This is the ultimate Inuyasha filler guide. It tells you which episodes are real and which aren't, while even going so far as to list exactly what manga chapters were covered by each episode. It's satisfying to see that all the manga chapters from 1-558 were covered at some point by the anime, though sometimes the chronology was out of whack. The series will remain forever unfinished, however, because there was one additional chapter of manga, 559, the anime never covered. I advise everyone to go read that chapter after completely watching the anime to get the full Inuyasha experience.
For people too lazy to click links, here are the filler eps to be avoided in order:
In all, 40 episodes of filler in the original 167 episode series. (Or 24% of the series)
If you watch an individual episode of Inuyasha filler on its own, you might think it's no big deal. The filler episodes can be funny or charming because they seem to advance Inuyasha and Kagome's romance. However, this is a trap. If you let your pace be bogged down by a series that is 24% doing completely nothing by definition, you'll grow to hate how boring and pointless the series is. No individual filler episode is to blame, but taken together, it's like quicksand that will suffocate your enjoyment of the series as a whole. For a series that's already this long, extending it any further is just torture to the viewership.
The average episode length of the first series of Inuyasha was around 3 chapters of manga. This is ordinary for manga series and feels about right in pacing. The problem Inuyasha has, when it isn't filler, isn't the fault of the animators. (For how old the series is, it looks surprisingly fluid, thanks to the efforts of Kyoto Animation). The problem is the story repeats itself an inordinate amount of times until you want to bang your head against the wall.
Episodes 1-30 of Inuyasha are terrific. They concern the gathering of all the protagonists of the story and their back stories, why they are on the quests they are on. Starting with Inuyasha and Kagome, we soon meet Sesshoumaru, Miroku, Kikyo, Shippo, Sango, Naraku and Kohaku, all of whom will be vital characters for the rest of the series. From there, we get some needed character development -- Inuyasha's relationship with Sesshoumaru changes from antagonist to ally, the same with Inuyasha and Kikyo, and the same with Koga who appears a bit later. In episode 40, we are introduced to Kagura, the first 'clone' of Naraku. These clones are the beginning of Inuyasha's repetitiveness. Because Naraku can seemingly make as many of these monsters as he pleases, no matter how many Inuyasha defeats more just appear. The story takes on a sense of helpless rinsing and repeating from here. Sango meets Kohaku many times, but every time there's some dumb reason why they have to part again, so Sango's quest is never done. Inuyasha and Kagome get closer many times, but every time Kikyo pulls them apart again, so their romance is never done. Naraku gets a power up, Sesshomaru gets a power up, then Inuyasha gets a power up, and lo and behold, they're all equal again. It's such a frustrating and unrewarding cycle. Even worse are the episodes where Inuyasha fights off small fry demons that are even less interesting than Naraku and his Clone Army. Since these fights have no back story and no connection to the main plot at all they may as well not even exist. The only positive part of all these episodes is the introduction of the little girl Rin, Sesshomaru's perfect counterpart that makes them the highlight of the series. Sesshomaru's character development through meeting Rin is absolutely classic.
This obnoxious portion of the story comes to an abrupt halt in episode 102, when a new group of villains with actual sentience and personality enter the picture. They are the Shichinintai, a band of 7 mercenaries brought back to life to serve Naraku in undeath. Their only weak point is if you take the shikan shards that have revived them out of their bodies. Combined with their skills as warriors and intelligence, these shard-zombie-warriors are the greatest challenge Inuyasha has ever faced. It's easy to get to like the villains, who are so colorful and have such great interactions between each other, so that you really feel invested in the unfolding episodes. In addition, everyone gets a piece of the limelight. Kikyo, Koga and Sesshomaru all have a hand in defeating the Shichinintai. My only complaint with this arc, which is a welcome relief from what came before, is the many times the heroes and villains fought to a stalemate. I would have preferred many more conclusive, kill or be killed fights like you would see in Basilisk, instead of all this dancing around. But Inuyasha's decisive fight with Bankotsu is one of the best scenes in the series and makes for a satisfying conclusion to the arc. 102-124 really shows what the author can do when she gets serious and wants to advance the plot instead of just play around. Episodes 131-132 are a crucial character development for Sango and Miroku's relationship, so they also shine.
From here the series slows down again. Hakudoshi, another of the seemingly endless Naraku clones, is running around causing havoc, and is seemingly much stronger than Inuyasha. Even so, he never tries to finish Inuyasha off, which is just stupid. Why do the villains run away when they're stronger than the heroes? Who knows. In any event, this series of useless repetitive fights drags on until episode 155 or so, when Inuyasha and Sesshomaru get to fight the real Naraku instead. There's also some character development for Kikyo and Kohaku in the preceding episodes, which is always nice, but again the series really drags. But 155 on is actually very good. Inuyasha gets a new powerful attack (the first in like 100 episodes) that can actually fight on equal grounds with Naraku and his clones again. Therefore, the absurdity of the enemy not finishing off Inuyasha's party has mercifully been resolved again. And at the very end, at episode 165 or so, they learn that they need to kill the infant, Naraku's heart, if they wish to put an end to this endless battle with Naraku (who can regenerate no matter how much damage he takes) and all his clones (the same for them too). Now we're actually getting somewhere!
