Yu Yu Hakusho: A Gateway Anime for New Fans

If you were asked to name a classic Japanese manga or anime series these days, you most likely would have mentioned one of the highly regarded works that have been adapted for the big screen or television, such as Dragon Ball, whose 2009 American film adaptation was a critical and commercial failure, or One Piece, which recently had a successful live-action reimagining on Netflix.

However, with the popularity of manga and anime growing worldwide, it’s simple to forget about one important contribution to Japanese popular culture: Yoshihiro Togashi’s critically acclaimed manga Yu Yu Hakusho, which as of 2022 has sold over 78 million copies worldwide since it debuted in the Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine in 1990. Yu Yu Hakusho, a manga about young heroes battling supernatural creatures known as yōkai, spanned 175 chapters and 19 tankōbon volumes. Its elements served as inspiration for popular manga series such as Jujutsu Kaisen and Naruto.Any viewer in the Philippines who grew up during the anime’s run will undoubtedly feel nostalgic when they hear the cheerful opening credits. The anime version aired on Cartoon Network in the United States. Since then, it has also sparked a 2019 stage play, several video game tie-ins, two animated movies, and more.

Scholars and manga enthusiasts alike agree that Yu Yu Hakusho belongs to the shōnen, or “boys,” subgenre, which produces some of the best manga in its genre. Now, Netflix attempts a live-action adaptation, launching five one-hour episodes on December 14 under the direction of Shô Tsukikawa. Taking into account the impact Yu Yu Hakusho had on its heirs.

Although she wasn’t even born when the manga was published, Takumi Kitamura, the 26-year-old who plays the lead character Yusuke Urameshi, claims that everyone working on the project was acutely aware of the influence of Yu Yu Hakusho. According to Kitamura, “It’s almost like this is where all shōnen manga really started.”When he was a schoolboy, Go Ayano, 41, who portrayed the renowned antagonist Younger Toguro in the live-action series, read the manga. He remarks, “This almost seems like a cross between Marvel and DC comics.” This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest shōnen manga ever.

A universal history with wide appeal.

Even with his wild ways, Yusuke shows a hint of compassion when he pulls a child out of a car accident, even though he ends up dying in the process. Yusuke is given another chance at life by Koenma, the son of the spirit realm’s ruler, but only on the condition that he join the Spirit Detective team and work to stop the demons that are trying to enter the human world. This unexpected kindness. As the plot develops, Yusuke forms alliances with Kuwabara, a boisterous counterpoint to Yusuke’s casual demeanour; Kurama, a fox demon with red hair that makes one swoon; and Hiei, a distant and misanthropic yōkai. To purge the world of demons, their group engages in combat with other supernatural entities for the remainder of the manga’s run, which ended in 1994.

Yokohama National University professor Akiko Sugawa-Shimada specialises in anime and manga studies, and she believes that Yu Yu Hakusho is a uniquely Japanese tale. According to Sugawa-Shimada, the majority of shōnen stories have similar themes, such as the hero’s journey, friendship, and overcoming adversity as a team, and they are often rendered with humour, nuance, and growing pains by creator Togashi. “Although Togashi kind of touches upon the juvenile problems young people share, his manga also contains a lot of humour.”

In addition, Yu Yu Hakusho’s main characters are praised for having depth that wasn’t common in popular manga when it first came out. To begin with, Yusuke is a punk whose team was compelled to fight by their enemies, unlike the typical shōnen protagonists like Goku in Dragon Ball or Luffy in One Piece who are striving to be the best. Yusuke grows throughout the series, but he never loses his unmistakable arrogance. Director Tsukikawa tells Taazanews23 he aimed to capture this nuanced characterization in the adaptation, which focuses on Yusuke in light of the film’s comparatively short running length. Regarding the live-action series, he states, “The characters are pretty much the extension of what they’ve seen in the animation and the manga.”

Why adjusting was required at this time

Tsukikawa thinks Yu Yu Hakusho was ready for a live-action anime adaption and worth the risk, despite the uneven history of such projects. He claims that because the technology wasn’t available in Japan for a considerable amount of time, the live-action adaptation wasn’t possible there. The production team tried for realism; according to Netflix, by adding the supernatural aspects “in a way that appears realistic,” the show successfully conveys the spirit of the manga.The Yu Yu Hakusho team collaborated with Scanline VFX, a visual effects team based in Canada that has worked on projects such as Stranger Things, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and the upcoming 2022 film The Batman starring Robert Pattinson, for a supernatural series. According to a press release from Netflix, “170 cameras simultaneously filmed the actors in 360 degrees,” demonstrating how the production team used the newest performance capture technology.

The first visual producer from Japan to win an Oscar for Science and Technology is Ryo Sakaguchi. In addition, he serves as the visual effects advisor for the Yu Yu Hakusho series, and he acknowledges that it was difficult to translate the manga’s grim and gory narrative using actual actors. As he puts it, “a lot of communication with the director, how he pictures things and how the manga and anime portrayed them” was necessary to get it right. Additionally, these require the heads of actors on them in numerous creatures. It was difficult to strike a balance between that and something that I, as a fan, would enjoy.

Capturing the spirit of Yu Yu Hakusho, which first motivated Tsukikawa to recreate it, was more significant than the technology. “After rereading the manga as an adult, I discovered that some of the themes really capture the reality of the world we live in today,” he said. Can individuals or animals belonging to distinct species communicate with one another and get along? That served as the main theme.

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