Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon ?
I ended last week's review of Yashahime saying, “We'll need more than cheap nostalgia and filler to get by.” I've honestly felt bad about that since the review went up, though not because Yashahime didn't deserve the criticism; rather, it violates one of my own personal rules about anime discourse, which is the firmly held belief that, if a show isn't deviating from any kind of source material in order to stall for time, then “filler” isn't the right word to use when criticizing poor pacing or sloppy serialization. It's really a matter of semantics, but I'm a nerd who's job is to write about my feelings about cartoons on the internet, so of course I'm going to care about semantics.What I should have said was: “We'll need more than cheap nostalgia and what feels like filler to get by,” because that's really the problem that Yashahime keeps presenting us with. It is, for all intents and purposes, an original anime, untethered from the restrictions of needing to adapt a certain number of chapters per episode, or those that come with translating a pre-existing story to the screen. Yashahime's failures don't come from needing to fill dead air while waiting for a currently published story to produce enough material to get the show's story back on track. Its writing is just, you know, bad. Unfocused, directionless, and lacking in any identifiable stakes or meaningful conflict. So, if “filler” isn't the word I would use to summarize these issues, I'll have to go with something similar, like…“flailing.” Yeah, that sounds about right.
Never has Yashahime's flailing about felt more noticeable or irritating than here, in “Meeting Through an Apple,” an episode that is almost impressive in the lengths it is willing to go in order to waste everyone's time. Here's the breakdown: Towa feels a bit useless being treated as the weak link of the trio when it comes to slaying demons, so when Setsuna and Moroha go off to do their respective bounty hunting things, Towa takes it upon herself to be useful and find the Dream Butterfly. How does she intend to do this? What possible leads could she follow in order to track down this elusive, legendary spirit? Well, Kohaku mentioned that her supernatural sniffing powers were starting to improve, so I guess her plan is to sort of wander aimlessly around ancient Kanto until she finds it?
I honestly can't tell if this is the kind of dumb decision-making that we're supposed to recognize as silly and childish – on account of our heroine being a child and all – or if the show figured that its intended audience of children just wouldn't think too hard about it. Either way, it doesn't actually matter, because the titular apple meeting happens when a very prettied up fellow named Riku drops out of a tree and starts haranguing Towa. Since she doesn't find anything about this situation strange, annoying, or even remotely questionable, Towa decided to forget about her goal entirely and have an impromptu picnic with the guy. Riku, who claims to be a “pirate washed ashore,” is suspiciously cool with this bizarrely-dressed young woman who likes to talk vaguely about coming from the future while passing out snacks that should make a person from the feudal era immediately want to scramble for the nearest witch-hunting kit. He is, to his credit, suitably impressed by Towa's apple, which I learned is a fruit that wasn't cultivated in Japan until around the Meiji Era, hundreds of years after this time period.
Later, we learn that rumors have apparently been going around for years concerning a certain mysterious shrine maiden from the far off world of “Tokyo”, so I guess we can assume that peoples of interest from all over have at least some notion of the whole time-travel thing. Riku has obviously got more going on than being some random pirate, since just before he leaves he decides to give Towa the real version of the Kikumonji, which he recently stole from the Deputy Shogun of Kanto. This is beyond convenient, since the cheap replica Towa got from her great-grandfather has long since snapped in two, but not only does Towa not seem to recognize that this is the same sword, but she also doesn't even really seem all that bothered by meeting Riku in the first place, which should be raising all sorts of red flags on account of being sketchy as hell.
Whatever plot points Riku's visit might be foreshadowing will have to wait, however, since Towa is immediately arrested on suspicion of stealing swords and generally being a time-traveling freak of nature, which ends up bringing us right back to the very first episode of Yashahime. This is where the episode completely flies off the rails, because instead of doing anything interesting with the recontextualizing of Towa's capture, Yashahime proceeds to just go through every single plot point of the first episode again, ending at exactly the same spot we ended the first time. It truly is as pointless as it sounds.
But wait, we get a lot of new scenes that show us new elements of the story, so surely “Meeting Through an Apple” has to have some reason to replay a story we already saw happen, right? Well, we kind-of see Kirinmaru for the first time, and one of his Four Perils, Kikyu, ends up being the reason it took Setsuna and Moroha so long to rescue Towa in the first place. She summons what has to be the goofiest looking polar-bear demon ever created to fight Setsuna and Towa, but the bear's real – and much more adorable – form is actually in the Deputy Shogun's headquarters with Towa and Co. Towa sniffs it out, zaps it with some magic finger blasts, and then everything else plays out just the same as before.
To recap, the entirety of this episode was devoted to communicating three basic things: Riku is a dude that is around and doing…something, Kirinmaru is a bad guy that has other bad guys who are after the pearls in the girls' eyes for…some reason, and Towa is becoming slightly more competent at using her half-demon magics. That isn't nearly enough to build an entire episode around, so I guess I understand why Yashahime decided to recycle half of an episode we already saw to fill time, but that doesn't make the experience of watching it all go down any less stupid. Yashahime may decide to quit its desperate flailing one of these days, and I sure hope its soon, because this show is quickly becoming the biggest disappointment of the season.
Odds and Ends
• It is no coincidence that the worst episode of Yashahime so far also features the least Moroha so far. Play to your strengths, Yashahime! Give us more of the idiot gremlin queen that we deserve.
• I don't know if I liked the strange dream that Towa has while Setsuna serenades her with the violin, but it was something, at least. Towa has a vision of her and Setsuna hanging out at, like, the mall or something, while her mother plays the violin and Setsuna gets to enjoy her own her decade-delayed snooze. I know Yashahime is intent on selling the sisters' relationship as the core of its story, and we keep getting scenes of Setsuna begrudgingly admitting that she cares about Towa to try and reinforce that. I don't think it's really working all that well, but at least Yashahime is trying, I guess.
• Poor Towa just wanted to prove that she could be reliable this week, and given the results of that mission…well, maybe next time, kiddo.
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