Throwback Thursday: Yu Yu Hakusho Review & Characters


yu yu hakusho wallpaper

Ghost Files

  • Episodes : 112
  • Genre : Action, Martial Arts, Shounen, Supernatural
  • Airing Date : October 10, 1992 – January 7, 1995
  • Producers : Studio Pierrot, FUNimation Entertainment

Intro:
Hey guys! Before we get into the preview I just want to quickly explain about our Throwback Thursday articles. Each one will review an anime that originally aired before 2000. Also, these TBT articles will have more content, contain more nostalgia, and basically give a more personal perspective. I’m honored to present to you the first TBT article. Let’s not waste any time and get right into my all time favorite anime: Yu Yu Hakusho!

Yu Yu Hakusho Preview / Plot (No Spoilers)

Fourteen year old Yusuke Urameshi is the toughest kid in his junior high. He constantly gets into fights with other students, he ditches class on a regular basis, and he hates listening to authority figures. So, it comes as quite a surprise to everyone when he suddenly jumps in front of a car to save the life of a little boy.

However, because of his noble sacrifice, Yusuke was given a second chance at life. But, things are much different the second time around. He can see ghosts, fight demons, and harness his own spirit energy. With his heightened senses and new abilities he is appointed the position of Spirit Detective. Yu Yu Hakusho is the story of Yusuke growing out of his immature, delinquent phase and becoming a man capable of protecting those he loves and the world from supernatural threats.

Yu Yu Hakusho

Who does Yu Yu Hakusho cater to?

This show was created by Yoshihiro Togashi. So fans of Hunter X Hunter will love this show as well. The narratives and settings are completely different, but the great character designs and deep relationships Togashi creates are present in all of his works.

Yu Yu Hakusho is a fighting anime dependent on battles to drive the story forward. Though “detective” is in the title there isn’t much sleuthing taking place except for a few key episodes early in the series and in the Chapter Black arc. So, come prepared to watch some epic brawls and training montages!

What's so appealing about this piece of work.

The show’s appeal is drawn from three main sources: the 80’s anime feel, English dub, and the tournament story arcs. First, I’ll say this anime has withstood time pretty well. The artwork doesn’t feel inferior or subpar when compared to contemporary shows. Instead, it gives off a very 80’s vibe. A lot of that has to do with the clothes and hairstyles characters wear, the shades of blue and purple used in the background, and vocabulary used.

Which brings me to my next point… the English voice acting. I generally stick to watching subtitled anime because English voice actors generally don’t do the shows justice. However, I make two exceptions to this rule. Those two anime are Cowboy Bebop and Yu Yu Hakusho. The voice actors did an excellent job customizing their voice to bring out the personality of each character. They brought to life characters you could instantly become attached to.

Third, the epic tournament arcs in Yu Yu Hakusho are amazing in their own right, but they also divide the series into two distinct halves. The Dark Tournament concludes events and relationships that had been cultivating since the beginning of the show. Then, the Demon World (Makai) Tournament ties up the loose strings from Chapter Black and closes out the series. Each tournament is filled with memorable matchups and showcases the strength the main characters achieve from either training or putting their life on the line for a noble cause.

Yu Yu Hakusho Trailer

Yu Yu Hakusho Main Characters List

Yusuke Urameshi

yu yu hakusho Yusuke Urameshi

Voice Actor :Justin Cook(ENG)/ Nozomu Sasaki(JPN)

This 14 year old delinquent is our main protagonist. As I mentioned in the intro of this article, Yusuke is a trouble maker whose sacrifice was a sudden shock to everyone around him. No one expected this immature brat to save the life of an innocent child. But, he did. It was the first glimpse we had of Yusuke’s inner desire to protect others. It’s something we’ll see more of as the story progresses.

After his appointment as Spirit Detective, he takes on supernatural cases that force him to take on opponents that are much stronger than him. Through his travels he makes friends and finds a mentor that is vital to his transformation into a real Spirit Detective and someone capable of protecting humanity from supernatural threats.

