and returns the powers back to the four gods, which naturally spells even more trouble for everyone.
So then this begins to build to the climactic battles. To make the Guren wounds dissappear, they have to defeat the Shitoushin. Each defeat means one of the four marks goes away.
So! In ring number one, it's Sesshoumaru vs. Kyoura!! In ring number two, it's Juura/Goura vs. Miroku/Sango!! And with an exciting double-round battle, it's Inuyasha vs. Battle Armor Kikyou, followed by Inuyasha vs. Ryuura!! WOOHOO!! Go, team, go!! Of course, things don't end so simply, after all! Even though the individual gods are defeated, one mark remains. Which means...
Once those battles are done, the four gods combine into one Uberboss, and we get Inuyaha and Kagome (with a little cheering on by everyone else, naturally) versus the ALMIGHTY THREE-HEADED COMBINATION RYUU-KYOU-GOU-JUU-RAAAHHH THING!! And this is where the big moment of Inuyasha-Kagomeness happens. Protected and guided by the fireflies, which are the spirits of those who had passed away on the island long before, they combine their powers to create an uberattack that looked downright beautiful, but I have NO idea what the hell it really was. I swear it sounded like Inuyasha started to scream "Kongousouha!" but then finished with "Bakuryuuha!" And then it turned into this crystalized attack wave of massive pwnage. Kongoubakuryuuha, perhaps? I'll have to watch the movie when it comes out on DVD to be sure...
(Addendum, June 2005 - Yes, after having seen the movie several more times, I'm quite sure that it was indeed a "Kongou-bakuryuuha." :P)
So then comes the part that kind of made me laugh, despite myself. After the defeat of the Shitoushin, Inuyasha and the others take the six hanyou children from the island, and it fades away again, not to appear for many more years to come. Shion looks up at the fading island and bids the spirits of his family farewell. And then the camera pans back as Inuyasha gives him a little encouraging "Let's go!" to the obligatory And It All Ended Happily!! shot of the happy cast as they end this day's adventure.
And then comes "Rakuen" and the credits. I've totally fallen in love with the ending theme song. And unlike "Four Seasons," "Rakuen" actually seems to fit in very well with the movie. As is tradition with the Inuyasha movies, the end credits roll with some stills of the gang. So far, I think the images of Guren no Houraijima have been my favorite. Jaken riding (and crashing) Kagomes' bike was cute, as was the following Inu/Kagome bickerment. The ending "angst" shots of the entire cast were also lovely. When the cast gets angsty, they sure look gorgeous doing it. Sesshoumaru and Kikyou in particular.
So what is my final impression of the movie? Yes, I really loved seeing it. Again, it's one of those things where I actually don't think I like it more or less than the others. Tenka Hadou no Ken's Takemaru is probably still my favorite as far as the enemies go. I did like the hanyou children and the way Inu-ikkou interacted with them, Inuyasha in particular. The Shitoushin had distinct personalities but still fell into the realm of "past enemies a bit reincarnated." Ryuura was Bankotsu, Kyoura was Abihime (er... despite the fact Kyoura is a guy), Jyuura was Renkotsu. In that sense, they were a bit weak, but I definitely enjoyed seeing the four of them get the snot pounded out of them. Where Guren no Houraijima really shines is, naturally, its visual beauty, and it's become my favorite in regards to the sheer amount of action and adventure, which I thoroghly enjoyed. The fact that the movie was absolutely beautiful in terms of animation, and its wonderful mythical setting on the island added to that.
I walked away feeling very satisfied and, most of all, feeling downright happy that I'd "joined the cast" on their adventures again. I don't think I realized how much I missed the anime until I saw Guren no Houraijima... so in that sense, it was just wonderful hearing their voices, listening to the music, and just seeing familiar characters brought back to life all over again.
That's probably one of the biggest reasons I just couldn't stop smiling after the movie was over. I'm glad that the Inuyasha series is still brought to life like this, and I can only hope that the success of this movie means more in the future!!