Tag Archives: Rumiko Takahashi

You Can (Not) Watch Inuyasha

Now, thanks to some dedicated viewing, no one can say I haven’t watched every single episode of Inuyasha. And, as a result, I’ve determined I’ve wasted my life.

I think 200 episodes of an anime does that to you.

Let’s start at the beginning: Inuyasha is an anime that first premiered in the US on Adult Swim in August of 2002. At the time, I was a college student, not quite drinking age, and, oh yeah, a gigantic nerd. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block had started a year earlier, and with it came Cowboy Bebop, not only one of the best animes ever made, but possibly one of the greatest series ever released in any format (the absolute greatest being, obviously, Fish Police). On the buzz of Cowboy Bebop alone, I’m pretty sure I dutifully watched all Adult Swim anime through the next five years, expecting that, logically, another series must come down the pike that is at least half as good as Cowboy Bebop. That…. Never happened. But back in 2002 I didn’t know that, and Inuyasha looked like a contender. It’s got time travel! And demons! And it’s from the Ranma ½ author! This is gonna be great!

Inuyasha wasn’t great. Inuyasha was for babies.

I also ate it up with a spoon.

Actually, let’s go back to Ranma ½ for a moment. Ranma ½ was author Rumiko Takahashi’s previous manga that was adapted into an anime. It was an often hilarious story about a boy and a girl and the boy occasionally becomes a girl when splashed with water. It was a great little series, but it was nearly impossible to watch in America, because it wasn’t premiering on any television networks, and the age of the VHS was not kind to any bit of media longer than two hours. If you were lucky, one of your friends (the one with an unkempt beard, obviously) had some bootleg VHS tapes of the sub that he totally scored at one of those “con” things (or maybe on IRC). Otherwise, you were never going to see poor Ranma, and the best you could hope for would be a confusing SNES game or maybe some online discussion about what clearly must be the best anime ever.

BARFAnd this was the bizarre world of the late 20th Century. Anime wasn’t kept overseas because companies (likely correctly) believed that there was no profit to be had in importing “Japanimation”, anime was unattainable because it was too adult for our stupid American minds. We got Sailor Moon, but did you know that the original Japanese version was gay as hell? Zoisite is a woman, and those “cousins” are a little bit closer than you’d expect. And Dragon Ball Z! I heard from a friend of a friend that Vegeta and Nappa totally kill people in the original! And Goku gets all bloody, too! And… and… and can you just imagine what those shows we didn’t get look like? Ranma ½ is totally about trans culture! We stupid, prudish gaijin wouldn’t understand!

But, having watched Ranma ½ as an adult years after the fact, I’m forced to admit that the series is merely “good”. It’s hilarious, fun, and occasionally really pretty, but it’s nothing revolutionary. The whole “transformation” thing is treated like a burden by absolutely everyone afflicted (whether they transform into a woman or a piggy) and the majority of the action is focused on the madcap hijinks and how every third man and woman on the planet is inexplicably attracted to Ranma. Aside from some vaguely homosexual notions (is it “gay” if a boy is attracted to a boy that happens to currently be a girl?) there is absolutely nothing earth shattering about Ranma ½, and it’s just… good. Ranma wants to be the best martial artist he can be, and Akane is his obvious match that just happens to have the ability to embarrass him at a moment’s notice with a splash. Story as old as time.

BARKInuyasha is basically the same setup: you’ve got the powerful man (half demon) who can kill anyone in the world with his magically powerful sword, and you’ve got the woman that he obviously loves, who incidentally has the power to bring him to heel instantly (“sit, boy”). And then it takes Ranma ½’s knack for creating a strong supporting cast, and transforms it into a JRPG. We’ve got a big bad that literally craps out clones with random and interesting-to-fight powers, and a party of support staff that is useful for monster identification, exorcisms, and the occasional gigantic spinning top. Throw in a saber tooth kitten that doubles as an airship, and you’ve got Final Inuyasha VII in a nutshell. It’s pretty typical shonen stuff, and the fact that it stars a girl just starting junior high should give you a tipoff to the intended audience.

But Inuyasha did not headline a children’s channel here in America, it was the latest from the very mature Adult Swim. You know, the network with that guy from Fiddler on the Roof complaining about his nipples? Totally mature. And this coupled wonderfully with Inuyasha’s completely insane pacing issues. Inuyasha is definitely an ensemble piece, but its first consistent supporting cast member is not introduced until episode 9. After the tiniest bit of teasing, the villain of the piece eventually arrives during episode 16. For a show that is airing an episode a week, that means approximately four months before the main conflict of the series appears. Four months! In that same amount of time, I’m pretty sure our esteemed president started seventeen nuclear wars! And you could easily make the argument that Inuyasha’s cast isn’t complete until the introduction of the Robin to Sesshōmaru’s Batman, Rin, who appears somewhere around episode 35. By that time, the series had already repeated about six trillion times, and we desperate viewers were convinced those Saiyans were never going to get off Namek! It was infuriating!

