Listen, punks I'm going to tell you about the toughest punk at Sarayashiki Junior High, Yusuke Urameshi and why Yu Yu Hakusho is the best anime series of all time. The reasoning is besides co-starring Kazuma Kuwabara the second toughest punk at Sarayashiki Junior High School there are many reasons for this. The focus on characters whom are all enjoyable, the fusion of genres and tropes as well as the witty humor to contrast some of it's darker undertones.
Yu Yu Hakusho is an anime series that is based off of the manga of the same name by Yoshihiro Togashi, who has also worked on Hunter x Hunter. The main attraction to his work is that of his characters. He has created tons of memorable characters who have influenced my own writing. These characters may be based on popular tropes or mythological creatures, but they are powerful characters whom have strong character arcs and paths. Yusuke Urameshi, the series main character has one of my favorite character arcs of any shonen manga/anime I have ever read or watched. Yusuke is the most dynamic character in the series as he changes from a punk who has not motivation or desire to change himself into a hero respected by many friends and enemies alike.
Yusuke is not the only character as his supporting cast mostly consisting of Kuwabara, Hiei and Kurama also have character arcs themselves. Hiei for example and to a lesser extent Kurama start off as antagonists, and then later after various obstacles involving Yusuke overcome their differences and over the course of the series become friends and rivals. Yusuke's enemies many of which become his allies and rivals over the course of the series are dynamic as well, not just because they change from good guy to bad guy, but because they change overtime due to the actions of our main protagonist. This wrapping up of character arcs where they intersect with each other is another endearing thing about the series, even though the arcs may not have the most plot, they have ton of character development which in my opinion is more enjoyable than a lot of plot twists and plot dumping.
It is not just the characters that I enjoy, but the fact that Togashi is able to combine multiple genres into one, to make it far more superior to other shonen shows such as Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, and many others. Yu Yu Hakusho starts as a Mystery/Detective story with supernatural elements. That element never really goes away and makes it a bit different than the adventures of other shonen at the time like Dragon Ball or JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.
As the series progresses the genre changes on multiple occasions. The series is notable for it's fighting tournaments. There are technically three main tournaments, The Genkai Tournament, The Dark Tournament and the Demon World Tournament. Of those The Dark Tournament is the longest, and takes up most of the time. Although the detective/mystery element appears once again during the Chapter Black story arc, by the end of that arc Yusuke is no longer a spirit detective. It switches to a full on shonen trope show with a final tournament arc similar to Dragon Ball and a few other older manga/anime of that era.
The anime and manga can be serious at times with tense situations, but it is the witty humor to contrast some of the darker undertones that along with the characters and genre make it special. This is most visible in the English dub, but is still present in the manga and in the Japanese subs. Togashi's humor to paint a situation even in the darkest of times with a glimmer of hope is a great skill to have. There are high stakes such as during the battles with the Saint Beasts or the end of the Dark Tournament with Togoro's gambit. There is even a Lord of the Ring's moment after the Dark Tournament when everyone thinks Kuwabara has died, when in reality we found out he did not. (Sorry:Spoilers)
The dialogue that combines some of the dark supernatural elements and some pretty tough situations. The series discusses trafficking of drugs/demons/humans, the criminal underground, the afterlife, and in the final arc it gets a bit political. A running theme through the last few arcs is that humans are of course just as evil as the demons that they paint as evil, and it shows with characters taking sides and being pittied against one another. But, in the end they just needed some punk from middle school to punch them in the end.
Despite it's shonen tropes, and sometimes violence for the sack of violence to end conflict, the show has always had a strong impact on me. I loved watching it as a kid, and I rewatch the series all the time. It is a fantastic and fun adventure seeing those characters mature with me as I watched the anime series growing up or reading the manga. The witty humor and dialogue, plus the dark undertones the series presents is a bit different than the pointless violence of Dragon Ball Z or the romantic fiction of Rurouni Kenshin, and despite the fact I like those other shows, it is Yu Yu Hakusho that has always risen in my eyes to be the superior anime series.
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A.L. Hornbeck, historian, author, metalhead, and all around geek.