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Yu Yu Hakusho: Every difference between the live-action Netflix show and the original manga

All the changes Netflix made to the iconic anime.

Live action Yu Yu Hakusho cast
Image credit: Netflix

The live-action Yu Yu Hakusho adaptation is here and oh boy did Netflix make some big changes to the adventures of our favorite juvenile delinquent turned Spirit Detective. This is mainly because this show had to cram 66 episodes worth of content into just 5 one-hour episodes. Despite the tight schedule, we manage to get elements of each of the first arcs from the anime in this series, though some get brushed over more than others.

While there are more changes to Netflix’s Yu Yu Hakusho than in their surprisingly accurate One Piece adaptation, that isn’t to say that this isn’t a fun, exciting show. The action scenes are particularly impressive, with some great fights to bring the characters to life. It is simply best that you approach this show knowing that it is going to be very different from the original.

Obviously, there will be some spoilers for Netflix’s Yu Yu Hakusho ahead.

Live-action Yu Yu Hakusho: All Yusuke’s Ordeal Arc changes

Botan taking Yusuke to the Spirit World
Image credit: Netflix

This is probably the arc that has the fewest changes to it, which is good considering that it sets the tone for everything that follows. This arc is entirely confined to the first episode of the Netflix show, with Yusuke discovering that he is dead and allowed to return to life. The main changes to this arc in the live-action adaptation are:

  • Yusuke is allowed to return to life immediately upon accepting the role of Spirit Detective. In the original anime and manga, he had to perform a series of good deeds to help hatch a Spirit Beast egg.
  • Koenma is introduced as an adult rather than as a baby who occasionally takes the form of an adult to blend in. The pacifier is still there, though.
  • Yusuke, Kuwabara, and Keiko are slightly older in the live-action series, being aged 17 instead of 14 like their anime counterparts.
  • The Makai Insects, which are a key part of the Saint Beasts arc later in the show, make an appearance in this episode. They burrow into the driver of a van and cause him to kill Yusuke. They also possess one of Yusuke’s classmates and turn him into a demon. In the anime, they were directly under the control of the Saint Beasts and could only possess people who were profoundly sad.

Live-action Yu Yu Hakusho: All Artifacts of Darkness Arc changes

Hiei drawing his sword
Image credit: Netflix

Episodes two and three of the live-action Yu Yu Hakusho cover most of the Artifacts of Darkness Arc. In it, Yusuke is given the task of recovering three powerful artifacts that have been stolen from the Spirit World. In the anime, this task takes a handful of episodes while in the live-action Yusuke doesn’t complete it until the final episode. The biggest changes to this arc are:

  • The location of Yusuke’s fight against Goki is changed to a scrapyard.
  • Kuwabara becomes aware of the Spirit World much earlier in the live-action adaptation. He realizes that he can see and hear Botan while most other characters can’t. Similarly, he tries to stop Yusuke from saving Kurama as he uses the Mirror of Darkness, which he wasn’t present for in the anime.
  • In the anime, Hiei steals the Shadow Sword and uses it to increase his demonic powers. He then kidnaps Keiko and threatens to turn her into a demon, leading to a fight with Yusuke. This doesn’t happen in the live-action, as the figure that kidnaps Keiko is actually Elder Toguro in disguise. Yusuke and Hiei only fight very briefly and then become allies.

Live-action Yu Yu Hakusho: All Genkai’s Tournament Arc changes

Genkai in Live Action Yu Yu Hakusho
Image credit: Netflix

This arc is only briefly represented in the live-action. Instead of hosting a tournament to decide her successor, Genkai simply accepts both Kuwabara and Yusuke as students. Most of this arc is relegated to a simple training sequence. The other main changes in this arc are:

  • Kuwabara is not only accepted into Genkai’s training but seems to be the preferred student for most of their time at Genkai’s training compound. He unlocks his Spirit Sword technique while hitting wooden swords against a rock rather than during a fight in the tournament.
  • Yusuke’s training with Genkai takes place over the course of three weeks in the live-action. This is different from the manga, which was two weeks, or the anime, which is one month in the Japanese version and six months in the English.
  • At the end of his training, Yusuke receives the Spirit Wave Orb from Genkai. This didn’t happen until the final round of the Dark Tournament in the anime. He can immediately absorb the power of the Orb, while in the anime the process nearly killed him.

