Yu Yu Hakusho is the latest Netflix production that adapts a famed manga series into live-action, as it transforms one of the most iconic works of Japanese popular culture from the 1990s. The plot is centered around a wayward seventeen-year-old, Yusuke Urameshi, who suddenly realizes that he has died in an accident and is given the chance to return to life under the condition that he works as a spirit detective. The series is kept short, with five episodes of about forty-five minutes each, and Netflix’s Yu Yu Hakusho adaptation is interesting for newcomers as well.
Plot Summary: What is the Netflix series about?
Yu Yu Hakusho begins on a normal school day in Japan’s Sarayashiki City, with the protagonist, Yusuke Urameshi, lazily skipping classes and smoking alone on the school building terrace. His dear friend, Keiko Yukimura, tries to bring him back to class, as she is always concerned about the teenager’s wayward ways, but Yusuke is not interested in education or even spending time with classmates. Keiko is finally able to make Yusuke return to class, as the latter frustratedly comes down the stairs to see a bunch of bullies teaming up on Kirino, a meek student who is regularly disturbed by this gang of classmates. Although Yusuke is unperturbed by almost everything around him, he hates such acts of bullying and uses his skills in fighting to teach them a lesson. Although he easily returns Kirino’s stolen money, the fight gets Yusuke in trouble with the principal, and he decides to skip school for the day.
Yusuke returns home, where his mother is not very worried about his lack of interest in education. The woman is a single mother, struggling to bear the expenses of tuition, and so she does not mind if her son leaves school altogether and starts earning for the household. Back in his neighborhood, the teenager has made some enemies as well, for a group of delinquents led by Kazuma Kuwabara attacked Yusuke as revenge for a previous fight. Kuwabara considers Yusuke his eternal rival, and although he gets beaten by the protagonist once again, the boy keeps wishing for revenge. After some more slacking around, Yusuke visits a ramen shop for lunch and has an argument with Keiko there. As he leaves the shop, though, Yusuke spots a truck ramming through everything in the narrow lane, and the vehicle is soon about to hit a young boy as well. Without thinking much, Yusuke jumps onto the road to save the boy, but gets hit and run over by the truck himself.
In a bizarre twist, the protagonist realizes that he is now dead, and although he exists in a spirit form, nobody can see him. Very soon, he is met by Botan, the equivalent of the Grim Reaper in this world, and the woman takes Yusuke to the Spirit World, where all humans go after their deaths, while awaiting being sent to Heaven or Hell based on the actions in their lives. Here he gets acquainted with Koenma, the godly being who makes the judgment of how one’s afterlife will be. In a very rare occurrence, Koenma gives Yusuke the chance to be reincarnated because of his fighting skills, but only on the condition that he works as a spirit detective, investigating any interference of the demon world in the human world. However, contrary to everyone’s expectations, Yusuke turns down the offer to be returned to life, for the teenager firmly believes that nobody is bothered by his absence.
Why does Yusuke agree to being reincarnated?
In the spirit world, Koenma first explains the mission at hand for Yusuke, which is essential in the plot of Yu Yu Hakusho. Many years ago, there was only one world, with humans and demons having to fight for their existence. But Koenma, or his father Enma, had divided the two worlds to reduce battles and deaths and had built a wall between the two realms, which was now under threat. The truck driver who drove the vehicle into the narrow lane had actually been possessed by a demon insect from the demon world, which had somehow managed to enter the human world at present. Therefore, Koenma wants to resurrect Yusuke to ensure that the protagonist investigates this mysterious presence and reports to him about the matter.
Yusuke immediately turns down the offer, as he had no love for his mortal life, and he also believed that nobody loved him either. Despite the hard and unfriendly exterior of Yusuke, the boy is quite sensitive and emotional inside, and he is also extremely good at heart. This was the reason why he would always stand up for Kirino against the bullies, and he had then sacrificed his own life to save the little boy on the road. All these good actions definitely have an impact, and this becomes evident to Yusuke when he comes back to the human world as a spirit, along with Botan. The teenager sees how the boy and his mother are sad for him, as the child wants to thank his savior. Kirino and the bullies all came to attend his memorial service, as the meek classmate wanted to pay his respect. Kuwabara and his gang also attend the service, for he still considers Yusuke a rival and regrets that he could not have a last fight with the teenager. Yusuke’s mother is heartbroken by the loss of her son, very naturally. Lastly, Keiko is extremely hurt as well, and she blames herself for her best friend’s loss, as she had cursed Yusuke the last time they had met.
Seeing all of this starts to change Yusuke’s opinion, and another attack by the demon insect is enough to convince him to agree with Koenma’s plan. The insect now possesses Kirino and wreaks havoc with the schoolboy’s body, causing a massive fire in the neighborhood. This sets ablaze Yusuke’s house as well, but as his body is about to get burned, Keiko rushes in and tries to protect it, losing consciousness in the process. Yusuke realizes that the girl is going to die as well, and so he immediately asks Koenma to resurrect him so that he can save his beloved friend Keiko. Following the resurrection, Yusuke has to fight the possessed schoolmate and destroy the demon insect by using his spirit energy. Although the protagonist manages to do so, his technique of fighting is not convincing, and he is still a very novice yokai, or demon, fighter.
How does Yusuke team up with Kurama and Hiei?
Once his life as a Spirit Detective begins, Yusuke learns that he has to face three dangerous yokai thieves who have stolen three artifacts that are necessary to keep the two worlds separate. Without even acquiring much training, Yusuke embarks on this mission, and Yu Yu Hakusho spends a couple of episodes dealing with this plotline. The first demon thief is Goki, a monster with supernatural strength who uses a magical orb to steal the spirits of, and basically kill, children. Yusuke has a tough fight with this serious foe, and he finally manages to defeat the demon with his newly learned technique with the spirit gun. The protagonist secures the orb and plans on facing the next rogue thief, but things start to change from here on.
