I sometimes wonder if I would have become such a fan of anime if it hadn’t been for Adult Swim. Before they started doing original programs, it was the time to watch anime. Everyone started with Dragon Ball Z, but eventually the channel began to show more and more different types of anime. One series that I love was Yu Yu Hakusho. an anime about a fourteen year old who investigates the spirit world along with a strange assortment of allies. As the series is coming up on it’s 25th anniversary, I decided to look back at the adventures of the Spirit Detective.
Surprised to be Dead
Everyone knew a person like Yusuke Urameshi. The type of kid that adults warned you about, but wasn’t really a bad guy. A slacker who never takes anything serious, Yusuke decides one day to save the life of a kid who is going to be hit by a car. This selfless act is also his last, as he is the one killed. Finding out that he was never meant to die at that time, and that the kid would not have gotten hit, Yusuke wins the right to come back to life, but he must become a spirit detective who investigates threats from the spirit world.
Yusuke from the first moment we see him, feels like a real person. He is not liked by most of his teachers, but he is really a good guy deep down. He’s tough and also funny and we see why he has the stuff to become the new spirit detective. He never takes his new job as some sort of righteous calling, most of the time he tries to get out of doing his job. As the series progresses, we see his attitude change and he protects the living world with a more serious attitude. The change comes gradually and it feels like it could happen in real life, not just for the sake of a story.
The Search Begins
Along side Yusuke is some of the coolest and unexpected allies in anime or live action. Botan is the Grim Reaper, but get any images of a skeleton figure out of your head. Instead, she is a funny and excitable girl whose carefree attitude masks a powerful force. Koenma, the boss, is a seven hundred year old prince, but looks like a toddler. Kazuma Kuwabara was Yusuke’s chief rival when he was alive, but he becomes a loyal and trusted friend with his own spirit powers. Kurama and Hiei start off as demons Yusuke must catch, but both eventually side with him. And finally there is Genkai, an elderly women who might be one of the most powerful beings in existence.
Allowing eneimes to become heroes is nothing new, at lest in the ainme world. What sets Yu Yu Hakusho aprt from the others is that the change occurs in a realistic fashion. Yuskue thought that Kazuma hated him, but he eventually learns that he respected him and just wanted to be seen as his equal. Kazuma doesn’t have a change in heart, it was just that Yusuke didn’t know the whole story. This group leads to some fantastic story lines, and different characters can interact with each other. Genkai is especially important, as her search for a successor drives almost the entire second half of the first season. Also, characters that we like continue to show up, allowing for more complex story lines.
To the Future
With all of the talk about death and demons, you might think that Yu Yu Hakusho is a horror anime. I would classify it as an action anime, with horror and comedy elements. Most of the later story lines revolve around tournaments that Yuske and his allies must win. The artwork is beautiful, and many people agree that the characters are some of the best dressed in anime. The demons look great, becoming huge and monstrous in a way that only anime can deliver. The action scenes are awesome and the fights will leave you breathless. There is also a romantic subplot with Yusuke and his childhood friend, Keiko.
The entire series is going to be released for it’s twenty fifth anniversary, and there is something extra that will be included. A brand new OVA, or short animation, will be included and old fans like me are wondering what it will be about. Pick it up when it releases next year and see what fans like me were saying a few decades ago.