Live-action Yu Yu Hakusho: All Saint Beasts Arc changes

Botan taking Yusuke to the Spirit World
Image credit: Netflix

This is the least represented arc in the live-action Yu Yu Hakusho. In the anime and manga, four powerful demons unleashed the Makai Insects on the Human World, controlling them with the Makai Whistle. However, none of the Spirit Beasts make an appearance in the live-action adaptation. Other major changes to this arc are:

  • The Makai Insects are seen as a natural force in the Demon World rather than creatures that are controlled by Suzaku, the leader of the Saint Beasts. They also have the ability to turn people into Yokai, while in the anime they simply possessed humans who were depressed and allowed Suzaku to control them.

Live-action Yu Yu Hakusho: All Yukina’s Rescue Arc changes

Yukina in Live Action Yu Yu Hakusho
Image credit: Netflix

While most of the elements of Yukina’s Rescue Arc are present in the Netflix show, it has been combined with the Dark Tournament that normally follows it. This makes it very different while still hitting all the same story beats that fans will be expecting. Yusuke is tasked with rescuing a young ice apparition named Yukina, who is being held captive by the mobster Tarukane. He is exploiting Yukina to create Ice Tears, which are formed when she cries and sell for a huge amount of money. The major changes to this arc are:

  • Yusuke is joined by Kuwabara, Hiei, and Kurama to rescue Yukina in the live-action. In the manga, he was joined by Kuwabara alone with Botan tagging along in the anime.
  • Sakyo is seen as the main antagonist in the arc, with Tarukane being relegated to a greedy underling.
  • The demons that Yusuke and Kuwabara fight through to reach Yukina are replaced with Bui and Karasu from the Dark Tournament.
  • The final fight of this arc in the anime was the Toguro Brothers against Yusuke and Kuwabara, with the Toguros throwing the fight to allow Sakyo to gain Tarukane’s wealth. This fight doesn’t happen in the live-action, as Sakyo has already achieved his goal of opening a gateway between the Demon World and the Human World. Instead, it is all four heroes against Younger Toguro before eventually becoming Yusuke versus Younger Toguro.
  • This arc takes place on Kubikukuri Island rather than at Tarukane’s compound. In the anime, this island was referred to as Hanging Neck Island while the hotel where Dark Tournament contestants stayed at was called Hotel Kubikukuri.

Live-action Yu Yu Hakusho: All Dark Tournament Arc changes

Yusuke Urameshi in Netflix's YuYu Hakusho
Image credit: Netflix

Considering how much the live-action Yu Yu Hakusho borrows from this arc of the anime, it cuts most of the tournament out entirely. This arc encompasses the final two episodes of the live-action show. What had been billed as a full tournament with various teams taking on each other is reduced to a series of one-on-one fights that feel very disconnected. Aside from cutting most of the fights from this arc, the main changes Netflix made to the Dark Tournament are:

  • Genkai is killed before the Dark Tournament begins. In the anime, she participates as a member of Team Urameshi and is killed by Younger Toguro before the final round of the tournament.
  • There is no tournament structure in the live-action adaptation. Instead, Hiei fights Bui and Kurama fights Karasu in unrelated fights.
  • Kuwabara, Kurama, and Hiei take part in the fight against Younger Toguro in the live-action show. In the anime, this was a one-on-one fight between Yusuke and Toguro.
  • In the live-action show, Sakyo completes his plan to open a portal between the Human World and the Demon World but is stopped from unleashing a wave of Makai Insects by Koenma’s barrier. This doesn’t happen in the anime.

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Trent Cannon

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Trent is a freelance writer who has been covering anime, video games, and pop culture for a decade. (He/Him)

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