For millions of millennials watching Adult Swim on Saturday nights or early weekday mornings, Inuyasha was a formative viewing experience. I still remember my middle school friend’s Halloween costume of the title character, furry ears and all. Another indelible memory is of the anime’s ending themes, which I would frequently catch when I woke up before my alarm (“Every Heart” and “Deep Forest” are my favorites). Along with Bleach and the original Fullmetal Alchemist, Inuyasha birthed a generation of anime fans.
The announcement of Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon was an exciting surprise. A decade after Inuyasha ended, a sequel series exploring what Inuyasha and his friends’ lives were like after Naraku? It’s a no-brainer. As more details about it emerged, it became clear that Yashahime wouldn’t be a continuation of that epic journey. Instead, it would follow the lives of Inuyasha and his brother Sesshomaru’s female offspring, a new adventure for a new generation of feudal heroes. Anyone aware of the ongoing battles over Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, or perhaps Naruto and Boruto, know how precarious it can be to launch an indirect sequel with an original cast that fans have canonized.
Yashahime understands the challenge before them and does a lot to prepare its audience for the transition. The first episode introduces Towa Higurashi, bounded by rope and interrogated by two men who believe her to be the “princess half-demon.” She demurs, but her cavalier attitude is shaken by revealing a bike seat that once belonged to Kagome. The story then pivots back more than ten years in time, to six months after Kagome abandoned her life in the modern era to live with Inuyasha, and spends most of the episode there.
The pilot, titled “Inuyasha: Since Then,” is practically an Inuyasha OVA (original video animation), an almost self-contained monster of the week tale that also checks in on every single character from the original series (except Ah-Un, I guess). This episode’s villain is Root Head, a demon that Kikyo sealed away before she met Inuyasha and now wants revenge and the Shikon Jewel. Of course, Kikyo is (thankfully) dead, and the Jewel is no more, so Root Head decides to target the next best thing: Kagome. Of course, Inuyasha and friends prevail, but their success in the battle, unfortunately, sets the stage for the demon to rear his head (pun intended) with their offspring.
The episode hits similar beats as classic Inuyasha, in ways that are both frustrating and comfortingly familiar. Inuyasha fretting about Kagome being upset about Root Head’s connection to Kikyo was confusing and even annoying since they resolved that issue long ago. Miroku lamenting his weakness without the Wind Tunnel felt strange considering how much torment Naraku’s curse had caused him throughout the original series. And yet, there is much joy to be found in Kagome calmly saying “osuwari” and forcing Inuyasha to the ground, or Jakken frantically clinging to the perpetually unbothered Sesshomaru’s fur stole. I wish that we could’ve seen the characters in a more advanced state – six months doesn’t feel like enough time to let pass – but I can’t deny how wonderful it was to see these characters again, behaving pretty much as expected.
Yashahime‘s focus on the past this episode doesn’t say much about its present or future. There are still many questions about this new group of characters and how they fit in the Inuyasha universe. We know from pre-release materials that Towa is Sesshomaru’s daughter, but we don’t know who her mother is (conventional wisdom points to Rin, but that raises all kinds of red flags that I’m not sure how the series would deal with). We can assume from the opening credits that both Sesshomaru, Inuyasha, and Kohaku are alive, but what about Kagome, Miroku, and Sango? How close are the girls to their parents? Taking a more birds-eye view, how have the feudal and modern eras changed with the next generation?
Seeking answers is a great way to ensure viewers stayed tuned for the rest of the season. Still, it is odd that Yashahime didn’t dedicate more time to introducing characters who will be central to the remaining episodes. This is Towa and Setsuna’s story; Inuyasha’s story concluded ten years ago. If the series was looking to remind fans why Inuyasha was so beloved, it succeeded; the nostalgia hit was real. However, the show has a bit further to go in securing the same passion for its new group.
Yashahime: The Princess Half-Demon is available on Hulu.