Back in my adolescence, I, like many young males, loved Anime.
Okay, honestly, I didn’t so much “love it” as I enjoyed watching it– I wasn’t exactly what you would call an “otaku”; at the time, the plots seemed so deep and mature and the music– all of which I couldn’t understand– seemed profound in its quasi-existentialist sensation. For a while, then, one of my favorite shows was Inuyasha, a program about a high school girl who falls into an ancient well on her family’s property and is transported to the feudal era.
Thinking back to the show now, I am struck at the plain historicism.
Although the viewer is never told the specific date of the feudal period, as far as I am aware, the feudal period itself is unremarkable all the same. In all the episodes and films, hardly anything is made of the feudal period; since most of the time, our young protagonist is able to freely crisscross the time-periods, the show never ventured into the territory of what would happen if a modern girl had to live in a pre-modern world.
Peasants live in shaggy huts; folklore inspired monsters roam the lands, and life is generally simply bleh. Under siege by demons and an acute lack of technology does not make the period a very fun place. So, while the show reinforces the blasé “the medieval period was all around terrible” cliché, it also relies heavily on the Twain-esque technique of churning out the plot by relying on the good old “what would happen if this [modern item] was introduced to the feudal period?” line of thinking.
I am not an expert of Japan’s feudal period. Strictly speaking, I am not even sure if this period is what we would even call “medieval” since there is some debate to that term when applied internationally. All the same, though, I feel that the show could have drawn more from the feudal period; for all the episodes and sub-plots, most of the content boils down to travel here, sight this demon, encounter the antagonist, rinse and repeat. Along the way you see the kind of architecture one would expect, but nothing in the way of concrete feudal history. It feels lacking; it feels like being in an amusement park where every ride is the same except for minor variations.
Maybe I am not giving it a fair shake. I admit that it has been years since the last time I seriously considered or even watched an episode. Maybe the show actually has a deep connection to the feudal past of Japanese society and I, in my distance and ignorance, have merely overlooked it.
All the same, though, right now, at this moment of ignorance, I appreciate the fun the show gave me when I was young, but now see it has some striking limitations.
(Have you watched Inuyasha? Do you know about the Japanese feudal period? Please, comment below and share any thoughts you have on it with me and see what we can parse out together!)