Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon heralds a continuation of Rumiko Takahashi’s highly celebrated Inuyasha which made huge waves in Japan and abroad when it first debuted over 20 years ago. Given the fandom around it’s predecessor, this new anime series has a lot to live up to.
It’s been 10 years since the events of Inuyasha have passed, with Sesshomaru’s twin daughters Towa and Setsuna separated across space and time as children only to reunite in contemporary Japan during a surprise crossing between their worlds. The problem is that while Towa has clear memories of them as children, Setsuna has none and finds Towa’s interest in rekindling their sense of sisterhood a foreign and unusual concept. To find out about her past, Towa returns with Setsuna and the impulsive bounty hunter Kagome to learn about where she came from and to unlock the memories Setsuna has shut off from their childhood.
Time to be upfront – despite having an interest in Inuyasha and being a massive fan of a number of Rumiko Takahashi properties (particularly Ranma 1/2, my introduction to her work, and Maison Ikkoku, which is criminally underrated), the sheer scale of Inuyasha kept it off my radar, leaving something of a blind spot in my history of anime fandom.
When the opportunity came to review Yashahime – Princess Half-Demon Season 1 Part 1 though, I felt this would provide an interesting doorway into the Inuyasha universe but also provide an interesting perspective for those interested in checking this one out but wondering if a lack of context will kill the experience.
As newbie I found all things Yashahime to be good fun. Not amazing or mind-blowing, but I felt the mix of characters was nice, enjoyed how it played the time/dimensional travel card, clearly sets up loads of plot elements that are easy to follow even if you’re unfamiliar with Inuyasha and did well with the monster of the week formula. Personally, I think it would have been nice to spend a bit more slice of life time in the contemporary timeline as it was interesting watching Towa trying to keep a lid on her supernatural powers in an urban environment, but what it presented was tight and focused which is probably a better scenario than an overly drawn-out affair.
Something which left me a little confused throughout Yashahime – Princess Half-Demon Season 1 Part 1 was the tone the series is gunning for. There’s elements of historical fiction and many of the episodes tackle situations which could be quite dark depending on the way they translate the context. These situations are often offset through super-anime battle sequences where the characters announce their awesome move of doom to save the day. Granted there’s often quirks and challenges applying the techniques to the situation which keeps things a bit more interesting than Sailor Moon twirling a magic wand and unleashing death lovehearts on an unsuspecting monster, but the lack of gravitas to these scenarios feels a little at odds with the subject matter.
On reflection though, maybe that’s it’s strength – by resisting the urge to get all dark and serious about these issues and presenting them in a matter-of-fact stance (frequently with a comedic edge), we see that particular charm of Takahashi’s shine through in Yashahime.
For the local Blu-Ray release of Yashahime – Princess Half-Demon Season 1 Part 1 we have the first chunk of episodes spread over 2 discs to allow plenty of breathing room for the encoding. It’s a bilingual release, though I’m unsure to what extent either cast has had in reprising their roles. Extras are minimal, clocking in with clean ops/eds, commentaries and an art gallery. What would have been ideal is a primer featurette for newbies like myself, but otherwise it’s a good package.
Taking the above under consideration, I think it’s reasonable to posit that Yashahime – Princess Half-Demon Season 1 Part 1 is entertaining on its own if you’re unfamiliar with the long-running TV series or theatrical entries, but the extra context that you get as a fan of the original work would elevate the experience. It’s a solid release with plenty of potential, and I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing where the second half of the season goes.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.