This post contains no detailed spoilers of Yu Yu Hakusho. It is just meant to detail elements of the series I really felt were noteworthy to talk about in my rewatch I participated in for my good friend’s event. Feel free to read through if you have never seen the series before. It more chronicles interesting parts of it as a whole, rather than going into detail of what happened.
The first thing you might notice on this post is, there are two titles with different dates. Well, to be perfectly honest, both of them are pertinent and hold a strong relevance. 25 years ago in 1994, the final episode broadcasted for the incredibly successful, and popular Yu Yu Hakusho. What originally began two years before, had finally come to a close, and would begin a legacy of one of the most beloved shonen anime to ever be produced. However, for myself, Yu Yu Hakusho has a more personal timeline. So, today I wanted to look back on not only the 25-year-old series and how it has aged, but specifically how it holds up in my eyes after a decade since I last viewed it. 10 years ago was the last proper time I sat down and watched the series to completion. It was also the first true time I finished it all too. As a kid, it was one of many noteworthy series that aired on Toonami alongside DBZ, Sailor Moon, Inuyasha, and many many others. It was always my second favorite, as a teen the one that truly got me back into anime as a whole. That is a story for another time though. I want to just talk about the things I love about Yu Yu Hakusho during my rewatch, in this post without delving into spoilers. I booted it back up for a friend’s annual rewatch month, and after 10 long years, it was time for me to join Yusuke Urameshi and crew on their spirit detective cases once again.
If you weren’t aware before this post, I simply adore old dubs. The 90’s/early 2000s especially are a gold mine for all sorts of dub performances. You can find absolute trash that is hilarious/painful or on the flip side the early beginnings of some of the best vets of today. Series like Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, and many more encapsulate this time period. Yu Yu Hakusho is in the class of stellar aged dubs that capture that early anime feel. A cast that grows into their roles, and they fill in for tons of the knick-knack one-off characters and a lot of charisma. Dubs tended to have much leeway with being creative and free with the script back then, so a lot of the humor is really gut-punching in the best ways. A bevy of top-notch one-line zingers, and few running gags bolstered by the classic performances of the main cast ensemble. Yu Yu has a dub that I will gladly defend as aged well, and up there with the best of the time. Hearing the emotionally resonant ranges of Justin Cook, Christopher Sabat, Laura Bailey, and Linda Young to name a few amongst the quite talented crew, it’s honestly not hard to see why it’s not just rose-tinted glasses. I mean, maybe a little bit, but I thrive on that stuff you know? Yu Yu Hakusho is a dub that is worth seeing. If you ever plan to sit down and watch it, and you love the voice cast or aren’t picky with English over Japanese, then I think you will be warmly pleased with what you get. Give it a good spirit gunshot!
As much as people, myself included love to make fun of Togashi for his very limited skill at scheduling himself to properly finish his stories, the ones he does write are really of a higher grade than the average shonen. He covers themes generally darker, and far more explicit, and just isn’t afraid the add a little horror to his series aimed at young teen boys. His tournament arc is full of death as the norm, the following story is centered on the depravity of humankind and how it can skew the mental state of the masses with the right figurehead, and lots of smaller arcs nail plenty of other intriguing concepts as well. Togashi crafted a world that feels real, and he stays true to that as his backbone. Sad, and troubling things happen in not just the past, but the present as well. I mean the first scene of the anime is a bit different in tone than most if you really think about it. I suppose the thing I really want to illustrate is that, not only do I appreciate his deft balance of mature themes and all-encompassing ones, with the finer quality of his world-building. Yu Yu Hakusho creates multi-faceted people that don’t normally fall into black or white categories, but all shades of gray.
Yu Yu like any other run of the mill shonen has villains for days. The two most prevalent ones though carry their respective arcs. The two longest stories in Yu Yu Hakusho are the Dark Tournament and The Chapter Black Saga. Both of these are tonally quite different, and their villains have wildly different aims and goals they hold to achieve, but they aren’t just dark twisted people who are lost to their core. Both villains are incredibly complex, and clever deconstructions of the expectations the plot sets up. They both do plenty of terrible things and have ideologies you wouldn’t most likely find yourself agreeing upon, but when they have their swan song moments, they end up being far more interesting than one would expect. These two characters Younger Toguro, and Sensui are a large part of what makes both of their respective arcs so engrossing to chip away through. Everything in their arcs properly leads up to a confrontation that doesn’t disappoint in the typical shonen action, but more importantly in narrative satisfaction. They bring so much to the table that I could, and might write a proper post on them someday, and why I feel the villains are integral to why Yu Yu Hakusho is a great as it is.
The opening for Yu Yu is one of my all-time favorites, and I assume that is partially thanks to nostalgia more than anything. I mean I genuinely love the song, and the first episode into my rewatch I was dancing around my bedroom like a silly nut, but the visuals are really something I find ultimately humorous. Another by-product of anime of this time period, and their creation were openings that really had very little to do with the actual content, or rather they would be a huge mish-mash of random elements tossed into to make a strange amalgamation. The opening actually has more accuracy to the manga than the anime, and characters appear in circumstances with things they never came across. Regardless of that though, I will listen to this song on repeat forever happily as I munch of some fudge rounds or something.
