Yu Yu Hakusho: What Did and Did not Work – Part 1

Yu Yu Hakusho: What Did and Did not Work – Part 1

Not too long ago I finished reading the Yu
Yu Hakusho manga. After which the HunterXHunter2011DickridingAssociation
asked me which I preferred, the anime adaptation or reading the original manga. To which I responded that to pick one or the
other rather misses the point. The anime adaptation and the manga of Yu Yu
Hakusho both expand on each other in necessary ways. Separating the two doesn’t really accomplish
anything beyond reducing the enjoyment of the other. For those who aren’t aware, the Yu Yu Hakusho
manga is significantly shorter than the anime’s run time would suggest. Following the Shonen adaptation rule as stated
in Ember Reviews video (that being 2 chapters for every 1 episode), it would logically follow
that the manga would have a length of almost 300 chapters. Instead, the manga has a mere 175 in comparison
to the anime’s 112. As you can extrapolate the YYH anime has a
large amount of filler, expanded content, and even some character arcs that weren’t
present in the manga. On top of all of that, the anime also cuts
out large swathes of content from the manga that expands on the story themes in ways both
minor and major. While usually, the term filler causes most
anime fans to groan with displeasure YYH is a rather exceptional case. Almost all of the added content only serves
to further Yoshihiro Togashi’s vision of the story. Almost all of it. After reflecting on the themes and ideas of
YYH I can’t help but notice where the anime occasionally adds to much content or otherwise
miss interprets the trajectory of the narrative. The game for me becomes a rather messy process
of determining what anime content should be cut/revised/reinterpreted to make for the
optimal viewing experience. And that’s what I’m here to do today. In effect, we are going to examining both
texts under a microscope and creating a context to ultimately enjoy YYH to it’s fullest. Throughout which I will be highlighting where
the anime missed a few swings and where it knocked it into the solar system. I would hope that this is the sort of thing
you clicked for as I don’t have any sort of interest in a spicy takedown of this series
nor do I think I would be able to write one in good conscious. With that out of the way… I Calliope will be your speaker Today, but
allow Cherryboywriter the author to set the stage. Back From The Grave, Once Again Perhaps the most important part of viewing
YYH is having an express understanding of the central theme of the story, pinning down
such a task is shockingly harder than it sounds. What gives Yoshihiro Togashi’s work such
life is something almost intangible for outsiders looking on. The most powerful ability Togashi has in his
arsenal is cohesion brought on by experience and appreciation for all aspects of life. It’s an idea directly touched on in the
cooking section of the Hunter Exams in Hunter x Hunter. That things which you might consider trivial
or mundane in nature are in fact things which people dedicate their entire lives to mastering
for that joy alone. This sort of appreciation for life can be
seen (most prominently) in the ways Hunter x Hunter goes about conveying its messages. Whether it’s cooking, Togashi’s love of
video games, referencing famous artworks, creating a logical puzzle, or even appraising,
Togashi dives deep into many different subject matters learning what makes them tick and
what people love about them, then uses that knowledge to elevate his own work. I tell you all of that to put into context
the theme of YYH in greater detail. Because of Togashi’s appreciation for life,
it can seem like pinning down the themes of his stories are difficult as the specific
focus seems to shift from place to place. But if in fact, you take a more broad view
the scope becomes more grand and clear. If the theme of HxH is an appreciation for
life, then the theme for YYH is coming back to live your life after losing everything. While YYH’s subject matter can also seemingly
show this tendency to bounce around from theme to theme, this is the prevailing idea that
ties together every major character. From Yusuke to his friends, to Toguro and
Genkai, to Sensui, to Yomi. Keep this theme in mind as it will be the
main thing informing my decisions of what I praise, alter, or cut from the YYH anime. Alteration 1 (Insert): The Daily Life of Yusuke
the Ghost I have a confession. I love Shonen Daily Life Arcs. One unique trend in Shonen manga because of
their previously long run length to shift genre, usually from gag manga or slice of
life to action. YYH proved to also have this happen, however,
all of the interesting side stories that existed in the beginning volumes of the manga were
almost immediately cut from the anime without anything even close to a mention. Daily Life arcs carry a unique quality, particularly
in Shonen, being that they are investment-based low tension arcs. Given that many people (not all) generally
come to Shonen manga for high-intensity storytelling daily life arcs offer a unique time for the
author to build more personal traits and connections between the world, characters, and readers
all while expanding on the themes in a low stakes way. For these reasons, daily life arcs carry within
them the interesting tendency to be only truly appreciated in retrospective. For a more in-depth example of this happening,
