The title character. Inuyasha is hotheaded and stubborn, but he has his good points, too. Born to a youkai father and human mother during Japan's Sengoku era, he was sealed by Kikyou for fifty years before being released by Kagome and becoming her travelling companion. He's also fond of junk food.
Inuyasha seems like the bad guy when he first appears, storming a village in Sengoku period Japan and carrying off the Shikon no Tama, only to be sealed away by Kikyou moments later. After fifty years of stasis, Kagome, a girl from the present with a strong similarity to Kikyou, revives him. He initially tries to kill her to claim the Shikon no Tama, but a variety of odd circumstances soon force him into acting as her bodyguard on the search for the shards of the Shikon no Tama, which Kagome accidentally shatters.
It soon becomes clear that Inuyasha lets his feelings about Kikyou affect how he treats Kagome. It takes him a while to get used to the idea that they aren't the same person, and longer yet to start treating her civilly. Over time, he even begins to protect her of his own volition.
Inuyasha is the son of a great dog-youkai and a human woman. As a child, he was rejected by humans and youkai alike, so learned to survive on his own and trust no one. As a result, he has become stubbornly independant, distrustful of humans, and wants to use the power of the Shikon no Tama to beome a full youkai. He's proud of and wants to be like his father, but doesn't like to talk about his mother.
Sesshoumaru, Inuyasha's full-youkai half-brother, is another sore spot for him. They never get along, and their personalities are almost completely opposite, with Inuyasha's heated emotional outbursts bearing no resemblance to Sesshoumaru's cool, calculated actions. It doesn't help that Sesshoumaru covets Tessaiga, the sword their father left to Inuyasha, and attempts several times to take it by force. As the story progresses, the two move from open hostilities to more of a moderate dislike, and will, when needed, put up with each other for a while.
Because he is a hanyou, Inuyasha temporarily loses his youkai powers and becomes a normal human from time to time, as shown to the right. Inuyasha's time is the night of the new moon. While human, he can't use Tessaiga's powers and is largely powerless himself. However, he's fairly strong and tough for a human, and as bad at giving up as ever, so he gets by, especially since he now has help.
Inuyasha's relationship with Kikyou is one of the most hideously complex in the story. They met when Inuyasha, like countless run-of-the-mill youkai, tried to take the Shikon no Tama from her. Rather than kill him, like most of the others, Kikyou merely drove him off. After this repeated several times, they started talking to each other from a distance. Kikyou, it seems, sympathized with his aloneness, since she, too, as the guardian of the jewel, was unable to live a normal life with normal people. As time went on, they became friendly, and perhaps, in time, became more than friends. Finally, Kikyou offered to use the powers of the Shikon no Tama to make Inuyasha fully human, using up the jewel in the process, so that they could both live normal lives. Inuyasha agreed, and they set a meeting time and place. However, when Inuyasha came to meet her, she betrayed and attacked him, driving him into a fury that resulted in his attack on the village... or did she?
When a witch revives Kikyou in a clay body, Kikyou attacks Inuyasha in a rage, claiming that he betrayed and attacked her, stealing the jewel from her and causing the severe shoulder wound that led to her death. Kikyou doesn't stay around long enough to work things out, leaving Inuyasha wonder what really happened.
The truth, as comes out later, is that a malignant entity known as Naraku caused the falling out, by posing as Kikyou and attacking Inuyasha, and attacking Kikyou while posing as Inuyasha. With that explained, much of Inuyasha's bitter feelings toward Kikyou dissipate, and he realizes he still loves her.
Inuyasha's relationship with Kagome, on the other hand, is possibly even more convoluted than the one with Kikyou. For one thing, there's the problem of Kikyou. With her alive again (more or less), Inuyasha can't move on, even though he clearly has feelings for Kagome, too. Inuyasha has even admitted that he has feelings for Kagome... just not to anyone other than himself. On the other hand, everyone knows he's hung up on Kikyou. It's interesting to note, though, that he rarely gets as mad at anyone as he sometimes does at Kagome, and that he never shows his true feelings to anyone else like he sometimes does for Kagome. Also, Kagome is probably single-handedly responsible for making Inuyasha care about other people again. It's amazing how much he's changed, mostly by her influence, from the beginning of the series to now.
