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 Doll? Inuyasha 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.