One fateful day, Yuusuke Urameshi, a 14-year-old delinquent with a dim future, gets a miraculous chance to turn it all around when he throws himself in front of a moving car to save a young boy. His ultimate sacrifice is so out of character that the authorities of the spirit realm are not yet prepared to let him pass on. Koenma, heir to the throne of the spirit realm, offers Yuusuke an opportunity to regain his life through completion of a series of tasks. With the guidance of the death god Botan, he is to thwart evil presences on Earth as a Spirit Detective.
To help him on his venture, Yuusuke enlists ex-rival Kazuma Kuwabara, and two demons, Hiei and Kurama, who have criminal pasts. Together, they train and battle against enemies who would threaten humanity's very existence.
#01: "Homework ga Owaranai" by Matsuko Mawatari (eps 1-29) #02: "Sayonara bye bye" by Matsuko Mawatari (eps 30-59) #03: "Unbalance na Kiss wo Shite" by Hiro Takahashi (eps 60-83) #04: "Taiyou ga Mata Kagayaku Toki" by Hiro Takahashi (eps 84-102) #05: "Daydream Generation" by Matsuko Mawatari (eps 103-111) #06: "Hohoemi no Bakudan" by Matsuko Mawatari (ep 112)
Alright, I'll start off by saying that I'm no longer a big fan of fighting-based anime. However, I do still enjoy the ones which are well done, as well as some of the classics. That said, if you really don't like fighting anime of any sort, even if its one which has a decent or really good story, then don't bother reading this review, because I can already tell you that this anime is most likely not for you.
Anyways, for those of you who do like a well constructed fighting/action anime, Yu Yu Hakusho is an outstanding show in this category, overall. Yes, it is
a shounen, and yes, it does have a few of those typical shounen clichés. However, it also manages to come up with a lot of very unique and inventive ideas, and its dialogue, above average story, with much more depth to it than what you would expect from a shounen, and actual good sense of humor (when compared to most other action anime), make this title stand out from the crowd.
I find the characters to be the real award winners here. They each have something unique and interesting about them. Upon first glance they may look like they each have those 1-dimensional cliché roles of an action series, but upon further viewing you will see that there is more than what meets the eye with Yu Yu Hakusho characters. I can guarantee that throughout the course of this show anyone watching it would at least find 1 character which they can truly appreciate. Also, this show doesn't just focus on the main character getting stronger and always being the big hero. There is some very interesting character development for many of the characters, and the way in which they interact with one another, as well the diversity and similarities that they show, make for a very balanced chemistry between this cast.
The animation and artwork isn't top notch, even for its time, but its adequate and gets the job done. The action isn't amazing, but believe it or not, unlike most action/shounen anime this anime often tends to focus more on developing its story and characters, rather than producing lots of mindless action. And at that, even if it doesn't look all that great it is great to see actual strategy and emotion playing big parts in many of the fights, rather than simply just having a bunch of punches, kicks, throws, explosions, etc., taking up multiple episodes.
Now, as for the music, its really all opinion. Some people won't find it to be anything special. I personally fell in love with the entire soundtrack of the series, and believe it or not, it has some of the best BGM that I have heard in any shounen anime. Its doesn't quite give you the same diversity and overall satisfaction that the soundtracks of Cowboy Bebop and a few other anime with great musical scores give you, but once again, its far above average when compared to most other shounen and action anime, or at least I feel that way about its music, personally.
And then finally, there is the voice acting. Oh, and how wonderful it is. Well, if you're watching the sub then chances are the voices will stand out to you as adequate, yet nothing amazing, but as long as you're watching a decent and reliable fansub or the DVDs, you will love the dialogue, which is brilliant in its use of sarcasm/jokes and also in delivering many of the serious and plot-oriented lines. However, if you're an English speaker, even if you typically can't stand dubs, the English dub is the way that this series should be watched. The English voice acting is absolutely fantastic. The voices all fit their respective characters almost perfectly. Sure, the dialogue may not be 100% accurate in correspondence to the original lines from the sub with its added humor and sarcasm (which is well worth going a little off track from the original script for, though), but the messages that each character gets across with their lines are delivered solidly and would be interpreted and understood in the same way, whether you were watching the sub or the dub. So, overall, the dub is loyal to the original text despite the fact that it makes a few very noticeable changes and states some lines in different ways.
