Anime Review – Yashahime: Princess Half Demon Season 1

Yashahime: Princess Half Demon Season 1

Yashahime: Princess Half Demon Season 1
半妖の夜叉姫 (Hanyou no Yashahime)
Shounen – Action, fantasy, historical
24 Episodes (completed)
VIZ Media

Summary:

Years after Naraku’s defeat, a fire separated twins Towa and Setsuna, sending Towa into Kagome’s time! Towa clings to her memories of Setsuna as time passes — but an reunion in the present turns into something more!

Review:

Note that this is a sequel to Inuyasha, so of course there are some spoilers ahoy.

If nothing else, 2020 will be remembered for its surprises. And nobody saw an anime-only sequel to a series by one of Japan’s most famous creators that finished its anime adaptation 10 years ago coming. Especially one where this

Yashahime: Princess Half Demon Season 1 Sesshomaru & Daughters

was canon to the storyline. Seriously, that had to be an interesting conversation one day at Sunrise — maybe something like:

“Hey, boss, I was thinking…”
“Yeah?”
“There’s that Boruto show airing now, right?”
“Yeah…?”
“We should totally do the same thing! A next gen Inuyasha starring Sesshomaru’s twin half-demon daughters and Inuyasha and Kagome’s daughter too! And make them all the same age! And we need time travel! And pearls too! And Kaede and the Higurashi cat will still be okay!”
“Not sure if my next call should be to you for the hospital for coming up with such a thing or to Takahashi-sensei… screw it, someone call her!”

Anyway, definitely unexpected.

The first episode of the series is based on a short Inuyasha one-shot Takahashi wrote for a charity project, which features Inuyasha and the other main characters fighting off a random plant monster. Things from this rather uneventful epilogue are slightly changed and then padded out to tie into the main narrative of Yashahime: Princess Half Demon. Little Towa and her twin Setsuna are living happily in the forest, but a fire breaks out. As they try to escape, the two are separated. Somehow, Towa is pulled into the tree that Inuyasha was pinned to for all those years, and she’s dragged through time to the present where Kagome’s brother, Sota, finds and raises her. About a decade later, Towa constantly gets into fights, much to Sota’s exasperation. Although Towa can’t let go of her regret for letting go of Setsuna’s hand and causing them to be split up, she still loves her adopted father, his wife, and their daughter.

Meanwhile, back in the past, a now-grown Kohaku and his nephew Hisui track down a demon. They are assisted by a fellow demon slayer, Setsuna, and they confront a suspicious girl named Moroha. But the demon they were hunting wasn’t Moroha; in fact, the creature soon has Moroha and Setsuna in her sights. Long story short, Setsuna and Moroha also get sucked in by the tree’s power, and they arrive on the scene to a bewildered Higurashi family — and a delighted Towa, who is happy to see Setsuna again. Except one, they arrived with a demon targeting them which needs to be defeated, and two, Setsuna doesn’t have any recollection of Towa.

While kids of original heroes is a fairly common sequel premise (and Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is probably the most well-known right now in the anime sector), Yashahime is pretty different in that viewers know very little about what is going on with Inuyasha and company. Basic promotion for the series bills this as the adventures of the daughters of Sesshomaru and Inuyasha (and Kagome), but they and most of their friends/allies are MIA. In fact, rather than just watching to see a glimpse of the old cast, audiences are instead looking for proof that a lot of them are… well, not dead. Or at least that somebody still cares about them even if they are dead!

It’s one thing to have mystery. It’s another when conversations have major gaps in their flow — or don’t even show these discussions in the first place! The Higurashi family realizing Moroha may be Kagome’s daughter seems like it would lead to an emotional meeting and questions regarding their missing daughter/granddaughter/sister. Instead, nope, Moroha’s next appearance has her doing exercises with random old folk as any mention of Kagome rolls right off her back. It’s watching a version of Cinderella where she gets her pretty dress, and then the next scene skips to after midnight when she’s home again. Why would you skip that??

Again, it’s not surprising that viewers don’t know what happened to Inuyasha and Kagome (and the others) right away, but there’s a natural progression that Yashahime just ignores. Even in that same episode, the way to get back home was discovered rather easily — and offscreen. And for a long time, while the girls heard about their shared grandparent, for many episodes, I wasn’t sure the twins and Moroha truly understood they were cousins. Setsuna is one thing, but you’d think there would be at least a short scene between Towa and Moroha excited they have a cousin. So while fans will go in expecting to be confused by what’s going on, they’re also bound to be confused by why so many things are simply not shown. And bizarrely enough, once the anime does start giving information, details are just casually dropped as if they weren’t mysteries after all, because there’s little or no reaction from any of the characters!  This is a problem not just in the early episodes but throughout. You know how in certain comedy series, everyone is panicking to stop something bad from happening, and the clueless/dumb one (because it’s always the clueless/dumb one) pulls or points out an obvious, useful device or idea? And everyone else is like, “WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO EARLIER???!!!” and get a, “Well, you never asked!” in return? That’s the sort of frustrating feeling Yashahime causes in fans.

