sources: manga, manga profiles book, drawn and written by Rumiko Takahashi – (anime discounted because of how little of it agrees with the source material)
Species, Race, Nationality:
He is an ‘inutaiyoukai’, or ‘dog demon lord’. Though never explicitly stated, as he is in Japan, he is most likely Japanese.
His actual age is unknown; he is 19 in human years.
[more after the break]
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His father was a great demon lord, who is never given a name in the series. His mother is still alive, and seen in the manga, but he seems to see her rarely, and she too is unnamed. His half-brother Inuyasha is not someone with whom he gets along; at the beginning of the series, he despises his human blood and then he hates him for getting the better half of their inheritance. By the end of it, he acknowledges Inuyasha’s right to exist and have Tetsusaiga, but still ignores him.
Friends and associates:
None, as such. His associates are Jaken, a sycophant who seems to be a kappa, and Rin, a human girl. In the manga, there’s never any indication of where Jaken came from or why Sesshoumaru allows him to follow him; he gives no sign of having known Sesshoumaru’s father, and so has to be a relatively recent (within the last 200 years) addition to his entourage. He is eager to serve Sesshoumaru however he can, although he resents Rin and time he has to spend guarding her. However, despite his loyalty, Sesshoumaru never shows him much kindness or concern, and treats him rather brutally at times.
Rin was a mute orphan in the village near where Sesshoumaru was taken by Tenseiga when Inuyasha used the Wind Scar on him (in volume 14). She tried to feed him and was undeterred by his coldness and continued rebuttal of her kindness, and even came back after she was beaten by the villagers for taking fish for him. By the time Sesshoumaru could move again, she had been killed by Kouga’s wolves; he started to walk past, but Tenseiga and the memory of her smile made him turn back and he resurrected her.
He feels very protective of her, and puts himself in danger to protect her, from fighting Naraku and the concentrated youkai of the Shikon Jewel to braving a powerful holy barrier. She died, again, when she was dragged into Hell (mini arc starting in volume 47/chapter 467), and he was distraught by his inability to save her, and was, according to Jaken, overjoyed when she was returned. At the end of the manga, she lives with humans in Inuyasha’s village, but he’s shown visiting her and bringing her gifts.
Sesshoumaru’s companions also include Kohaku, Sango’s younger brother, whom he collected after Kikyou grew two weak to protect him, and Ah-Un, a two headed dragon. Usually the dragon is led by Rin as they walk or ridden by all three of them; Sesshoumaru can fly under his own power, so has no reason for a mount.
Lastly, Kagura is a person he has an emotional attachment to, even though she was an incarnation of Naraku. She never traveled with him, but she visited him a few times, usually to ask him to kill Naraku. When Naraku gave her her heart and her freedom in such a way that it would kill her, Sesshoumaru came to her so that she wouldn’t be alone, and she could see him again before she died; he touched the Tenseiga but noted that it couldn’t save her. Having seen Sesshoumaru, when the miasma took her she was smiling.
He has none, aside from being a taiyoukai. He spends his time wandering the land, to all appearances.
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His hair is silver-white, worn loose, past his waist, with fluffy bangs.
His eyes are gold and have slit pupils. They also have magenta markings that looks like eyeshadow but are natural. When he lets his demon power out, precursor to taking his true dog form, the whites turn red and the iris turns blue, and they get significantly larger.
His height is never stated, but he is the tallest main character. His dog form is enormous, several times taller than a human.
In the manga profiles book, manga-ka Takahashi says that he is “handsome and frail looking at the same time”. Although all the characters are basically drawn looking the same, he is apparently supposed to be rather delicate in build.
His outfit consists of a white kimono with a red honeycomb and flower crest on the left neckline and the the bottoms of both sleeves, along with an inner kimono, white hakama pants tucks into blue or black boots, a blue and yellow sash around his waist, blue or black armor over his stomach and chest with spikes that encircle his left shoulder, an enormous fur over his right shoulder and (usually) two swords. The clothes and armor repair themselves with his demon energy, as stated in the profiles book, and the fur is a part of him, occasionally used as a weapon but mostly not used at all, save maybe as a pillow (such as after being hit with the Wind Scar).
In his normal form, Sesshoumaru looks like a tall human male with pale skin and hair. He is both attractive and aristocratic-looking, and does not appear dangerous, even with his sword and armor. Long, silver-white hair, pointed ears, and gold, slitted eyes are signs of being a youkai, however, and he cannot easily be mistaken for human.