At first, Yusuke only fights to fulfill his duty to Koenma and to satisfy his own violent needs. Never one to back down from a fight, he often charges in looking to quickly end the fight with his fists. Slowly, he realizes that his motivations are not sufficient. They aren’t enough to take down some of the supernatural foes he comes across and they definitely don’t give him the strength to protect his friends in times of peril.

What he lacks is a cause to fight for. Something that he can devote every fiber of his being to. Once he discovers what that is he transitions into a much more powerful fighter and becomes a better person in the process.

Kazuma Kuwabara

yu yu hakusho Kuwabara

Voice Actor :Christopher Sabat(ENG)/ Shigeru Chiba(JPN)

Kuwabara is another tough delinquent who attends the same school as Yusuke and Keiko. However, his biggest difference (from Yusuke) is that he has a strict code of honor that he abides by. He always puts his those he cares about before him. He gets into trouble and acts tough, but that’s only because he is following his rules for how a real man should act. One of those happens to be fighting (and losing to) Yusuke on a daily basis.

Physically, Kuwabara looks like a future Yakuza member. He is very tall and muscular for his age. He has a deep voice and a pompadour haircut. His hairstyle and deep, goofy voice give the impression that he is slow-witted. He may be naïve in some regards, but he is actually pretty intelligent when it comes to matters of spirit energy.

Early on, he has a much better grasp of his energy than Yusuke does. Kuwabara manipulates his energy manifests it into a physical sword. This sword is his signature weapon that takes on various forms and functions throughout the series.

His original rivalry with Yusuke serves as the basis for their long-term friendship. He becomes Yusuke’s best friend and (arguably) the strongest human fighter. He makes friends with the same demons that Yusuke encounters throughout his travels. Together they protect the world from demons, evil humans, and misguided souls who all represent a big threat to humanity.

Keiko Yukimura

yu yu hakusho Keiko

Voice Actor :Laura Bailey(ENG)/Yuri Amano(JPN)

Keiko is Yusuke’s childhood friend. She is the exact opposite of Yusuke when it comes to school life. She is the head of her class, she has almost perfect test scores, she is respected by her classmates, and she always shows up to school on time. However, she deeply cares for him and does everything in her power to make sure he attends classes and doesn’t get into too much trouble.

Their relationship is a complicated one. Early in the series they fight over the smallest matters. Usually it’s over school matters and Yusuke’s reluctance to treat her with respect. However, when push came to shove, she was the one who risked her life to protect Yusuke’s body from being enveloped in flames. She made it possible for him to return to life and become the Spirit Detective.

Later she fully supports him in that role. She does whatever she can to stay by his side and motivate him in times of doubt. Her role seems minimal when you compare her to fighters or member of Team Urameshi. But, her sacrifices are not small.

Yusuke’s cases and training force him to spend a lot of time away from home and consequently away from Keiko. She looks after his house and helps his mother whenever she can. But, largely a lot of her time is spent waiting for his return. This is actually a very important plot element that is fleshed out near the end of the series.

But, I’ll say here that she sacrifices a lot of her time, freedom, and opportunities in hopes that Yusuke will return unharmed from his battles. No matter how much a person cares for another, they can only be patient and wait for so long.

Kurama

yu yu hakusho Kurama

Voice Actor :John Burgmeier(ENG)/Megumi Ogata(JPN)

This fox/demon/human hybrid is an invaluable ally to earth and the Spirit Detective. His background is largely a mystery for the first half of the show. But, we do learn early on that he was originally a cunning fox that lived for centuries. He passed the time by becoming a renowned thief who specialized in stealing powerful artifacts. Then, after a botched robbery he was forced to hide in the human world to recover from his injuries. His time with humans has allowed him to develop new priorities and beliefs.

Kurama’s human name is Shoichi. This is the name his human mother calls him by and the name he uses while attending school. As a student, his grades and test scores are that of a genius level.

Our red haired protagonist uses a rose whip as his weapon of choice. Kurama is skilled in harnessing his energy to manipulate plants. His most devastating attacks usually come from plants or seeds he has acquired from the demon world. He is often looked down on because of his slightly feminine appearance.