While I am on the subject of fans, the series also exposed (or reexposed, rather) one of the biggest divides among its base. From the summary (and confirmed in the third episode), Setsuna and Towa are half-demons who are the daughters of the full demon Sesshomaru. Basic logic then says their mother must be human. While there were a few various theories, the case of the mother’s identity boiled down to Rin and Not!Rin. For Not!Rin supporters, they viewed Rin as Sesshomaru’s adopted daughter, that a demon who, in the anime canon at least, is hundreds of years old would not turn a little child whom he saved and looked after into the mother of his children. Rin (aka SessRin) believers countered with the fact Rin only traveled with him for less than a year, and Sesshomaru’s mental age/human development equivalent is that of an young adult, akin to, say, Mavis of Hotel Transylvania. Well, while various promotional material gave hints even before the series’ start, the evidence starts to favor one side and then confirms mama’s identity around the halfway point. Again, in a “WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO EARLIER??” sort of way because they reveal it and brush it off.

Anyway, back to the plot. The monster that traveled through time was targeting a small pearl that they each possess — Moroha in a shell compact, and Towa/Setsuna in their eye. As I mentioned earlier, Towa, Setsuna, and Moroha eventually decide to head back to the past (their original present). Towa’s main reason is that she learns something called the Dream Butterfly cast a spell on Setsuna that causes her to be unable to fall asleep, and she wants to help her rather indifferent sister. As they try to travel back into the Warring States period, the girls hear about a beast named Kirinmaru who has been ruling the East since the days of when their grandfather ruled the West. Kirinmaru has some underlings and is connected to Sesshomaru, but the twins don’t want to get involved. Moroha would have though, because tough foe = money!

Speaking of Moroha, she will almost certainly dominate any favorite Yashahime character poll. She’s quite smart, caring, and a tough fighter, but it’s her charm and confidence that steals the show. It’s just so unfortunate that the anime and other characters keeping demoting her to comedy relief. Like, in one episode, Moroha correctly says that a lake devoured a bird. Instead, she’s dismissed like she’s the local lunatic. Yes, Moroha has some of her parents’ temper tantrums, especially in regards to the Shippo-like character Takechiyo, but the others don’t give her enough credit. She’s actually quite talented. It’s like they look down on her for being a bounty hunter, but Setsuna and several other characters are demon slayers; their jobs are basically the same.

Honestly, I think The Moroha Show would have been the more fun Inuyasha spinoff. Setsuna is basically Sesshomaru Jr. (more specifically, Late-Inuyasha Sesshomaru Jr.) while Towa tends to bounce between clueless, sympathetic siscon and suddenly powered-up rookie. For most of these 24 episodes, twins and Moroha either hang out together or keep crossing paths as they hunt or are attacked by various demons, many of whom are targeting the girls’ pearls.

While they claimed to not have any interest in doing so, the leads keep facing off with Kirinmaru’s underlings… in between doing whatever. Towa’s goal is to find the Dream Butterfly, Moroha wants to earn money, and Setsuna is just doing her job, but sometimes, the anime is inconsistent about what their next step is — or if they even see each other as close allies/relatives to accompany each other when they get a hot tip. Many episodes are based on unadapted chapters of the Inuyasha manga and are generally filler or filler-ish. Even in the more significant episodes, the moments that seem primed for big revelations… don’t come through. (See the Moroha-in-the-future example.) Yashahime just doesn’t do a good job layering its plot and then slowly peeling it away like an onion. I mean, even late in the series, there is a clear filler episode that also doubles as the worst episode. Maybe if it had been episode 9 instead of 19 it wouldn’t be quite so frowned upon, but even then, the plot is just… bad.

I cannot emphasize enough that Yashahime ‘s biggest issue is its pacing — both as a series and its individual episodes. At one point, it almost seems like the staff were getting a lot of fan feedback and/or flack for not revealing enough and realized, “Oops, we better do something before everyone tunes out!” and put in a full-episode info dump that is similar in tone to a recap episode — complete with narration. That’s not how you should explain your story. The very next episode, we open with a stare down with a new character… and audiences have no idea why or what’s going on. But it’s okay — there’s a flashback, and another flashback, and viewers will spend the whole time wondering why running away was not the obvious answer.

Also, a public service announcement: a cell phone, particularly one hardly used except maybe for the occasional jam, is not the same as kidnapping someone, especially when that kidnapper murders others for even glancing at their hostage. One of the dumbest things ever stated, period. And a professional writer(s) actually wrote this?!

I mean, you can figure out what the Yashahime staff was going for there and in other aspects (including additional dumb comparisons), but that only works if everything before that supports that development. Keeping with this example, Towa had hardly touched her cell phone in the past, so as bad of a statement that was, it also makes very little sense in context. It’s like writers never really got together and took a look at their plot summaries and decided, “Hey, this is going to be important, have someone say/do this when you can!” or, “You know what? This talks about x, y, and z. let’s move y to the previous/next episode since not much is happening here.” The pacing does get better by the last few episodes, but by then, it’s obvious everything is not going to be resolved by the final episode (episode 24). Or rather, I mean, when the second-to-last episode is suddenly bringing up new plot devices, which, again, is delivered by the characters like, “Oh, here’s that thing. Good to see it. Moving on!”, you know there’s going to be some sort of continuation.

