Yu Yu Hakusho (幽☆遊☆白書 lit. Ghost Files/Poltergeist Report) is a supernatural shounen series created by Yoshihiro Togashi and was first serialized by Shounen Jump in 1990. It was the first of Togashi's work to receive major fame and become a bestseller, with the eponymous anime beginning to be aired in 1992 and produced by Studio Pierrot. In over 30 years of circulation, the series has produced spin-off movies, stage plays, and OVAs, received countless pieces of merchandise, furniture, and household goods, been translated and adapted into numerous languages, and has been a massive source of reference and inspiration for countless other manga and anime. Basically, it's really really good (￣▽￣)
The story centers around middle-school punk Yuusuke Urameshi, who is first introduced not as a living, breathing person but instead as the dead victim of a sudden and unexpected car accident. Yuusuke, having been hit because he pushed a small child out of harms way, had such a disregard for rules and respect for others that even the judgement of the Spirit World beyond the grave hadn't expected nor planned for his passing. So, Yuusuke is offered a once-in-a-lifetime (Deathtime?) chance to return to the living world in return for becoming the spirit detective; A human who seeks out unruly ghosts, demons, and yokai that cause trouble with mankind and puts a stop to their mischief.
...Well, that's the stock summary, that is. (ᵔ.ᵔ) Truth be told, Yu Yu Hakusho is just one in a long series of supernatural mysteries Togashi had been formulating on and off since his teenage years. It's a concept he enjoyed playing with greatly, incorporating Buddhist and Shinto beliefs and creatures with the humorous antics of teens obsessed with both the Eastern and Western elements of the occult. Though the series has often been labelled a battle or action manga, Togashi always seems to think of the combat elements as secondary or as means to an end, with battles full of dialogue and interesting, self-sacrificial tactics rather than straight-up showy graphics.
That isn't to say Yu Yu is a slouch in the combat or graphics department. No, far from it; Togashi's deeply expressive art style shifts and morphs so often that it's downright scary. His design philosophy in this series produced characters with simple design parts, yet recognizable and distinct features that make them easy to discern even when the series' style puts them through the wringer.
His simultaneously adorable and realistic art style and rich, lush background graphics has been routinely hindered by chronic health issues, almost as well-known about the mangaka as the aforementioned series' themselves. This factor alongside absolute and total burnout is the reason the series ended rather unceremoniously (read his exact reasoning over at the interview page). Still, Yu Yu Hakusho has been remembered wholly or in-part as a superb, genre-defining shounen for the 1990s.
Seriously, it can go from this,
in a matter of pages.
Probably my favorite aspect of Yu Yu Hakusho, hands down, is the intermingling of each character with one another. If nothing else, Yu Yu is a story about friends, family, and how the trust between them is developed over time, broken swiftly and suddenly, or left to fester into something else entirely. Compared to Togashi's successor series Hunter x Hunter, it likely is objectively a better manga series except on the aspect of character interaction; Yuusuke's band of unlikely heroes and allies is just so damn good. It's likely the reason the series has stood the test of time when the outfits, storylines, and character tropes have been left in the dust or beaten to a pulp by the other Shounen Jump publications following. Anyone and everyone can relate to the innocent love, familial attachment, deep sorrow and regret, and sportsman-like respect that is developed with painstaking attention throughout the series in a way that you won't even notice happened until you're crying in happiness or sadness.
I mean, it's obvious I adore this show. I made an entire fanpage for it, and plenty of pages on my main website are dedicated to it (￣▽￣*)ゞ But, I hope through this simultaneous summary, analysis, and review of the series, you found new interest or rediscovered some you had long ago for this much beloved shounen story. I could, quite literally, spend days talking just about this show and Togashi as an author; I've sort of done so in private for half a decade... Maybe you won't fall head over heels for his work like I did, but I think if you found yourself here, you'll enjoy it in one way or another.