Although Inuyasha initially seeks to take the Shikon no Tama and use it to become a full youkai, this becomes less important to him as time goes on. More important things come up, like stopping Naraku, but there's more to it than that. Part of the reason seems to be that Kagome likes him the way he is. The clearest change in his attitude, however, comes after he starts having incidents in which his youkai blood takes over for a time, turning him into a berserk bloodthirsy killer, shown at left. The more this happens, the less he likes it. As he puts it in episode 52 (chapter ??), "The youkai I wanted to become... the power I wanted... isn't like this!" While Inuyasha's long-term goals are unclear, becoming a full youkai doesn't seem to be among them any more.
Inuyasha's name is rather interesting. 犬 (いぬ) is, of course, dog, but 夜叉 (やしゃ) is more obscure. Several dictionaries define it as a female demon or she-devil, some putting female in brackets to indicate that it's not necessarily female but generally is. Some sources refer to a mythical fearsome creature in Buddhism. Several sources on Japanese mythology say they're vampire bats believed to be reincarnated from women consumed by anger. Still others indicate a vampiress. My best guess is that the demonic meaning comes from Buddhism in general, and that the notion of angry women and bats came from mixing with Japanese culture, so than in Japan, at least, it's some of all of the above. I'd have to asking around more to confirm this, but I figure the concept of 'yasha', much like creatures like 'goblins' in Westen mythology, doesn't have a single clear definition even for natives.
Inuyasha travels with Kagome, Miroku, Sango, Kirara, and Shippou. His primary goal is destroying Naraku, at first because Naraku was responsible for the incident with Kikyou fifty years ago, but now more because Naraku has most of the Shikon no Tama, torments and kills innocent people for fun, and has repeatedly harassed and tried to kill him, Kagome, and the others. To destroy Naraku, he's determined to become more powerful, which, at the moment, means doing everything he can to master the Dragon-Scaled Tessaiga.
Special powers, etc.
- Inuyasha's outer garment, made of 火鼠の毛 (ひねずみのけ, fire-rat fur), is extremely fire-resistant, stronger than most armor, and is apparently self-repairing. Normal blades have been known to break upon hitting it.
- Being a hanyou, Inuyasha is stronger, faster, and more durable than normal humans, and also heals abnormally quickly...
- ...but like all hanyou, he reverts to an ordinary human once a month. Inuyasha's time is the night of the new moon.
- Inuyasha's dog side gives him a keen sense of smell (useful for detection and tracking, but a liability around strong odors).
- 散魂鉄爪 (さんこんてっそう) - Inuyasha's basic claw attack. He uses this frequently, from the first episode of the anime (or second chapter of the manga), until getting Tessaiga. Afterwards, he still uses this attack occasionally on weaker foes or when disarmed. The kanji translate to something like 'soul-scattering iron claws'.
- 飛刃血爪 (ひじんけっそう) - A deadlier claw-based attack Inuyasha uses only when in a pinch. By coating his claws in his own blood (preferably from a wound already suffered), he can fling blades of blood at his foe(s) from a distance. First used in episode 4 (chapter 10). The kanji translate to something like 'flying blood-blade claws'.
- Inuyasha acquires the youtou 鉄砕牙 (てっさいが) early in his adventures (ep.7/ch.17). The sword is so complicated, and so much an integral part of Inuyasha's fighting style once he gets used to it, that it gets its own big section below.
The kanji in Tessaiga roughtly translate to 'iron-crushing fang'.
