Yu Yu Hakusho

TV (112 eps)
1992 - 1994
4.115 out of 5 from 24,153 votes
Rank #540

Yusuke Urameshi was a normal middle school punk until he was hit and killed by a car, while saving a child. His selfless action earned him the right to gain his life back and serve as a detective of the spirit world, keeping the world of the living safe from a myriad of demons. But being reborn has its price: Yusuke must hatch a spirit beast that will develop according to his actions, and if he doesn't act in a good and honest manner, it will eat his soul. Can Yusuke protect the human and spirit worlds and still manage to save himself in the process?

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Yu Yu Hakusho (YYH) is one of the lesser known fighting shonen of the 90’s and life went harsh on it. It aired at the same time Dragonball Z was at its peak and its explosions were not as big as there, so many pushed it aside as a watered down DBZ. To be honest, it is not THAT different in its actual plot but at least it tried to be a bit smarter. And that is what makes it better than most shonens. It tries.Let’s take the first episodes for example. The lead character dies and is floating around as a ghost, trying to return back in his body. In order to do that, he needs to get the approval by the lord of the dead (well, his son actually), convince his loved ones and even his rival that he can do that in order for them to preserve his body, and even use their life force as part of the procedure of resurrection. That is a far more sophisticated approach than just gathering seven orange spheres and making a wish. All this time we have almost zero action (some street punks are having a brawling but it’s nothing much) and the entire plot is centered on getting to know the main characters and how they feel and act. That was a wonderful way to be introduced dynamically to the story and to be bonded with them in just four episodes. After that, the lead becomes a “spirit detective” as his spirit power (this anime’s version of power level or chi or whatever) got a boost thanks to his journey to the spirit world. He thereafter protects his city from various demons who want to harm it and this is where the action part begins. To be frank, it takes a lot of time for epic-level battles to appear and that is probably why the anime never got the fame DBZ did. I mean, even in the first series of DB in just a few episodes you had people breaking rocks with a punch and blowing up mountains with an energy blast or turning to huge monsters that wreck entire fortresses. YYH takes a much slower route by having each character building up from a simple street punk to a guy who uses a generic special attack and gradually improves it to be more devastating. For the impatient battle-lovers that would seem boring and since the target audience is young teens it is very hard to find appreciation in patience. The good fights start around episode 30, when the opponents are literally torn to pieces and everybody is now using energy blasts and lightning fast movements. Yet even then, when the level of violence is ten times more, you still don’t get the same feeling of excitement than in DBZ for the simplest reason. All the opponents are demons. The entire show hardly shows normal people dying but demons are there to be ripped to shreds on every corner. It is hardly the same thing like, let’s say, in Hokuto no Ken where everybody was human. Or in Dragonball, where the bad guys kill innocents by the hundreds. These here are demons; you are meant to hate them and see them dying miserably. There is not a drop of sympathy for the losers. On the other hand the pacing of YYH is to the most part extremely well done, without spending entire episodes just powering up while staring at each other screaming. Most of the battles are short and dense in action, plus they usually have some strategy that makes them far more interesting than simply stating “My battle power is bigger than yours”. But again, it’s not as if pacing means anything for the target audience as long as it is not constantly building up in action and frustration. And nobody beats DBZ in that. Before you jump to conclusion, I admit that there isn’t exactly THAT much strategy in battles in the longrun. In fact, the tricks the heroes use most of the time are simple and most of them have to do with countering an opponent’s attack back at him. Other times it’s plain luck; they slipped and the opponent lost his attention and got owned by his own attack. In real life situations, most enemies would be experienced enough to not fall for such cheap tricks. But as I said, the basic strategy is there and for its time it was fine. I will not lie though; Hunter X Hunter has a much-much-much more sophisticated strategy in battles and that is the reason it became so famous. Plus, DBZ ended by that time and the dreadful DBGT took its place. Poor YYH simply came out at the wrong time.Another thing that alienated the viewers even further was the rather poor production values. For its age, the animation is very crude, with lots of simplistic character figures and cheesy special effects. Its soundtrack is also completely full of average to good songs that are simply forgettable next to other more famous shonen shows. Anyone who watched DBZ or later anime like Naruto will definitely have a hard time to get used to the crummy looks and sounds of YYH.Another thing that will probably feel as bad is the actual structure of the show. Although its pacing is great to the most part and filler episodes are close to zero, its plot will probably feel like a long line of fighting tournaments or a cheesy videogame. It’s always about getting objectives by the higher ups, like finding artifacts or beating strong demons, and the procedure is crossing a linear route of traps and beating minor enemies. There isn’t much complexity even when the hero becomes a team with three others; they just take turns fighting one-on-one or crossing linear dungeons and castles. The villains also seem to play fair and fight one-on-one as well. It would be far more interesting if they would spread out and fight simultaneously all the minor obstacles; it wouldn’t affect the plot anyway. Plus, there isn’t much time for relaxation either. Remember those silly episodes in DBZ where Goku was learning how to drive or Gohan was a hero in a movie? As useless as those may be to the plot, they served as points or relaxation between greater events. YYH doesn’t have that; as soon as one threat is over, another will pop up almost immediately. Hell, even the various evil groups seem to wait for their turn in this show. Down to it the best part of the show are its characters, which are a very colorful bunch. Although each one follows a specific shonen stereotype, along the way they are given emersion that makes them unique and memorable. They are not different individuals by the end of the show but they sure feel enriched a lot and they are not thrown to the side as stunts after a certain point. It is not a bad fighting shonen but it sure feels hard to be appreciated. Its production values are low, its story is a videogame, its special attacks and overall plot have been ripped-off by following anime (especially Bleach). What I appreciate in it is how it keeps escalating in action without neglecting its characters and that it ends with a solid finale. By then the action will feel far less interesting than the characters (and to be honest many battles could have been far more epic). And now for some excused scorings. ART SECTION: 5/10 General Artwork 1/2 (generic) Character Figures 1/2 (generic) Backgrounds 2/2 (basic) Animation 1/2 (basic) Visual Effects 1/2 (basic) SOUND SECTION: 7/10 Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series) Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series) Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess) STORY SECTION: 6/10 Premise 1/2 (typical) Pacing 1/2 (good although it lacks relaxation points) Complexity 1/2 (not much) Plausibility 1/2 (so-so) Conclusion 2/2 (solid) CHARACTER SECTION: 9/10 Presence 1/2 (generic) Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded) Backdrop 2/2 (everyone has some) Development 2/2 (all important ones develop) Catharsis 2/2 (strong) VALUE SECTION: 6/10 Historical Value 2/3 (quite famous as a retro but neglected by many) Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little build up) Memorability 3/4 (very well made for its kind but has its cheesiness and lack of excitement) ENJOYMENT SECTION: 5/10 Art 0/1 (looks lazy) Sound 0/2 (sounds typical) Story 0/3 (generic and dull) Characters 3/4 (they are well developed but occasionally feel silly) VERDICT: 6.5/10

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