Overall, Yu Yu Hakusho is a very fun and enjoyable series. This anime is not something that everybody is going to like, but most people should at least find something about it that keeps them interested. Its not a DBZ clone, and its not just a mindless excuse for intense action scenes. The show is fairly long, but its one of the few series that go over 100 episodes and still manage to stay fresh the whole way through. Therefore, I highly recommend this series. I personally find it to be one of the best series that anime has to offer, action or otherwise, and I know that many people would disagree with me (although, I'm really not a big anime buff), but I have watched my fair share of anime and I almost never give out 10's as scores since no series is perfect (and this anime is no exception), but when I feel that a series deserves it then I give it that score, and Yu Yu Hakusho is one of the few. If you haven't seen it yet then go out and give it a try. I can almost guarantee that you won't be sorry.
I was pleasantly surprised when I first watched this show, as I was expecting another typical DBZ clone that was heavy on action but light on the plot and character development. Amazingly what I discovered was the first shounen action anime that was ever able to hold my attention for over 100 episodes. Despite the length of the series and the now-familiar superpowered junior high school student cliché, Yu Yu Hakusho manages to deliver original material for each episode.
What really set this show apart from other shounen action shows for me was the relatively intelligent use of dialogue by the main characters. I originally watched
the uncut Funimation dub, which is definitely the translation I’d recommend (even if its probably not as true to the original dialog as some of the fansubs.) The humor in the show is less slapstick than most anime, and situational comedy plays a large part in the show, with some parts practically satirizing the action genre itself.
The story revolves around a junior high delinquent named Yusuke Urameshi becoming something called a “spirit detective” (although I’d really call him more of a fighter than a detective.) It is his job to take care of demons that escape into the living world and stop them from causing trouble. Yusuke takes his orders from a ancient mystical being named Koenma who also happens to look like a toddler and in addition to knowing the secrets of the universe is also “quite potty trained.”
Each character is portrayed uniquely, and contributes to the storyline. Yusuke manages to overcome many of the usual tough-guy stereotypes present in anime of this kind, coming across as witty and sarcastic as well as being a strongly independent fighter. Meanwhile, Kuwabara on the other hand actually embraces these same stereotypes to such a degree as to be hilarious as his “dumb punk” behavior is juxtaposed against such things as his love for kittens, or his “romantic” attempts toward Yukina.
The animation is really nothing special, even when compared to other anime released around the same time period. There are a lot of still and scrolling shots and characters are drawn relatively simply. The action scenes are somewhat lacking in visual effects as well, however what they lack in animation quality they more than make up in style. Each fight is characterized by the combatants unique personalities and fighting methods.
The soundtrack is nothing to write home about either, being somewhat repetitive and lacking in originality. Then again, clever musical arrangement is not something I have come to expect from shounen programming anyway. So I’ll admit that as far as audio and visual effects go, Yu Yu Hakusho is pretty mediocre. If you require stunning realism and breathtaking artwork, I would definitely not recommend this show for you. Since I tend to place more emphasis on story and characterization, these obvious shortcomings did not bother me as much.
So I’d say this show was definitely enjoyable, even to someone like me who tends to lack appreciation for less serious anime. While light in tone and not exactly intellectually stimulating, Yu Yu Hakusho manages to deliver an engaging story with a large dosage of clever humor as well. Certainly a decent show, especially if you enjoy classic early 90’s style anime action.
Probably one of the greatest Anime's ever made in my personal opinion. It is a timeless classic that really stands out. This was the second anime I ever watched back in the day thanks to Toonami. Here is my thoughts and opinions on Yu Yu Hakusho.
Story/Plot: Yu Yu Hakusho’s setting is in Japan. It tells the story of Yusuke Urameshi who was hit by a car while trying to save a child’s life. Now Yusuke has to survive ordeals and investigate cases concerning apparitions and demons all while trying to get his life back. Yusuke gets new found powers and has to defend spirit
world and human world from the demons. There are 4 arcs in total for the series.
To note: In my opinion I do feel like the Demon stuff has been overdone a lot, but the Demons in Yu Yu Hakusho were interesting for me due to Togashi's portrayal of some of them being nightmare fuel creatures to creatures similar to human beings. Also to note that even though Yu Yu Hakusho is Shonen, there are actually a lot of elements that would be Dubbed as Seinen (some stuff in the manga that was not allowed to be shown for the anime)
Characters: There are a lot of characters in Yu Yu Hakusho but let's cover the main four.
Yusuke Urameshi – Yusuke has the most growth and character development in the whole anime. He is a delinquent/tough guy attitude in the beginning but actuality he’s a jokester who is kind at heart. Yusuke is also very protective of his friends and is very self-aware of things around him.
