“Inuyasha” is the shit and you can’t tell me no different (or, how “Inuyasha” is better at representing women than the vast majority of mainstream Western television shows)

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Rumiko Takahashi’s manga-cum-anime Inuyasha. I mean, they had me hooked at “a feudal fairy tale.” But what keeps me coming back to this series, aside from the great story and amazing characters, is how progressive it is when it comes to its portrayal of women.

When it comes to dynamic, multi-dimensional portrayals of women, Inuyasha embarrasses the fuck out of most mainstream American television.

Let’s start with the fact that complex, well-rounded female characters are the norm and not the exception.

Yeah, you heard that right: fully fleshed-out characters who happen to be female are par for the course on this show. You don’t have to dig and comb through with a magnifying glass to catch one. You don’t have to cross your fingers and hope that when you do find this creature, she won’t die in order to provide sufficient motivation for a male character to actually do something with himself. Kikyou is fucking dead, and she has her own agenda that matters because it’s something she wants for herself. And she goes around firing Holy Arrows Of Take That You Fucking Bastard at any demon who has a problem with that and does something stupid like try to stop her.

Inuyasha is not a story where all the complex, three-dimensional roles are for men while the women get to choose between being virgin and whore or damsel and witch–yes, even on a show where there are literal priestesses and witches. Each female character comes with her own strengths and weaknesses, and they all stem from who she is as a person rather than making her gender her entire personality. It’s like Takahashi believes women are people or some radical notion like that. I mean, it helps that Takahashi is a woman, but that’s never a sure thing because women can hate women too and like nobody else can.

In Inuyasha, women don’t just stand there looking pretty while the boys get to fight and have adventures and make all the real decisions. You bet your ass that if Inuyasha tried to force Kagome to stay home and look after Shippou, she’d “Sit!” him so hard his head would pop out on the other side of the world. And you’d better not tell Sango to stay in the car while the men do all the fighting unless you want a giant boomerang shoved up your ass. Oh, and Sango may be beautiful, but she is no man’s sex object. Ask Miroku how many concussions she gave him for groping her without her permission. Shit, even Rin ain’t about letting a bunch of dudes tell her what to do just because she’s a girl and they’re not. If your name ain’t Sesshoumaru, she ain’t hearing it.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Takahashi created these women and girls as characters and not as blank slates with “female” instead of a personality, goals, and motivations. I know. Weird, right?

And can we talk about how, because this show takes place in a fantastical version of the Warring States Era, all the women are women of color? How often do you get portrayals of Asian women that don’t default to the Dragon Lady or the China DollInuyasha was created by a Japanese woman representing a fantastical version of Japanese culture, so that’s sort of a given. But ain’t it funny how this show got so popular in the US? It’s almost like people don’t need white people or men to be at the center of every fucking thing. It’s almost like people want to watch an interesting story with great characters that doesn’t look cheap.

Go figure.

12 thoughts on ““Inuyasha” is the shit and you can’t tell me no different (or, how “Inuyasha” is better at representing women than the vast majority of mainstream Western television shows)

  1. I had a similar thought about Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which has a nice variety of multi-faceted women characters, most of whom get at least one Moment of Total Badass, if not a bunch of them.
    Now I think I’m gonna look up this Inuyasha thing…:D
    Also see: Seirei no Moribito, about a spearwoman who works as a bodyguard, and has muscles, and practices her art every day. You know, as you would do, if you were really such a person. And she gets a fairly nice set of Moments of Badass.

    • I personally don’t think FMA:B lives up to Inuyasha when it comes to its female characters, because it’s missing something vital that Inuyasha has in spades: strong relationships between women. Not to mention none of the *main* protagonists of FMA:B are women. Not even any of the main antagonists, for that matter. IMO, FMA:B just falls short in a lot key ways that a few badass moments for the ladies don’t make up for.

    • Not really. I mean, there’s Jakotsu, who’s coded as gay and possibly trans* or genderqueer, but he’s part of a ruthless, bloodthirsty group known as the Band of Seven.

  2. Shingeki no Kyojin/Attack on Titan has just finished its first season run. It has a number of well-rounded female characters who aren’t drawn in a sexualised manner, except Mikasa but the narrative seems to be acknowledging that her life revolving around the male main protagonist is creepy.

    It has lesbians too but they haven’t had much of a role yet. Well, time to go read the manga.

    • “except Mikasa but the narrative seems to be acknowledging that her life revolving around the male main protagonist is creepy.”
      Nah. She’s just trying to protect his step brother as Eren often get in danger. The moment there’s no Mikasa, you can be sure he will dead. It seems you forget MIkasa protect Armin, Sasha, and other people around her. Also, don’t forget Mikasa is woc.

      Quoting from tumblr: If Mikasa was male, her traumatic past, distant personality, and her devotion to Eren would probably make her the most popular character in the fandom. And pairing her with Eren would be touted as nearly canon. But Mikasa isn’t male and instead she’s treated as Eren’s stalker and I don’t know, that really bothers me.

