Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon ?
“The Dream Gazing Trap” is yet another chapter in Yashahime's undercooked story, giving Towa, Setsuna, and Moroha even more chaos to navigate while dropping a pittance of narrative breadcrumbs that at this point feel designed to frustrate its audience. This show is proving to be the kind of anime that is honestly the most awkward to navigate, both as a fan and as a critic. It certainly hasn't recaptured the same magic of Inuyasha, but neither is it the sort of abysmal failure that would at least be interesting to watch in a morbid ten-car-pileup kind of way. Instead, this slapdash tale of the Princess Half-Demons is operating in that nebulous zone of mediocrity where you can clearly see the entertaining and satisfying anime that it is trying to be, yet every week it continues to make the same mistakes that prevent it from realizing its potential.
All of this is to say that, in order to effectively communicate just why “The Dream Gazing Trap” doesn't work very well as a single episode of the series, I have to double back and get a few more kicks in on those dead horses I feel like I've been beating for two months now: The three girls' motivations are flimsy and unconvincing. There are too many plot threads, with not enough reason to care about any of them. The slivers of information we're given about the fates of the original Inuyasha crew are too vague to be particularly meaningful, but too frequent to treat as simple fanservice or foreshadowing. Yashahime wants you to care a whole lot about Towa's quest to steal back Setsuna's dreams, Moroha's quest to earn her freedom from Jyubei's debts, and Kirinmaru's nefarious scheme to…do whatever it is he's planning on doing. Now, with Riku in the picture, we have even more antagonists to contend with, since he plans to manipulate the girls into retrieving the four additional Rainbow Pearls that complement their three, because now these seven Rainbow Pearls are the big important MacGuffins that are driving the plot. Plus the Dream Butterfly. Plus the hunt for Sesshomaru and Kirinmaru. Plus whatever is going on with Rin and the Tree of Ages.
Here's the thing: I know that all of these elements are connected, and that there's probably some big exposition dump coming that will explain how these disparate elements are really all a part of the same grand adventure that will lead to the girls fulfilling their destinies, or something. The problem is that the components of this shambling story are being delivered in the least compelling and most convoluted manner possible, which only serves to alienate old and new fans alike. Case in point: The episode begins with the girls fighting the owl demon, Yotsume, who is one of Kikyu's henchmen. Kikyu herself is an underling to Kirinmaru, and the only thing we even know about Kirinmaru at this point is that he's a capital-B Bad Guy, one who is also working with Sesshomaru, who has seemingly reverted to his own Bad Guy ways for Mysterious Reasons, except maybe not, since Sesshomaru is also apparently in cahoots with the Tree Spirit...
Do you see what I mean? It takes a full paragraph of breathless expositing just to set up why our heroes are fighting the villains-of-the-week, and none of what I just covered actually explains anything. Hell, Towa and Setsuna have explicitly disavowed the mission to fight their absentee Dog Dad, so really the only connection that their goals have with what the story is telling us to care about is the audience's assumption that all of this is connected, because that is how stories generally work. This is not good writing.
Then there are the glimpses into the characters' dreams that Yotsume's magic induces. Why the dreams and dreamers get all mixed around is anyone's guess, since that fact doesn't affect the episode's plot at all, but beyond that, consider what they show us: In one, we see a silent Miroku dropping off a tiny Takechiyo to live with Jyubei, who namedrops Hachi the Tanuki and implies that Takechiyo has some important origin that is also mysteriously connected to everything that is going on. In the other, we get our first new glimpses of Inuyasha and Kagome, with the latter tearfully sending her daughter off with Hachi as Inuyasha faces down his re-evilified brother and Kirinmaru.
In other words, it's just more teasing, and the information still doesn't impact what is happening to the main characters of this show, in the here and now. Setsuna kills Yotsume with ease, Towa takes out Kikyu by unleashing her pent up sisterly rage and harnessing her father's Azure Dragon Wave technique, and Riku is here to be ominous. Moroha barely gets anything to do, since Kikyu can just cancel out her Beniyasha transformation, and denying us our well-deserved Moroha sass may be “The Dream Gazing Trap's” most heinous mistake.
So, I suppose we'll just have to trudge along and content ourselves with vague flashbacks and underwhelming cameos, as Yashahime keeps on insisting that the plot is going to really come together into something that makes sense…eventually…maybe. Meanwhile, my guess is that Moroha, Towa, and Setsuna will continue to wander about, and we'll have to wait for more story to just sort of happen to them, and it'll be a total crapshoot as to whether or not the girls even take much notice of it. It could be just one more episode until Yashahime's story finally clicks into place; it could be twenty. I'll be here either way, hoping for the best, and expecting, well, more of this.
Odds and Ends
• Miroku's conspicuous silence in the dream sequence hit a bit differently given the unfortunate news that his longtime English voice actor, Kirby Morrow, passed away this week at the age of 47. His work as an actor and voice actor for both Western animation and English anime dubs has left a lasting legacy throughout the industry, and he will be missed.Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon is currently streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.
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