Anime Review: Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon

Details: Also known as Hanyou no Yashahime: Sengoku Otogizoushi and 半妖の夜叉姫. More information can be found at https://myanimelist.net/anime/41911/Hanyou_no_Yashahime__Sengoku_Otogizoushi

Score: 6.5/10

Yashahime is the sequel to Inuyasha, a fairly popular anime and manga that came out over a decade ago (maybe two decades). I watched the series when it originally aired and I enjoyed it at first. I soon lost interest as the story just dragged, pacing was an issue and no meaningful progression was made with the primary plot or the relationships between the characters. I’ve only watched a little more than a dozen of the episodes of Yashahime, but it seems like it is making all the same mistakes as Inuyahsa.

Some spoilers ahead.

Yashahime takes place around ten to twenty years after the ending of Inuyasha. In Inuyasha, a teenage Japanese girl named Kagome finds a magical well that transports her to Japan during the feudal period. This is a time of war, factions, and most importantly, magic and demons. When she gets there, she meets Inuyasha, someone who is half human and half demon. During Inuyasha, the two fall in love and eventually get married. Kagome decides to forgo the present and live the rest of her life with Inuyasha in feudal Japan.

Yashahime centers on the child of Inuyasha and Kagome, but more importantly, on the two children of Inuyasha’s brother, Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru’s children are born in feudal Japan, but one somehow gets sent to modern day Japan. That child grows to a teenager before finding a way back to feudal Japan. Now, that child has decided to travel back to feudal Japan in order to find her sister and making up for time lost.

The story is okay… but mostly boring. The original Inuyasha dragged on to such an extent as to drain me of any interest in the series. I watched Yashahime in hopes of something fresh or a revitalization of this franchise. Unfortunately, Yashahime is boring series and simply seeks to try and recreate the nostalgic feelings of what was present in Inuyasha. Yashahime is a series for only the most devoted of Inuyasha fans and even then, it is a dissapointment.

For most Inuyasha fans, they probably just want to see what happened to their favorite characters. While Yashahime does go into that a bit, it is a slow drip. They drop a small bit of plot progression here and there, but they mostly ignore the original characters and focus on the new characters. This wouldn’t be a terrible development, except the primary characters are kind of boring as well.

The animation is fine as is the voice acting. The original Inuyasha had this amazing, fully orchestrated soundtrack. The music here is good, but not as memorable as the melodies from the original series.

Overall, this series may attempt to attract new fans, but it mostly fails at that. Long time Inuyasha fans will likely mostly enjoy this series, but still be disappointed by the absence of their favorite characters from the old series. Personally, I did not enjoy this show and have dropped it from the shows I usually watch. I think it is also important to mention that this show is aimed at younger audiences, which may be why I– now much older than when I originally watched Inuyasha– find a lot of the humor and plot developments emotionless and boring.

Manga Review: Even If Your Mouth Is Torn

Details: Currently ongoing. I’ve read ten issues. Also known as Kuchi ga Saketemo Kimi Niwa and 口が裂けても君には.

Score: 7/10

Even If Your Mouth Is Torn is a romance and slice of life story about a spirit and a young man. It’s very cute.

Miroku is a spirit in the form of a human woman with her mouth slashed open. She goes around scaring people in hopes of spreading her legend. Kouichi is a young man who has fallen in love with Miroku. Together, they form a contract where if Miroku cannot successfully scare Kouichi within a year, she will marry him. Until then, the two live together.

This story was originally a one shot story. Then, three issues came out. Then, it apparently got picked up for a whole series. So I guess it’s achieved some success.

What was hard for me to get over at first was how nasty the spirit looked at first. Her mouth is gruesomely split open and it shows in many scenes. But after a while, you get used to it and appreciate the character underneath. The spirit is actually very cute and you get a lot of scenes like you’d expect to see in your standard romance manga.

The art is good and a fitting style for this often comedic, sweet story.

Overall, I enjoyed this twist on a romance story. Only a few issues have come out, but I’ve enjoyed watching these two characters be sweet to each other.

Anime Review: Jujutsu Kaisen

Details: Currently ongoing. More information can be found at https://myanimelist.net/anime/40748/Jujutsu_Kaisen_TV

Score: 7/10

One of the most important things for a successful shounen anime is that the fight scenes are animated well. Jujutsu Kaisen does exactly that. Jujutsu Kaisen is your stereotypical shounen anime whose story is kind of a mashup of Naruto and Bleach (at least the first story arc in Bleach).

Jujutsu Kaisen takes place in present day Japan. A high school student’s encounter with the supernatural leads him to join a world filled with curses, sorcerers and monsters. He must now enter this world, train and become more powerful in order to fight supernatural bad guys.