      • It’s like she bases everything she does around him though. Like, literally, the reason she decided to live was because she didn’t want to forget him. I really liked her during that arc, until what I mentioned above happened and I went “Aw damn”. Still, I love that Eren can’t do anything right without her and also that she’s pretty much the best human soldier after Levi.

        Also, that devotion to Eren means my Mikasasha ship can’t happen <.<

        And no, I didn't forget that she's Asian. Have to wonder where all the black and brown people are at though? Assuming that the geography in that world is pretty much like ours, how did we manage to go through all that distance to the walls and apparently did well enough to have one person still living there now yet people who would live closer didn't make it at all?

        On a tangent, kind of funny how there are manga where the only characters are white people and they're all fully realised but Westerners still can't quite break out of racialised tropes, let alone wrapping their heads around stories where there aren't white people at all.

        • Yes. It’s shame there’s no canon dark skinned character at SnK. But I refuse to believe all character at SnK (other than Mikasa) is white. It’s like westerners believed “white is default”. See this: http://kotaku.com/5627268/why-do-japanese-characters-look-white If you watch Tiger and Bunny, there’s Chinese character that have natural green hair and green eyes. At Utena, there’s Indian girl that have purple hair and yellow eyes. So? Why cannot Marco, Sasha, Bertholt, Ymir, Hanji, etc be mixed poc? They have olive skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. Even there’s people that fancast Avan Jogia, an Indian man as Eren Yeager. Why not? Eren have olive skin, dark brown hair, and green eyes. Just add green contact lens at Avan Jogia. Perfect.

          “On a tangent, kind of funny how there are manga where the only characters are white people and they’re all fully realised but Westerners still can’t quite break out of racialised tropes, let alone wrapping their heads around stories where there aren’t white people at all.”
          Yes. It’s funny there’s 40% PoC at America. Yet most media only contain 10% PoC. This is the answer from whatwhitemaleauthorshavetaughtme.tumblr.com

          “Hmmm. I wonder if this has to do with the way US media “colonizes” the world’s media. Like, Japanese people are already VERY used to watching films and TV shows from the US, so they’re used to relating to and/or sympathizing with predominantly white casts.

          In the United States and most other Engish-speaking Western cultures, US media is really the main source and we do not consume foreign media as massively.

          This difference results in Japanese people perhaps feeling comfortable writing stories with all-white characters and feeling quite comfortable with it. Meanwhile, Americans, Australians, Brits, etc. cannot do the same as effectively because we have no frame of reference.”

          • Yeah, it does have to do with how the whole world are watching Hollywood movies. Like, I live in a Western country and I still needed to learn to not default to white characters when I was a teenager trying to write, and wrote horribly. I mean, that’s just me, but still, you know, I see the effect of Hollywood and perception of whiteness in others which aren’t as drastic as mine.

            And yeah, there really is no reason at all why the rest can’t be mixed too but unlike Mikasa, we don’t have anything clear to go with so I’m just assuming from the names, that the character designs seem to go for natural hair and eye colours, and plus the mentioned above. To be honest, I thought Hanji might be mixed too because of that spelling of her name but then I saw that it could also be spelt “Hange” which, I don’t know, sounds kind of Germanic maybe? Just in case there is a misunderstanding, I think I should make it clear that I’m on the same leaf as you about this. I don’t rigidly assign all the character as white, that just seems the most likely intention to me. Would be glad to see the white tears flow if there ever is a live action adaptation and they don’t use white people.

            Also, to be fair to Mikasa, she is still more realised than many other female characters even when they aren’t saddled with that particular trope. I actually like her a lot when she isn’t being all “I live for Eren.”

            With all that said, Hanji is the best!

            • “I mean, that’s just me, but still, you know, I see the effect of Hollywood and perception of whiteness in others which aren’t as drastic as mine.”
              Same. I’m an Asian woman that live at Southeast Asia. And yet, when I was a little kid, I thought that only girl with fair skin can be princess because of media. Even at my country with 99% PoC, light skin is treated as ideal beauty. White supremacy is hella thing.

              “Would be glad to see the white tears flow if there ever is a live action adaptation and they don’t use white people.”
              Same. If you had tumblr, there’s white ppl flip their shit out because anime made some character skin much darker than the manga. Even there’s people said “I’m not an asshole but I don’t like fanart with darker skin tone.” They must be panic because *gasp* character they like may be PoC.

              P.S: Do you read the manga?

    • Not only does it has lesbians, they have motivations where if they could fulfill them without Eren, they totally would. Well, at least Ymir more or less didn’t give a damn about Eren (in fact would probably be rid of Eren if it didn’t endanger Christa), until he unlocked a new power in the latest chapter.

This blog is strictly moderated. Failure to honor the spirit of this space and the guidelines set forth in the "Before you Comment" and "Act Like You Got Home Training" sections will result in your comment being spammed and trashed, and you banned. This is not negotiable.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s