I recommend reading Lethargic Rambling’s defense of the Daily Life Arc of Hitman Reborn. My point here being is that these early chapters
do a large amount of leg work to establish who Yusuke Urameshi is, what his habits are,
and how his relationships with other work and affect him. For those who maybe have not read Togashi’s
other manga and having seen Level E it really is important to know that he is a very experienced
author. Side not because I don’t think I’ll get a
better opportunity to talk about this. Togashi’s first serialized manga in Weekly
Shonen Jump was Wicked Cupid, which I’d say is almost a prototype for Yu Yu Hakusho. Or atleast the main character kind of looks
like Yusuke, and it has this theme of demons, but it clearly shows Togashi has an appreciation
for a lot of different genres. Like he can do romantic comedy very well,
and the romance aspect cleary carried over very well to Yu Yu Hakusho, but I really liked
the few chapters that were translated into English. It is a shame that we don’t have the full
manga translated into english, there is only 5 chapters or so. The rest of the four volumes are stuck in
Japanese. This is an ABSOLUTE travesty, this is like
part of our scripture being missing and untranslated… This, this cannot happen. The significance of the daily life arc, OH
look at this, I did not even read the next part of the script, but here we go Togashi is incredibly skilled in making all
sorts of stories and is honestly a master of multiple genres. Hence why we call him ToGODshi. As such my first change to YYH is just to
get these chapters animated. I’m my personal opinion if you are a fan
of Yu Yu Hakusho you really do owe it to yourself to read these chapters and cry/laugh/be happy
because they are just gems. Chapter 4 about how Yusuke helps a little
boy who lost his dog cope and picks himself up will leave you misty-eyed every time. However, another thing the Daily Life Arc
of Yu Yu Hakusho did was really establish the ins and outs of Yusuke’s golden egg
trial. And the details of this trial will lead me
directly into the first of my (few) controversial opinions on the YYH anime. Alteration 2 (Changes): Pachinko Machines,
Fighting Games, and Goblin King “Select your fighter!” – An irrelevant Street Fighter reference
I felt like making Perhaps one of my shortest and least interesting
edits I will admit. But never the less I wanted to address it
now before we get too deep into the complexities of Yusuke Urameshi as a person and the later
arcs. Throughout both the early chapters of Yu Yu
Hakusho and at various points of the story, we get scattered scenes of Yusuke sitting
down at arcades or pachinko machines. However, between the anime at the manga, the
details get rather muddled. In the manga, we are shown scenes of Yusuke
either gambling away cash at the pachinko machines or indulging in fighting games at
the arcade. But in the anime, despite the fact that Yusuke
is a delinquent doing delinquent things, they could not actually show him gambling because
he’s underaged. Instead, the anime opted for a 3rd option
and instead gave us scenes of Yusuke playing the titular video game Goblin King which would
become an important plot point to the Chapter Black Arc with the introduction of Gamemaster. Now, of course, this is hardly even a major
detail and in the long run, is less important than most things. However, the fact that Yusuke only plays fighting
video games is something I consider to be an important point of characterization. By changing his gaming habits like in the
anime you inadvertently change small aspects of Yusuke’s character in ways that just
aren’t him. So my change for this section is to just imagine
whenever Yusuke is seen playing pachinko or Goblin Slayer just mentally amend that to
a fighting game. My reasoning for such a minor and unimportant
edits goes rather deep. Now before I continue I want to say I LOATH
using this word to describe just about anything. Mostly because it’s a buzz word talking
point people use to praise things they barely understand and thus muddy the waters around
the discussion. But I see no other word to describe him so
here it goes. Yusuke Urameshi is one of, if not the most,
complex anime characters ever written. By complex, I don’t mean by pretentious
meanings as usual like just “being difficult to understand” or “dealing with deep issues
or motivations”. No, what I mean by complex is that Yusuke
legitimately just has many many different drives all conflicting and colliding within
him at any given time. Much like an actual person. Most characters, in general, are usually defined
by one or two events, drives, or goals. For some short examples think of say Guts
from Berserk. I’ve seen many people claim that he’s
a complex character but really you can reduce his motivations down to a simple “love and
revenge” if you want to be short about it. Try for another character like Vash the Stampede
who simply wants to avoid violence and be a pacifist. It’s a fairly straight forward motivation. This isn’t to say that their plights aren’t
given a significant amount of weight but they are more what I would describe as “deep”
instead of “complex”. In contrast, Yusuke has many faces that he
must consider wearing because he has many desires that come into direct conflict. Yu Yu Hakusho is, at its core, a story about
