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The Final YU YU HAKUSHO Review

After over a hundred episodes and after countless battles, what was my first experience watching an entire shonen epic like?

This write-up covers episodes #104-112 in the “Three Kings” saga. Click here for the first half.

112 episodes, at about 22 minutes a pop, adding up to around 41 hours of total viewing. Factor in the intros, outros, recaps, teasers and commercial breaks, and you’d be sitting on your butt for two straight days if you opted to watch this whole series continuously. That is a staggering stretch of time

I want to lean away from making this last write-up too about me, but I can’t resist looking for some personal significance in all those numbers. It’s worth noting that YU YU HAKUSHO is the first shonen epic I’ve watched from start to finish. After relentless recommendations from our community, I started covering it, episode-by-episode, about a year and half ago (right here, in fact). The show hooked me from the beginning and, even when I figured it was time to step off once we got to the “Dark Tournament” arc, enough of you insisted I keep watching that I had no choice but to oblige.

Eventually, this became more of a stubborn exercise in seeing out a bet: another experimental “endurance run” for the internet. If you’ve stuck with me for all these write-ups, you have my deep appreciation. I’m sure it’s been just as much of a marathon on your end.

Anime fandom often harps on the drawbacks of incessant threat escalation in long-running serials. If the good guys have to keep “leveling up,” then they have to face increasingly powerful foes, and so on… until the plot hits one ceiling of redundancy or another. More relevant here is a question about the heroes’ continual aim to vanquish all evil in their world - - could viewers even imagine what’d happen if they succeeded?

Shorter form, semi-reflexive shows have dared broach the subject. GURREN LAGANN facetiously raced arms until there was a universe-sized mecha. MADOKA MAGICA presented an almost-legalistic solution that permanently relegated villainy into a more manageable nuisance.

YU YU HAKUSHO, by contrast, offers something of a paradise for the shonen fighter.

In the last batch of episodes, our brash lead Yusuke finally accepted that, in his heart of hearts, he craved a life of endless demon battlin’ over a normal, human existence. In this final stretch, the newly crowned knucklehead uses his royal inheritance to leverage what could be the most… healthy realization of that desire. Yusuke challenges the rival kings and all their minions to another tourney. This time, the prize is rulership of Demon World.

As many of you already saw on Toonami about ten years ago, most of the minor league “bad guys” from the Dark Tournament return, Hiei and Kurama obtain vengeful closure on their respective identity crises and, in a hilariously anticlimactic upset, control of Demon World is eventually awarded to a low-level goofball who looks like Togashi’s take on Ox King.

That last part occurs after Yusuke’s final explosive duel with this arc’s ostensible arch-villain Yomi more-or-less ends with a double knock-out. Young Mr. Urameshi wakes up from a minor coma (!!!) a few days after the fight, and learns that Yomi was actually too beaten-up to advance much farther in the bracket.

At the risk of reading too far into things (though, let’s be honest, that kind-of needs to happen when you’re meditating on one single show for more than 40 hours), the plot’s loose ends do seem to be Togashi’s way of showing how the wheel will keep turning in this world, even after the show ends. When the aforementioned “Ox King” immediately decrees that the tournament will be held every three years, and that demons are forbidden from getting into any funny business in human world in the meantime, we see a permanent leveling of stakes.

Maybe Yusuke will be strong enough to win next time? Maybe Yomi will concoct another scheme with his son that will actually get him victory? Or maybe another D-List demon will pull out an upset?

Because all this world-threatening conflict has been transformed into a sort-of extra-dimensional Goodwill Games, we’re now OK with any uncertainty over the good guys winning or losing. No actual threat is being posed to innocent people any more.

Endings don’t necessarily to be tragic (or even that dramatic) to be fitting. The full version of YU YU HAKUSHO’s theme song is unveiled in the series’ last moments, when Yusuke and all his pals are playing at the beach. When you actually listen to the lyrics, it’s even clearer that a light dance pop tune which Stock, Aitken and Waterman might have written wasn’t ever going to accompany a story about an angry young man finally accepting his violent nature in some sort of dark, other-worldly exile.

Actually, when the theme song closes the show (and the credits hang on the confusing slogan, “Forever fornever!”), it’s like the roll-out for some BEHIND THE MUSIC special about the brief, but spectacular, career of some early 90’s band called the Spirit Detectives. When Yusuke finally comes back and kisses his girl (another anime relationship that took dozens of episodes before any real consummation, natch), he’s putting his adventuring ways behind him; but still leaving the door to Demon World open a little for the occasional festival gig… er… tournament.

The final episode repeatedly stresses how young these characters are and, after so many arcs of ghoulish, world-threatening action, it’s funny to see them more-or-less shrugging and moving on. This was all just some extracurricular fun that they no longer have time for. Now that they're getting out of high school, they'll just go back into the world like a bunch of regular kids.

