The Fall 2020 Preview Guide
Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon
How would you rate episode 1 of
Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon ?
What is this?
The daughters of Sesshomaru and Inuyasha set out on a journey transcending time. In feudal Japan, half-demon twins Towa and Setsuna are separated from each other during a forest fire. While desperately searching for her younger sister, Towa wanders into a mysterious tunnel that sends her into present-day Japan, where she is found and raised by Kagome Higurashi's brother, Sota, and his family. Ten years later, the tunnel that connects the two eras has reopened, allowing Towa to be reunited with Setsuna, who is now a Demon Slayer working for Kohaku. But to Towa's shock, Setsuna appears to have lost all memories of her older sister. Joined by Moroha, the daughter of Inuyasha and Kagome, the three young women travel between the two eras on an adventure to regain their missing past.
How was the first episode?
Inuyasha was one of the first manga I ever loved, and one of the first anime I was excited to watch that hadn't already been released. The first volume of the manga was my first online purchase, back when Amazon primarily sold books and wasn't the economy-destroying behemoth it has become, and I still have it today.
Yet I have neither read nor watched the series to completion.
Listen, I was a teenager with no job and no allowance in the early '00s. Digital distribution and streaming barely existed. DVR was a luxury. And it was just so long. It's been on my to-finish list for a long time, but I just never seemed to have the time.
Because of all this, I originally wasn't going to watch Yashahime, but due to some personal events in my family, I was feeling nostalgic. Plus, I figured that it would have to be somewhat newbie-friendly, since a lot of the current generation of anime watchers probably only know the series from the memes. I have a particular weakness for “next generation” stories – seeing the progeny of the characters I know and love and how the echoes of the conflicts of their parents resonate through their lives.
I'm sure Yashahime will offer plenty of that, but instead, this episode was almost entirely about Inuyasha and the gang, fighting a demon shortly after the original series wrapped up. Funnily, I had no problem keeping up at all; all the same conflicts I knew about had been resolved, which is probably more an indictment of the original series than anything else.
Still, it was nice to see the old characters again, beginning their happily ever afters. At first, it seemed like it might be a Boruto situation, where the once-powerful women lean fully into new identities as the good wife, wise mother, while their menfolk go off and fight, especially when Sango was titled “Miroku's wife”, rather than, say, “Demon Hunter”. As the episode went on, it became clear that the marriages involved are just as much loving partnerships of equals as they ever were, which made my heart happy.
We've only gotten a glimpse of Towa, Setsuna, and Moroha so far, but all three seem to be good girls. I'm looking forward to getting to know them better. The question still remains: who had sex with Sesshoumaru?
Man, is it possible to be nostalgic for a series you just started watching a few months ago? Though I've been familiar with Inuyasha since the days of seeing those Adult Swim ads back when I was a kid, I only sat down to properly watch it this year, when the COVID-19 pandemic gave me plenty of time to play catch-up with my backlog. I'm nowhere near caught up, either, but even a few dozen episodes of the original Inuyasha were enough to prime me for this premiere of Yashahime, which is, for 90% of its run, basically just another adventure with the old “Sit Boy!” crew.
Honestly, that's the biggest issue that this first episode of Yashahime has going for it: There honestly just isn't very much of the titular Princess Half-Demon, her twin sister, or their pal Moroha (Inuyasha's daughter). Outside of the scant few minutes establishing our new trio of heroines that bookend the story, most of the premiere is a flashback to the original gang's run-in with Root Head, a demon that started stirring up trouble about six months after InuYasha: The Final Act concluded. Everyone is here and accounted for: Inuyasha, Kagome, Sango, Kohaku, Miroku, Sesshomaru, that little girl that follows Sesshomaru around, and of course, Shippo, aka The King of the Franchise. Arrows are shot, Tessaiga are swung about, demons demand both Kikyo and the Shikon Jewel, and there's plenty of bickering between Inuyasha and Kagome. If you'd cut out the prologue and epilogue, I could have easily mistaken this for a late-in-the-game episode of the original show's run that I hadn't gotten to yet.
Except for the fact that a lot of the flashback is designed to reintroduce the cast to an audience that might not have seen them for the better part of a decade, and the episode ends without explaining or resolving much of anything in regards to why and how this next generation of daughters is running around feudal Japan unsupervised. Don't get me wrong, Yashahime is off to a fun start, but this definitely feels like part one of what should have been a double-length premiere, since the actual main characters of the series get most of their screen time in the OP. Still, count me in as excited to see where this goes, especially since the show seems like it will be playing with the complications of jumping between the past and the future in ways the first series never seemed very interested in doing. I'm all for an era-hopping mystery that features three likeable young ladies leading the adventure — just don't take too long to get that story started, okay, Yashahime?
Maybe it's the nostalgia talking, but I really enjoyed this episode. This anime sequel to Inuyasha (as in, it doesn't have a manga counterpart) is doing a good job of balancing a little of “what have they been up to” (besides having kids) and “here's the new story,” which makes things an interesting mix of a brand new story beginning in medias res and a clear sequel. That was probably the best way to open – we get a brief reminder of who the original characters were and what happened at the end of their story, but also an introduction to who the new players are, with the question of how Towa, Setsuna, and Moroha all met and why Towa is wearing modern clothes while the other two are clearly of the Sengoku Era hanging over the episode's head.