Yusuke exploring each of these desires and choosing between them. He never rejects them outright, but as the
story goes on he de-prioritizes them as he hones in closer and closer to finding his
life’s calling. Yusuke is torn between the things he loves. He has to repeatedly choose, “Am I Yusuke
the Violent Thug, Yusuke the Hero, Yusuke the Fighter, or Yusuke the whipping boy of
Keiko?” As summarized but a wonderful anime-only line
at the beginning of the Three Kings arc Genki states to the group, “And as he has discovered,
sometimes the more you see the less clear things become. Yusuke thought he knew it all, he thought
he was just some dime a dozen punk, but the more he learns about himself, the more confused
he gets. I think We owe it to Yusuke to allow him to
fumble around in the dark and search for answers. Because the truth of it is we can’t stop his
demon blood from causing him to do wrong we just have to have faith” which is a great
encapsulation of everything the story has been. When I say the anime dialogue does wonders
for the story I truly mean it. To bring it back to center, this is why I
propose you change the various scenes of Yusuke goofing off to him playing fighting games. It reinforces the idea that he has found something
that he loves and doesn’t want to give up. Fighting is one of the ways Yusuke connects
to the world around him. He and Genki even have several scenes of them
just playing fighting games together (and him losing badly). While you could keep the pachinko machines,
they only really exist to reinforce the idea that Yusuke is also a punk and old habits
die hard. But considering that if you are watching Yu
Yu Hakusho and either listening to his hilarious foul language in English He WHAT! I planned a formal meeti-… EARTH TO TODDLER BITC YOU BETTER SPEAK NOW
or just watching his quick temper in general… I think his punk nature comes across well
enough. We’ll discuss Yusuke’s motivations and
masks as we go deeper into the arcs naturally but let us move onto the last alteration for
Part 1. Alteration 3 (Interpretation): Koenma Is Not
Our Friend After going through Yu Yu Hakusho I have come
to what is likely going to my most controversial opinion. Not only to you all but also to myself as
I am split right down the middle with how to interpret Koenma between these two versions. My overarching opinion on our hell warden
pacifier friend is that when it comes to what Koenma was meant to represent and do for the
story and Yusuke was missed by the anime entirely. It becomes a decision that inevitably has
rippling effects outwards to the later developments and themes of the narrative. In exchange for that, however, the anime turned
Koenma into a thoroughly enjoyable character that is hard to imagine the series without
as portrayed in the anime. But I get ahead of myself, why DO I have this
opinion in the first place? As always let’s return to our base theme,
Yusuke’s theme of coming back to life and learning to live life. In the YYH anime adaptation Yusuke, at the
beginning is given a golden egg by Boton and Koenma that houses Puu and told that more
good deeds he does the more positive energy the egg will accumulate. When hatched if the beast will be good it
will lead Yusuke back to his body. If bad, the beast will eat him. Thus this explanation sets up the road ahead
for Ghost Yusuke. In all honestly works more or less the same
as it does in the manga, except with a huge glaring key difference. In the manga knowledge of how the egg hatches
are expressly hidden from Yusuke. He is not told that he has an express chance
of dying from this egg hatching and it’s for good reason. At the beginning of the series, Yusuke Urameshi
is not a bane or a boon to Spirit World or society in general. If anything, given his prior behavior Yusuke
should probably be sent to hell regardless. It was only by chance that he died too soon
before anyone expected him too. Given this why would Spirit World tell him
the details of his trial? Would not telling Yusuke Urameshi that he
needs to be good thus coerce him into being good? Yusuke could very well have had a mind to
play along and do good deeds and then continued to be a highschool bum after revival. It’s this logic that keeps the secret of
the golden egg from being revealed from Yusuke Urameshi. They want to gauge his pure uncovered actions. What you should be understanding form this
is that Spirit World and Koenma are not explicitly on friendly terms with Yusuke. I make this clear because despite how much
of Koenma’s commentary we get in the anime during this opening arc, after Koenma hands
over the egg he’s barely heard from again. Not a loveable funny cast of the gang or a
constant secondary narrator of the plot but an entirely neutral and mostly uninvested
judge continually evaluating Yusuke’s actions. These two portrayals of Koenma, one of a friendly
and sarcastic ruler, and one of him being a judgemental enigmatic figure run rather
contrary to each other. However, this is where it goes from playful
interpretation to thematically harmful. Why? Let’s return to the main theme and Yusuke’s
early state. Let us pass over the obvious descriptors of
Yusuke’s character that we are all familiar with. Punk kid, likes fighting, bad parents, borderline
abusive teacher figures. There are several odd tellings that Yusuke’s