And, for some reason, I thought that was the most adult thing of all.

MrowWhen I was growing up, soap operas were derided as lowbrow claptrap. Granted, no one exactly talked about “daytime soaps” in the same way modern man derides anything involving the Kardashians, but it seemed to be constant undercurrent in our other media. I can’t tell you how many times I saw the gag of someone stays home from work or school for a few days, they get dependent on some fictional soap opera, and then everyone has a good laugh about this character’s new, fresh failure of an addiction. Liking soaps is so lame! And, around this same time, serialization was just starting to creep into “normal” media. Star Trek The Next Generation generally forgot its definition of gods, universes, and time travel from week to week, but Star Trek Deep Space Nine was lauded for carrying a cast of characters forward with deliberate callbacks and gradually accumulating motivations. HBO made a killing with The Sopranos, and it was based on intricate storytelling and some poor intern who had to remember which characters were dead at any given moment. And, from my own limited recall of the past, I feel like the first series I ever watched that really cared about continuity was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the very mature story of a teenage girl jumpkicking vampires until everyone had feelings about everything. Mature storytelling isn’t just ongoing soap opera mush, it’s the elaborate weaving of a million threads that explain why Xander just made a fart joke (it’s because of daddy issues).

Naturally, this lead me to believe Inuyasha’s glacial pace was some apex of sophistication and art. Despite the fact that basically everything you would ever need to know about the series happens in the first two episodes (Inuyasha and Kogome secretly love each other, the cast will be happy forever after we kill every last monster in feudal Japan), I kept watching Inuyasha for… something? I guess I thought they’d eventually reassemble the sacred jewel and then… I don’t know… go to the beach? Or start a new, more interesting plot that wasn’t just Adventure Story #1 (collect all the shiny things)? I don’t even know what I wanted from Inuyasha, I just wanted to see that story move forward and… end. Hey, maybe I didn’t enjoy the show at all! Maybe I just wanted to check off another box on the ol’ “list of shows I done watched”. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Inuyasha consists of 167 initial episodes, and an additional 26 that were produced three years later. With weekly viewings, that all adds up to too damn long to spend on any one piece of media. I moved on. … Or I just let my cable subscription lapse.

What?But, because I am a completionist at heart, I decided to take another stab at it. I decided that I’d watch Inuyasha from start to finish, and see how it all really ends. For anyone curious, here are the bullet points for how Inuyasha’s overarching plot:

  • Kagome travels back in time, and encounters Inuyasha, a half-demon dog that was formerly smitten by Kikyō, who was reincarnated as Kagome.
  • They fall in love and form a kinky dom/sub relationship immediately.
  • Inuyasha picks up a magical sword, which is coveted by his brother, Sesshōmaru, who incidentally has his own magical sword that can freaking raise the dead (but is only used, like, once).
  • Kagome and Inuyasha gain three allies: Sango the demon huntress, Miroku the lecherous monk, and Shippō the walking stuffed animal. They are additionally joined by an unevolved litten, and the occasional fleaman.
  • Kikyō is revived, and, drama bomb, Inuyasha has an undead ex wandering around.
  • Naraku eventually shows up. He’s basically Kikyō’s jealous “nice guy” ex, except he possesses the ability to absolutely never die.
  • Nothing happens for 130 episodes.
  • Inuyasha’s sword turns into a dragon (?) that can puke Hell (?).
  • Naraku, the villain who will not die, dies.
  • Kagome gets a new school uniform.

MROWAnd that’s a ball game, folks. About 20 episodes of actual content, rising action, and consequences, followed by roughly 150 episodes of everyone standing around saying, “I really want to kill that one guy, but hoooow?” I’m going to lie and claim that I don’t mind “filler” episodes, but only when they’re actually entertaining. Your average filler Inuyasha slots into three categories:

  1. A random demon/furry is causing trouble, time to kill it
  2. A random demon is causing trouble, but it is disguised as someone that needs help. It takes a couple episodes for the gang to notice Team Rocket at it again.
  3. The We Hate Naraku Support Group sits around and shares stories about why they hates that varmint so much.