As a sequel, there are several characters from the original that make an appearance. But because even the heroines know little-to-nothing about the main cast, it isn’t the worst idea to see this before/without seeing Inuyasha. You see the titular Inuyasha and friends in the first episode to get to know them briefly, and whatever else about half-demons, powers, etc., the anime will explain. Plus, there’s something I know that so many people absolutely despised: all characters — even the main ones like Towa, Setsuna, and Moroha — have a text introduction every episode. I’ve heard that it’s a result of the timeslot the anime is in, but I don’t know if that’s true. It didn’t bother me that much since it’s brief, but I know some people hated it with a passion. It’s usually only a couple of words, but that’s usually all you need to know.

And despite all its flaws, the idea is good: three part-monster teenage girls work together to fight off their evil full-monster brethren. There’s the swordswoman who doesn’t want to be limited by gender but tends to have the most sensitivity (which is usually associated with females), the stoic, sometimes cold amnesiac with a polearm, and the cheerful dual weapon user (swords and bows). If this were an RPG, they’d be a great party to use.

The animation doesn’t always match that level of hype though. One scene that sticks out to me is when Towa and Moroha were a cave. They looked so awkward. Unlike Inuyasha, where most battles involve uncovering the enemy’s weakness, Yashahime is more about the leads discovering a new ability. That might seem like it would lead to a lot of variety and avoiding stock footage, since most enemies only stick around for a single episode, attacks and fights tend to be on the shorter side. Also, for fans of the original, it’s often hard to get passed how much younger everyone looks here than in Inuyasha. They’re not wholly reminiscent of Takahashi’s original style like in the movies, but everyone certainly has more of a babyface compared to Inuyasha or The Final Act. It takes some adjusting.

I will say all three main actresses in the original Japanese did an excellent job. Particularly Moroha’s and Setsuna’s, who capture Inuyasha’s and Sesshomaru’s cadence perfectly. Riku the pirate is played by one of the most popular seiyuu in the biz, and Fukuyama characters tend to be fun characters. It is unfortunate Miroku’s voice actor passed away years ago, and his English counterpart also passed away during Yashahime‘s run. An unfortunate consequence of the years gone by. Heck, Yamaguchi (Inuyasha) also has trouble with his Ranma-like scoffs, but well, it has been 35 years since his debut and has voiced a lot of harsh-voiced and comedic-emphasized characters over the years. I’m not big on soundtracks, but it is very nostalgic to see some old tunes return or be remixed into a new theme. I wasn’t a big fan of any of the theme songs, but I’d lean over the first half’s opening ending over the second half’s.

Translation:

Yashahime mostly sticks with Inuyasha‘s translation choices, although names were often inconsistent between the English anime and manga and even across even of the versions. “Inu-no-Taishou” is translated as “the Great Dog-Demon”. Family name first is kept for historical figures (or inspired by real-life ones), as in Ogigayatsu Hiiragi Danjo. Ayakashi are called apparitions. “Okashira” is “Chief” while “Ane-san” is “Madam”. A lot of attacks’ names are based upon ones found in Inuyasha. Also, in case it wasn’t clear, “Beniyasha” comes from “beni”, rouge, which can also mean red/crimson.

Final Comments:

Yashahime: Princess Half Demon is the kind of anime where almost every episode falls into one of two categories: its plot and/or character development story pieces should have been divided up into multiple episodes, or needs to have any plot and/or character development pieces. The second season doesn’t need to make every episode super important, but spreading the clues, answers, and personality development over more episodes also helps the key ones by giving them more room to breathe.

VIZ Media has the license to the Inuyasha anime and manga. They’ve also published most of Takahashi’s manga. Licenses for the anime adaptations of her work are spread out, including VIZ Media for Ranma 1/2, Crunchyroll for Cross Game, and AnimEigo losing the rights for Urusei Yatsura‘s TV series.

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2 Comments

  1. dreager1

    This sounds like it’s really all over the place. I never watched Inuyasha so it’ll probably be a while before I check this one out but from how halfheartedly they reveal all these answers I wonder if maybe they weren’t even going to but fan demand was so big they just quickly threw it in. Like that 1 long info dump episode you mentioned, I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t part of the plan and quickly thrown together.

    I love time travel so that part sounds fun at least. It almost seems like the show would have worked better if it had been a stand alone title so it wouldn’t need to address the mysteries. It kind of seems to me at least like the writers just wanted to do their own thing but borrowed the Inuyasha franchise to get higher ratings. I heard season 2 is greenlit though so I guess we’ll see if that one’s more focused

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      It has its good parts, but it’s just so bizarre in how they handle everything. Like, in Inuyasha, Kagome goes back to her time regularly, and Yashahime made it seem like the girls would need to go back and forth. Nope, never returned to the future. And a couple of times, characters are like, “I don’t want this item!” *two seconds later* “Give it to me!!” Just so strange. It’s like every episode is patchworked together.

      Reply

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