You know, for such a prevalent and massive company, Funi really knows how to make the dumbest box sets for their anime. At least their packaging is better than Sentai’s is, but hear me out on this. Yu Yu Hakusho is 112 episodes comprised of 4 larger seasons. The seasons follow as such: Spirit Detective Saga, the Dark Tournament Saga, the Chapter Black Saga, and Three King Saga. They also have four unique box sets to match this idea. So, you would think, okay so they split them up by their arcs right? That would be the most incorrect assumption. This is how they have their sets going.
Box Set 1: 1-28
Box Set 2: 29-56
Box Set 3:57-84
Box Set 4: 85-112
And this is how the actual season breakdowns are:
Spirit Detective: 1-25
Dark Tournament: 26-66
Chapter Black: 67-94
Three Kings: 95-112
As you can see, there are some real problems with this. This means if you buy these box sets one at a time, then you will constantly be in the middle of a season arc when you finish. Season 1 ends with the second arc starting, and it doesn’t end until you get the 3rd set. And both the last two arcs are finished in the last set. It’s a rather mind-boggling way to box them. Instead of pricing them different to match the content, they just do an even split that breaks narrative pacing for anyone who didn’t buy them all at once when they decided to buy them. Come on guys get it together. A few rose whips should knock back into shape.
I wanna also mention the before & after episode content. Yu Yu Hakusho is a series plagued by horrendous episode cards that literally spoil things in a large bulk of the episodes. If this doesn’t bother you then cool, but I would highly recommend being wary each episode to avert your eyes if you are. On the other side of the coin, after the episode you have the previews for the following episode. These are usually hilarious or poignant, and I really enjoy how it bounces all over the cast for who is doing it, but once again it isn’t handled with delicacy. On a first watch, if you hate being spoiled, I would skip both of these elements, because they actively reveal things on a regular basis that they really shouldn’t. On the other hand though, on a rewatch they make for really interesting content to see how the people who made this show wanted viewers to be foaming at the mouth for as much info as possible.
Another thing I really enjoy about Togashi’s writing and the pacing of this anime is how they do not dilly dally filly shally around. Aside from arc ending fights, aside from maybe one instance, no fight in the entirety of Yu Hakusho exceeds two episodes in length. When two people get into a bout, it stays about the action and the techniques of the fighters instead of bloating it for needless drama’s sake. If Yu Yu was in the pacing of other Shonen like Naruto or One Piece it would have been double the length, and like their respective anime, it would have hampered the experience greatly. Instead, we get concise, and to the point action series that is smart with how it treats the fights that make up so much of the series. Even when powers soar to crazy high levels by the end, Yu Yu Hakusho still manages to keep the focus tight, and that is something I can’t say I appreciate enough. It brings a lot more punch in a short amount of time. Bang for your buck if you will, Your time will constantly be used towards hearty progression rather than the longest five minutes of your life. The spirit of their sword is truly impeccable.
You know, anime really can be lazy about clothes. How many anime have you watched, including long-running serialized stuff, where the cast almost lives in a single pair of clothes. Sounds a big danky doesn’t it? It sort of is! I can smell their B.O. from here and the nauseating smell makes me applaud, laud, and find a chap named Claude for Yu Yu Hakusho and it’s regular usage of new wardrobes. Many of the characters have distinct fashion indicative of the ’90s, and I love it. It was when I grew up, and seeing it on the anime characters I cherish makes it all the better. Seeing the style of clothing of characters is something that actually adds to the overall experience immensely for me. A lot of subtle personality traits, and what not are directly linked to this, and I just take a bow for the team for taking so much time in the latter half of Yu Yu to make the cast have distinct and memorable fashion.
This post really didn’t ever have a structure I found would work for me. I brain-stormed on it a few times but decided that standout titles with a hodgepodge of what stood out to me over my rewatch would be more fun to write. All in all, my rewatch was exactly what I wanted it to be. For these past 10 years, I’ve always called Yu Yu Hakusho my second favorite anime, and it has always held a very special place in my heart. I grew up watching it, rediscovered it, and became as big into anime partially because of the influence it created. I might even do a themed month for Yu Yu Hakusho like I did One Piece if I can ever muster up the same creative spark I did back then. I firmly believe this series is a special piece of art in the anime medium that I would gladly recommend to anyone who likes content that is similar. I found myself laughing my ass off at the witty jokes, getting swelled up with emotion at the high tension dramatic moments, and almost crying with joy at the pure love romantic and platonic that the characters share with one another. This is the most fun I’ve had watching anime is a few years, and I really feel invigorated after doing this. I love Yu Yu Hakusho and all it has done for me in my years as an anime fan. Yusuke, Kuwabara, Kurama, Hiei, and the rest of the amazing cast are firmly planted in my brain as one of the best ensembles in all of anime. I even bought a Kuwabara shirt to celebrate during my watch, and I might even go read the manga soon.(It actually has a massive amount of tiny differences throughout the whole series!) I will just leave you guys, gals, and everyone else in-between with this. Whenever you have a chance, you don’t need a special reason, just go find your favorite anime and start watching it again. It’s truly something you can’t replicate anywhere else. Well, until next time…..
See you all my wandering readers of the internet, be safe, and treat those you love with kindness and care.