And that’s it! I’m pretty sure Naruto at least had ninja in its filler episodes, here you’re lucky if you go a whole three episodes without exploring an eight year old’s love life. Against all odds, the most interesting episodes wind up being the ones where Kagome visits her home time period and Inuyasha has to fight a bicycle. It’s absurd, it’s ridiculous, and it forsakes the entire premise of the series, but it’s actually entertaining. This might be the one anime in history that makes “the school festival” remotely interesting (step it up, Persona). It might not actually involve a single demon, but Kagome’s beleaguered friends attempting to interpret her ludicrous love life (which involves a dog man and a wolf man) is always a good time. And it only happens about ten times over 200 episodes. Inuyasha is … let me get out that calculator… crunch a few numbers… 0% good!

SpookyBut I’m not writing this article because I want to attack Inuyasha (lie), I’m writing this because I want to warn others. Let me be your canary, and listen to my last gasps of air. Don’t watch anime! Wait… no, that isn’t right, let me try again… Don’t watch anime that is hundreds of episodes long! It’s not worth it! Stories do not work like that! You’re just going to start logging every damn time Miroku can’t use his wind tunnel because of “Naraku’s poisonous insects” (91 times), and you’ll wish for death by the third season. Don’t confuse length for maturity! Don’t watch something just to say you watched it! Whatever ending you imagined, it’s better! I guarantee it! Don’t waste your life like me!

Anyway, article over, I gotta get started on Yu-Gi-Oh now.

FGC #210 Time Gal

Let's go surfing nowIt’s not unusual for two games to have the same general plot. Mario and Link both rescue princesses. Kratos and C.J. both have problems with authority. Mega Man and Sonic both have doctor issues. But even when there are similarities between game plots, we’re still talking about videogames, which means you can have drastically different gameplay. Mario and Link are never going to be mistaken for each other, even if they both look a little chubby in their debut appearances. At this point, there are more gameplay styles under the sun than there ever have been, but even back in the day, Mega Man and Sonic starred in very different adventures, despite both being “2-D run and jump” heroes.

However, back in the distant past of the 80’s, there were LaserDisc games. Laserdisc games were “playable cartoons” that were always the same. And, yes, I mean they were “the same” as in they all played the same and the games were always the same every time you played ‘em. The appeal was that you were controlling a “playable cartoon”, but in practice, it was like watching a TV show, but every ten seconds, you had to press the right button, or the show ended (I think they actually tried that with the Dragon’s Lair cartoon series).

But there certainly was appeal to the LaserDiscs. If you could tolerate what passed for gameplay in these games, you were treated to some of the best animation and storytelling available to gaming at the time. This was the age of Final Fantasy starring four anonymous randos that lived in fear of being knocked down, the mere concept of “a playable movie” was charm enough to gobble up enough quarters to keep even Gamblor happy. These games might have all played the same, but, technically, every cartoon on Nickelodeon “plays” the same, and nobody is confusing Spongebob for Invader Zim.

Though it does seem a bit odd that, of the limited number of LaserDisc-style games that were released, three of them featured the exact same plot.

WeeeeeDragon’s Lair 2: Time Warp seems like the most popular example here. As you can guess from the name, the first and only sequel to Dragon’s Lair (the Bluth animated game that practically invented the LaserDisc genre) features Dirk the Daring traveling through time to rescue his beloved Daphne. Time travel is the main hook here, as the original Dragon’s Lair was just an adventure through a musty old castle, and we do hit a few epochs that aren’t usually popular, like the Renaissance and… Wonderland? We hit “Prehistoric” and “The Garden of Eden”? That seems… incongruous. No matter, what we have here is a hero diving through time to rescue his best gal from some random jerkass, and the time travel is an easy excuse for eclectic scenes and locales. You’re not going to fight a dinosaur any other way!

Released the same year is Hologram Time Traveler. I’ve discussed this game at length before, but to reiterate for anyone that can’t remember every precious word I’ve ever committed to pixels, Hologram Time Traveler is the story of… a hero traveling through time to save a woman. Oh… kay. The game uses the time portals as an excuse to visit famous epochs like prehistoric and medieval times, and there are a few levels that are less “time travel” and more “magical fantasy land”. This sound familiar? Hologram Time Traveler is technically a longer game than Dragon’s Lair 2, but the levels seem much shorter. Also, it’s all digitized live action (as opposed to gorgeous animation), so I hope you like watching some doof run around in a cowboy hat. Oddly, both games feature female leads that seem to exist exclusively for their sex appeal. Alright, that’s not odd at all, but it was at least uncommon in gaming back in 1991.

Or maybe I’m completely wrong about that.

