Inuyasha Movie 2: The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass
For the backstory of the franchise, please refer to the review of the Inuyasha TV series.
After a climactic battle with the demonic nemesis Naraku, Inuyasha and the gang must contend with a new threat - the unsealing of Princess Kaguya. Unfortunately, Kaguya is nowhere near as innocuous as told in the myths of Kagome's textbooks, for she aims to do the unthinkable - end the flow of time and leave the world in an eternal stasis.
I've not been entirely impressed by the majority of Takahashi-derived features. The Ranma 1/2 movies simply didn't tap into the potential of the characters (especially the cheesecakey second movie that is little more than Ranma 1/2: The Swimsuit Edition). The Urusei Yatsura movies were hit-and-miss, some excellent, some pedestrian. On top of that, we've had several movies and OAVs dealing with the Princess Kaguya legend, and while the Sailor Moon S movie dealing with Kaguya is highly rated here, most anime dealing with that legend end up closer to Denshin Mamotte Shugogetten in quality - cliched and unwatchable.
So now we have the second Inuyasha film, a Takahashi-derived feature dealing with the Princess Kaguya legend, which by all rights should be unimpressive, cliched, and unwatchable. Thankfully, in an interesting case of reversal, it's actually pretty good.
I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of the actual television series. After all, many of the characters seem fairly archetypal, mixing aspects of older Takahashi works and never feeling entirely new. The whole Inuyasha - Kagome relationship is extremely reminiscent of both Ataru - Lum and Ranma- Akane. There's really nothing new under the sun here, so the best way to judge it is by execution.
My biggest complaints with the series (three words: filler, filler, and filler) won't be found here at all. This movie flows extremely well, going from fight scene to exposition to fight scene to flashback smoothly. Normally, series movies tend to have trouble with pacing as a result of substandard writing, but that's not a problem here. In fact, this movie actually has *all* the characters getting involved in a fight, rather than just watching Inuyasha. Finally, support characters actually supporting the main fighter - what a concept!
The inclusion of humor, rather than being jarring and causing problems like in the series, is often quite welcome in this feature. Several scenes with Miroku's tanuki lackey Hachi are pleasantly goofy, though Miroku's own antics often feel more embarrassing than hilarious. Also, Kagome runs into the carbon-copy ancestor of one of her classmates, which is an absolute riot in its own terms. (Bonus points for the Urusei Yatsura in-joke.)
The animation is absolutely gorgeous - while the character designs are relatively simple (this *is* Takahashi we're talking about here), the action sequences and CG effects are impressive. Certainly the Inuyasha movies have benefited immensely from being the only Takahashi theatrical features to incorporate CG. While not quite to the level of a Ghibli movie, I can see absolutely nothing to complain about as far as the visuals are concerned. The audio is also well-done, though nothing particularly exceptional comes to mind.
Primarily, though, this show is going to live or die by the strength of its characters and plot, good OR bad. While the heroes are engaging enough, it was very interesting watching the antagonists undergo the whole "collect-the-items-quest" role usually relegated to the heroes. Kaguya herself is pretty one-dimensional, but still reasonably intimidating...and several nemeses of the Inuyasha gang also make some very memorable appearances which will delight fans of the series and even entertain those less versed in this show's history. If there is going to be anything to complain about with this movie, it's going to be its extreme predictability - Several members of the audience (myself included) predicted the outcome of several key scenes of the movie ahead of time, and while the ending was an interesting twist, the overall ride is just a scooch too familiar for this movie to be considered one of the best out there.
While newcomers to the Inuyasha universe would be best served watching the TV series first, Castle Beyond the Looking Glass is a worthy, well-executed film. It's more entertaining than cerebral - this isn't an Urusei Yatsura movie - but overall, it's certainly good enough to please Takahashi fans and even put smiles on the faces of a few skeptics. Don't expect anything revolutionary...but do expect to have a reasonably good time.
Fans of the series may want to tack on that last star, though I don't think it stands up on its own quite well enough to deserve a perfect rating. People who actively dislike Takahashi works can drop a star and are advised to pass this one by. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: A few violent scenes here and there mean that this is best for teens and up. There's one hot spring scene that doesn't actually reveal so much as imply. No sexual content, no harsh language.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Inuyasha Movie 2: The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass © 2002 Rumiko Takahashi / Shogakukan / Yomiuri TV / Sunrise / Shogakukan Production / NTV / Toho / Yomiuri TV Enterprises
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