Inuyasha Kanketsu-hen, the 'second' season of Inuyasha, is another story entirely. Inuyasha's original series didn't have slow pacing at 3 chapters of manga per episode, it just had poor writing that made the story feel like it was dragging on forever. But Inuyasha Kanketsu-hen has a solution to that. From here on, the concluding arc of Inuyasha covers eight chapters of manga per episode. If you cover eight chapters of manga per episode, it's physically impossible for the story to drag. It's more like, there's so much story overflowing in every episode that it bursts at the seams. The story will never drag again, it will just make less and less sense as endless things are cut for the sake of saved time. Like riding a roller coaster, watching Kanketsu-hen will make you dizzy. This definitely solves the main problem of Inuyasha -- it's too long and repetitive -- but it created a new paradoxical problem of the series being too short and confusing. Which of these states one prefers is probably up to personal discretion, but it means there's still no satisfying version of the Inuyasha anime. Kanketsu-hen does make up for this rapid pace a bit by having, for the first time, HD widescreen animation, entering the modern age of anime. Also, with Kagome entering high school, she looks more adult and beautiful than she did as a middle schooler from the previous series.
Inuyasha Kanketsu-hen has another advantage -- the plot actually progresses again. Though the series covers 34% of the entire series in just 17% of its allotted episodes, so where it begins is certainly nowhere near the ending of Inuyasha, the last surge of the anime really is the final showdown with Naraku. One by one Inuyasha finishes off all of Naraku's clones, then Naraku himself, and then even the soul of the shikon no tama, for a satisfying absolute victory. Sango and Miroku marry, Inuyasha and Kagome marry, and even Sesshomaru and Rin are sure to marry by the end. Kohaku is saved, Miroku's wind tunnel is dispelled, Koga avenges his wolf clan, Sesshomaru gets his own sword without having to borrow anything more from his dead father, Kikyo dies (leaving Inuyasha free to marry Kagome), and every last plot thread is resolved. It was a long wait, most of which was unnecessary, but at least we got to see the story to the very end.
Expunging the filler from the series, in total Inuyasha was 153 episodes. Of those 153 episodes, the 30 in the beginning, the 26 in the end, and the 25 in the middle covering the Shichinintai are the real reason to actually love Inuyasha (so 81 episodes or so.) Obviously, all 153 episodes are worth watching and form some part of the overall story, but if not for those 81 core episodes, Inuyasha wouldn't be in my rankings at all much less 35th.
With so many flaws, does Inuyasha still deserve to be ranked 35th best series of all anime time? I think so. Ignoring the flaws, there are so many things Inuyasha does right as well. I love the romances that don't advance quickly even though no one is doing anything immoral to prevent it. It makes me feel like the love stories really matter, precisely because their happiness was so hard to achieve. This is actually a very touching romance story, just like Ranma's romance with Akane in my 36th favorite anime series Ranma 1/2. I also like how the story really embeds the characters into the world. All of them start with family ties but end up losing them due to tragedies, but they all cared about their family, whether it was Sesshomaru, Inuyasha, Sango, Shippo or Miroku. The comedy is great, especially when Inuyasha visits modern Japan. Almost every time this happens you end up laughing out loud. The art style is beautiful, which is to be expected from Rumiko Takahashi, and the animation is splendid for a long series. The music in particular is amazing. The soundtrack can get a bit tiresome after listening to it for 153 episodes, but the opening and ending themes are ridiculously good. Virtually every single opening and ending in Inuyasha is a masterpiece. I don't know how they did it, but it's totally unlike Fairy Tail, Bleach, Naruto, One Piece or any other long running series. They got a great deal of talent to work on those songs and really set the mood for the series. Kagome is one of the most beautiful anime characters ever drawn, with Satsuki Yukino, one of the greatest voice actresses ever, playing her voice. Sango and Koga's girlfriend Ayumi are also gorgeous, so the series is always easy on the eyes. In addition, Inuyasha has virtually nothing even approaching an ecchi scene. It's so clean it can even be watched by women and children without a gasp of protest. As an emissary of anime, it's a great place to get people started. If people think all anime is panty flashes and shower scenes, meant only for sex starved men, a good dose of Inuyasha, an action-romance-comedy written by a girl and aimed at a female fanbase can be a great retort. Sesshomaru in particular is such a good looking, cool guy, that everyone in the room should swoon whenever he enters a scene. There's really nobody like Sesshomaru anywhere else in the anime world, his character is uniquely awesome.
Inuyasha has earned its place above such flawed products as Hunter x Hunter which has no proper ending or Fate/Stay which is far too serious for its own good. If you want to pull Inuyasha down from its 35th perch, it's going to take something truly amazing -- like Madoka Magica, Idolm@ster, or Shinsekai Yori. It's possible for new series to overtake old classics, but it means you have to work twice as hard as Inuyasha did. Inuyasha had an easy time being the best of its era, but Madoka Magica, to be recognized, has to be better than all of its contemporary competition and better than all the old classics like Inuyasha. Going by the recent boom of great new series in the last few years, however, I feel it's safe to say there are plenty of great anime series, even better than Inuyasha, yet to come. Now if only they remade and finished Ranma 1/2 to its actual conclusion, Ranma 1/2 could be one of them. . .