But, he is easily the most intelligent and calculating fighter on Team Urameshi.
Kurama is a powerful, no doubt. But, his abilities are limited while in his human form. He is much scarier fighter when he can revert to his original demon fox form. His spirit energy greatly increases and he gains access to a greater variety of demon plants. This is the form that other demons whisper rumors and have nightmares about. Luckily, Kurama has chosen to uses his powers for the side of good… mostly.

Hiei

yuyu hakusho hiei

Voice Actor :Chuck Huber(ENG)/ Nobuyuki Hiyam(JPN)

Hiei is the other demon who has made himself a prominent member of Team Urameshi. This pint-sized powerhouse is a demon to be feared. He starts off being Yusuke’s enemy during the Spirit Detective arc. Soon after, Koenma decides not to imprison Hiei but to use his skills to help the Spirit Detective on his perilous missions.

He and Kurama accompany Yusuke during his many battles with demons.
Hiei would never admit it, but he harbors a deep respect for Yusuke. It something that developed over time and had a large part to do with Yusuke’s increase of power over time. He says he only sticks around for the eventual rematch with the Spirit Detective, but deep down he enjoys the comradery that comes with fighting alongside Yusuke and the others.

He has two combat specialties. The first is fighting with a sword. He is a very skilled sword fighter and he combines those techniques with his amazing speed. Only the toughest of demons are able to keep up with his swiftness and deal solid damage to him. That’s when Hiei resorts to his second specialty: The Dragon of the Darkness Flame. Thanks to his Jagan Eye, he can summon this ancient demonic dragon to attack his opponent.

This little demon definitely has a superiority complex. But underneath that there are a few people he deeply cares for. Those are the ones he’s willing to risk his life for. You’ll see that that is a common trait among Team Urameshi. Whether it’s on the surface or subverted, all of them care for something very deeply and put their lives on the line without a moment’s hesitation.


Contains Spoilers

Yu Yu Hakusho Review

As you may have guessed from my lengthy sections up above, this is my favorite anime of all time. I think that mostly has to do with how devoted I was to the series as a young teenager. This is the first and only anime that I went out and bought DVD sets of. I’ve watched the complete series several times through and enjoy it more as I get older.

Because I watched it as a teenager, I still thoroughly enjoy the 80’s vibe of the show. Looking at the various outfits they wear, seeing the stylish cars, and watching Yusuke fight with his slicked back hair in a pair of jeans and white t-shirt is very nostalgic. It’s one of the subtle charms this show has.

Beyond the show’s charm I want to talk about the narrative, the story arcs to be more precise. The show is generally broken into four arcs: Spirit Detective Saga, The Dark Tournament Saga, The Chapter Black Saga, and The Three Kings Saga. I want to briefly talk about each one and explain their relevance to the overall narrative.

The Spirit Detective Saga introduced us to the characters that we would join on this epic series. The characters all meet and start to develop bonds. It starts off strong with Yusuke’s death and then seamlessly transitions to the Toguro Brothers. These two hitmen are pretty badass and they setup the introduction of the Dark Tournament.

This tournament saga focuses on Team Urameshi’s struggle to fight through the ranks and reach the finals. The goal being to take down Team Toguro, consisting of the two brothers along with Karasu, and Bui. These are all extremely formidable fighters and honestly Team Urameshi had no hope beating them as they were at the start of the tournament. It took some additional training, items, and motivation to get them to surpass their limits and come out victorious.

Genkai’s death and Yusuke’s revenge were the emotional highs and lows of the Dark Tournament Saga. Without them it would have felt like a drawn out rematch of Yusuke vs Toguro.

The Chapter Black saga gives us some insight into the role of Spirit Detective. We learn about Yusuke’s predecessor, Shinobu Sensui. This man was a prodigy and seemed born for the role of Spirit Detective. He was perfect at his job and he had a strong sense of justice. But tragically, he witnessed the Black Black Club torturing demons for their sheer delight. Immediately, his psyche broke and he killed everyone where, humans and demons. Sensui lost faith in humanity and grew to hate all humans.

Chapter Black was different from previous storylines because the main antagonist was human. He created a team of seven psychics to open up the gates to the demon world and destroy humanity. Their unique abilities forced the protagonists to have to do some detective work. It was a welcome element that we hadn’t really seen since the original story arc.

