published in Empire No.69, Sydney
Slightly less sophisticated than the flashy motion-tracking and composite layering of current anime TV series, this first series of Yu Yu Hakusho is less about flow and more about impact. Like the older brother of Dragon Ball but younger sibling of Street Fighter, Yu Yu Hakusho is essentially a series of martial arts bouts. Young teen Yusuke is an unrepentant delinquent who nonetheless harbours a good soul. After dying while trying to save a child from a road accident, Yusuke is trapped in an afterlife from which he can return to earth, buy only upon completion of a series of battles with Japanese-demonic forces.
A 'gang' of sorts is gradually assembled - a colourful motley bunch - and together they wage pugilistic war on a seemingly endless series of foes. The power of Yu Yu Hakusho (all uncut episodes) lies in its clear focus on fighting: the detailing and choreography of some of the battles are exhausting in their scope. While sometimes this can be numbing, it also generates some exciting no-bones action closer to kick-arse kung-fu cinema than any heaving American knuckle-fest. Gradually, the blood bouts clear to frame an engaging portrait of Yusuke and his friends, making the series itself resemble a delinquent with a heart.