The anime boom of the early 2000s introduced a slew of different series to American audiences for the first time, and one of those happens to actually celebrate its 25th anniversary this month – Yu Yu Hakusho. The supernatural action series didn’t make its way stateside until 2001, but it actually debuted in Japan on October 10, 1992.
Based on the manga of the same name, which ran in Weekly Shonen Jump between 1990 and 1994, Yu Yu Hakusho followed protagonist Yusuke Urameshi, a street punk who’s given a second chance after he uncharacteristically sacrifices himself to save a young boy from being hit by a car. Yusuke is greeted in death by a ghost named Botan, who tells him that his act of sacrifice caught the afterworld by surprise after his years of being a delinquent, and so it’s undecided whether or not he would go to Heaven or Hell. Instead, he’s able to pass a series of trials in order to return to life.
Yusuke becomes an “Underworld Detective” after returning to life, and teams up with several friends to solve a variety of cases dealing with supernatural and otherworldly forces. These include his classmate and love interest Keiko and his rival delinquent Kuwabara, as well as the demonic Hiei and Kurama. The mystery surrounding Yusuke’s true lineage is eventually revealed as well.
The anime series was directed by Noriyuki Abe, who would go on to direct other hits such as Flame of Recca, Tokyo Mew Mew, and Bleach; his most recent work, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is currently airing. Yu Yu Hakusho ran for 112 episodes and two animated films were also made. The localization of the series for American audiences was heavily edited (which was fairly standard for that time), cutting out a lot of the violence, crude humor, and questionable language. In both Japan and America the series received critical praise for its balance of a strong narrative with cool action sequences. Though it’s been off the air for quite some time, the series remains a standout of its era.