This time, I decided to look back at an old favorite of many an anime fan, the much loved shonen fighter, Yu Yu Hakusho or YYH for short.
For the uninformed, YYH is about a punk kid named Yusuke Urameshi who starts the series off dead. The only people that even mourn his passing are his alcoholic mother, his too-good-for-him girlfriend, and his "rival" Kuwabara. His teachers and neighbors are more than glad to see him leave the mortal coil. Lucky for Yusuke, he gets a second chance at life only to find he has supernatural powers now and must defend humanity from all manner of spirits, demons and ghouls.
Along the way, Kuwabara joins Yusuke as do two criminals: Kurama , a red haired human with a demon fox spirit in him (so THAT'S where Naruto got that), and a full demon named Hiei. Together, Yusuke and his team siege a demon castle, get forced into an otherworldly tournament full of new and interesting characters, and even prevent a full scale invasion of Earth from the Demon Realm. But that's not what makes YYH such a great show.
YYH is well regarded due to it's sincerity, excellent fights, tight pacing and engaging characters. The sincerity comes from real drama happening to the characters. Sometimes it's personal and other times a villain just pisses Yusuke off but it's honest. The fights are some of the best. Expertly paced with some great "HOLY CRAP!!" moments. Speaking of pacing, even though the series is 112 episodes, it is only slow near the beginning and the end. The beginning makes sense as it's trying to build mood and establish the world. The end suffers from running out of steam. Then there are the characters.
Yusuke Urameshi is brash, head strong, easy to anger, and not that smart. He's also kind of a jerk. that said, his heart is in the right place. He tries to do right despite all the corrupt adults around him. Seriously, the adults in YYH, with few exceptions, are some pretty awful people. The other thing about Yusuke is that he is fiercely loyal to his friends and loved ones. Causing them harm or killing them will likely guarantee you an early grave.
Kazuma Kuwabara is a total goofball who considers himself Yusuke's rival despite never beating Yusuke in a single fight. While not as strong as Yusuke, Kuwabara has a much better sixth sense and can manipulate his spirit easier. Like Yusuke, he's very loyal and considers himself "a man's man". Never quits. Never gives in. Will always support his friends, even at personal cost. Also has a soft spot for cats.
Kurama is what one calls "The Strong, Silent Type". He keeps his emotions and motives hidden but he's a ally every step of the way. Beneath the surface is a sadistic side. It doesn't emerge often but this side of Kurama is without mercy and capable of some of the most cruel and twisted things in the entire series. Luckily, he uses it for good and trust me, the people who get on Kurama's bad side have it coming. Unlike the rest of Yusuke's team, Kurama is a strategist and waits for his opponents to show their hand before taking advantage of the situation.
Hiei is confident in his skills to the point of egotistical. The difference is that he can back his claims. His speed and skill with the blade are top notch. His personality is cold and un-trusting but he has his ways of showing loyalty and respect. He's almost a flip side of Kurama. Hiei is unmerciful and cruel to any who would challenge him. He even once left an opponent as nothing but a smokey smear on the wall. Like Yusuke though, he has a soft side. It's just buried really deep.
Besides our main cast here, YYH has two note worthy villains. The Toguro Brothers and Sensui. The Toguro Brothers are the villains with the most screen time so we see much more of their villainy. Younger Toguro has connections to Yusuke and Elder Toguro is an utter monster. Sensui is the type of villain who you actually feel sympathy for. You come to understand why he is how he is. It's compelling stuff.
One other thing that has made YYH endure is it's English dub. It is, to this day, considered one of the best English language dubs ever made. Even the creator of YYH himself, Yoshihiro Togashi, has claimed he finds the English dub to be of better quality and truer to the main characters. That said, while the main characters are superbly handled and highlights of each voice actors careers, the supporting characters are not so lucky. Some get handled just as well but many are voiced fairly poor.
YYH is a classic series that any animation fan should try and see. YYH is currently available in the USA from Funimation on both DVD and Blu-ray formats in four sets consisting of 28 episodes each. It should be noted that the YYH Blu-ray sets were remastered in Japan so they are NOT upscales. I mention this only as this has been an issue with Funimation's Blu-ray releases.
Next time, we'll reunite with our pals in Robot City and the unappreciated film Robots