Saturday, June 26, 2010

Yu Yu Hakusho Vol. 3

Toguro versus Yusuke was quite an impressive way to kick off the volume. Toguro himself turned out to be much more of a cross between a Noble Demon and a Death Seeker, which left me kind of dismayed, especially when it resulted in an elaborate ruse on the parts of Kuwabara and Genkai. Still, the final confrontation turned out to be satisfyingly suspenseful and our fair-weather, weary wunderkinds were allowed to return home in peace.

Or not as Yu Yu Hakusho makes it clear that breaks in the intensity are completely unacceptable. But unlike a spectacle fighter like Bayonetta or Ninja Gaiden, Yu Yu Hakusho went the God of War route with a puzzle-oriented, cerebral crisis plaguing our heroes mere minutes after touching down in whatever-the-city-is-named-ville.

Funnily enough, thanks to Yu Yu Hakusho, I finally understand all the fuss surrounding Bleach’s shameless plagiarism when creating the Bount filler arc. I’m going to lay out the general progression of the Bleach filler and then the outline of the material from Yu Yu Hakusho. See if you can spot the similarities:

Yu Yu Hakusho

Anyway, Yu Yu Hakusho actually succeeded at making the subplot intriguing as opposed to fielding pointless, simple-minded puzzles. I loved Kurama’s brilliant, but not unbelievably so, method of besting his fellow classmate at a game of taboo and found Yusuke’s reckless and flimsy rationale for choosing the imposter somewhat amusing.

Enter Shinobu Sensui, who alighted once armchair highroller Sakyo had met his fate at the end of the Dark Tournament. To be honest, Sensui’s grisly, mind-fragging start of darkness already pins him as a much more compelling villain than Toguro ever was and all the fights with his henchmen have been nothing short of exhilarating, even the gimmicky ones.

The Gamemaster showdown, for example, was heading down the path of droll and skippable, but it finished with an unexpectedly brutal heartrender that shook the usually calm and composed Kurama to his very core. In fact, I’d say that Kurama stole the show this season as his merciless (and well-deserved) incapacitation of the Elder Toguro brother as well as his solemn execution of the Gamemaster made for an absolutely chilling conclusion to the volume. Even I didn’t expect Kurama to turn into this complex of a specimen, but he’s far and away my favorite character now.

One more thing of note about the Yu Yu Hakusho as a whole: I’m not sure if it has to do with the dub, but the humor in the series is much, much better than it needs to be, especially for a shounen-action series. Most of it has to do with Yusuke’s snappy and surprisingly well-written taunts, but his bickering with Genkai is typically priceless as well. Most shounen series’ fail miserably at humor (I’m looking at you, Soul Eater), but Yu Yu Hakusho even dwarfs series’ that have comedy listed as one of their subgenres. Mind-boggling, to say the least, but in a positive way.

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