Yusuke Urameshi was a tough teen delinquent until one selfless act changed his life...by ending it. When he died saving a little kid from a speeding car, the afterlife didn't know what to do with him, so it gave him a second chance at life. Now, Yusuke is a ghost with a mission, performing good deeds at the behest of Botan, the ferrywoman of the River Styx, and Koenma, the pacifier-sucking judge of the dead.
Yuu☆Yuu☆Hakusho was awarded the 39th Shogakukan Manga Award for best shounen manga in 1993.
The series was published in English as Yu Yu Hakusho by VIZ Media under the Shonen Jump imprint from August 18, 2003 to March 2, 2010; in Spanish by Glénat; and in Brazilian Portuguese by Jbc from November 2002 to November 2004—and again in a special edition from October 2014 to April 2016.
The opening volumes, where they try and put Yusuke’s personality on track, was what started to pull me in. He reminds me a lot of Onizuka, another character I loved, in that he’s so wonderfully flawed. You don’t see Goku having some sudden epiphany and becoming a better person because he’s already sitting in the Lawful Good alignment to start with; there’s not a whole lot of room there for progression. By contrast, the delinquent is a great character to make the protagonist because he can’t be perfect and he has to grow at some point. Starting the series off dead
and in need of redemption really gives that development a kick in the pants too. Of course, Yusuke never makes it marginally close to being paragon of justice. He is generally good, has a sense of justice, and cares about his friends mind you, but ultimately he just wants a good brawl, and saving the world in the process is gravy.
This leads into the other characters. Kuwabara is another delinquent who is determined to become more powerful that Yusuke some day. Since he’s not the main character, you can guess how well this is going to work out. He grows in a much different direction though, motivated by a few events in the story (one seemingly minor) and his blinding determination to never give up. Kurama is a formerly powerful demon that has been stuck inside of a human’s body. Forced to see life through humanity’s eyes, he reforms his ways and becomes a protector of the race. Finally, Hiei is an enigma for the majority of the series, you don’t even find out much of his motivations until the final arc. Even he develops a minor form of justice and a grudging respect for Yusuke. Overall, I loved these characters and their interactions throughout the story. Their personality clashes allow for a decent bit of levity to lighten up the fighting backdrop.
If you’re looking for a story, well, it’s a good thing there’s strong characters, because this is a Shonen series. You should check your story at the door. But, a plot still exists, and there are definite motivations to the characters’ actions. A few of the villains can even be painted as a bit unfortunate in their path to evil (or are they really evil?). The ending theme and eventual moral to this whole story is the same as that which Nippon Ichi has taken and ran with for the past few years. Light is not good and dark is not bad. Judging people based on stereotypes and what you’ve always been taught to believe is never the way to go; each being deserves to be looked at based on their own merits and shortcomings. Given that’s the conclusion, it’s natural that Yusuke ends up being a mostly neutral aligned character. Beyond that, like every shonen, there’s going to be those ludicrous points (such as the entire final arc), but just sit back and let it pay off on sheer enjoyment factor, because it will.
Manga pretty well rests on the art style, and this series doesn’t disappoint. I don’t know how many times I looked at a fight scene… then went back again… and again. They’re drawn well, lots of action and explosions and all that greatness. As a warning though, the further you get in the series, the more gore you’re going to see. Backgrounds are well drawn when they’re the focal point of the panel, and take a natural backseat in quality and appearance when they’d end up detracting from the main attraction. The same process applies to the character designs, and they’re generally in that decent to good range that you get in this genre. I do have to say that I liked a lot of the enemy characters, for appearing for such a short time there’s some original design put into them. In particular, I really liked Younger Toguro’s design.
Bottom line, this is a shonen series; you know roughly what to expect in this territory. If you like the genre then I’m going to wonder why you haven’t read this yet. If you’re not much of a fan, this series might not convert you, but it’ll still be a pretty good ride throughout.
Yu Yu Hakusho is a series that has garnered a reputation as a great classic amongst many members of the anime/manga community. Much like the opinion of any arc of DBZ after the Saiyan Arc being good, however, most of the praise YYH gains as a great work is purely fuelled by one of the major banes of critical thinking; nostalgia.
Note that this review will be more of a spoiler-filled analysis of each arc of the series to fully analyse the story's quality, particularly for a fair lengthed Shonen in which delving into detail is fairly necessary.
