by Chris Campen
Growing up wanting to be an actor, a writer, and an artist, I watched Yu Yu Hakusho. Like many kids growing up in the early 2000’s, I watched it on Cartoon Network and their Toonami block. It would air just as I would get back from school every day of the week at about 3:30. “Smile Bomb,” the opening song, would start showing Botan, a psychopomp in the show, Yusuke, the main protagonist, and the title of the show. After all the characters get shown together in the opening the song ends quickly and the show would go straight to the struggle Yusuke and the gang would face. I always liked the intro. It was catchy, and energetic and I liked it and the animation.
Here’s the Yu Yu Hakusho English Opening.
Explaining why I think the show inspires me though is pretty challenging for me. There are so many different elements about the show that I liked: the action, the animation, and the music– pretty much all of it! So let’s get to it…
Yusuke, Friends and The Dark Tournament
The main character of the show is teenage boy named Yusuke Urameshi (see left). He’s basically your typical high school punk. The pilot episode introduces Yusuke, and his struggles at school and at home. Events spiral out when he saves a kid from an oncoming car, and he dies. Dead, he journeys to the spirit world with the aid of one of my favorite characters Botan, a cheery, happy-go-lucky grim reaper (right). She gives Yusuke the most advice at the beginning of the show. Despite how cheery she seems, Yusuke still acts like a punk when he meets her for the first time. She informs him that he’ll basically go to hell for being a bad kid and acting like this. However, she tells him since he died saving a child, and by performing a selfless deed, he has an opportunity to go back to the living as a detective for the spirit world. This leads us to Koenma.
Koenma (left) is a childlike authority of the spirit world. He is Yusuke’s boss in the show, and he gives Yusuke the offer to go back to the living as a Spirit Detective, but only if he passes some trials. Yusuke’s accepts and passes the tests. Over the course of the show Koenma gives him the brief on his assignments. He is extremely powerful, as one would imagine, but ironically he needs a lot of help running the spirit world. Really his dad, King Yama, actually runs everything. Koenma tells Yusuke about the powers he has as a detective, and teaches him the iconic Spirit Gun, a technique which fires a beam of energy from the fingertips. With a few tools under his belt Yusuke greatly changes his ways and returns from the dead making new and powerful friends.
My all-time favorite character is the hilarious badass known as Kazuma Kuwabara (right). Just like Yusuke, Kuwabara is a troubled youth. He was a rival to Yusuke in the school, but becomes his friend after Yusuke saves Kuwabara’s pet kitten from a gang. Later on in the show, Kuwabara’s character develops a lot. He gains powers and helps Yusuke win some battles with some pretty power demons like Hiei and Kurama.
Hiei and Kurama (left) were more or less the first set of demons Yusuke had to fight. They were antagonists on the show, at first. However, after Yusuke foiled their plans, these two joined him on his cases. Hiei and Kurama are polar opposites as far as personalities and beliefs go.
Kurama has red hair. He is a demon born human with an affinity for plants and humans. He is soft speaking and calm, and always provides a lot of wisdom. Hiei, on the other hand, has a fiery personality. He sought ways to give himself more power and worked to protect the ones he loves. Both Hiei and Kurama have something they want to protect and they, like Yusuke, would do anything to do so.
The last two characters I want to mention are Keiko and Genkai, the two most important people to Yusuke. Both of them keep Yusuke on the right track.
Keiko (right) is Yusuke’s love interest and has been friends with him for a long time. Because she loved him, she proved to Koenma that somebody on earth cared for him, which was part of how Yusuke got live again. That moment, I think, best displays of her character.
Genkai (left), like Keiko, loves Yusuke, but more like a mother. She’s a wise-cracking old lady with psychic powers. She’s a very cynical character. The first time Yusuke meets her she almost gets assassinated by a demon. With Kuwabara’s help, they save her. She teaches the crew how to better use their abilities. She’s kind of like Yoda, if he smoked, played video games, and gambled. She’s important to Yusuke because she was the mother figure he never had. She was powerful for spirit techniques, and even taught Yusuke her famous “Spirit Bomb” technique. Genkai was a badass old lady and, she was there for Yusuke when he needed her. Yusuke needed them all when he entered the Dark Tournament.
The Dark Tournament was my favorite arc because it was so memorable, and in my opinion, the best plotline of the show. In this arc there was a tournament comprised of teams of demons and super humans battling it out to the death. It was pure action. From the very start, Yusuke, Kuwabara, Kurama, Hiei, and Genkai have to venture to an island where a tournament is held by powerful humans.
In the tournament they have to fight the Toguro Brothers (right), two infamous S-class demons who share a couple ties with a few other members of the cast. Yusuke and his friends enter the tournament to defeat them as well as many other fighters, ninjas, and even robot demons.
A couple of the teams that they fought that I liked were Team Fractured Fairy Tales and Team Jolly-Devil Six. Two great examples of just how cool these fights were, and how tough Yusuke and his friends had to get, was when Yusuke’s fights with Chu (freakin love Chu) from Jolly-Devil Six, and when Kurama fights Ura from Fractured Fairy Tales. Both these fights had amazing moments, and both kept me at the edge of my seat. I wanted more, and the show didn’t fail to deliver. (See this if you’re not convinced) Compared to the other arcs, the Dark Tournament was awesome because it brought out the best of each of the characters, and pushed them to their limits. To me it’s definitely the highest point of the show.
Yu Yu Hakusho was great show. From funny characters like Kuwabara, to dark characters like the Toguro Brothers, I understood where each of these characters came from, and why they did what they did. Every time I hurdle through a paper, design a character, or place myself in the shoes of an actor or a character, I think about this show. I think about how the show presented an idea, or a foreign concept, and made it understandable through a character and their actions. The characters in this show showed me that love and determination are the two key ingredients for any form of media that specializes in action, be it visual or conceptual. To me, this show showed me that when you see a fight on screen, the fight itself should leave you wondering who or what do the characters fight for? For this very reason, Yu Yu Hakusho is one of my favorite anime.