Tessaiga is one of two swords made from the fangs of Inuyasha's father (the other is Sesshoumaru's Tenseiga). To ensure that it would not fall into the wrong hands, Inuyasha's father had the sword sealed in his own bones in the graveyard between this world and the afterlife, and arranged for Inuyasha to have the means to eventually get there. Sesshoumaru, wanting the sword's power, opens the portal to the graveyard and reaches Tessaiga first, but can do nothing with it because a barrier placed on the sword shocks full-blooded youkai who attempt to touch it. Inuyasha can touch it, but is unable to pull out the sword (ep.6/ch.16). During the ensuing battle between Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru, Kagome accidentally pulls out the sword effortlessly, and entrusts it to Inuyasha, who keeps it from then on.
Tessaiga is very picky about who uses it and how. As mentioned above, full youkai cannot even hold it. However, the sword normally appears to be nothing more than an ordinary old, dull, scratched, and dented katana, as pictured to the right. Inuyasha accidentally activates its true power during the battle with Sesshoumaru. After telling a worried Kagome, おれがおまえを守るっつってんだ (I'm saying I'll protect you), the sword begins to pulse, and Inuyasha gets a feeling from it completely different from before. On his next swing, the sword activates, transforming into a massive sword in the form of a fang (ep.7/ch.18). Only a hanyou like Inuyasha has both the ability to wield the sword and the power to activate it, and even then the sword refuses to activate unless the holder uses it with the will to protect humans.
Though strong as swords go, Tessaiga doesn't seem to live up to its reputation of being able to slay 100 youkai in a single swing. That is, until Sesshoumaru, returning in a later battle with a human arm grafted on, seizes the sword and demonstrates an attack that sends gashes of energy into an oncoming swarm of lesser youkai, blowing them all to pieces (ep.18/ch.??). With Kagome's help, Inuyasha manages to get his sword back and force Sesshoumaru to retreat, but can't figure out the attack for himself. Not until a later encounter, when Inuyasha is blinded by Sesshoumaru's poison and has to rely on his nose, does he smell the clashing swirls of youki and realize that he has to swing Tessaiga through the spot where they meet to unleash 風の傷 (かぜのきず), shown to the left, which quickly becomes his favored attack (ep.35/ch.??).
Not only is Inuysha essentially the only one who can effectively wield Tessaiga, but it also has deeper connections to him. One effect of the sword is to supress Inuyasha's youkai blood, which could otherwise overwhelm him. When a powerful youkai breaks the sword, the loss of this protection combined with desperation sends Inuyasha into a mindless berserk battle frenzy, and he gleefully tears the youkai into little pieces, then turns toward his allies. Kagome manages to snap him out of it with a well-timed おすわり (ep.43/ch.??).
Toutousai manages to repair the sword with Inuyasha's fang, but the reforging means that Inuyasha can no longer rely on his father's strength. Tessaiga becomes too heavy for Inuyasha to wield effectively (ep.44/ch.??). After being stuck with this for a while, going berserk a few more times, and realizing the gravity (no pun intended) of the situation, Inuyasha takes Toutousai's advice and challenges a dragon that his father was only able to seal, not destroy. The idea is that if he can beat an opponent his father couldn't, he will have matched his strength, and Tessaiga will again be light enough to use. During the battle, Inuyasha is disarmed and goes berserk again, but struggles against his youkai blood to retake the sword, which, as if in response to his victory over his own nature, pulses in response and grows lighter. As the dragon continues to fire youki blasts at him, Inuyasha instinctively strikes at a suspicious point in the blast with Kaze no Kizu, unintentionally unleashing Tessaiga's 爆流破 (ばくりゅうは), shown to the right, and returning the attack at amplified power, and carving up the dragon with relative ease. Not only is Tessaiga finally light enough to use normally again, but it also gains the ability to use Kaze no Kizu at will, without having to worry about striking clashing youki fields at the right point (ep.54/ch.??).