===Part 1: Spirit Detective Arc===
The Spirit Detective Arc, whilst
having an interesting beginning, quickly turns into 2 volumes of episodic, forgettable missions of Yusuke as a ghost as we're constantly pushed the idea of what a great guy he is, to the point his initial perception by the characters as some typical punk doesn't really seem consistent when we see this side of him far less. Even after his revival, we only have a repetitive formula of a new big bad demon trying to conquer the world with about as much personality as a piece of paper until the Toguro brothers show up. Two of these, Hiei and Kurama, are given more personality by becoming permanent members of the main cast, but the former is poorly handled. Despite his nefarious introduction, Yusuke seems to have no qualms with working with him during the Four Beasts segment despite the common trope of misgivings and conflict amongst the main cast being appropriate here. Instead, the only character with any animosity towards Hiei was Kuwabara, someone who wasn't even there to see Hiei in his evil phase and has conflict with him just because Hiei called him an idiot. Overall, the Spirit Detective Arc is an overly formulaic arc that has some problems in it's character writing and is fairly mediocre overall. 5/10
===Part 2: Dark Tournament Arc===
This is what is often considered the peak of the series as we're offered the idea of a death tournament with the fate of the world in the balance...only to get a very by the books tournament arc with nothing new to offer to the over-saturated formula. Hardly any of the tournament matches outside the finals had much lasting impact with the plot or character progression, with the only opponent to offer anything meaningful to the plot after their defeat being Suzuki and the only one to offer much food for thought being the triple battle against Team Ichigaki. That said, you could cut out or change 90% of the tournament and the overall plot and character development wouldn't change at all. It also doesn't help that Toguro was constantly pushed as the endgame for Team Urameshi from the start with how far above the rest of the competition he was to the point it makes all the other teams and the backing of rich council members acting as though they stood a chance meaningless.
Saying that, why not change it to a tower-style team ranking in a style similar to Heaven's Arena in Togashi's current work? Doing so would not only be more engaging than a run of the mill tournament, but make the factor of Team Toguro being the only endgame far more justified.
I will say Toguro's character writing was good with his guilt and his sympathetic qualities being well foreshadowed. However, this is little saving grace when the majority of this is infodumped after his death and what repercussions he brought to the main cast through the deaths of Genkai and Kuwabara are made completely hollow when the former was revived and the latter was never actually killed. On the subject of Genkai's revival, this brings out a lot of questions about the series' afterlife, as if the likes of Genkai can be revived by Koenma, why is death treat as something truly permanent in this series? At least something such as DBZ had consistency in how the dead can interact and venture to the living world and the ruler of it's afterlife wasn't part of the main cast for maximum plot convenience.
Overall, the Dark Tournment had potential, but ended up being a typical Shonen tournament with all the poor plot devices the demograph is guilty of. 5/10
===Part 3: Chapter Black Arc===
Now, I will offer some fair praise to this arc, with it's first half easily being the peak of the series. The idea of having skill vs power akin to in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and Togashi's current work Hunter X Hunter, as well as much focus on the idea of humanity's savage nature being very engaging. However, everything quickly goes downhill once the battle with Sensui starts. Not only does the revelation that Sensui was immeasurably above the main cast all this time come out of nowhere, but the other major revelation of Yusuke's ancestry have no foreshadowing whatsoever and act as a highly contrived power up. Along with these and Yusuke's friends getting rage boosted to A-Class instantly, this completely betrays the arc's premise of strength not being everything, especially when the 3 humans who ushered in this interesting aspect of the arc are completely removed from the climax.
Perhaps character writing could have saved this arc, but not quite. Most of the Sensui Seven didn't have much depth to their character and whilst Sensui was interesting, the plot twist involving him was poor and his seven personalities was unnecessary for doing anything but prolonging the arc when there was little conflict between them in their overall goal and if comparing it to other similar characters, Gemini Saga from Saint Seiya pulled off the multiple personality gimmick far better. On the subject of comparison, the ideas of humanity he represents have been explored with far more coherent writing through the Hunter X Hunter character of Meruem and many more in the Chimera Ant Arc, to the point Sensui and this arc seem fairly dated overall. What could have been the shining jewel in this series was forced by cheap conveniences to be an average at best one. 4.5/10
===Part 4: Three Kings Arc===
Whilst I gave the three previous arcs flak, I at least found them to be average or so. The Three Kings Arc, however, is absolutely terrible. Let's start with the power ups being a further betrayal of the previous arc's premise with how bad the power creep became. Not only did the 6 returning side characters from the Dark Tournament return to far surpass Sensui after Genkai's training, but Kurama far surpassed them by doing...absolutely nothing from what we're shown. Now, the idea of the Makai being divided in three could have been an amazing premise harkening back to the historical epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms and if mimicking it's drawing points could have been the best arc in the series...except nothing of the sort occurs because after Raizen's death, the conflict just becomes another boring tournament to settle everything. Going back to the 6 demons and Kurama, their training and reaching of new plateaus amounted to nothing as their performance in the tournament were so irrelevant most of their performances get infodumped long after the tournament is over. In fact, most of the tournament is skimmed over and the winner is a bland character nobody cared about. The only thing I can say positively about this arc is Hiei finally got some slight character development, though his backstory didn't really offer anything essential that couldn't already be pieced together.
