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YU YU HAKUSHO -- How Does Chapter Black Hold Up?

We at last level up to our demon forms in this sense-shattering conclusion to an epic re-visit of the classic shonen saga. Does Yusuke's triumph endure, or is this when the show jumped the shark?

At last, I’m getting to go back through one of my all-time favorite shonen classics. Read my thoughts on earlier episodes here, then check out my write-ups of PART 1, PART 2 & PART 3 of "Chapter Black."

It just wouldn’t be a shonen fight series unless the leveling-up was eventually marked by wild and spontaneous hair growth, now, would it?

There’s a lot of brawlin’ going down from Episode #85 to #94, to say the least; enough so that I’ve opted to cover both the penultimate and the ultimate portions of this saga together. See, when I reached the end of my usual 5-6 episode stretch, there was a rather amusing predicament. I was really only able to type out a blow-by-blow recap because, none too surprisingly, Yusuke and Sensui’s climatic duel gets about two-to-three hours of solidly cathartic screen time.

That’s not to say there aren’t a fair number of plot twists peppered throughout - - nor is it to say that the fight wasn’t a bloody marvel to behold - - but I’m sure you’re about as interested in reading a chronological list of martial arts maneuvers as I’d be in drafting one. As such, I went ahead and “powered through” to the end, so as to cover enough plot here to substantiate all the commentary.

“Powering through,” of course, suggests a viewing experience that isn’t wholly enjoyable, and this portion of the show honestly holds the threat of “jumping the shark” over its viewers at numerous points.

See, the appeal of a shonen serial is akin to watching a guitarist compose an improvised solo whilst he’s pedaling a bike along to a recording session. The guy is openly inviting any number of little flukes to disrupt what he’s setting out to do - - a bump in the road under the wheels, or a slip of a finger of across the strings, or whatever - - and you’re just watching him twist around as he goes, all the while knowing that lucky forward momentum is all that’s getting him to his studio without a pratfall. And, even if he does get there, he’ll surely want to revise much of what he’s just composed on the fly.

In less metaphoric terms, the testosterone-pumped gauntlet of surprises in these episodes was rather obviously made up on the fly. During the climactic fight, it’s revealed that the corrupted Sensui’s “seven psychics” are actually the seven personalities of his fractured mind, and it’s revealed that there’s a hitherto-hidden elite guard in the spirit world that handles disasters like this, and it’s revealed that Yusuke has had these supernatural powers all along because he’s actually the human descendant of a demon, and… well… you get the idea.

These are all twists that Togashi doesn’t “cheat” to get. They all tie neatly within this series’ mythos; even if the lack of foreshadowing clearly means they’re just clever knots in the narrative (much like the notes in the previous analogy’s improvised solo). You can’t help but picture some “rebuild” or “recut” of YU YU HAKUSHO that (with the benefit of foresight) would hint at its main character’s demonic nature, or at the existence of a vanguard of spirit detectives, much earlier on.

You also can’t help but wonder if such a redux might allow some of this saga’s sharper edges to play out, unhindered. Things like Sensui’s right hand man’s gay infatuation, or Yusuke’s cavalier acceptance of his own sadism, do feel like they’ve been muted a bit due to network standards and practices. Indeed, the latter sub-plot actually has been hinted at, prior to this portion. However, the rather saccharine happy ending that Sensui’s disciplines get still feels like a cop-out on the show’s part to mollify the implications of the hero who perhaps enjoys slaying the bad guys too much.

Seriously, the scenes of Kuwabara, Hiei and Kurama pushing themselves through several dimensions of hardship to avenge their seemingly-fallen friend are enough to earn sympathy points for these ass kickers. Hitting the magic restart button so all the evil psychics get to live out perfectly-happy endings seems rather jarringly counter to the show’s attitude - - especially after some of them met such movingly-tragic ends.

Togashi’s occasionally awful taste in costume design also rears its head in Yusuke’s dramatic transformation and in the various armors that Sensui’s personalities rattle through. The outfits are garish enough to threaten the tone, honestly, but at least Funi’s heckling dub track frames it all with enough self-effacing humor that the tone isn’t irreparably broken.

Brining the discussion back to analogy of the guitarist, these last points of critiques are just awkward hiccups in the performance. The show barrels forward confidently enough to regain its footing rather quickly after each one of them. You wouldn’t ask for a calm, calculated recording session over this wild stunt of a jam, and I wouldn’t sacrifice the energy of the show for the sort of polish that inhabit these mad ideas.

