Kikyo from the anime series Inuyasha.

It Took Growing Up for Me to Understand Inuyasha’s Kikyo

Sorry it took me so long, Rumiko Takahashi.

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I spent way too much time hating on Kikyo from the Inuyasha series, the famed anime and manga about a sacred jewel she is charged with protecting. Seriously, I spent years hating this fictional woman for me to only discover that I was in the wrong from the start. Maybe it was my age when I first watched the series. Maybe it was the situation I was stuck in when it came to my home life. Or maybe it was my strict upbringing. Because hating Kikyo came easy. Understanding her was a whole different matter that I’m ashamed to admit took me this long to understand.

At a young age, I was a hardcore Kagome/Inuyasha stan—the couple that acted as a reflection of the Kikyo/Inuyasha relationship of the past. It’s complicated.

I always saw Kikyo as the other woman leading Inuyasha away from the path of light and into her dark clutches. And I saw her as an interloper that was getting in the way of my OTP (one true ship.) Basically, I always defined Kikyo by the romantic nature that she had with Inuyasha and Kagome when I should’ve defined her by her own history and battles in life.

Kikyo is and will always be a tragic character. And she’s bigger than just being defined by a love triangle with Inuyasha and Kagome. She’s a woman who helped raise her younger sister Kaede, a woman who protected people at great personal cost, and a woman who took on the burden of purifying the much coveted Shikon Jewel because it was the right thing to do. And her death was tragic in the way that she was tricked into thinking that Inuyasha had betrayed her.

The anger, pain, and jealousy that Kikyo felt when she was resurrected after all that time is understandable. She learned that her actions during her final moments were based on a lie, that a resurrected version of herself was walking around in the Sengoku Jidai, and that the love of her life was falling for that new version of herself. It didn’t matter that they shared the same soul due to resurrection magic that brought her back to life. The betrayal felt real and was coming from all sides. Who wouldn’t be bitter?

Then there’s this feeling of not belonging anymore. Kikyo can’t survive this world without collecting souls. And she knows it’s wrong but she has a mission to complete before she can rest in relative peace. She has to destroy the demon who could destroy the world if he has all the pieces of the Shikon Jewel. So she does what she must even though she knows it’s a betrayal to her previous self and what she’s always stood for.

With time and age I’ve also come to appreciate her relationship with Kagome. Both are headstrong, powerful, and capable women who exist outside of being the love interest for Inuyasha. And as the story progressed, I was surprised to see Kikyo and Kagome’s relationship developing. They joined forces multiple times under a common goal. They learned to trust each other. And when it really came down to it, they just wanted the other to find peace, in whatever form that came.

Point being, Kikyo wasn’t a perfect character, but she also wasn’t this big bad monster that younger-me painted her out to be or an interloper for my OTP. She was a powerful woman who faced a tragic death and resurrection. She was a shadow and clay version of herself who needed to fulfill her mission before resting. And she was utterly human in her anger and jealousy when it came to everything Kagome had and that she didn’t aka a future with Inuyasha.

I couldn’t understand the journey Rumiko Takahashi was taking me on when I first started the show. Now I do and appreciate the story told through the anime and manga. I plan on rewatching Inuyasha again with a clear mind and no expectations. And hopefully I’ll gain even more perspective on the young shrine priestess who had her world turned upside down by love, jealousy, and a need to do what’s right.

(image: VIZ Media)

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Author
Lyra Hale
Lyra (She/Her) is a queer Latinx writer who stans badass women in movies, TV shows, and books. She loves crafting, tostones, and speculating all over queer media. And when not writing she's scrolling through TikTok or rebuilding her book collection.