While I wasn’t part of the camp that had its name plastered on Suncoast-acquired bags or posters, InuYasha did play a big part in my growing love for Japanese animation. My Saturday nights watching it on [adult swim] back in high school and college capped my days off with great action, comedy, and the two main heroes constantly screaming each others’ names at one another. It wasn’t a perfect anime by any means, but it did leave a great impression on the art form as a whole.
Now more than a decade after The Final Act aired on televisions around the world, Sunrise (Mobile Suit Gundam, Sgt. Frog) has brought its viewers back to the Feudal Era with YashaHime: Princess Half-Demon. Presenting a new generation of heroes, the series follows the twin daughters of Sesshomaru (Ken Narita/David Kaye) and the daughter of InuYasha (Kappei Yamaguchi/Richard Cox) & Kagome (Satsuki Yukino/Kira Tozer). But does it still contain the heart and funny bone of its predecessor, or — like most continuations nowadays — is it fueled by as much greed as in Naraku's soul?
At the age of four, Towa (Sara Matsumoto/Erica Mendez) is separated from her sister Setsuna (Mikako Komatsu/Kira Buckland), being sent to the modern era via the Tree of Ages. Ten years later, the sisters are reunited, but with Setsuna’s memories wiped away. With the aid of the bounty hunter Moroha (Azusa Tadokoro/Morgan Berry), the twins set off to find the elusive Dream Butterfly, which will not only bring Setsuna’s memory back, but also give her the ability to sleep once more. But as usual, the evils of the Feudal Era will make it all the more challenging for the three to conquer their goals.
Although the first episode does a fantastic job catching viewers up with the original InuYasha crew, YashaHime does its best to push the main cast aside for the narrative’s new focus. Despite the likes of Kagome and Miroku (Makoto Yasumura/Kirby Morrow) now being played as background characters, their spirits are strongly intertwined with Towa, Setsuna, and Moroha. Even more interesting is how well their personalities match with those who raised them.
As Towa was raised more by Kagome’s brother Sota (Junya Enoki/Robbie Daymond), we see her as having a mixture of both Sesshomaru and the Higurashi family’s mentality. Setsuna, on the other hand, blends the initially cold attitude of her father with that of demon exterminator Kohaku (Ryōhei Kimura/Alan Lee), as he plays a role in shaping her demeanor. For Moroha, it’s easy to see the snarky side of InuYasha and the kindheartedness of Kagome all rolled into one adorably funny package. This is all captured beautifully by both the Japanese and English voice cast, who emote in ways that partner their respective characters with their predecessors.
Seeing as original creator Rumiko Takahashi only takes a character design role here in YashaHime, having the original series scriptwriter Katsuyuki Sumisawa helps with keeping the narrative true to the form of its predecessor. Going back and forth between the original cast and the new one in the first episode, we see how well the baton is passed between these characters. Although we do get a very quick time jump to see the three girls already growing up, viewers get a good sense of familiarity while watching their actions unfold. It brings to mind how BORUTO: Naruto Next Generations handles their characters, as we see how the original cast helped to shape the new cast on their journeys.
From a narrative perspective, Sumisawa does a good job keeping things fresh for both newcomers and fans of the original series. There are some throwbacks to the original show, but there are enough new things that don’t make it feel like a rehash or a revisit. Thankfully, it also does a terrific job at keeping to the core essence of InuYasha, something that a show like FLCL Progressive failed to achieve. You could easily marathon through the entire original show, and then dive immediately into YashaHime without feeling jarred by something.
Two of the key elements of Takahashi’s original work are still as strong as its predecessor. First off, the humor is true to form, with both the verbal and physical gags meshing in perfectly with InuYasha. When you see Towa, Setsuna, and Moroha together, it becomes apparent that they are more dorkier than heroic when the swords are put away. It adds to the three characters’ charms, bringing forth plenty of likable elements to viewers. (It is easy to see, though, that Moroha is the most favorite for Sumisawa to write for, as she tends to have the better one-liners and reactions.)
The other element is its action. Its visual aesthetic is not a 2020 revamp like what most shows these days do; rather, it looks exactly like how InuYasha did when it premiered in 2000. Granted, there’s a lot more attention placed in both coloring and framing, but it doesn’t give it an unnecessary facelift like what a lot of sequel shows do. At its very best is when Towa, Setsuna, and Moroha slay demons, which not only flow beautifully, but also present fans with a plethora of creepy (and sometimes humorous) visuals of who the trio are fighting.
Also returning to the franchise is composer Kaoru Wada, who hasn’t missed a step when it comes to epic feudal-like compositions and comedic melodies. As soon as the brass section of each song hits, you know something big and eye-catching is about to unfold. Opening theme “New Era” by SixTONES is catchy and lyrically fun to hear, as its tone meshes with the fun adventure viewers are about to have. The real shining star of the music department is Uru’s end theme “Break”, with a melody that brings to mind the 4X4=12-era of Deadmau5 that’s amplified with the vocalist’s goosebump-inducing harmonies.
YashaHime: Princess Half-Demon does nothing to betray its origins. Instead, it embraces the lore of InuYasha while giving viewers a new and endearing cast of characters that are just as easy to fall in love with. It’ll be hard to tell how or where the show will go in the long run, but at this point in time, I don’t see how anyone can worry about what Towa, Setsuna, and Moroha will bring to the Feudal Era in the not-too-distant future.
Voice Acting: (Japanese and English dubs)
Final Grade (not an average):
YashaHime: Princess Half-Demon can be viewed on Crunchyroll, VRV, FunimationNOW, and Hulu. It has been licensed by VIZ Media. Episodes 1-8 were observed for this review. Promotional consideration provided by VIZ Media and Ellation.