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YU YU HAKUSHO: Re-Visiting the "Chapter Black" Saga

After a long hiatus, I return to the shonen classic for a six-episode sprint into one of its major, and most twisted, story arcs.

There’s a give and take when I’m doing episode-by-episode write-ups for Watch & Learn. A lot of times, I don’t get to view a show I love all the way through to its conclusion. There’s a seemingly-endless amount of material to get through, as you’re all well aware, and there’s only so much time to devout to its coverage here. Maybe more to the point, there’s only so much audience interest to sustain that coverage for any single show for that long.

YU YU HAKUSHO clearly made a profound impression on a whole generation of American otaku when it ran on Toonami in the aughts. It’s one of those brands, on the level of DBZ, in which fans seem to have a perennial interest, no matter how long it’s been. From the very first episode, I could see why that was so, and it ended up being the longest-running show I ever covered for W&L. Every time I reached a benchmark and figured I’d have to stop, you lunatics begged me to keep going.

When we got all the way to episode #66 last summer - - the conclusion of the “Dark Tournament” arc - - it was finally time to take a break. Ever since, the desire to see what lurked for Yusuke and his pals in the “Chapter Black” saga has been gnawing at the back of my mind.

There’s just something about this show.

By my best reckoning, much of YU YU HAKUSHO's appeal lies in its simplicity. For over 22 hours of screen time, it has a mythology that’s notably sparse when compared to other big shonen epics. Things don’t ever get that much more complicated than a couple of badass teen delinquents kicking the crap out of the most fiendish ghouls, ghosts and demons in existence.

It’s an effortlessly-addictive show to watch, but it’s a tougher show to do episode-by-episode write-up’s on. Especially during the “Dark Tournament,” which got so comprehensive in depicting every bracket of its titular competition, there proved to be only so many ways to say, “Hey! The fights are awesome and the dialog’s funny in this episode.”

So… I’m experimenting with something here. I’ve watched episodes #67 through #72 (about the first quarter of “Chapter Black”) and I’d love to do “block reviews” of the rest of the saga. Maybe even for the rest of the series. I’d cover six or seven episodes at time, for as long as there's interest exhibited in the Anime Vice community.

If it isn’t, then… well… I’ll have to find some other way to watch the rest of the show at some other time.

Anyway, while my preamble here got lengthy, episode #67 wastes no time returning to what hooked me on YU YU HAKUSHO in the first place. Actually, it cuts closer to that than “Dark Tournament” did, stepping away from relentless mega martial arts competition and getting back to the earliest episodes’ premise of basically dropping some suburban knuckleheads into familiar gothic horror scenarios. Indeed, the sort-of bare-knuckle Beetlejuice vibe gets even more pronounced in this part, as Yusuke’s crew is lured into a black magic funhouse that looks like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse after some redecorating for a Halloween special.

As if to cheekily address “power creep” (wherein it becomes increasingly difficult to devise suitable foes for a hero to fight after he’s leveled up to absurd degrees), this arc opens with Yusuke inexplicably getting kidnapped by a handful of normal, human punks after they challenge him to a schoolyard scrap. Kuwabara, Hiei, Kurama and Botan are forced to rescue their pal from the spookiest place on the block - - a twisted, angular house where the laws of physics have all seemingly been arranged by some kooky quiz master.

Having to rely on cleverness and wordplay instead of punches and projectiles, the good guys eventually retrieve their ostensible leader and learn that his capture's only been a test for them to handle a hitherto-undisclosed master plan left over from the Dark Tournament. As it turns out, a shadowy cabal's scheming to open a hole to the underworld which will unleash hordes of demons unto Earth (cheekily addressing power creep again, these demons turn out to be "S-Class" and "A-Class" above all the "B-Class" ones we've met).

And so, the Spirit Detectives finally have to do some actual... y'know... detecting and root out the seven cabal members hiding in their city.

