YuYu Hakusho Review - IGN (2024)

Yu Yu Hakusho

A delightful, if condensed, retelling

YuYu Hakusho Review - IGN (1)

YuYu Hakusho Review - IGN (2)

ByJuan Barquin


Dec 12, 2023 5:20 pm

YuYu Hakusho is Netflix’s latest attempt at bringing a classic manga or anime to the realm of live-action, something that has resulted in unique adaptations of everything from Fullmetal Alchemist and Cowboy Bebop to One Piece and Rurouni Kenshin (as well as newer works like Zom 100, Alice in Borderland, and the unfairly maligned Death Note). While few have served as much more than gateways to their source material, some have managed to be as fun as flipping through the manga that inspired them. Akira Morii and Kazutaka Sakamoto’s take on Yoshihiro Togashi’s supernatural shonen manga is just that: The kind of delightful retelling that, however condensed, manages to capture the tone and characterization that makes the original so charming.

It grips the viewer from the very first scene, as the camera floats around the disembodied spirit of teenager Yusuke Urameshi (Takumi Kitamura) staring at his own corpse in shock and confusion. Yusuke dove in front of a truck to save a child from getting hit, and his journey into absurdity is only just beginning: Ushered into the spirit world, he’s informed by his guide, Botan (Kotone Furukawa), that his death was not accounted for by the forces who control the afterlife. Thus Yusuke is offered a second chance at life, as long as he agrees to investigate an infestation of demons in the human world under the hand of spirit world ruler Koenma (Keita Machida) – a premise the series launches into with gusto.

YuYu Hakusho Gallery

The demonic entities possessing the people around Yusuke come across as truly dangerous. It’s a testament to Shô Tsukikawa’s strong direction that every bit of violence is harrowingly presented and has a certain weight to it, even when it’s clearly computerized. The concept of the “live-action anime/manga” is an inherently dicey one, but the more we settle into a pattern of our blockbusters and television shows embracing an absurd amount of visual effects to realize images that originated in comic books and animation, the closer we come to being comfortable with that synthesis of what is “real” and what isn’t. The fights in YuYu Hakusho all have the playful choreography and visual expertise of a movie directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil especially), and the mix of practical and digital effects results in some wonderfully grotesque character designs that would fit comfortably within his work too. The way demon bodies morph and shift is sometimes garish, but never unbelievable, and occasionally reminiscent of effects in the live-action adaptations of Parasyte, which comes as no surprise considering those movies and this series were both produced by Godzilla Minus One and Alice in Borderland studio Robot Communications.

What is surprising is how Tsukikawa leans into the humanity of YuYu Hakusho. It isn’t just in the way we’re allowed to sit with Yusuke’s friends and family – particularly Sei Shiraishi’s as-tender-as-she-is-funny Keiko – as they mourn his loss in the premiere, but the way certain characters and performers revel in the melodrama. Kitamura’s performance is more brooding than brash and serves as a great contrast to someone like his rival-turned-bestie (and the heart and soul of the series), Kazuma Kuwabara (Shûhei Uesugi). Though they both have more than enough comedic chops for the show’s physical gags (and all its hilarious dropkicks), it’s their navigation of Yusuke and Kuwabara’s relationship that stands out. Uesugi’s eyes are everything, even when Kuwabara’s face is caked in fake blood and scarring, staring with desperation and determination at Yusuke in hopes that he’ll be able to attain his greatness, stand alongside him, and, ideally, beat him in a fight too.

For all the excellent characterization of its core duo, Tatsurō Mishima’s scripting falters when it comes to expanding on the supporting figures, especially that of Yusuke’s spirit trainer, Genkai (Meiko Kaji), and the demons Kurama (Jun Shison) and Hiei (Kanata Hongo). Their colorful wigs and stylish outfits make them memorable, as do the show’s quieter, sincere moments when actors like Shison and the legendary Kaji (Lady Snowblood herself) get the chance to explain their histories. But those moments are too brief due to the pacing required of a five-episode series. Where manga protagonists typically increase in strength over an extended period of time and with extensive training and fighting, the physical and emotional growth of Yusuke in the live-action YuYu Hakusho happens all too quickly and exponentially over each episode. It’s harder to buy into the stakes of the situation when you know there’s no chance of failure; there’s always a power-up just a few minutes down the road.

While the premiere is a pitch-perfect, engrossing kick-off that most shows can only dream of, every subsequent episode tries to pack in too much. Characters like Botan and Koenma are pleasant in passing, but they’re little more than comic relief – reduced to bit parts that play out like Togashi’s winking throwaway panels in the manga. Even villains like the show’s big bads, the Toguro brothers, are less fully fleshed-out characters than they are relatively lifeless obstacles for Yusuke and Kuwabara to overcome.

It’s harder to buy into the stakes of the situation when you know there's always a power-up just a few minutes down the road.

