Yu-Yu Hakusho is a shounen anime from my younger days. It starts out with the drama surrounding the death and resurrection of the lead protagonist, Yusuke Urameshi, but then it quickly goes the way of a fighting-based anime as Yusuke and his friends, both humans and demons, face down dangerous menaces to the mortal world, also both human and demon. The first few smaller arcs introduce the major characters, then there’s a long, exciting, tournament-based arc, then there’s the arc with all the crazy psychics trying to destroy the world, and, finally, an arc in the demon world that culminates in another tournament.
That might be a bit oversimplified, but that’s basically it.
Though the show, in all honesty, loses quite a bit of steam by the end, it’s still pretty entertaining. The characters are lovable, the villains are either tragic or detestable, the action is epic, the music is grand, it’s plenty funny… yeah, it’s a classic. 🙂
Not a masterpiece, perhaps, but a classic. 😉
Yusuke begins the story as a delinquent, and a delinquent he remains for most of the story. He’s so mean-spirited that when he gives his life saving a little boy from being run over (or so he quite reasonably thinks at the time), it actually surprises the powers that be of the afterlife, who arrange for him to come back to life within a few episodes. In exchange, he becomes a “spirit detective,” hunting down criminal demons and protecting innocent lives.
Alongside Yusuke are some colorful allies: Kuwabara, also a delinquent, who sees himself as Yusuke’s rival, and a man of impeccable honor; Kurama, a fox-demon with plant-based powers and a precise, cunning ruthlessness that makes even other demons feel their blood run cold; Hiei, a fleet-footed fire demon with a magical third eye, absolutely the arrogant bad boy of the group, and a savage, brutal enemy; Botan, a cute, bubbly, ditzy reaper of souls who is mostly there for moral support; Kayko, paragon of virtue, Yusuke’s significant other, the only one who can keep him in check through sheer, overwhelming attitude and a strong slap; Genkai, wise, acerbic, and immensely good at curbing Yusuke’s attitude as his teacher and mentor.
The boys of the group, no great surprise, take the lead in all things combative. Even as a teenage boy, I must admit that it was a little disappointing to see most, if not all, of the girls (Botan, Kayko, and others) relegated to little more than cheerleaders in distress, as they are quite engaging and enjoyable in their own ways. Seriously, it’s easy to love these girls, and sad to see them rather under-utilized as characters in their own right. Still, it’s also easy to love the guys, and it’s great to see them step up and shine on the battlefield. They tend to do that individually, in one-on-one matches, but an undeniable bond of mutual respect and loyalty eventually forms. It may be a boys club, but it’s an admirable, honorable one, at least.
Speaking of honor, and the ties that bind, that is a recurring theme throughout the show. The good guys have it, and show it, and the bad guys don’t. There are a handful of opponents they face who are also honorable, and while they don’t take it easy on each other, they do manage to avoid killing each other.
On the subject of the fights, there’s a bit of variety to be found here. Some, especially those featuring Kurama, are battles of wit and cunning. Others are matches of overwhelming power. Still others dig steeply into emotional depths more than anything else. Some do all of the above and more. Very few of them are easy, but most of them are actually used to develop the characters bit by bit, in the fire of battle, where the stakes are high and the soul of the warrior is both refined and revealed.
There’s something to that idea, simple though it may be. It’s one reason why so many fighting-based stories have always been so popular, when there’s more to the fight than just the fighting. That is what Yu-Yu Hakusho plays to the most, and it does so effectively for most of its run, just over a hundred episodes.
Give us characters we like and show us why we should like them. A bit oversimplified, but that’s storytelling in a nutshell. 😉
Yu-Yu Hakusho is fun and funny, packed full of fights, and surprisingly tender on occasion. They censored it a bit when it aired on Cartoon Network, so it can be a bit graphic and disturbing at times, but it’s nothing extreme. It’s PG or PG-13 in my book. The first half of it is, in my opinion, more exciting, while the second half tries to be more poignant. And it’s fairly geared towards the boys, more than the girls, though they could still have let the girls kick some butt, too. All in all, it’s a pretty good show.
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.