On his cheekbones and wrists, he has pairs of magenta stripes, which match the single lines on his eyelids, and on his forehead there is a blue crescent moon which opens to the left. He also has hard, clear claws on his fingers. From chapter eleven through chapter 518, he had only his right arm, the left having been cut off by Inuyasha in their first fight over Tetsusaiga and regnerating only when he ‘cut off his attachment’ to his father’s swords, as Toutousai said.
His true form is a very large dog, resembling most a demonic Saluki; it isn’t stated in the manga or profile book what, if any, breed of dog he is supposed to resemble, and quite possibly the inuyoukai are just generic dogs. He has long, fur-covered, floppy ears and a furry tail that hangs rather than curls. The fur he carries in his normal form becomes crest of fur that circles from his chest, over his shoulder, and back around under his stomach. The markings on his face change, growing and framing both his eyes and mouth, and the moon is still visible on his forehead. His eyes themselves become much larger, red with blue irises.
His intermediary form, seen when he becomes very angry or starts to let his youkai power out, is still human in shape, but with jagged stripes, the red and blue eyes, and his face starts elongating into a muzzle.
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He is quite intelligent; however, his intelligence is more put toward perceptiveness than planning. He easily judges his opponents and uses exactly as much power as is necessary to defeat them, but rarely bothers with anything other than a straightforward attack. He is just as good at reading people in other situations as well, and understanding the subtext in their actions or words; he is very hard to deceive.
He is described in the profiles book as having an “arbitrary inquiring mind”. Rather like a dog who can chew contentedly on a bone for hours and suddenly be distracted by a ball, he can focus on one thing, such as the Tetsusaiga, for an extended time, then suddenly and arbitrarily become interested in something else or change his mind, even in the middle of a fight. When he makes a decision, he makes it instantly and completely; there is no wavering for him, and no reconsidering.
He shows great respect for his father, and for Tetsusaiga. He is very attached to Rin. Aside from that, he seems to care for nothing. Even his interactions with his mother were cool on his part.
Sesshoumaru hates being manipulated or ordered around and having his pride or those few things in his ‘territory’ messed with. He dislikes being ignored or defied. He despises or resents Inuyasha, depending on when in the series you look. He wants to kill most or all of Naraku for daring to mess with him and his. He has no love for humans, but doesn’t go out of his way to destroy them.
His goals in the series are to own the Tetsusaiga, or kill Inuyasha, or both (which he gives up on finally in chapter 503), to protect Rin, and to kill Naraku (which is realized, with his help but not by his hand). He seems to have little else he cares for.
Sesshoumaru is famously cold. He shows very little emotion, aside from anger, and even his anger is usually very cold until he is overcome with rage, which seems to happen suddenly. He shows only disdain for others, for the most part. Even Rin, for whom he cares, he treats relatively callously, making her wander around with Jaken to find her own food and giving her orders. He doesn’t see anything wrong with how he acts, either, or regard his lack of emotion as an impairment. It seems like sometimes even he doesn’t know why he does what he does, and he doesn’t bother to think about it.
He is antisocial and seems to have a philosophy of self-sufficiency; as long as others don’t get in his way or annoy him, he won’t bother them, and he asks nothing of others in return… in fact, he would rather fight and die on his own than accept help from others, because having help makes one weak. Inuyasha calls him an idiot for being so stubborn and even saves him against his will, which is the only way Sesshoumaru will be saved. Generally speaking, he will either do something all on his own or not at all, and he will usually neither use people nor allow himself to be manipulated or used.
He is fundamentally self-absorbed, to the point of even forgetting others are there when he’s preoccupied, and is completely thoughtless; he’ll even jump away immediately and without a word of explanation, leaving Rin and Jaken alone, if something catches his attention. He’s shown to grow throughout the series, however. The compassion he felt for Kagura that made him go to her when she died and anger he felt on her behalf, the fact that he saved Rin even if he didn’t know why, and the fact that he can finally acknowledge that Inuyasha deserves to live and have the Tetsusaiga by the end of the series show that his heart is growing. When Rin died in Hell, he felt despair, and according to Jaken he was overjoyed when she was brought back, though he wouldn’t outwardly show it. He doesn’t get any more expressive, but there are more emotions under his cold exterior.
His pride is easily damaged and he is sensitive to insult, since he considers everyone that exists to be below him. He respects absolutely no one except his father (and, maybe, his mother), and of course himself. That pride is the defining characteristic in his personality, and he will go to the ends of the earth to satisfy it, whether that involves killing someone who has insulted him, getting himself almost killed to avoid help, or traveling through Hell to make himself stronger.
