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Yu Yu Hakusho (The Poltergeist Report)


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Title Info

  • seen: 1-35 of 104?
  • type: TV
  • grade: watchable
  • genre: magic_war
  • form: sub
  • source: fansub, asian
  • made: 1992
  • Review created: Thu May 24 16:47:15 EST 2001
  • mod: none

I believe this show is, or more correctly was since it is an older title, very popular in Asia. It was also done by the same company, and perhaps the same creator, who did Flame of Recca and the similarities are substantial. So if you're into 104 episodes of `magical arena grudge-match' then this is just the title for you.


The story starts when we meet a young Japanese schoolboy. However this is not a high-school drama, as this guy is streetwise, rebellious and has more than enough fighting skills to defend what ever opinion he cares to hold. And while it's made clear that he's not `bad' as such, the teachers at the school consider him the font of all that is evil in the school and will stop at nothing to drive him out. And his rebellious nature and unwillingness to back down are bringing things to a crisis point. Fortunately it never comes to the crunch....apart from the sound that occurs when he is fatally run-down while saving a child.

Yep, isn't it cool. The very first episode and within about 20 minutes the lead character is dead. However he is informed by the ferry-man of the dead, as represented by a cute blue haired girl riding a flying oar, that his death is somewhat of a karmic accident. Apparently, "not even Buddha expected him to die there", and they're not quite sure what to do about it. And as Yusuke, the lead character, watches over the effects his death has on his friends, mother and even those he thought enemies he does some pretty rapid maturing.

I'll give no more spoilers, but effectively the situation does resolve itself in some rather interesting and mythological ways. The main outcome proves to be that this experience has not only made Yusuke a (slightly) more mature character, but it has also awakened his spiritual power. And the king of hell (well, king of hell Jr. actually, picture an angry child with immense supernatural powers) thinks he'd be fine as a `spirit detective' who can help control any super-natural threats to the human world.


However don't get your hopes up too high. The start is actually pretty cool. Yusuke is surprisingly believable as a tough but human character. And the cast includes quite a number of interesting characters who he interacts with. The drama, and discoveries, that occur during his return from the dead binding him more closely to these people and giving a lovely complexity to his character. There's his mortal enemy, who proves to be a loyal friend. A female friend who proves to be more than just that, and even an understanding of his alcoholic mother. It's solidly done and quite powerful, not to mention novel, stuff.

Which is why I'm still surprised by the fact that, round about episode 20+, it's all devolved to a set of arena punch-em-ups. What's more it turns out that the demons of hell are a lot like funny looking humans, although many have supernatural powers. They're also a pretty brutal bunch, so the idea of various duels and fights to the death, with a side order of gore and blood (although nothing too graphic) is just fine with them. This element grows in dominance, as the story elements shrink, until we finally end up in arena watching bout after bout. Sure there's story elements and character moments around the edges, but the heart of the episode is always a fight between `our' team and the `bad team' member of the week. And the power level continues to climb.

In other words it becomes distressingly formulaic and artificial, with an impressive similarity to flame of Recca. Sure that one was ninja and this one is supernatural but it really is the same stuff. Effectively there's one fight an episode, a background story element, and the discovery of the story / powers of the opponent. Meanwhile there's lots of huge punches, powers and unlikely survivals. Somewhere along the way yusuke learnt how to survive impacts that shatter concrete, but I swear I didn't see that happen.

Mind you, while undeniably formulaic and very `staged' it's actually quite watchable. The characters, many of whom I haven't mentioned are quite cool and the interaction and development is fun to watch. Then there's the `shadowy villain' behind the scenes promising future revelations. And of course there's the fights themselves, which are actually entertaining and generally manage to introduce a new trick often enough to keep you interested. But I like the originality, and character of the start, and can't help feeling like I'm simply being kept amused rather than offered something special. Of course if you simply want to watch fighting, neato powers and `bad-ass' warriors then you might well appreciate the simplification of all those interfering story issues. And, knowing Flame of Recca, it'll probably keep going in this vein for the rest of the 104 episodes.

The production itself, considering the age of the video, is actually pretty good. Some of the style looks a bit dated, and the animation style itself wobbles occasionally, but there's a rich sense of character and scene about the fighters...although `cannon fodder' tends to be drastically simplified in design terms. If you see a generic `monster man' you know he's not going to live long. There's also some sense of design behind the way the powers work, and appear, which helps immensely. And the action animation does quite a reasonable job of giving a feeling for the speed and complexity of the moves being performed. It's generally not going to blow you away, but it's solid and sometimes quite clever. The voices are good, and the music is fairly basic and production line.

Other Reviews

  • Lord Carnage review A long synopsis and a short review from Lord Carnage, who is mostly bothered by the difficulty of getting all the episodes in this quite long series. He likes the way the characters play off one another though, and I must say I agree (3/5).


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:27 WST 2009