Yashahime: New Look, Same Great Taste? We’ll See.

I’ve been thinking a lot about parents lately, mostly because of the difficulties I have in continuing to live with my own. While the specifics are messy and personal, know that I desperately want to claw my way out of the worst of the pandemic and over most if not all of my remaining student loans to find a home of my own. I’m not staying here. I’ll get out. But in the meantime, in between furious quilting and keeping up to date on current events, I’ve found myself intrigued by a new anime: Yashahime: Princess Half Demon.

yashahime-princess-half-demon-three-daughters

(Clockwise from the top: Mohora, Towa, and Setsuna – our main trio)

Yashahime is the anime-only (and currently one season only) sequel to Inuyasha, a long-running anime and manga series created by Rumiko Takahashi, one of the best known manga artists in Japan. The story follows Towa Higurashi, half-demon daughter of Sesshomaru and adopted menber of the Higurashi family, as she is thrown forward in time away from her twin sister Setsuna, only to be reunited ten years later, with Setsuna’s memory of their childhood gone and her ability to sleep and dream stolen from her. Along for the ride is Mohora, daughter of Inuyasha and Kagome (the original series’ leads) and Towa and Setsuna’s half-cousin, a bounty hunter who skews chaotic ridiculous on the alignment chart and, as friends have described, “posesses the one brain cell of the group, yet refuses to use it”. Towa is determined to help Setsuna regain her memories, Setsuna’s job is to exterminate demons, and Mohora’s just here to make money, so they end up coming together to fight enemies and advance the story.

It’s. It’s so fun. It’s everything I need right now. Just three 14yr old girls running around Feudal Japan, no romance in sight – they’ve got what they want to do and by gosh they’re going to do it! And Towa herself is a character archetype I’ve loved since Revolutionary Girl Utena: teen girl in masculine clothes with a sword who fights to protect others? Sign me up immediately! So far there’s plenty of Rumiko Takahashi’s flavor of shenanigans mixed in with serious plot happenings, and the aesthetic of Japan’s past is one that I always love to steep myself in when an anime presents it.

But why this show? Why have I gravitated towards this? Older anime fans often avoid their past in the Inuyasha fandom if they can; fandoms of our early teen years can be seen as “cringe”, as the kids say, and Inuyasha has plenty of things to mock in comparison to other anime that one can arguably say is better. I know I personally did my best to distance myself from it as I began to watch different shows, despite it being the show that helped me learn about anime as a genre. But now, less than a month out from turning 30, in the midst of what is the most stressful and terrifying period of my life yet with a pandemic and the US Presidential Election…

Yeah. Yeah, I want the nostalgia. I want the new, fresh, and different stuff in a format that shouts out to the 13yr old me.

I’ll be honest, though – it’s getting my brain turning on a trend in anime that’s geared up in the past few years: the “next generation sequel”.

I wouldn’t say this is a big push of a movement in anime, but with the prevalence of Boruto (which, if you don’t know, is the sequel to Naruto), I started to realize that a lot of long-running anime popular in the West has a legacy kind of format. The Dragon Ball series started with following Goku as a child, and Dragon Ball Z gave us the introduction of a new generation starting with his son, Gohan. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure follows the lineage of the Joestar family and their ongoing conflict with megalomaniac vampire Dio Brando, even through alternate universes. (Apparently. This is what Wikipedia tells me, I’ve never seen anything beyond episode one, I don’t think I could survive just how bizarre the JoJos’ adventures really are.) While I’ve refused to engage with new materials proper, even Homestuck has a sequel running, Homestuck^2, where a significant portion of the story is devoted to one timeline’s cast’s kids and how they deal with all the stuff happening around them. Hell, even one-off “where are they now” specials for series are gaining traction, showing characters after their life-altering series and how they continue to adapt and thrive in a world where the spotlight no longer shines upon them so brightly. That in itself is an intriguing topic to go on about, but there’s one thing about all these things specifically that really bothers me.

The parents.

Yeah, we’re going full circle on this one today folks.

There’s a distinct trend in these sorts of series that I notice time and again, whether through direct engagement or from an outsider’s perspective, and that trend is of parental negligence. A lot of these characters whose journeys we’ve ridden along for have proven to be really bad at being parents, and perhaps that isn’t much of a surprise. Naruto in Boruto is often cited as having been very busy in Boruto and Himawari’s early lives, and now is sort of a cringey adult who pops up now and again to try and get his son to like him. Previous Joestars are either absent or distant from the current JoJo of the series, and Goku has long been touted as being terrible at parenting in general, to the point where Piccolo is acknowledged as a much more influential person in Gohan’s life as a father figure. And in Homestuck^2, the conflicts going on (as I’ve been told) are mainly caused by the original story’s main characters continuing to flounder in their flaws and biases, and their kids are the ones who have to deal with the fallout.

We see something similar being set up in Yashahime – Towa and Setsuna were left to live alone in the woods some time before four years of age, and Mohora doesn’t seem to know or care about who her parents are. While Towa ended up having the love and stability of an adoptive family, Setsuna really seemed to only have Lady Kaede and the demon slayers later on in life, and we don’t know who raised Mohora yet, nor why Inuyasha and Kagome couldn’t or didn’t take care of her. It’s weird and a little troubling that there’s such a trend for cruddy parental figures that even characters we grew up watching, that we know and adore, end up falling into those narrative pitfalls. It can be frustrating to watch as someone who remembers the previous series, cheering for characters to overcome their struggles only for those they leave behind to never really bond with them or understand the mantle they take upon themselves.

At the same time, I’m looking forward to where Yashahime goes. The main characters’ dynamics with each other, even just from the first five episodes, is fun and endearing to watch, and I genuinely want to see how the story shakes out. I want to know if these girls can have any sort of reconciliation with their parents or learn more about themselves. I want them to find their place in the world, in whichever time period they choose, and thrive in it. If anything, it is a small respite from an incredibly chaotic world, and I am far too tired and old to care if people think it’s “totally cringe” to watch an Inuyasha sequel anime.

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