With these episodes of Yu Yu Hakusho, it seems as if the series has finally got into its stride. Over the course of these episodes as the Dark Tournament reaches its latter stages, things become a whole lot more interesting as our characters are pushed to their limits.
Battling On Through
You’ll remember from last time that Yusuke and his team were fighting against Team Masho as well as having to deal with the underhand tactics of another member of the Black Black Club, that we find out here is called Butajiri.
Yusuke is able to overcome Jin in the end by demonstrating a powerful new Reihado technique, but thanks to the shenanigans in play he is also disqualified on a technicality. This then forces Kuwabara back into the ring with all of his teammates incapacitated, even though he is still severely injured after the fight against the Dr Ichigaki Team.
Kuwabara really shouldn’t have been able to win against a powerful demon like Risho, but win he did. Risho severely underestimated Kuwabara due to the state he was in. Like with Yusuke in his fight against Suzaku, Kuwabara was forced to start using his life energy to fight and survive, but Yukina’s reappearance helped to boost his power and resolve and send Team Urameshi through to the next round.
Butajiri is also dispatched in a brutal fashion. His meddling had absolutely annoyed Toguro and Sakyo, with the powerful fighter putting the old man in his place before bursting his head open with a simple flick.
A Well Earned Rest
With Team Urameshi having reached the semi-finals of the tournament, they get some well-earned downtime before the fighting continues. I think this moment marks a real turning point in the series, as we get a great deal of character growth and development that has been a little lacking up to this point.
Firstly, we get a nice moment with Kuwabara and Yukina with the ice maiden treating his injuries. Kuwabara believes that Yukina confesses her love for him, but in actual fact she doesn’t really understand the interaction between them. Despite her cute appearance, Yukina like all demons so far, doesn’t really have a concept of more human emotions like love.
There is also a small scene with Yusuke and Keiko, where we get to see more about the type of relationship they have. This is something I don’t think we have had for a good while since earlier on in the series, and gives us a glimpse as to the bond the two of them share.
We also get the introduction of Pu, after Yusuke’s spirit beast hatches from its egg. It will most likely have a role as kind of a mascot for the series, and I’m sure he will become more important later on.
The relaxation doesn’t last long for Yusuke however as he is summoned to go and train by Genkai after a brief confrontation between the two. Genkai realises that in his current state, Yusuke has little chance of being able to defeat Toguro. As such, Genkai decides to perform the Reihado succession ritual even though it is years too early for Yusuke to handle.
Our rebellious young hero comes close to death, with his body bursting at the seems, but just manages to make it through the ordeal in order to save Pu and successfully absorb the Reihado energy ball. Genkai ultimately made a gamble which paid off, as she could obviously tell that Yusuke was getting too cocky and that he needed a wake-up call and a way to also become ever stronger.
I find it interesting that the Reihado master has to give up a large part of their power for this ritual, and how this is not only a ritual of pain and much suffering for the student, but one of sacrifice for their teacher. The Toguros can intriguingly feel the ritual taking place from their hotel room, and seem almost excited about what’s going on.
We also find out at this point about how Genkai can change her appearance, and it is confirmed that this is a result of her Reihado techniques. It allows her to temporarily transform to a more youthful state for the purposes of combat, which I think most of us had probably already concluded.
My favourite part of these scenes was when Genkai instructs Yusuke to come to the cave and kill her, and the manner of how Yusuke passes this test. Yusuke indeed wasn’t evil enough to kill his own master, but did at least consider it, as Genkai had hoped. This nicely constructed test of morals encased in this moment between the two characters is something you don’t see too often in other shonen anime.
The Fighting Continues
The semi-finals get going with the fighting now taking place in a rather beastly looking new stadium. When we first saw the island at the start of this saga, it only looked small so how it is able to fit two massive stadia on it complete with a large hotel seems pretty odd, but we are dealing with supernatural forces here of course.
Team Uraotogi are the next opponents, and they are rightly at a different level from what Team Urameshi have fought against so far. Well, apart from Makintaro who Hiei easily defeated.
They employ the use of different items, and Hiei had a very hard time against Kuro Momotaro. Him having to employ a version of Kuwabara’s Spirit Sword technique to gain victory was an entertaining way to end a great fight with a nice bit of comic relief sprinkled in. Kuro Momotaro’s ability to memorise and more or less vaccinate himself against the damage of techniques was a very interesting concept.
Kurama takes on Ura Urashima, and is fooled by his opponent’s tricks. This doesn’t make much sense, as Kurama previously was a demon fox with incredible cunning, so this was pretty bad writing here. That said, as a result of this and Ura Urashima’s magic box, Kurama is able to regain his original form and win the match. This transformation was one of the absolute highlights of the series so far.
Ura Urashima was about to reveal some details about his own team that resulted in his teammate Shishiwakamaru killing him. Something he did reveal was that Team Uraotogi are manifestations of characters from Japanese fairy tales and folklore, but there seems to be more to it than that which we will probably find out soon enough.
Kuwabara once again steps up to fight against Shishiwakamaru, but is completely outclassed. It was nice to see him get a great win against Risho, however it’s clear that he is now out of his depth at this stage of the competition.
Shishiwakamaru could have sent him to the other end of the universe with his technique, or to the depths of the Demon Realm, but instead showed some pity and just sent him outside of the stadium. That said, Kuwabara is one of my favourite characters in Yu Yu Hakusho and I hope he will get some more time to shine.
Genkai then chooses to fight Shishiwakamaru, but how will she fare after giving much of her power to Yusuke? What’s interesting is that Toguro once again stepped in to help Team Urameshi to reveal to the audience the secret of her ageing and deageing. Despite his status as a skilled fighter, how does he know such secrets about Reihado?
I really enjoyed these episodes, and it feels like the story has finally kicked into gear. The battle against more skilled opponents such as Team Uraotogi in this new phase of the Dark Tournament has helped to raise the stakes and make the battles more fascinating and less dull. You can also see the characters really starting to flesh out more and more, as their relationships with each other are explored in extra detail.
This all helps to give the series that something extra to really improve a series I feel that up until this point was failing to deliver. Many said the Dark Tournament was where things get interesting in Yu Yu Hakusho, but I think these episodes is the more precise point where this actually happens.
Are you also enjoying where the series is headed? How powerful will Yusuke now be, and is he truly ready to face Toguro? Leave your thoughts down below.