Moreover, the post-tournament events are completely boring as a new conflict against irrelevant fodder erupts and is quickly overcome as the finale to the series. One of, if not the, most anticlimactic finale in all of Shonen. 1.5/10
===Part 5 - Characters, art and final thoughts===
Moving on to quickly go over characters, there's little to say, whilst they are more consistent than most Shonen characters, the cast is still a bunch of fairly typical archetypes beyond the two villains already discussed and the majority of such characters have a far better equivalent in the series' spiritual successor of Hunter X Hunter to the point discussing any of them in depth would be rather meaningless.
Onto the superficial aspect of art, it can be hit or miss. It's nice to see Togashi change his drawing style and experiment with different art techniques, but it causes things to become inconsistent and pages start to gain a major lack of detail for the most part halfway through.
In conclusion, Yu Yu Hakusho is quite a dated work now that it's creator has polished his craft far more long after it and with people not being so limited to what they can watch nowadays, it ought to be evident that most of the elements praised by the masses had already been done better elsewhere. If wanting a series not so focused on fights being settled purely by power, there's JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. If wanting a series focused on giving it's 4-5 main cast members a good deal of spotlight, there's Saint Seiya. If wanting a series that offers far more creativity and depth than the average Shonen, there's Togashi's other big hit Hunter X Hunter. For any of those categories, however, I can't recommend Yu Yu Hakusho.
The story is about a 14 year old boy named Yusuke Urameshi. He dies in a car accident after trying to save a little boy. He ends up being a Spirit Detective (someone who hunts down demons in the human world and solves cases). So we get to see him solve some cases and kick some ass. The story gets more interesting in the Dark Tournament Arc where you see some of the nicest moves the show has to offer (Dragon of the Darkness Flame anyone?). The third arc is Chapter Black Arc, which talks about some psycho trying to
rid of humanity, but of course he gets his ass kicked too.
Unfortunately, the author fell sick sometime during the third arc so the quality of the artwork was reduced (so I had to give it an 8 :/) However it was still excellently drawn. The Three Kings Arc is the most intense and you'll have to see for yourself how awesome it is.
If you have watched the anime then you should read this!
Today we look at a comic with some serious flaws, but I love it anyways. Many people remember seeing Yu Yu Hakusho on Cartoon Network both on Adult Swim and a butchered kid friendly edit for Toonami. It never gained the popularity of DBZ, but older Otaku still remember the series fondly. That is why it is interesting that so few people outside Japan have read the original manga. Of course when you open the manga and look at it, you will figure out why that is. This brings me to the first flaw in Hakusho.
The first minor blemish on this otherwise good title
is that the art in this manga is quite bad and I mean BAD! The anime looks so much more polished that it is almost difficult to read the manga after seeing the anime.
Another thing that might put off readers is that Hakusho starts surprisingly slow for a shonen comic. Usually the anime is the adaptation with all the painful filler, but in Hakusho it is the manga if anything that has more padding. As a ghost, Yusuke already saves Kuwabara's cat in both versions. Did we really need that chapter with the little kid and ghost dog? It WAS heart warming, but an unusual choice for starting out an action series. However, I don't really mind this slow start because of the next Hakusho flaw that I will discuss. As the manga goes on it relies more and more on fighting tournaments and becomes a complete dragonball ripoff. It ran in the early 90s at the same time as Dragonball and clearly wanted to copy Toriyama to boost its sales. I find myself wishing towards the end to go back to stuff like the ghost dog chapter in volume 1! At least it wasn't shamelessly stealing from DBZ back when it first started! Finally, after the 3 Kings arc it ends really awkwardly with an unfinished arc in which the Spirit World are the bad guys. This was a cool concept, but it really wasn't drawn out and lasted literally about 5 chapters before just stopping. It really looked like Togashi planned on a grand, final arc that was never made either due to low sales or Togashi himself just got tired of drawing Hakusho. Despite having the aforementioned flaws, it still has badass characters like Hiei and Kurama, as well as some of the best comic book fights of the 90s decade. Hakusho does an excellent job creating its own world and mythos. Besides having memorable and often complex characters, Hakusho was more ambitious than its early 90s shonen peers in trying to show moral ambiguity and complexity. If Dragonball was Harry Potter, Hakusho would be more like Golden Compass in that regard.
Story and characters: 9/10
Hakusho is easily one of the better shonen action comics of the 1990s and is well worth your time. If you are a younger fan and love the new Hunter X Hunter, this is the same author. Hakusho was Togashi's breakout work and many would say his magnum opus. If you are an older fan who simply missed Hakusho, I would go back and give it a try. There are plenty of sites where it is free to read, so it won't cost you anything. I would recommend this series to everyone that loves action, great fights, and conflict that isn't just black and white/ good vs. evil.
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