Although he is an unrepentant killer who has no more mercy for women or children than for fighting men if they oppose him, he is not wantonly cruel. He will normally ignore humans and youkai alike unless they directly threaten himself or his companions, or injure his pride; he was content to ignore Naraku for the most part, and even make a deal with him to kill Inuyasha, until he kidnapped Rin and tried to absorb Sesshoumaru into himself. Once he is attacked he will slaughter entire armies, but if they survive long enough to run away, he won’t pursue them unless he is very angry at them. He neither celebrates nor regrets his kills, and sometimes it even seems like it’s an annoyance for him to bother with them.
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His greatest strength is his physical and demonic strength. He is one of, if not the, most powerful youkai around, even without any weapons. His intelligence and cool rationality serve him well, even if he is socially stilted. His great youki gives him resistance to holy magic, to which youkai are generally susceptible (he entered the purified barrier around Mount Hakurei without showing any pain, although he tried to draw his opponent out of it), and can nullify other demonic auras by overwhelming them with his own. The strong poison in his own body makes him almost immune to other poison. He was strong enough to walk through Hell and survive.
His cold heart, his disdain for others, and his lack of creativity are his major weaknesses. When he’s angered or put in a corner he relies on brute force and repetition; luckily, that’s almost always enough for him. Rin is a weak point for him, and he can be manipulated to a degree by threatening or harming her; he puts himself in danger to protect her. He can also to a lesser degree be manipulated with his feelings for Inuyasha.
Powers, Abilities, Talents:
He has a talent for reading people’s motivations and what they truly mean, which makes him almost impossible to deceive or manipulate. His perceptiveness and instincts also let him use almost any weapon without much study, according to his profile; he was able to pick up the Tetsusaiga and unleash the Wind Scar at once.
His youkai blood gives him a sense of smell that could easily replace his vision if it needed to, able to smell not only a fight but the combatants and minute changes in their youki from miles away. His hearing is also excellent. Physically, his strength is twice that of Inuyasha, and he can move faster than the eye can see without disturbing the air. He is able to fly unaided, and also to use mokomoko-sama (his fur) as a weapon. He can recover from most wounds quickly, although Tetsusaiga seems to be able to hurt him badly.
Hand to hand fighting: his claws, strength, speed, and poison. The poison is only released through his claws, but is extremely potent.
He can transform into a giant dog, with the same poison in his claws. He can also fly as a dog, although his speed was never shown to be as great as that in his normal form. His teeth and claws are more than strong enough to cut through and melt youkai bones.
Tokijin – Tokijin was the first destructive sword he got in the series, made from the fang of one of Naraku’s incarnations, which held an intense hatred for Inuyasha and was strong enough to break the original Tetsusaiga. It had a habit of possessing people to go after Inuyasha, but he suppressed its aura with his own and it became his. He could cut with the force of his strike without the blade making contact. It was broken in the battle with Myouryoumaru in chapter 407.
Tenseiga – Tenseiga is the sword he inherited from his father. It is for the most part a sword of healing; with a master with a truly compassionate heart, it can save the lives of a hundred at once, the same way the Tetsusaiga can kill a hundred at once with the Wind Scar. It can only heal a person once, however, and only if they are truly alive; it also seems to be unable to help if their physical body is being destroyed. Cutting a normal living being with it leaves them utterly unharmed; however, it can harm beings not of this world, including spirits such as the Magatsuhi and the guardians between the living world and the next. It was also imbued with the power of the Meidou Zangetsuha, the power to send an opponent’s body directly to Hell, for a time, but he gave the power to Inuyasha in chapter 503, and it returned to being a sword of healing.
It also has the power to protect its master. When his life is in danger, it will act on its own and save him. When he was struck by the Wind Scar, it teleported him to safety, and it will erect a barrier to keep him from being crushed. This seems to only work for him, and without his control.
Bakusaiga – Bakusaiga is the sword formed of his own power at the same time his left arm regenerated, in chapter 518. It has the power of an infinite cut – that is, he can cut one part of a being, and the wound will continue to spread throughout that body until either the wounded part is amputated or the body is destroyed. It is impossible for youkai to regenerate and heal those wounds.
Mokomoko-sama – His fur is a part of his body, and can stretch and be controlled like another limb, according to manga-ka Takahashi. He rarely uses it.
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His history is almost unknown. He seems to have respected his father very much, but aside from that, his only history was what happened within the series.