These characters aren’t one-to-one correlations to their manga counterparts, but that isn’t the problem. In this new incarnation, their arcs are so condensed that none of the emotional heft lands: The younger Toguro brother and Genakai’s shared past is relegated to mere seconds of half-hearted exposition. It’s a tall order squeezing such a large ensemble and dozens of chapters worth of history into five episodes, but the weakness of most of the series’ supporting cast only emphasizes the richness of its two leads and how YuYu Hakusho is at its best when it hones in on what makes them special and fun to watch. With any luck, its creative team will get a chance to continue exploring Yusuke and Kuwabara with a second season that can dive into who its characters really are beyond all their punches and kicks.


YuYu Hakusho is more charming than an abridged version of any shonen manga has any right to be. Its commitment to engaging action and sincere melodrama, led by two talented performers as Yusuke and Kuwabara, are enough to outweigh how shallow the series can sometimes feel.

YuYu Hakusho Live-Action Review


Though it may not be as detailed as its source material, YuYu Hakusho still manages to be a blast as both an action series and a melodrama.

Juan BarquinReviewed on Netflix

YuYu Hakusho Review - IGN (4)

I'm an avid enthusiast with a profound understanding of anime and manga adaptations, and I've delved extensively into the realm of live-action adaptations. My knowledge spans the intricate details of various series, their source materials, and the challenges inherent in bringing beloved stories to life on the screen. The article you provided, penned by Juan Barquin on Dec 12, 2023, discusses Netflix's latest foray into the live-action adaptation arena with "Yu Yu Hakusho." Let's dissect the key concepts and elements mentioned in the article:

  1. Background on Live-Action Anime/Manga Adaptations: The article highlights Netflix's trend of adapting classic manga or anime into live-action formats. It mentions previous attempts like Fullmetal Alchemist, Cowboy Bebop, One Piece, Rurouni Kenshin, Zom 100, Alice in Borderland, and Death Note. The author suggests that while some adaptations serve as gateways to the source material, others manage to capture the essence and enjoyment of the original works.

  2. Introduction to Yu Yu Hakusho's Live-Action Adaptation: The live-action adaptation of Yoshihiro Togashi's supernatural shonen manga, "Yu Yu Hakusho," is described as a delightful retelling. Akira Morii and Kazutaka Sakamoto are credited for their work in capturing the tone and characterization that makes the original manga charming.

  3. Plot Overview: The article provides a brief overview of the plot, focusing on the protagonist, Yusuke Urameshi, who, after sacrificing himself to save a child, is offered a second chance at life. His task involves investigating a demon infestation in the human world under the guidance of the spirit world ruler, Koenma.

  4. Direction and Visual Effects: Shô Tsukikawa's direction is praised for gripping the viewer from the first scene and maintaining a strong presentation of violence, even when using computerized effects. The article discusses the challenges of the "live-action anime/manga" concept and commends the choreography and visual expertise of the fights, likening them to the style of director Paul W.S. Anderson.

  5. Character Performances: The performances of the main characters, particularly Yusuke (Takumi Kitamura) and Kuwabara (Shûhei Uesugi), are highlighted. The article applauds the portrayal of their relationship and the human elements injected into the adaptation. The humanity of "Yu Yu Hakusho" is emphasized, contrasting with the potentially garish yet believable demon designs.

  6. Scripting and Supporting Characters: Tatsurō Mishima's scripting is critiqued for faltering in expanding on supporting characters, including Yusuke's spirit trainer, Genkai, and demons Kurama and Hiei. The condensed nature of their arcs is discussed, with the article noting that emotional heft is lost due to the limited time for character development.

  7. Pacing and Character Growth: The pacing of the series, particularly the rapid physical and emotional growth of Yusuke, is criticized for diminishing the stakes of the narrative. The article suggests that the quick power-ups diminish the tension and impact of the story.

  8. Verdict and Future Prospects: The article concludes with a positive verdict, acknowledging "Yu Yu Hakusho" as more charming than expected for a condensed shonen manga adaptation. The commitment to engaging action and sincere melodrama, led by talented performers, is praised. The hope is expressed for a second season that can further explore the characters beyond their physical prowess.

In summary, the article provides a comprehensive review of Netflix's live-action adaptation of "Yu Yu Hakusho," covering aspects such as direction, visual effects, character performances, scripting, and the challenges associated with condensing a rich manga into a limited episode format.

YuYu Hakusho Review - IGN (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jamar Nader

Last Updated:

Views: 6255

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (75 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jamar Nader

Birthday: 1995-02-28

Address: Apt. 536 6162 Reichel Greens, Port Zackaryside, CT 22682-9804

Phone: +9958384818317

Job: IT Representative

Hobby: Scrapbooking, Hiking, Hunting, Kite flying, Blacksmithing, Video gaming, Foraging

Introduction: My name is Jamar Nader, I am a fine, shiny, colorful, bright, nice, perfect, curious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.