heart and body are not in line which gradually becomes more clear in the daily life arc and
ultimately becomes the reason Koenma decides to out Yusuke back into his body prematurely
and permanently (until Puu hatches and decides to eat him or not). In the manga daily life arc, Yusuke spends
basically all of his time helping out random people and spirits to either live their lives,
accept passing and grief, or being a good friend to them. Now to us the audience who have mostly seen
only Yusuke’s good parts this is mostly familiar and to be expected. The inciting incident of YYH is Yusuke making
a child smile then attempting to save his life. However, those are but mere sparks of humanity
in the eyes of Spirit World who, as can be seen in their attitude and classification
of Yusuke, have already written them him off as a punk kid with a pension for violence
and gambling. Yusuke may be a punk with a heart of gold
but he doesn’t show it within his material everyday actions which is what Spirit World
judges. Perhaps one of the most important roles Keiko
plays in this narrative is being to anchor us to her and Yusuke’s past experiences
and ensure to use that Yusuke always was a good person. If only to Keiko. To Spirit World, and by that I mean to Koenma,
Yusuke’s behavior appears to be entirely erratic. When he’s in his body he seems to only indulge
only in violence and other sins like gambling. When out of his body Yusuke hardly even seems
to give his vices a thought as he throws himself into other people’s problems in order to
help them lead better lives and deaths. This struggle between love of violence, desire
to help people, and later his love of Keiko is ultimately the dynamic that Yusuke will
shape as he comes back to live his life but for now, we pin this conversation. In chapter 15 we get the true explanation
of why Koenma decided to let Yusuke back into his body. It was because they could not pin down the
precise nature of his soul. The conclusion he comes to? Yusuke is geared only towards physical responses,
he acts without thinking, as such he’s a total idiot. So just leaving him as a spirit does no good
as it only measures his Nature and not how he acts when rubber meets the road. This Nature vs Nurture dynamic that stresses
people are shaped by environmental factors is a staple of Togashi’s writing as noticed
by Alexzandr’s many excellent Hunter x Hunter videos. However, the take away from this is that the
decision to allow Yusuke was not one bore out of empathy for him, as was my impression
from watching the anime which treats Koenma and Yusuke as more familiar. Rather it was a calculated one. In his body, Koenma could have Yusuke fall
victim to his old habits while still exploiting him for detective work and then Puu could
have hatched and eaten him whole. It’s an angle of interpretation that’s
much more difficult to arrive out solely watching the anime. In that light, Koenma is little better than
Yusuke’s mother, or teacher. Just another authority figure in his life
using him to their own ends and largely ambivalent to his future. In more ways than one, it’s fair to say
that Yusuke is alienated from the good life that he protects his fellow humans from by
fighting demons. Alienated from his desires as a person and
from his emotions. It’s a clash of interests that fits in line
with the story’s theme, coming back to live life after losing everything. As a last-minute addendum, if you look at
the wording Koenma promises Yusuke will get his body back one way or another. However, whether he lives or dies with the
egg is another matter entirely. In that light, he’s almost worse. It’s this thematic richness that’s lost
in the anime adaptation. So do I recommend changing it to better fit
the anime? Uhhhh… maybe? Here’s the thing, for as much as manga Koenma
brings to the table in terms of tying the story together, it’s just hard to imagine
Yu Yu Hakusho without that lovable manbaby Koenma commentating and sassing back with
Yusuke as much as he does. Call me bias but I enjoy both versions of
Koenma even though they contradict each other in many ways. Not only that but it isn’t as if this idea
of Yusuke being used and alienated really vanishes with Koenma’s role changed, it
just reinforces it. In fact, when it comes time for the Chapter
Black arc to role around one could argue that Koenma getting closer to Yusuke instead of
keeping him at arms reach like he did Sensui helps show the contrast and the importance
of connection and friendship and that’s just very Shonen. I know this has been a very long with a section
so some might have been expecting something more… conclusive… but I don’t really
have any solid answers here. It might be a bit of a letdown but in my eyes,
that’s part of the reason it was worth doing. That a story can be so rich and well crafted
that it can be viewed from two conflicting angles that can be equally as engaging is
in many ways it’s own reward. That will close out what I will label Part
1 for now. Despite the fact that this is one of my longer
works at almost 3500~ I want to stress I am not even remotely close to being done. Despite the fact that I pulled from all over
the anime to make this analysis I have covered, at most, the first 2 volumes of Yu Yu Hakusho. There’s infinitely more work for me to do,
but for now, I hope this will tide you over until part 2.