Essentially, Towa's story (she seems to be the main point of view character right now, although I'm not entirely sure “she” is going to be the right pronoun) sandwiches the continuation of Kagome and Inuyasha's story. We open with her captured by a nobleman and his not-at-all-suspicious retainer, who are trying to figure out whether or not she came from the future, and we end with Setsuna and Moroha bursting into the manor to save her. Meanwhile in the past, Inuyasha, Kagome, Kohaku, Sango, and Miroku fight an ayakashi known as “Root Head”, who has no idea what's been going on since Kikyo sealed him. (Sesshomaru just sort of stands around looking majestic.) From the final scenes of the Root Head fight, it looks as if he's going to become the major villain for the next generation, because the thing about roots is that they're tenacious, and in the Sengoku era an evil one can find many corpses to feed on just by hanging around.
By rights, I'm not sure that this should have worked as well as it did. Mixing the two storylines and spending most of the episode with the characters from the previous season certainly removes the need for a recap of the first series, but it also doesn't do much to deliver a completely new story, since there isn't much to differentiate it from the first barring Sango and Miroku's three kids. But the interactions between Inuyasha and Kagome and Kaede's remark that Kagome doesn't need to rely on Kikyo's power to be strong give us a nice sense of happily-ever-after carrying on, playing firmly into the nostalgia court, and the reminder that everyone's lives just kept going even after the final page was turned is reassuring and makes for a good segue into finding out how those lives continue to play out. Essentially it's the embodiment of what the late, great Terry Pratchett meant when he said that the key to good character building is that the reader should believe that life goes on after the story ends.
You do need to have at least an idea of the original story to watch this one, because without that knowledge the premise of this episode won't really work. But for fans of the first series, this looks like it could be a real treat, a new story mixed with a trip down memory lane.
Inuyasha is a property I have only a small familiarity with. While I caught several episodes at random when it aired on Adult Swim/Toonami back in the day, I never really made the effort to seek out the whole show for a proper try. I did finally find time to marathon the first 30 or so episodes, but it turns out even during lockdown getting through 190+ episodes is a tough ask. Still, I was interested in Yashahime when it was announced because the idea an all-girl led fantasy adventure seems really cool, and what little I'd seen of the original series had a lot of personality and character to it. So lore or continuity be damned, let's check out the adventures of this new generation of demon hunters!
...eventually. For somewhat understandable reasons, Yashahime decides to build its premiere around a sizable flashback detailing the time Inuyasha, Kagome and co. all fought a giant root demon that had previously been sealed by Kikyo. It's not a terrible story, though its main function seems to be cramming in as many cameos of the old cast as possible to remind anyone who might have forgotten about them in the last decade or so. There are also seeds planted about the presumptive antagonist of this new series, but it mostly amounts to an extended prologue with the new trio of heroines only getting a scant couple of minutes on screen, and no real explanation for who they are or what they're doing on this adventure.
Which is a shame, since based on those few minutes these kids seem like a lot of fun. Towa doesn't get a lot to say, but you get the impression she's a very level-headed girl who can hold her own even when being held hostage. Setsuna meanwhile has inherited her father Sesshomaru's penchant for icy stoicism even when helping people, and Moroha has 100% got Inuyasha's impulsive wild side. That dynamic promises a lot of hijinks to come, and I'm really looking forward to it, whenever they finally arrive. While I understand wanting to assure older fans that yes, this is an Inuyasha sequel, I wish we'd gotten a more proper introduction to the new cast instead of pure nostalgia-baiting. Still, I doubt that road bump will cause a problem for the hordes of fans clamoring for it (As I write this it's already trending on US twitter, and it's not even 6am in some time zones) but folks on the fence may want to wait for episode 2 to get a proper start to this new tale.
Although this is the first episode of the next-gen sequel to Inuyasha, it actually spends most of its run time relating one more story about the original group. In two senses I am miffed by this, as it takes the focus away from properly introducing the new cast and makes the episode less accessible to franchise newcomers in the process. But in another sense I am overjoyed at seeing the old gang together again. I had not realized how much I missed this franchise until I saw the whole crew in action at a time point just a few months after the end of InuYasha: The Final Act.
The story with the original crew is a fairly typical one for the original two series: a root demon who once sought the Shikon Jewel before being sealed by Kikyo has gotten loose and is absorbing energy from both corpses and living humans alike. It of course seeks out Kikyo, so it comes to Reiwa Village. That gives all of the original team – Inuyasha, Kagome, Sango, Miroku, Shippo, and Kirara – opportunities to get into the action, as well as Sango's brother Kohaku. Kaede, Sesshomaru, Jaken, and Rin also appear, as do Miroku and Sango's kids, leaving Myoga, Koga, and Totosai as the only prominent frequently- recurring characters who don't. Reunion of familiar faces aside, this segment is a prime example of the dynamics which made the original series so fun, as well as a sampling of the darker side which gave it a bit of an edge. Seems like this incident was chosen because Mr. Root Head was not 100% destroyed and is going to pop up again in the new time period, but I would not be disappointed if we see occasional additional samplings from the original group as the series progresses.
On the downside, most of the episode focusing on the Root Head incident leaves little time for introducing the new cast. Since I am assuming that this will be a longer-running series, that is not going to be a problem in the long run, and this is hardly the only series which has ever taken an approach like this. The Next Episode preview shows that the series is going to go back and at least partly explain how this grouping of teenagers came about, and how the titular character clearly spent time in modern Japan, but from what little is shown of them here I already like the dynamic, and Moroha is adorable. The technical merits look very solid, too.
Honestly, I see zero reason why anyone who was a fan of the original won't be following this one as well. I know I will.
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