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.