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.
--- This review spoils the entirety of Yu Yu Hakusho, and is advised to be read after completion of the series ---
I am astounded and equally appalled by the amount of idiocy and ignorance in some of the reviews for Yu Yu Hakusho, as it boggles the mind how some of them are even considered valid criticisms of the series in the first place. As you can already tell, this review won’t be a professional one, more so than a rant on the amount of hate this absolutely legendary franchise has garnered over the years. This also will serve as a refutation on the invalid
and fallacious “criticisms” the franchise has received over the years as well, meaning that this won’t be a review discussing the show more so than it being a refutation against the undeserved hate the show has received. To put it bluntly, Yu Yu Hakusho has to be the most unfairly hated on Anime of all time. It is labeled as an old, unwatchable work by the casuals who hype up everything new and despise everything that came out before the 2000's. It is also a work which receives a lot of hate from the elitists, the same kind of elitists who place the same ten shows in their Anime favorites lists and think that they are cultured because of it. “Oh how I love thee, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Oh how I love thee, Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Oh how I despise thee, typical battle shonen trash, with the exception of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Hunter x Hunter of course.” They say, while throwing around fallacies with no backing evidence.
I am beginning to stir away from the main point, so let us begin with the fallacies and my refutations to said fallacies before I stir away even further:
1.“Yu Yu Hakusho has no good villains. The main antagonist of the Dark Tournament arc is nothing more than a brute who receives no real character development.”
This is inherently false. Yu Yu Hakusho has two main villains in the franchise: Toguro and Sensui, who are the central villains of the arcs they encompass. Toguro is a villain who receives development from the moment he is introduced up until the moment where he is finally beaten. Toguro is also a great subversion of all the other battle shonen villains, because he is beaten through his own will rather than being beaten through the power of friendship which most battle shonen use as a cheap way to progress the plot. His relationship with Genkai is developed thoroughly, and this makes him feel like a real character rather than some obstacle the main characters have to overcome in order to move on to the next obstacle. He is made all the more human when his dark past is shown, and even more so when the viewer starts to question if he is really evil or not. When a character does that, are they really the typical battle shonen villain? Are they one dimensional? Or is the viewer who is criticizing the show nitpicking at straws just to attack the series? You be the judge of that, because anyone can see that Toguro is a well-developed character. This refutation also applies to Sensui as well, as both he and Toguro are developed and get the same fallacies thrown at them over and over again, with no concrete evidence to back said fallacies up. The amount of hypocrisy these pseudo intellectuals adhere to is unbelievable! You mean to tell me that Father from Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is a well-developed villain, whereas Younger Toguro from Yu Yu Hakusho is not? These people must be so far up their cranium to not see the obvious hypocrisy in what they say.
2. “Yu Yu Hakusho is a formulaic battle shonen, especially the first arc which is the Spirit Detective arc.”
How can these people say that Yu Yu Hakusho is formulaic, especially the Spirit Detective arc, when they also contradict themselves in the same sentence and go on to say that the arc was needed to establish two of the central characters, Hiei and Kurama? No arc in Yu Yu Hakusho is formulaic, since the show develops it’s characters all the while moving the plot forward with each ongoing arc in the story. It would be illogical to start an Anime with the central thrust revealed to the viewer immediately, rather than developing it’s leads first and giving the viewers an insight into the world of the Anime. This is exactly what the spirit detective arc does: it introduces the characters, introduces the world, and introduces the concept so that the viewers can familiarize with what they are seeing. It does it well enough and also advances the story smoothly into the next arc. It would be illogical for tension to arise from the very first episode, and the spirit detective arc avoids that issue while introducing characters and developing them. As for the other arcs, while they border on some battles that were not entirely important to the main narrative, they still serve to progress the plot and develop the characters. The Dark Tournament arc was necessary to progress Toguro’s, Genkai’s, Kurama’s, Hiei’s and Kuwabara’s character arcs, all the while developing Yusuke and Keiko’s relationship and introducing new characters such as Gin as well. The next arc was all about developing the main villain, revealing more about the demon realm and the lore of the Hakusho universe, and finally closing in on Yusuke’s character, where his relationship with Keiko would come to fruition and he would meet his father and mature from a troublemaker into a person who is more responsible. The very last arc gives a final clause to the whole Anime: from the lore, to developing Yusuke and Keiko’s relationship, to developing the other characters, and so on and so forth. How is Yu Yu Hakusho a formaluic shonen where the plot barely progresses, when the plot does in fact progress and the characters are constantly developing? It makes zero sense what these people claim.
3. “The main characters are unsympathetic and slow-witted tough guys.”
Again, this is wrong and the Anime proves it. A tough guy would be someone along the lines of a Jojo character, Kenshiro from Hokuto no Ken, a Dragon Ball character, or any other meathead you could find from any other battle shonen out there. By this same logic, every battle shonen character has to be a dull witted buffoon, right? Even when the central characters go to school, unlike most samurais and ninjas which plague the genre, people still proclaim that they are dull-witted tough guys. For argument’s sake, let us suppose that the four central characters from Yu Yu Hakusho are dull-witted tough guys. Ok, what is so bad about that? Are they one dimensional? Are they underdeveloped? Clearly not, since the Anime develops them thoroughly throughout the course of it’s run. The central characters are neither slow-witted nor are they though guys, and even if they are, they achieve what most other battle shonen characters fail to achieve: Character development.
