Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 19 of
Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon ?
Similar to the last time Yashahime gave Moroha something substantial to do, the insidious stupidity of “Princess Aya's Beniyasha Hunting” can only be truly appreciated if I just describe the events of the story in chronological order. Given the crummy vives that the preview gave off, I don't think anyone was expecting much more than a cheap detour from this episode, but I'll be damned of this series doesn't continue to impress with how little of a shit it gives about being good, or even mediocre, or hell, even functional. And before we dig into this post-mortem, I'd like to field any defenses that people might make about Yashahime being meant more for kids, and thus shouldn't be taken seriously. For one, this is a decades-in-the-making sequel to one of the most popular anime ever, so don't act like the show shouldn't have something to offer for fans whose ages can be counted with more than one digit. Also, y'all know that crappy kids' entertainment still sucks, right? It doesn't just get a free pass for being made with younger viewers in mind. Nobody in their right mind is going to argue that stuff like Avatar the Last Airbender or Steven Universe should be judged at the same level as Caillou, for Pete's sake.
Anyway, “Princess Aiya's Beniyasha Hunting” commits the gravest sin that any work of art can commit, in that it is a completely pointless waste of time that takes the precious minutes of existence that its viewers have been afforded on this earth and just flushes them straight down the toilet. I, dear reader, respect your lives much more than Yashahime ever will, so I'm going to dispense with the “twists” and lay it all out in order: Way back in Episode 1/7, when the girls busted into Hiiragi Dango's place to rescue Towa, they brushed by his daughter, Aya, and got a speck of mud on her kimono. Being a literal psychopath, young Aya then hatched an elaborate scheme to trick the girls and get her revenge: She recruited a band of mercenaries and forced Jyubei to sell Moroha's services as well, and then she established the false pretext of recruiting demon slayers to her father's employment to lure Hisui and his two nameless buddies into fighting the mercs in a big, competitive battle.
These mercenaries are cartoonish morons, and one of them, Lady, is a pretty offensive homophobic/transphobic/maybe-even-racist stereotype, but in one of this episode's few saving graces, it's actually hard to get all that mad about it, because these goofs are pointless and don't really do anything. They spend all night building a wooden façade of a castle on the battlefield for…some reason, and then they all sort of disappear once the firebombs start dropping. No, the demon slayers know that Moroha is the only one that really needs to be taken seriously as a threat, so they recruit Setsuna to aid them, leading to a cousin-vs-cousin showdown for the ages!
Except that obviously isn't what happens, because even though Setsuna and Hisui suck, they're not awful enough to be completely on board with burning InuYasha's kid alive in the middle of a field for the sake of some half-cocked job interview. No, we eventually learn that Moroha and the slayers were in cahoots all along, since they figured they could throw the fight and earn enough cash from the not-actually-real job offer for everyone to profit. Sure, the slayers apparently didn't even tell Moroha about the very real volley of firebombs they'd be tossing her way, but who's keeping track of neglectful homicide attempts amongst friends and family, eh?
It's that throughline of “not telling your teammates the most basic and necessary information” that really sinks this episode, which was already a bummer to begin with. Nevermind Hisui and Setsuna almost turning Moroha into barbecue; the big dramatic turn of the story occurs when Setsuna and Moroha both agree to not tell Towa about the fixed battle because…she's a bad liar, I guess? Except Moroha is the one that lets slip about the battle in the first place, and I don't know why anyone would assume that keeping Towa in the dark would be easier than just explaining that the fight is rigged, nobody is getting hurt, and so on. Even if you bought that silly excuse, the episode still doesn't make any goddamned sense, because once Towa predictably gets mixed up in the fight anyways and mistakes Setsuna's “acting” for real aggression, nobody bothers to just explain what's going on then, either! The episode establishes that Aya can't hear anything they say from her little tower, so why keep up the charade? And how is any of this easier than one of the girls just telling Towa, “Hey, we're going to scam the spoiled daughter of that guy who kidnapped you out of some money by faking a battle. If you want in, cool, but if you can't keep up the ruse, just, like, hang out here this afternoon or something. We'll be back in a few hours, tops.”
It's just so unbelievably lame, and it's the kind of plot that is doubly frustrating because it depends entirely on characters withholding important information for no reason other than to cheaply manufacture some consequence-free drama. Also, remember how the whole setup for the battle was a lie, anyways? Yeah, Kohaku shows up out of nowhere to explain to Aya that he knew the whole thing was a waste of time, except he didn't tell his own crew of demon slayers this because…he wanted them to learn a lesson?
To recap: Aya, a character we've never met, goes to insane lengths to deceive Hisui, a cardboard cutout that we do not care about, in order to double deceive (and possibly kill) Moroha, all on account of that one time she got some dirt on Aya's clothes. Then, Moroha, Setsuna, and Hisui attempt to trick Aya, which ends up being a waste of time since they already fell for Aya's initial trick, and there's a bunch of needless drama with Towa because everyone made a conscious decision to also trick her, even though she probably would have been able to allow the secretly useless and entirely overcomplicated ruse-within-a-ruse to go off without a hitch, if only she had she known what was happening in the first place. Takechiyo even gets in on the action by tricking Towa into thinking Moroha got horribly murdered in her arms. Why? Who the hell knows! Maybe it's because Takechiyo just gets off on psychologically abusing teenaged girls. I'd buy it. Just look at the little creep.
Throw in some harmful stereotypes and a hilariously clunky last-minute scene where Towa gets all tearful over Moroha's safety – despite definitely not giving a crap all those times that Moroha was in actual danger – and there you have it: “Princess Aya's Beniyasha Hunting.” No, Moroha does not transform into Beniyasha. Yes, I'm just as mad about all of this as you are. The only reason this episode is getting a two-star rating is because there's a funny bit where Moroha plays along with the bounty hunters' silly entrance-theme bit. I'm giving it one extra start for making me laugh exactly once. That might be damning Yashahime with faint praise, but with nineteen episodes down and only a handful to go, I'm afraid that faint praise is just about the only good thing Yashahime can hope to earn at this point.
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