Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 16 of
Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon ?
I got a bad feeling about "Double-Edged Moroha" from the moment it started. You'd think, given that last week's episode randomly decided to break away from the story to have a flashback story time with Riku, that the show would take even a scant minute or two to establish things like context and pacing: Where the girls are. Why they are there. Some vague idea about how long it has been since that godforsaken misadventure with the Rapey Mountain Arsonist. You know, the simple stuff that helps the audience figure out what the hell is going on. But no, it doesn't even take a couple of seconds for Yashahime to start screwing up the most basic rules of “How to Tell a Coherent Story”, as we're plunged right into the middle of some anonymous mountain valley or something, with Moroha staring down Yawaragi, telling her cousins that there's some major beef going back three whole years that needs settling. If you don't recognize who this woman is, she's one of the Wolf Tribe members who has appeared exactly one time in the series before now, in a single frame from the very end of last-week's episode.
It honestly feels like something got supremely screwed up in the show's pre-production, and the Yashahime staff realized that they needed to cut an episode right out of the middle of the run, so they took the final scenes from the episode that led up to this climactic showdown between Moroha and Yawaragi, cut everything else that came before it, and slapped it on to the beginning of “Double-Edged Moroha”. Maybe that would explain the seemingly arbitrary placement of the Big Reveal episode from last week? The way it was written meant it could have been aired at almost any time and made an equal amount of sense (read: Not a whole lot), and the only information from “Farewell Under the Lunar Eclipse” that ties into “Double-Edged Moroha” at all is that Moroha ended up with Kouga and the wolves when her parents got sucked into the Black Pearl. If we hadn't gotten that single shot of Moroha being left to the wolves by Hachi, then “Double-Edged Moroha” would have come across as completely nonsensical. As it stands, it's now only 95% nonsense, which is technically an improvement. Good job, I guess?
If you couldn't tell, this was yet another episode of Yashahime that made me absolutely furious with how poorly written and executed it was, but in order to fully explain why, I'll need to cover the events of “Double-Edged Moroha” in chronological order, because the flashback-structure of the episode is stupid and pointless. We begin with the very last flashback, which shows us how Yawaragi attempted to train Moroha in the art of mastering her demonic transformations. We later learn that Kagome apparently placed a seal on these powers in some scene that we never got to actually see because the show was too busy failing at Towa and Setsuna's backstories, but Yawaragi decided to give Moroha the power to transform into Beniyasha with the rouge. Yawaragi then spends years yelling at Moroha for relying on the rouge too much and warning her about how too many transformations will result in her becoming a permanently bloodthirsty monster, so, uh, great call there, Yawaragi. Really thought that one through.Anyways, one of the days Moroha goes berserk with her Beniyasha self and ends up calling down the wrath of a horde of terribly-animated Birds of Paradise before passing out. Instead of doing the logical thing and running away, Yawaragi just sort of stands there and decides they're screwed. That's when a weasel man (who is very helpfully named “Weasel Man”) wanders into frame from literally nowhere and offers to sell Yawaragi the Armor of the Iron Rat he's wearing, so that she can blow up the Birds of Paradise and whatnot. Not only is the completely random appearance of this obviously sketchy weasel not draw Yawaragi's suspicions at all, she also doesn't seem to find it odd that the guy can't even remove the armor himself without getting another person to unlock it with a key. Keep in mind that, for the entire duration of this stupid, stupid conversation, Yawaragi could have very easily just run away from all those birds and hid in a cave or something, but no, she casually takes the armor from the weasel, and wouldn't you know it, the darned thing is cursed to eventually crush its wearer to death unless they pay an exorbitant fee to the smithy rats for another key.