Kazuma Kuwabara – Kuwabara may seem clumsy and short tempered at times but he is the most loyal and nicest character in the show. Kuwabara has a strict code of honor and he’s very honest. He is one of the best characters in my opinion next to Yusuke.
Kurama – Kurama is one of the most intelligent and cunning of the main four. He is the type of character that plans ahead while also analyzing and thinking deeply into things or a situation. He is usually very nice even while having a detached emotional state. The other side of himself is shown to be very merciless and cruel.
Hiei – Hiei is the most distant and cold of the main four. Hiei is very cynical and usually mocks or talks down to humans. He also has misanthropic views of the world and people. Hiei in actuality is very protective and actually cares deeply for the people in his group, notably Yusuke. He is a character that is having an internal struggle but projects himself as being cold on the outside.
Even the minor characters in Yu Yu Hakusho are interesting.
The 2 most important main antagonist characters of the story are probably my favorite antagonists in all of anime in terms of personality and design and even their fighting methods. They are not the stereotypical "evil" bad guys, but antagonists you can actually agree with or relate to and feel sympathy for them.
Animation & Art: Even for it's time the animation still impresses me both for nostalgic reasons but also because of the huge process they must of went through for all of the hand drawn animation. The only minor complaint I have is when they zoom in on the same shot 3 times or when some animation is repeated and reused; though I heard they were on some budget constraints at times so it is understandable. When actual big fights happen, the animation gets really good though and even fluent. The Artwork is very 90's of course and you can distinguish it too from Togashi's style of doing a half-anime style and semi realistic style at times.
Sound & Music: The sound effects for the fighting sequences are chosen very well and they match up perfectly with what’s going on. It's also a little on the nostalgia side for me because of the 90's anime sound effects; you don’t really hear them anymore. The music is absolutely amazing in my opinion. Part of it is 90's ambient with funky elements and dark electronic tones. The one thing that bothers me is that there’s a lot of unreleased music from the show. At least thirty plus music tracks are missing on the osts. None the less the music really fits and is very intense.
Voice Acting (English Dub & Japanese Dub): This is one of the rare animes where i actually prefer the English dub compared to the Japanese voice acting with subtitles. All of the character voices fit perfectly especially Justin Cook as Yusuke. This is one of the English dubs you can't forget especially if you watched it back in the day; it stays with you like the dragon ball z dub. I have listened to some of the Japanese dub though, and I have to say it’s also very good too.
Final Verdict: I would highly recommended Yu Yu Hakusho to anyone. It has everything right going for it and is a good example of an anime done right. The best part about Yu Yu Hakusho is that it has no filler and gets straight to the point even with 112 episodes. Yu Yu Hakusho is very actiony, supernatural, comedic, and serious/dark when needed. You don't really see anime like this anymore.
"You can't end a good party without somebody on the floor."
Nostalgia is powerful. Whether it's snuggling up in a warm, fleece blanket watching Christmas movies with family or taking a casual stroll through a vibrant Autumn color scheme. It reminds us of a very secure and comfortable time in our life. There are certain things in our lives, artifacts from that time period that act as memory vessels, transporting our minds back to that time. For me and presumably most of us here on MAL, the nostalgia-inducing medium is most likely anime or video games. The euphoric feeing that this nostalgia instills in our
minds is something special, irreplaceable and unreplicated.
I remember running home from the bus stop as fast as humanly possible to catch the newest episode of Dragonball Z or Yu Yu Hakusho on Toonami, often trudging through the thick Ohio snow. I was enthralled by the sanctity of Japanese animation. It made me feel comfortable. These types of shows were starkly different from Westernized cartoons, with their flamboyant animation style and detailed fight scenes. Characters I could relate to put in extraordinary situations transported me to the driver's seat, letting me live experience vicariously through them.
I will attempt to keep this as spoiler free as possible.
I decided to take a retrospective look at one of my personal favorites from that time period, Yu Yu Hakusho. This is an anime with so much to offer from a character development and shounen side, but often gets forgotten about due to its age. It's a story of maturity, morality and mortality. It works tirelessly to involve the viewer and teach them about the beauty of mortality, failure and the importance of friendship. Writer Yoshihiro Togashi takes four relative delinquents on the path for corruption or evil and places them in precarious situations that test their willpower and moral conscience. It's the writing of these characters and their relationships that truly sets Yu Yu Hakusho apart from other works in the genre. Sure, most shounen have extravagant combat scenes and bombastic characters, but few tell a story behind the scenes to the level of brilliance Togashi has achieved here.