I still would like to see redux that refined this whole narrative a bit more, though. Hopefully, the show's final arc will address some of these issues.

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

Top8caton March 21, 2013 at 12:31 p.m.

I wasn't a huge fan of the ending of the Chapter Black Saga, and felt (as you put it) that it was an 'improvised solo' simply put in place to raise the stakes. However, without ruining the final arch, if Chapter Black's ending was a solo, then the final arch is that solo revised and turned into Eruption, and it makes for one of the most satisfying endings in anime, with a huge formulaic change for shonen series, that I'd dare not give away.

Probably one of my most memorable next to Cowboy Bebop and Berserker and I don't think it's as iconic due to the sour taste of the Chapter Black Saga (which is a shame, but understandable) and, as i said before, the formulaic change up from your usual shonen series. It's probably why I like the series as much as I do.

BUT this is my opinion and probably the only one.

No_name_here staff on March 21, 2013 at 4:50 p.m.

@Top8cat said:

I wasn't a huge fan of the ending of the Chapter Black Saga, and felt (as you put it) that it was an 'improvised solo' simply put in place to raise the stakes. However, without ruining the final arch, if Chapter Black's ending was a solo, then the final arch is that solo revised and turned into Eruption, and it makes for one of the most satisfying endings in anime, with a huge formulaic change for shonen series, that I'd dare not give away.

Probably one of my most memorable next to Cowboy Bebop and Berserker and I don't think it's as iconic due to the sour taste of the Chapter Black Saga (which is a shame, but understandable) and, as i said before, the formulaic change up from your usual shonen series. It's probably why I like the series as much as I do.

BUT this is my opinion and probably the only one.

Yeah, like I said, I think the whole thing winds up better than the sum of its parts, but the ending definitely wasn't as sharp as it could've been.

I'll watch the final arc for sure. I'm already more than 3/4ths of the way into this series - - I might as well top it off. Maybe we'll be in agreement?

roujuon March 21, 2013 at 11:49 p.m.

Just like Dragon Ball, Yu Yu Hakusho also suffer from the urge of people to keep the show going. Dragon Ball started as mock story of Journey to the west before it shifted into fighting crazy hard boiled testoterone (I admit I watch the series just for out of this world fight scene). Akira Toriyama tried to save the story with Freeza saga (the race to get Dragon Ball is entertaining). Too bad the story pushed far away from it's root.

Yu Yu Hakusho also suffer from this syndrome, started as spirit detective but shifted into the same fight crazy story, tried to be saved with Sensui Saga but then the ball drops with the last chapter. All said & done, Yu Yu Hakusho have better & more memorable ending than Dragon Ball.

Maybe if we just enjoy the show for what it is (with a little help of absence of logic), Dragon Ball & Yu Yu Hakusho still be one hell of a ride ^_^

No_name_here staff on March 24, 2013 at 9:24 p.m.

@rouju said:

Just like Dragon Ball, Yu Yu Hakusho also suffer from the urge of people to keep the show going. Dragon Ball started as mock story of Journey to the west before it shifted into fighting crazy hard boiled testoterone (I admit I watch the series just for out of this world fight scene). Akira Toriyama tried to save the story with Freeza saga (the race to get Dragon Ball is entertaining). Too bad the story pushed far away from it's root.

It actually is pretty exciting to watch as a series' premise evolves throughout various arcs. Sometimes, it runs the risk of getting strained, but I much prefer a show that isn't afraid to go out on a limb, even if it falls occasionally.

Yu Yu Hakusho also suffer from this syndrome, started as spirit detective but shifted into the same fight crazy story, tried to be saved with Sensui Saga but then the ball drops with the last chapter. All said & done, Yu Yu Hakusho have better & more memorable ending than Dragon Ball.

Well, I'm definitely done to see where it goes in the final arc. I've still been enjoying the hell out of the show, but maybe that enjoyment was just a liiiiitle tempered with this arc.

Maybe if we just enjoy the show for what it is (with a little help of absence of logic), Dragon Ball & Yu Yu Hakusho still be one hell of a ride ^_^

Yeah, like I said, it's probably a show not to be over-analyzed... but what the hell, over-analysis is kind of the point of this site, anyway.

zaldaron April 2, 2013 at 10:48 a.m.

absence of logic is never a good thing. (It leads to people thinking vaccines cause autism for example)

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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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