Not long after, Naraku begins defending himself with a protective barrier. To combat this new ability, Inuyasha seeks a way to break through barriers. Eventually, Toutousai explains that when Tessaiga slays a powerful youkai, it gains additional powers from that youkai, which is why Tessaiga became stronger after felling the dragon. After some searching and complications, Inuyasha is able to infuse Tessaiga with the powers of a youkai that can erect powerful barriers, and Tessaiga becomes able to transform into the 結界破る赤い鉄砕牙 (けっかいやぶるあかいてっさいが), also called 結界破りの赤い鉄砕牙 (けっかいやぶりのあかいてっさいが), barrier-breaking Red Tessaiga (ep.74/ch.??), shown at left.
Unfortunately, after a while, Naraku strengthens himself again, and manages to come up with a barrier that even the Red Tessaiga can't pierce. In the search for the final Shikon shard, Inuyasha and the others come across Housenki (kanji?), who, after testing Inuyasha, deems him worthy of inheriting his powers, and Tessaiga becomes able to use 金剛槍破 (こんごうそうは), shown at right, which combines a Kaze no Kizu-like attack with a barrage of diamond shrapnel. Naraku's barrier can't stand up to it, though it can slow it down enough to keep the attack from obliterating whatever's behind it. However, it quickly becomes obvious that merely ripping Naraku to shreds isn't going to kill him... (ep.157/ch.325)
Seeking a way to make Tessaiga yet stronger, Inuyasha winds up in a battle against a youki-absorbing sword. In the course of the battle, most of Tessaiga's youki is sucked up, and it's nearly destroyed, but Inuyasha manages to come out on top through sheer force of will. Tessaiga regains its full strength, and aquires the new transformation 竜鱗の鉄砕牙 (りゅうりんのてっさいが), Dragon-Scaled Tessaiga, shown to the left, which can directly absorb an enemy's youki, debilitating the opponent and negating youki-based attacks (ch.391). However, this new ability is, at least for now, more than Inuyasha can handle (ch.399). It remains to be seen whether or not he will be able to master it...
- A protective barrier prevents youkai from handling the sword, and also has limited defensive ability.
- The sword is virtually (but not quite entirely) unbreakable, even when untransformed.
- Tessaiga's sheath is similarly durable, can defend against moderately powerful attacks, and can summon the sword to itself when in dire need (ep.10/ch.34).
- Tessaiga transforms into a large fang-shaped katana when used by a hanyou with the will to protect humans.
- 風の傷 (かぜのきず) - An attack that uses the clashing youki between Inuyasha and his opponent to release gashes of energy. The blast gouges trenches into the ground and can pulverize dozens of weak youkai in a single swing. Later, the sword becomes able to generate the clashing energy on its own, letting Inuyasha use Kaze no Kizu whenever he feels like it, which is often. A literal translation would be 'wound of the wind', probably refering to the point where the youki swirls clash.
- 爆流破 (ばくりゅうは) - By catching youki attacks up in Kaze no Kizu, Inuyasha can turn the blast back at its originator, striking with the combined power of both attacks. Using this move requires not just keen senses and precise aim to detect and strike the right point on the incoming attack, but also the strength to overwhelm the attacker's youki. The kanji mean something like 'bursting flow destruction'.
- 赤い鉄砕牙 (あかいてっさいが) - The Red Tessaiga can cut through all but the strongest barriers.
- 金剛槍破 (こんごうそうは) - Tessaiga's most devestating attack to date, Kongousouha launches a barrage of diamond shrapnel. Though there are some things it can't cut through, even Naraku's strongest barriers haven't been able to stop it. The kanji mean roughly 'diamond lance destruction'.
- 竜鱗の鉄砕牙 (りゅうりんのてっさいが) - The Dragon-Scaled Tessaiga can directly absorb youki, but Inuyasha is, at least for now, unable to handle more than a small amount at a time. If he ever gets the hang of it, though, it could prove to be a more potent weapon than any direct attack...
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