7 thoughts on “Yu Yu Hakusho: What Did and Did not Work – Part 1

  1. Hey hey Y'all don't forget about our friend Lethargic Ramblings Hitman Reborn post.
    Made props for him for letting me piggybank off his work.

  2. My ideas for Yu Yu Hakusho (based on a personal fan fic I made for the Demon World arc, with extra bits on the other arcs)

    1. Make the "Ghost Yusuke" arc longer. Similar to the Daily Life arc in Reborn, straight up.
    2. Cut the fillery bits and make it tight. In particular, the Dark Tournament has so many unimpressive filler that it takes forever to get to the good stuff with Toguro!
    3. Don't bring back Genkai. Her death was majorly plot relevant.
    4. Expand on the Chapter Black arc. Have Yusuke actually argue with Sensui. If Sensui's theme is misanthropy, then Yusuke's would be humanism. They would end up agreeing with each other, and a hybrid philosophy would be born.
    5 Make Sensui weaker. Yusuke would be able to defeat Sensui in the cave by unlocking his emotions, like he did for Toguro. But then, the portal to Demon World would open, and an A Rank Calamity Demon would be unleashed on Yusuke. This is how he dies, only to eventually revive as a demon.
    6. After Chapter Black, have an arc of Yusuke being banished to Demon World. He goes around exploring the land and learning more about it. Essentially worldbuilding. You can explain parts of Demon Society and have a couple of enemy demons for fights.
    7. Demon World Tournament is cut. Instead of making the finale a glorified power scaler, just run with the Three Demon Kings War. If Togashi can expertly craft war arcs like Chimera Ant, then just do the same here.
    8. The three S Class Demon Kings are debating on the unification of Demon World and the feasting of human bodies. Raizen (not Yusuke's ancestor and without the hunger) wants to make peace with Human World, and is essentially a vegan who won't eat humans(but stays healthy with other food). Mukuro wants to destroy Human World and eats humans sparingly. Yomi wants to conquer Human World and considers human to be like cattle. Essentially, a good king, a bad king, and a chaotic neutral. This would be the philosophical conflict at the core of the arc. Yusuke, Hiei, and Kurama each agree with their own king, and might just go to war with each other.
    9. After training, each King sends their forces to battle. Yusuke, Hiei, and Kurama battle each other for the first time and realize that they hate each other and could never agree. Hiei hasn't improved a bit, and has only gotten worse under Mukuro. Yusuke is seen as too idealistic and weak hearted. And Kurama is too cold and logic based.
    10. The battle would make its way to Human World, and entire cities would be destroyed.
    11. The Three Demon Kings would battle it out in Human World in the most impressive show of power ever seen in the show. Raizen would die. Then Mukuro. Yomi would be left as the Unification Demon King.
    12. Back to the three heroes. Hiei would be the first to die, and Yusuke/Kurama would reconcile. Yusuke would attempt to take on Yomi.
    13. The battle would play out similar to in the tournament. Yusuke at first stands no chance. He combines his Demon and Spirit energy together, and it still isn't enough. Eventually, Yusuke's spirit is broken and he no longer knows why he fights. Yomi laughs at him. (You don’t have a purpose! You, in the grand scheme of things, are nothing, to be defeated by me! You won’t ever unify the Three Realms like I can!) Then, Yusuke realizes that his purpose is to be with his friends, and that this war has done nothing but separate them. Yusuke unlocks a power even Yomi does not recognize. A state of being wherein an extremely powerful fighter discovers their purpose for the first time. Yusuke can now fight Yomi on even ground! All the rage for everything that’s ever happened to him in his life, he lets out a roar, and does his final attack: SPIRIT GUNNNNN!!! It hits Yomi and kills him.
    14. As Yomi's right hand, Kurama becomes the Unification King. In Yusuke’s honor, he negotiates with Spirit World and makes demon consumption of humans illegal. Despite not having reached ultimate power, Yusuke decides to go home and proposes to Keiko. The end.

  3. I really liked the part where you compare both versions of Koenma, and how you liked both. It was a nuanced opinion that was able to appreciate all aspects of the adaptation, which I wasn't expecting since you created such a valid argument against it.
    I will start employing the differentiation between deep and complex on my vocabulary from now on, pretty useful definitions.
    1:13 based meta editing right there with the TV screen transition, just nice
    14:45 After seeing this throughout analysis of how Togodshi appreciates life so much he even makes complex characters, I have to interpret this scene right here with pretty boy Yusuke that he even wanted to write Shoujo instead.
    Really, the analysis went everywhere but never lost cohesion, very enjoyable to watch, looking forward to part 2!

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