Now to refute said argument, Hiei is a character who was abandoned and was shamed throughout the entirety of his life. Due to this, it only makes sense for his character to be a tough guy who lacks any form of emotion. Even then, he still does show some sympathy and emotion when talking about his sister, Yukina, as he still wants to protect her from all of the harm in the world. He not only does have very valid reasons as to why he is the way he is, but he is also sympathetic and far from the usual archetypical tough guy one would see in a battle shonen.
Yusuke and Kurama grew up in neighborhoods which were filled with crime. Yusuke had been abandoned by his father and his mother had been an alcoholic for years, so it only makes sense for him to turn out the way he did. He was also hated on and ridiculed by some of his teachers, so it is not that hard to see why he puts a tough guy act on. It’s also an act, and he isn’t really a tough guy so to speak. As for Kurama, he isn’t a tough guy at all, far from it actually.
4. “Yu Yu Hakusho has no tough female leads, only tough male leads.”
Yu Yu Hakusho was the first battle shonen to introduce strong female leads, which to this day barely any battle shonen does. Genkai is one of the toughest female characters one could find in a battle shonen. Mukuro is a girl as well, and she is stated to be the second toughest demon king in the franchise, and the second toughest character in the franchise overall, if not arguably the toughest. She beats up S rank demons fairly easily during the last arc, and comes close to winning the entire tournament all by herself. If this is not equal representation of males and females, then I really do not know what is. Of all the battle shonen one would pick on, people choose Yu Yu Hakusho to rant about the inequality between male and female characters. Even the females who exhibit no battle power whatsoever are still developed throughout the course of the Anime’s run, such is the case with Keiko and Botan, who are given time to develop and entire episodes dedicated to them.
Other fallacies people like to throw at Yu Yu Hakusho include it having too much plot armor and convenience at times, and that the audiovisuals have not aged well at all. Aside from the latter, which is an entirely subjective critique and does not matter at all when discussing factors which are truly important such as narrative and characters, Yu Yu Hakusho barely suffers from the issue of plot armor. Keep in mind that these people who accuse Yu Yu Hakusho of having plot convenience are the same people who think that the original Rurouni Kenshin is a good Anime, the one where Shishio is defeated by the power of plot armor and the one where Himura Kenshin pulls a victory right out of his pocket every time he needs to win a battle, even against foes who are shown to be able to outclass him at first.
Yu Yu Hakusho has no plot armor whatsoever. The reason Yusuke beats Toguro is because Toguro wanted for that to happen so that he could find someone worthy enough and fulfill his wish of death and end his suffering, not because Yusuke magically became stronger through the power of plot convenience. Other cast members are shown to lose at times throughout the tournament’s run, and that shows that the series does not reek of plot armor. Similarly, Sensui is defeated by Yusuke because Yusuke’s father, the demon king Raisen, willed that to happen, not because Yusuke magically became stronger due to plot armor. Moving on to the final arc, Yusuke is expected to win the battle against Yomi, especially after he had gained so many abilities and increased both his power and his abilities along the way. The series subverts audience expectations by showing Yomi winning and Yusuke losing, even though Yusuke had gained a lot of strength prior to that throughout the Anime’s run. How are any of the examples listed above plot armor? These are the opposite of plot armor.
The last and final point people like to bring up about Yu Yu Hakusho is that it suffers from power creep, unlike it’s successor Hunter x Hunter. Rarely is this statement made, but let us address it nonetheless. Yu Yu Hakusho started to suffer from the power creep issue around the end of the third arc - the Chapter Black arc - where Yusuke defeated Sensui after a hard fought battle through his awoken demon form. The writer fortunately enough ended the series at it’s high note, and the power creep ended just as it had fairly started, and Yusuke did not end up becoming the strongest character at the end of the day (Even though it was logical for him to be, since he is Raizen’s son and shares the same blood with him). The lore was fully explored by then, and the series did not need to introduce any more villains since the narrative ended there, and the epitome of power was shown. Some like to say that it wasn’t Togashi’s intention to end the series there, as he only ended it due to time constraints and pressure from Shonen Jump magazine. Regardless of the validity of that statement, the fact still remains that he ended it there, right when the power creep started to show itself.
After addressing all the fallacies thrown at Yu Yu Hakusho, I still cannot find one criticism which I think holds any validity to it. Moreover, the amount of hypocrisy coming from those who criticize it is unfathomable. The same people who call the villains one dimensional are the same people who like Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, which contains one of the weakest villains to ever come out of the Anime medium, Father. The same people also criticize it for having plot armor yet find no contentions with Rurouni Kenshin’s plot armor and conveniences whatsoever.
Regarding the audiovisuals, they have aged well and I do not see any problem whatsoever in them. One listen to “Struggle of Sadness” should prove that the soundtrack is inherently well made and is still a great listen. The animation was consistent throughout all of the episodes, and has barely aged whatsoever.
That’s all I have to say about Yu Yu Hakusho. It is a series which deserves more recognition, as it is one of the very few good battle shonen out there, and all the fallacies both the elitists and the casuals throw at it are not real criticisms, more so than they are nitpicks with no evidence to be backed up with. Yu Yu Hakusho was and still is ahead of it’s time, both in narrative and in technicalities. It inspired many series which were to later come after it, such as Naruto and Bleach, and it does not deserve the harsh treatment that it receives nowadays.
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.
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