14 year old Yusuke Urameshi is a very unappreciated protagonist. He starts the series as a hard-headed derelict without a drive for school or making friends, focusing his energy almost entirely on picking fights with others around him. Once his life was changed by dying at the hands of a speeding car, his previously undiscovered purpose in the world surfaced with gusto. Botan, a grim reaper of sorts, offers to spare his mortality in return for chasing spirits and other ghosts around as a "Spirit Detective". However, it ends up being less detective oriented and more like busy work, but it proves vital to introduce the remaining main characters and develop some characterization for Yusuke himself. Essentially, it's the necessary evil for a lengthy shounen, allowing the bond to be formed with the main cast. The fights are often short and underwhelming, with Yusuke often claiming victory by way of some outside force or accidental fluke. In a way, he had a great deal in common with the demons he fought, often blindly rushing in without any feasible strategy. This understandable flaw is a true testament to his character, and how invincible he felt was a testament to his immaturity as a teenager. His ignorance left him oblivious to the threat of his opponents.
Unfortunately, this "detective arc" is the weakest of the four main arcs within Hakusho's story. This causes some viewers to be turned off from the series due to its implied gimmicky tone. The narrative (Yusuke growing stronger and wanting to help save his friends and the rest of the world) is disguised under a layer of cheap fights and episodic missions. The bond Yusuke begins to form with fellow student body member, Kuwabara (once a sworn enemy) and spirits Kurama and Hiei are still weak and presumably exist only to propel the story forward. Though it was initially weak, the one commonality the four of them shared is what kept me engaged and committed to seeing the series through.... the wanton feeling of redemption. They wanted that second chance at life, and began to cherish their own mortality after they were awarded with it.
The second or "Dark Tournament" arc is when I began taking the show seriously. Yusuke first meets Toguro, arguably the show's most threatening villain, and his perception of power and demons in general gets flipped upside down. Seeing Toguro's strength firsthand slaps him in the face with some figurative smelling salts, and we see Yusuke willingly training with his master Genkai to channel his true potential. The refreshing part of this training is that it doesn't finish quickly, or without some inexplicable pain on Yusuke's end. The same could be said for Toguro who, without going into too much detail, learns a humbling lesson that strength isn't everything, and selfish greed only leads to loneliness and eventual defeat.
I'd be blatantly doing the anime world a disservice if I didn't take the time to mention the tournament structure represented in this arc. For a teenager looking for face-exploding action, I found solace in Yu Yu Hakusho's dark tournament. The fight scenes in this arc were the most nostalgic to me and laid the groundwork for other series adapting this concept later on through the years. I challenge you to try and make it through this arc without binging it at least a little bit. Yusuke displays perhaps his first example of growth during the tournament's "fight to the death" structure by befriending most of his opponents during battle in lieu of vanquishing them as the rules state. In return, this causes unrest from the already rambunctious crowd but draws a healthy amount of respect from his adversaries.
Another fine point of writing from Togashi here is the sudden relevance of Kuwabara. Normally belligerent and useless, Kuwabara exhibits the fruits of his hard work by actually holding his own in combat. For once, other people are relying on him to further a just cause... not to mention the fact he's trying to impress a certain ice demon he has the hots for. This new found love gives him an even greater call to arms, surprising even his friends at the tournament. Hiei and Kurama further their bond with the group throughout the rest of the tournament, not taking for granted their second chance and freedom.
The Sensui or "Chapter Black" arc for me is one of the most pondering and dynamic arcs I've ever come across in an anime. To further develop Yusuke as a main protagonist, Togashi pens his antithesis, a former spirit detective who questioned morality and demon/human relations perhaps a bit too much. The result is a spiritually gifted human with a very different outlook on life than Yusuke himself. Up until this point, the series was very focused on efforts to become stronger and defeat opposition in a very regimented manner. When Yusuke is faced with a carbon copy of himself, a yin to his yang, his is conflicted with how to handle the situation. Now he has plenty to fight for, and his selflessness is shown on full display within these episodes. The envelope is pushed to the limits for what would be the normal quota for a shounen between the sinister tone and edgy subject matter. In ways, this arc is strikingly similar to the Chimera Ant arc in HxH.
During the 4th and final arc, Yusuke finally discovers who he truly is. Again, we are reintroduced with a tournament setting, only this time Yusuke has a much different reason for fighting. It was a nicely tied bow on top of this already successful series. Not to mention IT HAS A GOOD ENDING. Some would be quick to knock the series for ending so soon, but with criticism of Togashi's lazy artistry during the final issues of the manga it's only fitting that the anime would drop off quickly afterward. Unfortunately, with most attention diverted to revealing character backstories, the arc is rather dull compared to the rest of the series. Happy tears did stream down my face prior to the final credits rolling, thankful that I was able to experience such a masterpiece in the shounen genre.