This is, to put it mildly, a very silly chain of events that do not paint Yawaragi in the smartest light, but we just have to roll with it, because that set of Iron-Rat Armor is precisely why Moroha has found herself sold into indentured servitude for the last three years. You see, Yawaragi decided that Moroha needed to complete the “crucible of Kodoku”, which has the eleven-year-old fighting a horde of demons in a spooky cave by herself to…get stronger, and master fighting without relying on Beniyasha, somehow? Yawaragi claims that Moroha needs to absorb the powers of the strongest demon in the cave, but she definitely did not do that, and we've never seen any of these so-called disastrous consequences of the Beniyasha transformation so far, which makes the entire venture basically pointless for our little heroine. For Yawaragi's part, the whole thing seems to have been an excuse to do some gambling with Jyubei, because she previously lost a bunch of ryou in the demon gambling house, which one apparently has to travel through in order to even get to the Crucible of Kodoku; also she needs, like, thirteen Ryou in order to buy a key for the armor that is going to eventually kill her. All of this leads to Jyubei offering to buy Moroha as his own little bounty-hunting slave, which Yawaragi accepts instantaneously, and there you have it: The ridiculous, contrived, and ultimately meaningless explanation for why Moroha has been trying to buy her way out of debt for three years.
Then, the second flashback, which is actually the most recent chronologically, shows us how it took Yawaragi three whole years to get to that damned hidden village of rats, only to discover that Konton arrived just beforehand and killed all of them. Whoopsie! We even get a nice shot of a dead rat mother cradling the corpse of her rat child – a weirdly dark moment that Yashahime certainly hasn't earned or anything – just to remind you that these Four Perils are super evil and powerful (despite the fact that they keep getting their asses kicked by a trio of teenagers who can barely be bothered to acknowledge their existence). Konton makes a deal with Yawaragi that he'll hand over the key if she kills Moroha and the others, and she accepts. “But!” Yashahime then asks, “Is she really going to betray her adopted daughter figure? Or is Yawaragi preparing Moroha for the final and most important lesson of her training?”
The answer is clearly supposed to be that second one, but Yashahime is just so goddamn bad at even the simplest character writing that the point doesn't land. Throughout all of these flashbacks, Moroha and Yawaragi have been dueling one-on-one, with Towa and Setsuna being told to sit uselessly on the sidelines, and Yawaragi keeps insisting that Moroha use her “creative imagination” to beat her, instead of relying on the rouge. This kind of falls flat when Moroha's victory just comes from her busting out a new special move, the Crimson Dragon Wave, which is neither a creative or imaginative resolution to the fight. Every Yashahime fight boils down to some combination of the girls' different special attacks, so why is this any different?
Way late in the episode, Konton suddenly teleports into the fight to gloat at Yawaragi. Nobody else really notices or acknowledges Konton's arrival, though you'd think this is the point where Towa and Setsuna would get off their butts and do something, because it isn't like Moroha's honor would be besmirched by kicking Konton's ass again. The show even forgets to include Konton in the next couple of shots of Yawaragi reacting to Moroha's attacks, even though it is absolutely critical that he be standing right behind her, because when Moroha unleashes the Crimson Dragon Wave, she whips behind Konton to hold him down in an act of self-sacrifice.
Here's the kicker, though: The guy can teleport. Yawaragi just saw him do this, and not thirty seconds earlier! So it shouldn't be surprising to anybody when Konton uses his Rainbow Pearl powers to teleport out of Yawaragi's arms and escapes anyways while the other girls throw some useless attacks at him. So, to recap: The audience learns that Yawaragi created the whole issue of Moroha's Beniyasha transformation in the first place, and she then spent years fruitlessly attempting to undo the problem, including purchasing a deadly set of cursed armor from a random weasel that was traipsing about the forest one day. All of this led to Moroha being sold to Jyubei, which was ultimately pointless because Yawaragi just ended up being coerced into attacking Moroha by Konton, and the one thing that might have made this entire cavalcade of terminally stupid decisions worthwhile – killing Konton – ended up being foiled by random Rainbow Pearl Powers. In other words, absolutely nothing of importance was learned, the girls are not one step closer to any of their goals, and Moroha inadvertently murdered Yawaragi for no reason. It is positively stunning when Yawaragi dies, and the show has the gall to play the moment off like some huge, emotional payoff…except Moroha is more or less fine by the time the credits roll.
Good Lord, this show is continuing to outdo itself in all of the worst ways. I won't damn it with the non-score of Episode 14, because “Double-Edged Moroha” at least has some halfway-decent looking action to try and distract you from how bad everything else is. I did, however, spend far too much time teaching myself how to use image-editing software so I could slap together this dumb meme that perfectly sums up my feelings about Yashahime at the moment. That said, it was probably more time and effort than anybody working on the show spent going over its sorry excuse of a script.
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