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Netflix's Yu Yu Hakusho doubles down on what was great about the anime

Sometimes, you just wanna see characters punch each other really hard.

Younger Toguro in the Netflix Yu Yu Hakusho
Image credit: Netflix

There is a careful balance to be struck when you are adapting anything into a new medium. You have to give your own twist on the source material while still preserving the heart of what you’re adapting. The team behind Netflix’s Yu Yu Hakusho adaptation looked at the original manga by Yoshihiro Togashi and the iconic anime that soon followed and decided it was the action that needed to be the focus – and they were right.

We've known for a while that there is going to be a lot of controversy about how much Netflix changed for their live-action Yu Yu Hakusho series. Entire arcs are quickly brushed over or reduced to a single aspect. When they chose to condense the first 66 episodes of the anime into just five live-action episodes, sacrifices needed to be made. The one thing the producers did indulge plenty of their limited runtime on was the fight scenes.

Each episode has at least one standout fight, with some fantastic and creative choreography on display. The fight against Goki in episode two, which in the anime was relatively straightforward, becomes a punishing battle that uses every bit of junk in a surprisingly well-stocked scrapyard. Even the training fight between Yusuke and Genkai, which has the lowest stakes in the show, has some surprising elements to it that make it feel fresh even in a series of almost non-stop action.

Each fight feels different – from the body horror monstrosity that Yusuke fights in the first episode to the moment he finally takes down the seemingly unstoppable Younger Toguro, the show never repeats itself which is a remarkable feat considering the final two episodes are essentially one long action sequence.

In the absence of two or three more episodes to give the characters room to breathe and grow, we think the producers made the right decision to focus on the action in Yu Yu Hakusho. The fights defined the original and bringing them to the forefront of the live-action version meant that we get several memorable, unique battles that we’ll remember long after the final credits close even if characters like Hiei and Kuwabara don’t get much to do besides get beat up by Toguro at the end.

Is Netflix’s Yu Yu Hakusho as faithful to the original as their One Piece adaptation? Absolutely not. Nor does it try to be. It aims to bring us the action that the Shonen genre has always been known for. The goal is to dazzle with flashy fists rather than tell the same story we’ve seen before, reminding us of why Yu Yu Hakusho was such a standout anime when it first aired back in 1992.

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