Time Gal is our featured game today, and it first came stateside in 1993. This does not mean the game was actually created two years after the previous two LaserDisc time traveling adventures. No, Time Gal was released in Japanese arcades back in 1985, making Time Gal’s adventure roughly concurrent with Dragon’s Lair (1). We just never saw it stateside, because dubs are expensive, and PokéAkira hadn’t made anime cool yet. Heck, it’s probably a small wonder we got the Sega CD version at all, but I suppose that system needed all the Full Motion Video CD games it could get, because Kriss Kross could only be responsible for so many titles.

But don’t think that just because Time Gal was the first time traveling LaserDisc game that it’s completely original. Time Gal herself, featured here:

Looks a biiiit like Lum Invader, the star of Rumiko Takahashi’s Urusei Yatsura, a series that started in the 70’s.

But I’m sure it’s a coincidence that Time Gal bears a smidge of similarity to Japan’s Jessica Rabbit. Sure.

Time Gal is a pretty fun time (ha!) if you can ignore the obvious plagiarism, though. The whole game is elegantly animated by Toei, and it features that astonishing 80’s anime style (aka before the industry discovered the joy of animating panties… well, animating panties all the time, at least). Reika, the titular Time Gal, is clearly meant to be “sexy” in her bikini bottoms and vest, but 90% of her death animations (and it’s a LaserDisc game, you’re gonna see a lot of death animations) feature the heroine shrinking down to endearing chibi size. I realize that a modern day Time Gal would revel in figuratively and literally stripping the heroine, but the “cutesy” deaths of Time Gal… well… you might have just lost a quarter, but at least it was adorable.

WAGGLEAnd, ultimately, that’s the appeal of all these time travel-based LaserDisc games. They’re creative and fun, and, while they’re fleecing your coin collection right out of your pockets, at least they’re doing it in an entertaining way. In Final Fight or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you lost because you sucked, and the game mocked and goaded you with a countdown timer and the promise of a dead hero that is all your fault. Time Gal and its brethren (sistren?) lived or died by their entertaining death animations that made you still enjoy every mistake. I’m glad all these LaserDisc games eventually got ported to the home consoles, because watching a “blooper reel” of Reika’s every death is practically more fun than playing the game itself (and that would be very expensive a quarter at a time).

But that doesn’t make Time Gal any less of a clone.

Yes, I suppose Time Gal started the “time traveling LaserDisc game” trend a decade before everybody else, but it came stateside two years late to the party, when we had already battled prehistory with Dirk and… whatever the dude from Hologram Time Traveler is named. Probably Steve. Time Gal just looked like that Dragon’s Lair 2 clone with the girl from that one anime in it. And, let’s be realistic here, “anime games” might have flourished on the Sega CD (see also: Lunar, Popful Mail), but “Sega CD owners that also liked anime and wanted more LaserDisc animated games” had to be a subset of a subset of people that probably numbered into the lower teens. DUCKReika is only known as “that girl in the bikini from a lot of Gamepro ads” to anyone that could ever recall the game.

But Time Gal did deserve better. Time Gal deserved a sequel… or at least a US Playstation version. Time Gal was published by Taito, so I guess it’s owned by Square Enix now, but I don’t think Reika is going to be guesting in Dissidia anytime soon. Yes, the whole game is a relic of a forgotten epoch, but someone decided to try to revive Brave Fencer Musashi at some point, so shouldn’t Time Gal get a chance?

She was good enough to copy for a couple of other really similar LaserDisc games. I’m sure there’s some place she could fit in today.

FGC #210 Time Gal

  • System: Sega CD and Arcade. Given the state of Sega CD games nowadays, good luck enjoying either option.
  • Number of players: Reika must save the whole of human existence alone, without pants.
  • OUCHFavorite Epoch: Time Gal has a number of “future” levels, but my favorite is the one that’s a year before the finale, and is basically a quick pastiche of Alien. Anime Alien is something I’m sure has been done elsewhere, but Reika sucks the creatures out the airlock with aplomb.
  • Modern Times: The “current” time period from the game (1991 AD!) looks like some variation on a Middle Eastern Warzone. The next time period, the far future of 2001, appears to be, basically, Mad Max. Were the designers of Time Gal just that pessimistic?
  • Did you know? Okay, so there is a little “fan service”. The original Japanese cut of Time Gal featured a few “deaths” where Reika’s top got shredded. She was always facing away from the camera, and it was always played for laughs, but there was that promise that the mostly naked heroine was getting slightly more naked. This was, naturally, cut from the American release, as we are a shining bastion of purity in all media.
  • Would I play again: I might watch a youtube run of the game again. In the meanwhile, though, I hope to not touch another LaserDisc game for a while.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Smash Bros Fo(u)r the Nintendo 3DS! Biggest roster, smallest screen. Please look forward to it!

WINNER