Granted, this chunk is largely a prologue for the 21 episodes that'll make up the body of "Chapter Black." Like any proper shonen, the show takes a... thorough approach to the details of its plot. As crazy as it sounds, though, part of the fun actually comes in seeing the assorted abstract diagrams used to illustrate things like the demon tunnel's sieve-like qualities and the particulars of the letter game Kurama plays with one of the bad guys.

Actually, for a series so clearly designed for the long view, the three-parter in the funhouse works quite well as a standalone unit - - a delightfully ghoulish send-up of many an "edu-tainment" game show. Again, like any proper shonen, it isn't something you can pluck an episode out of and use it to adequately explain the larger appeal to somebody who hasn't been watching from the beginning. At this point, most viewers are watching just to hang out with old pals and, by now, the Spirit Detectives' personalities are so well-realized that I'd down to just watch them doing anything. Fighting demons, solving puzzles... anything.

Still, if there's any candidate for a YU YU HAKUSHO sampler - - a suitable example of what makes this show so fun - - it's this portion. Once more, I find myself faced with the challenge of finding how many ways I can re-phrase a basic statement of my enjoyment for the show. If it means I'll finally get to wrap up this saga sooner in the new year, then I'll gladly take on that challenge, and I hope you'll let me know in the talkback that you're ready to take it on with me.

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

tristenkw5on Jan. 4, 2013 at 8:35 a.m.

I think this is a really fantastic idea. I think the block format (as long as the blocks don't get too large) could work really well, as long as you're willing to be a bit more descriptive on exactly what happened within that chunk of eps than the old single-ep format.

Plus it'll be nice to hear about a show you whole-heartedly enjoy rather that you dragging your way through like FMA (I hope you get to the main plot eps soon, I can't remember exactly when they start but I think it may pick up after that).

kashif1on Jan. 4, 2013 at 8:50 a.m.

Oh god this arc, easily the most clever and the most ripped off of arc from this show. I do like how the episode with the word games is around as exciting as the actual fights.

rubberluffyon Jan. 4, 2013 at 10:12 a.m.

The power system introduced here is kinda the basis for the Nen system Togashi uses in Hunter x Hunter. Which Tom needs to start watching the newer anime of since he loves YYH so much.

Top8caton Jan. 4, 2013 at 11:31 a.m.

@kashif1 said:

Oh god this arc, easily the most clever and the most ripped off of arc from this show. I do like how the episode with the word games is around as exciting as the actual fights.

Ripped off so much that it's practically shonen law to include it somewhere in your series.

Also, I'm completely up for block viewings of W&L. I actually think it would be a better way to garner more continued interest in the series. It gives the reader more fat to chew on, the reviewer more material to work with, and generally increases the overall quality of said work.

jj_jacksonon Jan. 4, 2013 at 1:44 p.m.

Seriously it is so ripped off now days lol..this saga is a clasic. when i saw bleach mimic it a bit i imeddiately went thats yu yu hakusho..and when bleach did the ichgo comes out older i was like thats dbz hyberbolic time chamber lol this arc is one of my favorites because its a detective case instead of a tournament.

The creators also came up with a useful to say " you cant solve everything with strength" which i think some animes today struggle to overcome because the bad guys are always getting stronger than the good guys which leads to more ridiculous super powered powers.

Top8caton Jan. 4, 2013 at 7:01 p.m.

^^Ya, I would love an anime were even though the hero is stronger and faster it dosent mean much because he is outwiitted and inexperienced. It's always speed and strength which is almost the complete opposite to martial arts. Some animes brush on this concept, but immediately throw it to the wind in fear of losing their audience.

AgentJon Jan. 4, 2013 at 7:10 p.m.

The interest: it is here.

AgentJon Jan. 5, 2013 at 9:40 p.m.

The next two episodes are among my favorite in any anime I have had the pleasure (or misfortune) of viewing.

kennysomewhereon Jan. 6, 2013 at 9:41 p.m.

thank you for doing this

redbird3rdboywonderon Jan. 6, 2013 at 11:46 p.m.

if it's Yu Yu then I'm here. I love this series so much

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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