It was a summery day of 2005 when I first saw Sesshomaru-Sama (respect, please!) from Inuyasha. His debut was, honestly, not the kind you would expect from a good-hearted and responsible character from a mainstream Shonen anime. But, there he stood in his signature white Kimono-sorta outfit, with a bundle of fur resting in his right shoulder. His eyes sparkled with disdain for everything weak. The crescent moon on his forehead and claw-shaped marks on his cheeks gave him the much-needed make-up for a yokai.
Flowing and overly gorgeous white hair made me envy him. He looked like one of those characters straight out of the fanservice department. (and, I am pretty sure, he appears to be one too many). However, little did I know that I would end up falling in love with this man! Ever since I was 10, I have one animated crush—and he is our very own Sesshomaru-Sama.
Now, Sesshomaru-Sama is my top man not only for his magnetic and oh-my-god-he-is-so-hot looks. He is one of those characters who despite having a general indifferent attitude harbor some of the strongest emotions one could have. Note his character development, from being a total advocate of anti-human sentiments to a genuine crusader of human safety, without having to tamper with his general personality of visibly cold and disinterested tendencies. His underlying inner characteristics make him the most likable male character on my list; though, I admittedly have a strong bias in his favor, but, hey, I am talking reasons, and they are good.
FANSERVICE in Inuyasha (IF AT ALL) DONE RIGHT
If you are doing fanservice, you must do it right to make it successful. Lately, all I see in anime is a routine repetition of a singular idea. Show as much as skin and exploit as many body parts as you can (and this goes for fanservice dedicated to both female and male communities). Frankly, this kind of fanservice is desperate and dull, but, hey, I ain’t questioning your waifu; I am just speaking out loud my opinion, which, by the way, is a constitutional right.
I personally believe that good fanservice material may have extreme depictions. There should be a solid backstory to it. Otherwise, with time, you lose interest in that character and that character becomes an annoyingly redundant piece. You have no option but to bear with throughout the series. For example, I don’t mind the fanservice Boku no Hero Academia delivers through. Say, Yaoyorozu because that intellectually smart chick is super-powerful and has considerable character development. But, gosh, Tamaki from Fire Force has failed to deliver anything which is remarkable.
Except for the superb teary-eyed animation which she gets upon being saved from Rekka Hoshimiya by Shinra. She is pure annoying, even for a character exclusively designed for fanservice. And, before you question me for only citing male-centric fanservice, let me cite an example from Golden Kamuy. A series you should be watching if you haven’t. Where initial male nudity was contextual but eventually became overly misplaced and unfunny. Now that we are settled on what my point of view on good anime fanservice is. Let us move back to Sesshoumaru-Sama.
Sesshoumaru-Sama being called a product of fanservice?
While I oppose Sesshoumaru-Sama being called a product of fanservice.The general mood is that he is, so let us not stoke controversy. The only aspect of his which makes him a fanservice material is his appearance, which is absolutely gorgeous. It is the mangaka’s way of drawing the attention of female readers to the story. The best way is, of course, bringing in a superbly handsome man with a rather indifferent personality. But, that is it. Fanservice stops right there because Sesshoumaru-Sama serves a stronger, well-devised and healthy purpose in the story. Effortlessly overshadows his fanservice-level good looks. But, if you hear me out, I will tell you why Sesshoumaru-Sama is not fanservice, but you must keep your thoughts open to challenge.
Man of Complete Bliss
In essence, Sesshomaru-Sama is shown as a man of complete bliss. He is supposed to be shown in a light that depicts him as nearly perfect: in strength, in goals, and it looks. It is quite obvious that Rumiko Takahashi wanted to debut Sesshoumaru-Sama in such light which would convince the reader that he is a perfect character—and the first thing anyone takes into account for judging the completeness of a character is looks, and Sesshomaru-Sama has quite a good dose of them.
It is only gradually you realize that all this was a smokescreen to hide away the insecurities which a man as powerful and as magnetic as he was had. Behind those God-level looks, there laid a man who was deeply saddened by his father’s death and disgruntled by the latter’s testamentary choices. If you think about it, Sesshoumaru-Sama stands as an example that all handsome/beautiful things may have unsettling layers you do not see easily. So, if at all Sesshoumaru-Sama is a product of fanservice, he is a brilliant product with a lot of character depth. If I were to reluctantly accept that he is but a fanservice material, I would unfailingly hail him as one of those fanservice materials which matter to the story the way they should.