When the series began, he was searching for his father’s grave, led only by Jaken’s staff of two heads and a cryptic riddle. “The right black pearl… A place one can see, yet cannot be seen… A place its own guardian can never look upon.” This turned out to be a magic pearl placed inside Inuyasha’s eye, which he took and opened to visit the grave, in search of the Tetsusaiga, the powerful sword of their father. He found it inside the skeleton of the taiyoukai, but was rejected by the barrier, which burned him because of his full youkai blood and disregard for humans. Kagome was able to draw it; Inuyasha was able to use its power to protect her, and cut off Sesshoumaru’s left arm.
After this encounter, Sesshoumaru continued to battle Inuyasha often, still looking to return the Tetsusaiga to an owner worthy of it (himself, of course), and intending to kill Inuyasha. He obviously never succeeded, always repelled or distracted. Finally, he was almost killed by the Wind Scar, saved because Inuyasha held back and the Tenseiga didn’t let him die, teleporting him away instead.
At that point, he met Rin, a mute orphan who tried to save him when she saw that he was hurt. He was basically paralyzed by his wounds and couldn’t leave, and she visited him, trying to feed him, for several days. When he could move, he found her dead body where she had been killed by Kouga’s wolves, and though he tried to walk past he arbitrarily turned back and used Tenseiga’s resurrection power for the first time, bringing her back to life.
He was drawn into Inuyasha’s fight with Naraku when Naraku kidnapped Rin and tried to absorb him into himself. Naraku became his primary target from then on, and he would mostly ignore Inuyasha to fight Naraku.
When Naraku’s incarnation Kagura, for whom he felt compassion, was killed by Naraku, he showed yet another soft side to him, feelings for someone other than Rin. he felt anger on her behalf when Myouryoumaru taunted him over it, which showed his heart was growing; Tenseiga called to Toutousai to be reforged as a weapon with the Meidou Zangetsuha.
The Meidou was small at first, and he visited with his mother to perhaps learn more about it. She ended up sending him and all of his companions save Jaken to Hell itself; though Kohaku was sustained by the jewel shard, Rin died a second time there. The pain of that helped his heart grow further, and in purifying tormented souls in Hell he was able to gain more control of the attack, forming a more complete circle. His mother restored Rin to life for him before they went on their way again.
A youkai named Shishinki drew Sesshoumaru into a battle with promises of more knowledge of the Meidou Zangetsuha; it was revealed to be his own technique, stolen by their father long ago. It was also revealed by him that Tenseiga was originally a part of Tetsusaiga, cast off with a dangerous and unneeded technique, given to Sesshoumaru to master. The revelation briefly shattered Sesshoumaru’s world, and the fact that he was able to make the Meidou a perfect circle when his sword resonated with Inuyasha’s didn’t help any. He followed that to its logical conclusion, that the Meidou power had been given to him not even with the intention that he protect Inuyasha, but that he perfect the technique and then Inuyasha absorb it back into the Tetsusaiga. It reawakened his anger and desire to have Tetsusaiga, instead of the inheritance that slighted him.
With the help of Naraku, coating the Tenseiga in fragments of Kanna’s mirror monster, he faced Inuyasha again, this time with his own sword mimicking the powers of Tetsusaiga. However, he stated very clearly that if Inuyasha lost, he would discard both swords, and that if Inuysha won he would give up fighting him for them; he was looking for proof that Inuyasha deserved the Tetsusaiga. Inuyasha was eventually nearly swallowed by the Meidou he summoned, and thinking that he had won, Sesshoumaru threw the Tenseiga in after him… However, Inuyasha’s sword showed him the way, letting his youki grow powerful enough to overwhelm the Meidou instead, and Naraku attacked him remotely with the mirror monster-covered Tenseiga. Sesshoumaru jumped into the Meidou to save him, and broke Tenseiga himself to give Inuyasha the Meidou power. Inuyasha of course saved them, and Tenseiga returned to a healing sword.
When without his weapon the collected evil spirits of the Jewel (Magatsuhi) came after Kohaku’s shard, Sesshoumaru was badly injured, but saved by Inuyasha, and in the end of the fight a new sword formed of his own power appeared, Bakusaiga, along with a regenerated left arm. He destroyed Magatsuhi’s borrowed body and finally had his own weapon.
With Bakusaiga and Tenseiga, he eventually destroyed Magatsuhi entirely and helped with the final destruction of Naraku, though that job was ultimately left to Inuyasha and Kagome.
Sometime within the next three years, Rin was brought back to the human village by Kaede, to reintegrate her with her race. Sesshoumaru is shown still traveling with Jaken, bringing her a gift on a visit, and still showing no love for Inuyasha and Kagome.