And that’s all perfectly fine. What more should we expect from something that's made no bones about being a straight-up shonen fighter?

The show's charm has laid in how it just unashamedly gives you the goods you're looking for in a heroic martial arts fantasy. Hell, it offers up a second tournament in this last arc just to pack as much brawlin' as it can before the clock runs out. It's that simplicity that's makes this something I'll always hold a real fondness for - - just as all you lunatics promised so many months ago - - and this whole marathon has been ceaselessly entertaining. Not a bad shonen epic to make your first.

Still, if Urasawa can do an adult take on an episode of ASTRO BOY and turn it into a celebrated eight-volume epic like PLUTO, I think YU YU HAKUSHO deserves similar treatment from some other contemporary anime genius. I nominate Gen Urobuchi. As nice as it is to see all the Spirit Detectives living happily ever after on the beach, my demonic side still wants to see the deconstructionist version that takes this to its darkest depths.

Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - tompinchuk.com - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk

Lurkeroon May 2, 2013 at 7:37 p.m.

Yu Yu Hakusho is indeed pure shonen and managed itself well for its time. If you want to follow up with Yu Yu then you should continue watching Hunter X Hunter, Tom. The show is in the 70s for it's episode count now so you would have plenty to watch.

Hunter X Hunter is also by Yoshihiro Togashi and is just as much pure shonen as Yu Yu.

Marshal Victoryon May 2, 2013 at 8:12 p.m.

@Lurkero: Would have to agree Hunter X Hunter probly is the next big shonen an people dont see it as such. It is always in top rankings to.Fairly decent characters an some times good animation.It has its own other world feel to it that One Piece an Fairy Tail have an Toriko tries to copy it seems.

Destinyheroknighton May 2, 2013 at 8:26 p.m.

@Marshal Victory:

Well, Hunter X Hunter come out at the same time as One Piece, they like the same age, but OP is a one year older. (pretty sure OP didn't copy LOL!) Yoshihiro have been going on many hiatuses that cause it to fall on popularity

Anyway, Yu yu Hakusho is in my top 5 favorite shonen list. It a lot of fun to read or watch it :)

thekokapellion May 2, 2013 at 8:28 p.m.

I agree Yu Yu Hakusho is pretty comfortable within its own little shounen tournament fighter niche. Still, I can't help but feel it's just a little more interesting than others of its ilk, considering I've never had any use for Bleach, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, or Rurouni Kenshin, but I love Yu Yu Hakusho. Maybe it's just the strength of the free-flowing scriptwriting in the English dub, or maybe the fact that it has a lot more moral ambiguity than I usually see in shounen, (something I always look for in fiction) but still knows how to have fun and not take itself too seriously, but I just feel it stands up a little better than most in this genre do. It has nothing to do with nostalgia either, I never watched it as a kid.

Marshal Victoryon May 2, 2013 at 8:47 p.m.

@Destinyheroknight: yeah i dont belive One Piece or even Fairy Tail copied the feel. its just they have a well thought out world for stories that feels almost like a fable.Where as Toriko just feels like its copied form as many shonen as posible an in some ways Hunter X Hunter quite a bit.That reminds me to i need to get back into Hunter X Hunter .

rubberluffyon May 3, 2013 at 6:38 a.m.

Naruto is the one that copied Hunter x Hunter the most. Especially in regards to Kurapica/Sasuke. Of course Kishimoto managed to make Sasuke terrible while Kurapica is much more interesting.

Tom you should really get back to HxH. There's a lot of hints of YYH in it (even a nice, interesting tournament arc) but each arc feels very different from the next, while still feeling appropriate to the story's world. And Togashi puts a lot of work into fleshing out the world and power system of HxH, much more than he did with YYH. The arc the new anime just started (Chimera Ant) has never been animated before, and 2 episodes in has already given a good hint at how brutal it might become.

Top8caton May 3, 2013 at 6:34 p.m.

The ending of YYH away puts a grin in my face it has such a refreshing tone. I think you nailed it with the 70's reference, it's like the shows that ran for 10+ years and have reached a series finale and you can't help but get a bit nostalgic when you think about the once elementary punks that are now graduating highschool. I also like how, even though he could have easily turned YYH into a 500+ run, he decided to put the pen down. Makes me appreciate it even more.

It's not so much about the destination, but the journey getting there.

AgentJon May 3, 2013 at 8:17 p.m.

Oh jeez, it's like the series is ending all over again! I can't handle this. *Don't cry don't cry don't cry don't cry*.

Not every series can start out nearly as hot (having the main character die in the first episode is tough to beat) but even those with great initial episodes have a tough time competing.

evilvegeta74on May 4, 2013 at 3:57 p.m.

Good review. I miss that show.

Dig Deeper into Yu Yu Hakusho

Yu Yu Hakusho follows the adventures of Yusuke Urameshi, a spirit detective, and his eclectic group of allies as they tackle various cases involving humans, demons, and their worlds.

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