One of the areas Hakusho succeeds the most is in the quality of its English script. Justin Cook, Yusuke's unique voice actor took the reigns for translating this Eastern success into a Western gem. Many times anime are either directly or sloppily translated, often leading to confusing dialogue or moments of awkward one liners. Cook's ability to take the source material and transform it into something so digestible for the general American youth was remarkable, with some scenes holding almost entirely different meanings after this transformation. Despite the differences in some translations, Togashi's original narrative of growing stronger and fighting to save those you love stays mostly constant throughout the series.
The dialogue in the anime is another fine point. Although released in the early 90's, much of the humor and wisecracks the characters make at each other are still valid in today's culture. Sure there are still corny one-liners from placeholding antagonists and the occasional missed cultural reference, but Cook did a fine job crafting lines like the one opening this review.
Comradery is a very important concept within Yu Yu Hakusho. Four generally independent characters are tied together in a twist of fate and are forced to work with one another in order to redeem themselves and protect the world. It's the "anime second chance program", so to speak. Initially, the cooperation is awkward at best. Hiei is the most notorious violator of synergy within the group, still vying to handle matters solo whenever he gets the chance. Despite all the resistance and bickering, an odd couple for the ages is formed. Though Kurama is generally the most selfless demon, Hiei comes around and makes sacrifices of his own starting in the Dark Tournament arc. As described earlier, the development of these four characters is refreshing and extraordinary. At the end of the series you truly feel like you know these individuals through and through. As a result, the rest of the supporting cast takes a backseat for the most part (sans Genkai and Toguro), and can be slightly off putting if you don't care for the main cast.
As a teenage boy, nothing interested me more about tv shows than flashy fight scenes... and it just so happens Hakusho has plenty of those. In fact, even though the anime is older than half the users on this website, the scenes still hold up quite well. Most of the battles are action packed and toward the middle of the series become quite cerebral, with many moments of internal monologue and dialogue between opponents. It was hardly ever obvious who would win a fight when it started, making the suspense all the more satisfying. I'd say it's more on the violent side than most shounen of the present, making it especially appealing to the older, more mature crowds as well.
The rest of the animation and direction could use some work. Granted there were more limitations back in this early period of anime, which lead to many lazily animated static scenes and reused background images. Anime as we know it has changed dramatically over the years, especially on the animation side, so scenes in Yu Yu Hakusho are less eccentric and vibrant than those today. If you can look past this blemish, watching the series should be no problem for you.
When it comes to the soundtrack, Hakusho shows it's age again. Many of the tracks are thrown in simply to silence the dead air, and are often recycled even if the scene doesn't necessarily call for it. I do like the OP, perhaps more from a nostalgia standpoint than an actual critical one. It's the period of anime where more attention was given to the script and less to the pretty package it came in. The English dub is fantastic though. So much so that it is really the superior way to watch the anime, just don't even waste your time with the original subbed version. Cook's portrayal of Yusuke is one of the strongest voice acting performances I've ever heard. It was rumored he once bled from his throats and had the postpone recording after belting one of Yusuke's iconic screams. Pretty serious stuff! Chris Sabat (Picollo, Zoro from OP) is unique and talented as Kuwabara and Chuck Huber nails the role of Hiei. I'd say it's on par for one of the best dubs I've ever seen.
There's no doubt from this long-winded review that I enjoy Yu Yu Hakusho. It's one of my favorite anime and it played an important role in my childhood. Rewatching it as an adult reaffirmed my love for the series, and it's one that I highly recommend. Some people may be hesitant due to its age, but I urge you to look past the surface and experience the anime for all that it is. The emergence of Hakusho director Togashi's later work (HunterXHunter) has begun to overshadow his original masterpiece, but true anime fans viewing Hakusho with an open mind will see HxH's true inspiration come to light. It has flaws of its own, but gripping characters, a suspenseful story and fantastic fight scenes make this a shounen for the ages.
"Maybe there have been times when I've been pissed and hated things, but it wasn't from this work. My dad's a no-show, my mom's a lush, and school sucks. But this job is the one damn thing I've ever been good at. And if all the crap in my life hasn't screwed me up yet, then neither will this. And neither will you."
Fantasy anime worlds are filled with aspects that far surpass our wildest dreams. We can fly the high skies alongside majestic dragons or even fight alongside heavenly creatures unknown to reality. Let us present to you the top 15 fantasy anime on MAL, based on their individual scores.