It was also very important because it revealed one of Koenma’s long-kept secrets. He knew that Yusuke harbored demonic blood and could potentially turn into a demon himself. This bit of backstory plunged us into the final saga: The Three Kings

The final saga features Yusuke, Hiei, and Kurama returning to the demon world to deal with their past. Each of them has personal business with one of the three demonic kings. They spend a year there coming to terms with their past and training. The death of one of the kings, Raizen (Yusuke’s ancestor), signaled a time of change. Yusuke proposed a tournament be held to decide the new ruler of the demon world.

The tournament itself is filled with great fights and character development, but it didn’t hold the same emotional gravity that the Dark Tournament did. On top of that, we knew Yusuke wouldn’t really stay in the demon world as the ruler. He had to go back home and return to Keiko… of course! Which he eventually did.

So, even though The Three Kings Saga had the most intense fights and the strongest opponents, it is probably the weakest of the four story arcs. It did however close off the series on a good note. An appropriate ruler was found for the demon world and Yusuke returned home to his best friend and to Keiko.

1. Yusuke’s Wake

yu yu hakusho Yusuke's Wake

Episode 1 immediately pulled me in. It was cool to see a punk kid give his life for a little boy. After his death, Yusuke felt like no one would miss him and he was better off dead. Sad to say, I agreed with him at that point. It seemed he didn’t have much going on for him at school and his mom was in her own world that she couldn’t be broken out of. Perhaps saving the little boy was the best outcome he could hope for.

But then Botan brought him around to his wake and that changed everything. You saw how deeply people had cared for him. His life wasn’t worthless and his death had a profound effect on some people.

In the picture above you only see Kuwabara barging into the wake in fury. He is in disbelief that his rival has passed away. He demands to stay there until Yusuke wakes up and fights him man to man. As sad as that is, what you don’t see are the emotional scenes involving Keiko, Yusuke’s mom, and the boy who Yusuke saved.

2. Genkai’s Death

yu yu hakusho Genkai's Death

Genkai was the mentor that Yusuke desperately needed. She didn’t only make him stronger she also taught him what it meant to be an adult. She forced him to push through all the “layers of crap” and his “half-ass” attitude. She taught him to dedicate himself to a cause and then put all of his energy to see it through.

Before meeting Genkai, Yusuke was a cocky brat who didn’t think about his actions or consequences. He only fought for the thrill and relied on his natural abilities. The discipline she instilled in him turned his life around. Knowing all of this and seeing Yusuke’s reaction to her death makes it that much more painful.

3. Yusuke vs Toguro (Rematch)

yu yu hakusho Yusuke vs Toguro

This is my favorite fight of the series. Yusuke does fight much stronger foes such as Sensui or any of his matches from the Demon World tournament. But this one has much more emotional involvement. You want to see Yusuke take down the man who killed Genkai.

The fight itself is thrilling, there are many advanced techniques and power ups that are used. But the best part is when Yusuke comes to terms with his sadness. His spirit energy actually reflects the turmoil he’s dealing with inside. You see him stop caring about himself and devote his entire being to protecting others. That very instant you see him become a man.


All of my highlights were from the first half of the series. For me, that’s where the most emotional scenes are found. I know that I’m very biased here since I only the first half the show aired on TV when I was young. I had to buy DVD’s to watch the later episodes. I’m more attached to the beginning of the series.

But, the entire show is phenomenal. I enjoyed every minute of it. Hopefully a bit of my passion and enthusiasm reaches out and pushes you to try the series out if you haven’t seen it before.

I really would like to hear your thoughts on Yu Yu Hakusho. Which was your favorite arc? What was your favorite fight? Did you like the ending? Comment below and thanks for reading!

Javier Garcia

Writer

Author: Javier Garcia

Hey guys! I'm a huge fan of anime and video games. I used to be a competitive fighting game player (search my name in YouTube). So, I guess it was natural for me to make my way over here to Japan. I teach English, write anime articles, and put together videos when I have time. I hope you enjoy the content we've created for you here at Honey's Anime!

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