All right… so I finally managed to get a hold of a copy of the Season 3. That means that, barring any unforeseen complications, we’re on a straight shot to the end of “the Dark Tournament,” at last. No more breaks. No more interruptions. No more substitutions. No remorse. We’re in it to win it, now, brother.
Truth be told, it’s hard to recall the back-and-forth specifics of Hiei’s match here. At this point, the fights are something close to mini-McGuffins. Their particulars don’t matter - - all that matters is that they’re escalating the challenges facing our gallant Team Urameshi. And I figure that’s another part of the show’s brilliance.
Oddly enough, it makes me think of Kurosawa’s classic samurai flick, THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (one of the movies that inspired the first STAR WARS, just so you know.) The likely-apocryphal story goes that Kurosawa would go into his writers’ room every afternoon, cook up a tough situation to put the characters in and then leave the writers alone for a few hours to figure out just how the characters would get out of the predicament. It’d go on like for a few days until, presumably, everybody realized that they’d filled the movie with as many predicaments as it could fit. HIDDEN FORTRESS ended up being a very episodic two-and-a-half hours, so the story at least sounds probable.
I feel like the creative process behind this plot - - be at the manga or anime stage - - had to be something similar. Every victory in the show has always been directly appended with the bad guys revealing some hitherto-unapparent detail that invalidates or disqualifies the win. It’s an effective way to have dozens of episodes of nigh-uninterrupted fighting while still maintaining a near-constant layer of tension on the heroes. There's some subtle method to this macho madness.