Saturday, June 12, 2010

Yu Yu Hakusho Vol. 2

An entire volume later and the Dark Tournament has yet to reach a conclusion. It seems that I severely underestimated Yu Yu Hakusho’s ability to contrive a cascading scaffold of fights that stretches all the way to the stars.

There’s really nothing substantial to say about the first half of the volume. It’s your typical onslaught of tournament face-offs that are nonetheless entertaining-as-hell thanks to the layers of strategy and occasional ingenious mechanic (Kurama’s prehensile hair) or unexpected intervention (Hiei and Genkai getting forcibly benched). To be honest, however, Vol. 2 is kind of underwhelming overall due to Yusuke’s fleeting, anticlimactic brawl with the Irish angel, Jin and Kuwabara’s belated curb-stomp battle thanks to the shot of confidence delivered by Yukina’s fortuitous entrance.

And sadly, there was no recalibration in sight as the second round of the tournament began. Speaking of curb-stomp battles, Hiei opened by snapping up an instantaneous victory with cool-minded dismissiveness. Heck, there seemed to be a clearout sale on curb-stomping as the revelation of Kurama’s true form and Genkai’s fighting prowess led to three lightspeed smackdowns in a row. Rounding out the volume were Yusuke’s final bout of training, Genkai’s unceremonious farewell, and Kurama’s suicidal sleight-of-vine making for yet another razor-edge finale as the tournament finals kick into high gear.

Since the volume mostly revolved around tedious tournament matches with the periodic emotional pang to break up the action, I’ll shine the spotlight on the characters for a bit.

“I know as much of games as I do of hugs and puppies, and care for them even less. Wake me for the end of the world.”

While all the characters in our four-man band are enjoyable in some way, I still like Hiei the least. He seems a bit two-note as he is always seen either snarking blithely or mouthing off about how his opponents are hopelessly outmatched. He’s simply the token prick teammate and nothing more.

“Out of this whole plan, you made one stupid mistake. You went and pissed me off!”

Yusuke is undoubtedly a refreshing, compelling lead, but I find him to be completely outshined by Kuwabara’s boisterous bullheadedness and Kurama’s temperate tranquility. If it’s any consolation, I do like the fact that he’s as quick to fire off his foul-mouthed comebacks as his oh-so-kickass spirit gun.

“I'm gonna mess your face up so bad that even kittens won't look at you!”

While it’s true that Kuwabara tends to get annoying, he’s a pretty likable ball of impetuous chaos overall. While he’s prone to blundering, it’s still amusing to watch him pull off victory after victory thanks solely to his unpredictable dumbassness.

“Logic is panic's prey.”

Hands-down my favorite of the four. Smart, sly, and satisfyingly bishie, Kurama is elegantly cunning in both demeanor and fighting style. He actually manages to straddle the line between bishounen and badass; slaying enemies with rose petals and vine whips while deftly sidestepping the landmines of camp FABULOUCHE-ness. There’s no badassery quite like analytical badassery.

But the reason why Kurama comes out on top is that, unlike Hiei, he is unafraid of showing a side that is teeming with realistic vulnerabilities, whereas Hiei clings to his pride with teeth-clenching tenacity. Truth be told, Kurama gets thrown off-balance quite easily and his thoughts often twist into a spiral of second-guessing at the slightest mishap. The enjoyment doesn’t so much stem from a sort of strategist schadenfreude as it does from watching a tactical fighter cope with the unshakable unease and tension that manifests in the heat of battle.

Anyway, here’s to hoping that the Dark Tournament actually wraps up before the final volume.

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