The second yokai thief, Kurama, had stolen a magic mirror that allows one to wish for anything that is granted to them. Kurama himself approaches Yusuke, as he has realized that the protagonist has come for the magical objects, and tells him that he wants to use the mirror for a specific reason. After a severe fight with an enemy, Kurama decided to hide in the human world as a human being, and he was born to a woman named Shiori. Being a yokai, Kurama had no feelings of love or compassion, but this suddenly changed when Shiori got fatally ill. The thought of losing the woman who had so lovingly raised him saddened Kurama, and it was to save her that he intended to use the magical mirror. However, Kurama was not aware that the mirror granted any wish in exchange for the very life of the one making the wish, meaning that reviving Shiori would actually kill him. Yusuke rushes to the hospital to tell the yokai of this, and when Kurama refuses to stop the magical procedure, Yusuke gives up half of his own life to save both Kurama and Shiori.
Following this act of great sacrifice, Kurama becomes a friend of Yusuke, and the two set out on adventures together. By this time, the human rival Kuwabara had also joined the party, as he was somehow able to see and communicate with yokai from the demon world. Kuwabara and Yusuke also receive training from the grand master, Genkai, before the protagonist goes after the last thief. Sensing danger coming their way, Genkai gives Yusuke the power of the spirit orb and sends the two teenagers away from her place, and she gets killed in the process.
The third and final yokai thief is Hiei, who is a lone warrior using the magical blade to find his long-lost younger sister, Yukina. Hiei had found out that Yukina had been kidnapped by humans at present, and so he intended to find and save her. Incidentally, Yusuke’s beloved friend Keiko is also kidnapped by another demon named Elder Toguro, who was working for the evil human Sakyo. As it turns out, both Yukina and Keiko were being held captive at the same place, and so Hiei joins Yusuke, Kurama, and Kuwabara to go rescue the two girls.
What was Sakyo’s evil plan?
The evil human Sakyo is the main antagonist in Yu Yu Hakusho, who is sinisterly unbothered by how his actions affect human beings around the world. As he reveals towards the end of the series, Sakyo had a dream to unite the realms of humans and demons, just like in earlier times, in order to see what would happen when the two sides had to coexist. It was for this reason that the man had opened up a portal between the two worlds and had let demon insects and other yokai enter the human world. Sakyo’s research had informed him of the fact that the huge sinkhole in Sarayashiki City actually had a portal at the end of it, which linked the demon world with that of humans.
This portal had been naturally kept shut, and Sakyo wanted to open it up to establish the world that he always dreamed of. But opening this portal needed a lot of money, which the man acquired from the corrupt jewelry businessman, Tarakune. By capturing Yukina, Sakyo gifted her to Tarakune, who made use of the girl’s magical tears to farm rare and expensive gems. Soon, Sakyo started an underground betting den in his house on Kubikukuri Island, where he hosted rigged fights between different yokai and had rich customers place bets on these fights. The money earned from this gambling den was all being put to use to open up the portal under the sinkhole. By the end, Sakyo does not care about anybody else, and he successfully opens up the portal to allow smaller demon insects to come in. Koenma now steps in, and he places a protective shield around the portal, stopping the invasion for the time being.
During his thorough plan, Sakyo appointed a duo of very powerful yokai brothers, Elder and Younger Toguro, who happen to be his best fighters. When Koenma approaches Sakyo to end his cruel plans, our hero Yusuke and the immensely powerful Younger Toguro are about to have a massive fight. Sakyo, who is addicted to gambling in all situations, now bets on this very fight, stating that if Toguro wins the battle, then Koenma has to remove the shield and let the demonic invasion continue. But if Yusuke can slay Toguro, then Sakyo promises to stop his plan and also kill himself.
How did Yusuke save the human world?
At the end of Yu Yu Hakusho, when the final battle between the two sides takes place, the past and personal history of Younger Toguro becomes very important. Toguro was originally a human being, and his skills in fighting were equivalent to those of the grand master, Genkai. Toguro and Genkai were friends, and then lovers, who wanted to become the strongest individuals in the world. But as their lives separated, both became teachers, with many students training under them. One day, a powerful yokai attacked Toguro’s den, killing all his students, and this incident left a horrific mark on him. The man was consumed by the guilt of not being able to protect the students and turned himself into a yokai as punishment. Although it was originally believed that Toguro had turned into a yokai only to gain more power, the real reason was his guilt and shame. As a demonic fighter, he was always on the lookout for someone as powerful as him and capable enough to kill him.
During Yu Yu Hakusho‘s ending, Yusuke manages to defeat Toguro by using the powers given to him by Genkai, and interestingly, it is his old lover’s greatest power that kills Toguro. The demon had been yearning for this very death, and after this, he chose the worst corner of Hell to spend his afterlife in. The last episode presents a brief scene of Toguro and Genkai meeting in the spirit world for the last time, where the woman tries to convince Toguro not to punish himself so cruelly. But Toguro does not listen, and he resolutely walks on the path of no return. The result of the fight ensures that Sakyo’s evil plan is halted, and the portal between the two realms is shut once again. Sakyo also kills himself, as per his terms, and the two girls, Keiko and Yukina, are also successfully saved. Yusuke, Kuwabara, Kurama, and Hiei have now become friends and part of a group that will continue to fight any yokai, or demons. Yu Yu Hakusho also features a very short comedic mid-credits scene in which the otherwise flexible Elder Toguro’s head is being eaten away by seagulls, and the once-powerful demon cannot prevent his inevitable death.