Sesshomaru-SAMA AND HIS FATHER
Let me first talk about Sesshoumaru-Sama’s relationship with the Great Dog Demon, Toga. Toga was one of the strongest demons in the Inuyasha universe, and his strength was so phenomenal that the demon world feared him tremendously and often tried killing him unsuccessfully. However, Toga’s death was written in the hands of a mortal swordsman who served Izayoi, a human woman and Inuyasha’s mother. Toga was in love with Izayoi and ended up rescuing her from a precarious circumstance causing his death in the process. Toga’s death in the process of saving a mere human flared up Sesshoumaru-Sama’s hatred towards humans, particularly towards Inuyasha, his half-human brother.
Sesshoumaru-Sama’s sole purpose in life was this: I seek nothing more than to battle the most powerful beings alive. Toga was one of them. He wanted to surpass his father in terms of reputation and strength, but Toga’s refusal to fight him and constantly reject him as worthy of the life-destroying sword Tessaiga (which was later bequeathed to Inuyasha instead) was something he could not come to terms with—and this remains a primary theme of his story arc.
Sesshomaru-sama accepting his father’s death
He is unwilling to accept his father’s death, blames his father for what he thinks as extending unacceptable favours towards Inuyasha, and questions the long-term plan which his father had in mind for him and which played out gradually in the series. Sesshomaru-sama may look like someone who does not seek acknowledgment but is, in fact, a broken character who wished to have an honorable fight with the only person he ever respected Toga.
With time, of course, Toga’s long term plan for Sesshoumaru-sama worked out pretty well. He intended his son to understand human beings, accept his true strength, and let go of Tessaiga. In the Final Act, Sesshoumaru finally manages to achieve all of these and obtains his own weapon. Bakusaiga, which is arguably the strongest weapon in the series unless we count Kagome’s purification arrow. If you observe carefully, you will notice how much strong Toga’s relationship with his son was. He never favored one son over another—he just knew who needed what. It was Toga who knew that Sesshomaru was not devoid of a human heart. His son just never realized he had one until Rin came along.
Sesshomaru And Rin
A mainstay theme of Sesshoumaru-sama’s story arc is his affectionate relationship with his companion, Rin. Initially, every time he came on screen, he announced his disgust towards humans. However, Rin’s accidental debut caused a major turn in his life. Making him one of the most adoring companions to have.
That one episode dedicated to their first encounter is a warm welcome of change in his life. His transition is foreshadowed in the episode when he asked Rin (who had been beaten up by villagers for having stolen fish) how she got those bruises. It was Rin’s bigger-than-life smile in response which caught him off guard and changed him forever. When she was kidnapped Naraku Rin’s importance in his life became clearly evident.As a result of which he decided to kill the latter. I believe that that incident was one of those rare moments when Sesshoumaru-sama held a personal grudge against someone. It was not about power struggle; it was Rin, and nobody touches her.
Sesshomaru x Rin
Throughout the series, Sesshoumaru-sama hardly makes a direct expression of his care and affection towards the young girl; it is always implied. For example, he respects her choices, never takes her to places where there could be in danger, though she always finds herself in danger, and acknowledges her decisions like the one she makes by naming the two-headed beast Ah-Un. However, there comes one exceptional instance where he was direct about how much he cared for her. And it was when Rin died in the underworld and Tensaiga could not save her (his heirloom from Toga which can resurrect the dead).
I remember reading this scene in the manga, and the moment he uttered “Nothing I could have gained was worth losing her. Nothing at all” I squeaked. You don’t expect to hear direct confessions from a character like him—and when you do, you just go KYAAAAA! His respect and care for Rin remain until the very end. And is evident when he allows her to stay back in a human village and regularly brings her gifts. (which is kinda cute. Imagine him shopping!).
WHAT DOES IT SIGNIFY
Rin is responsible for notable changes in Sesshoumaru-sama’s personality. Her death in the underworld showed him that he is not a God and there is a limit to how much power he can gain. Her revival appeared to him as the last chance to live life the way it should be. Not stay hung up on mindless craving for power. His relationships with Inuyasha and others including Jaken improved, and this was evident in many episodes when he saved them. Rin was the one who brought Toga’s plan to completion. Without her, Sesshomaru-sama would have remained who he was and would not have been able to figure out his true strength. If there is a singular reason why Sessoumaru-sama’s character development is on-point and heartwarming, it is Rin.