The story is a very generic shounen story, to the extent that the first few story arcs are copy and pastes of story arcs from other popular shounen anime. Some examples of this redundant story telling is that the protagonist has a demon inside him (like in Naruto), all the characters are part of a school for other students with super powers (like Naruto, My Hero Academia, etc.) and the protagonist goes through a training arc where they explain how powers work in this world. It’s very uninspired and repetitive for the shounen genre.

However, fans of shounen don’t become fans just for a unique story, they want to see impressively animated fight scenes and this anime delivers on that. There’s only fourteen episodes at the time this review was written, but we’ve already gotten a few well done fight scenes. It’s one of those situations where there’s an obvious jump in animation quality when a plot relevant fight scene shows up. Animation is more fluid and more details and frames are noticeably added in.

Overall, Jujutsu Kaisen is average in terms of story, but I’d still recommend it for the fight scenes. If you like shounen anime Naruto, Bleach, or My Hero Academia, you will likely enjoy Jujutsu Kaisen. It’s one of the most popular shounen anime to come out in the past year.

Movie Review: Soul

Details: More information can be found at https://movies.disney.com/soul and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2948372/

Score: 8.2/10

Pixar has done it again. Soul is the latest classic and masterpiece from those geniuses at Pixar. It is a unique, incredibly creative story about finding your purpose in life, before life and after life.

There will be some spoilers ahead.

Joe is a high school music teacher who dreams of being a successful jazz musician. After getting the gig of his dreams, Joe dies. He goes to the after life and meets 22 a soul who has yet to be born. Together, the two must figure out a way to get Joe back to his body so that his dreams can finally come true.

There’s just so much here that is amazingly unique and creative. Firstly, the portrayal of New York City is incredible. If you’ve ever been inside a New York City public school, you’d recognize that grungy dirtiness in the movie. They also take a lot of real world New York City locations and portray them accurately. I recognized a lot of the streets in the movie, including a more obscure one from Woodside. I think they may have even chosen real world locations for every scene in the movie. But what I love about the portrayal is that it is a noisy, dirty, grungy, accurate portrayal of New York City and that works wonderfully for the narrative. This is a story about appreciating the beauty of life and Pixar does an amazing job of contrasting that noise with narrative moment of clarity and beauty.

The other thing I loved was their portrayal of the afterlife. It is one of the most unique, hilarious, yet universal portrayals of the afterlife I’ve ever seen. The visuals they use are so abstract, spiritual and conceptual, which is exactly what a higher state of being should be. And yet, it is hilarious. It’s one part philosophical and existential, one part played for laughs. The beings that govern the afterlife all look like they walked out of Picasso paintings and behave like something not from this world. And yet, they have English accents. It’s a wonderfully creative balance between high concept and just funny enough to being enjoyable to children. That’s one of the things Pixar has done well historically; they tell stories complex enough for adults, but enjoyable for children as well.

Overall, this movie was fantastic. It’s an instant classic and enjoyable for audiences of all ages. In my opinion this movie easily ranks up there with movies like Coco and Ratatouille.

Manga Review: Ajin

The above video is the trailer for the anime. This is a review for the manga.

Details: The series is currently ongoing, but keep in mind that the most recent issue came out months after the last issue. It’s pretty much on extreme delay/hiatus. More information can be found at https://kodanshacomics.com/series/ajin-demi-human/

Score: 7.2/10

Ajin starts out has a horror/survival story, but quickly turns into a psychological thriller. We get to watch a battle of wits between two characters who seemingly can’t die.

Ajin takes place in a fictionalized version of the real world. It’s mostly the same except a few years ago, society discovered that some people cannot die no matter how much harm you inflict upon them. There are only a few of them, but the world awaits the appearance of the next one.

Enter Kei, a Japanese students who discovers he is an Ajin. If he’s captured, what awaits him is a lifetime of dissection, experimentation and torture. So Kei goes on the run.

I want to leave the synopsis there, but it would be a disservice to ignore the latter 70% of the story. About a quarter into the current number of issues, the writer left the series and the artist took over writing duties. This happens sometimes and usually, the results are lackluster. However, the artist somehow wrote a more interesting story than the original writer.

The story changed with the introduction of the character Sato. I won’t go too much into the character, but his personality and insanity add so much to the series. The series becomes this enormous game of cat and mouse between two relative immortals (Ajin still die of old age, just not physical harm) where the two go to great lengths to defeat each other. Sato especially shows just what you can do with immortality if you’re willing to do whatever it takes.

The art is great and the quality is the same throughout. This is obviously because the artist never left.

Overall, this is a great series. The only caveat I would offer is that recently, the series has been almost entirely on hiatus. There are months between the current issue and the prior issue and it is unclear when the next issue will come out. What’s clear is that the series seems to be reaching its end. We just don’t know how many issues it will take to end. Ideally, this series will have a satisfying ending and won’t be dropped by writer/author with no ending.