Alteration 4: Yoshihiro Togashi and Choice (Context)

Forgive me just jumping straight into the content on this one. It’s been a solid 4 months or so since the last update to this series and I’d like to just get moving. It’s been a challenging time between starting a new job and wanting to spread my legs a bit on my work.

It also doesn’t help that this part 2 is one of the more… scattered ones to put together. After the content lost from the removed spirit detective arc, the differences in the anime and manga become a bit neglectable. Until the Dark Tournament. Making placing points together here a bit difficult.

However, simply shifting around scenes is not the only thing I am limited to in enhancing our enjoyment of ToGODshi’s works. As we understand now about our protagonist Yusuke the story is one of him making choices about who he wants to become. But I think it’s interesting to view this concept of choice in a more overarching view of his works.

Choice is something that all of ToGODshi’s main protagonists must deal with. From Yusuke to Prince Baka to Gon, the amount of options that these characters do or do not have becomes a powerful point of development in all of their arcs. And we’ll use the collective knowledge of three characters to see just how much ToGODshi has a tendency to come back to this idea.

With the quality of Hunter x Hunter analysis that has come out in recent years, it should be no surprise that Gon may be the character most overtly centered around this idea. Zepile almost says as much during the York New arc. Zepile extrapolates on Gon’s inherent and boundless curiosity, realizing that if Gon wanted to, he’s mindset could lead him to become a master in anything he so wished. 

The very thought of which scared him to his core. If he became an inventor he’d revolutionize whatever field he walked into. If he became a conservationist his reputation alone might scare off poachers. If Gon became a thief he would be able to steal everything from the stars to your life.

Even looking back on the Hunter Exam as an arc, a huge portion of it is dedicated to exploring and presenting choices. The Two-Choice Quiz was designed to prepare contestants for very real moral conundrums out in the field. The second stage Cooking challenge was about learning to appreciate the value in choosing the specialization you decide on. Trick Tower is perhaps obviously staged around playing with the idea of majority decision always being right. But Gon’s interaction with Hanzo the ninja is of particular stand out.

Despite being coerced by force Gon did not get particularly upset about the methods Hanzo used. He wanted to change the paradigm to be a fair choice for both parties saying that, despite the fact that if Hanzo seriously injured or killed him, if he lost the hope of being able to see his goal through to the end then that’s really no choice at all.

Prince Baka is one of the lesser-known ToGODshi characters but perhaps one of the most distinct. In effect, he represents what would happen if all of humankind’s collective was embodied in one sadistic idiot. Over the course of Level E we learn two things about him. That Prince Baka enjoys using his abilities for his own amusement, and that he refuses to be constrained. Then he gets married.

A perfectly hilarious end for a comedy to be sure but while Prince Baka was tricked into marrying his Princess, he did ultimately stick around in the end. The story “Fullmoon” in Level E ends with the reveal that the Princess lead Baka on throughout an exciting ride that only made him think that his choices throughout the chase mattered. We can surmise from his ending line, “You’re fascinating.” That Prince Baka came to the conclusion that his adventures will be more with his Princess than without.

In both cases of Baka and Gon, the most impactful moments of their moments in the story come about when they make a choice or their actions hinge around potential choices. Moreso for Gon when you consider that extra level of tragedy of him throwing away all his future for revenge against Pitou and the understanding that his Nen being reset and being stuck at home doing homework is a true new beginning.

Incidentally, being stuck at home doing homework is another thing we will be revisiting before this series is done.

So why do I mention the importance of Choice in ToGODshi’s works? In part to show how much the theme is central to his mindset and in part to contextualize a small moment in Yusuke’s behavior that people have been fixated on and that I’m getting tired of seeing bantered around without context. That being a time where Yusuke (and to some the author by extension) is supposedly acting in a transphobic manner just before his first encounter with Toguro (Chapter 48). Yeah, I’m not thrilled about having to use word space for this either.

Yusuke, after defeating Miyuki of the Ogre Triad Vertex one points out that she was a crossdresser and, after she claims that Yusuke only fought her for being different, Yusuke calls foul and says that “she should make up her mind before getting into any more fights”. Now let’s set aside the obvious hypocrisy that Miyuki is making in this scene by saying Yusuke only attacker her because she’s different and he would act differently if she was a woman when Miyuki is clearly a demon under the employment and evil business tyrant and clearly ready to kill both of them for no particular reason. Let’s break this scene down a bit.

Firstly, this scene doesn’t look good in isolation of course. As a matter a fact this scene isn’t one of Yusuke’s best moments at all. It’s not supposed to be, and the answer to why lies in Yusuke’s particular development arc in his development and interests of Yu Yu Hakusho as a story. Yu Yu Hakusho is a story about Yusuke discovering what choices he wants to make about his life so that he can live his best life. It reasons then that this scene of him calling out Miyuki is more projection than anything. Because for someone who can’t make up their own mind about life it’s easier for them to call other people on it than reconcile with that issue themself. 

So in this context, is Yusuke calling out a crossdressing person on their inadequacies because of his own unresolved issues justified? Well if you read that sentence I just wrote with your common sense the answer is obviously no. Yusuke at this point is a school-aged, brash, rude, unapologetic bundle of nerves and aggression. He is not the morality center of the narrative, in fact, one of those does not exist in any of Togashi’s works. Obviously he is not going to always act that in ways that are favorable. What this scene is not most certainly is transphobic. First of all just before this scene takes place Yusuke verbatim says, “I don’t care. Man or woman, young or old… you want a fight. I’ll give you one.” Establish off the bat this is not a gender issue.

But to even think Yoshihiro Togashi of all authors is being transphobic for making this scene is ridiculous. It’s a well-known fact that ToGODshi’s interests include gender studies. Not only that this manifests in his work several times over. ToGODshi regularly creates transgender characters or ones that transition. Alluka and her story arc is recognized as one of the best stories about transgender and “otherness” acceptance. In one of the Yu Yu Hakusho volume extra’s Togashi talked about his desire to create a transgender protagonist for a sports manga. And most obscurely one Level E story revolves entirely around a girls Female to Male transition as she looks for love at a resort.

Given the amount of honest interest and storylines that ToGODshi has created about the topics of gender, it’s discourteous to make such claims. And hopefully, this serves as a good reminder to look at such moments of suspect both in isolation and from broader points of view to avoid such bias interpretations. 

Alteration(s) 5: Truncation of the Dark Tournament

To a certain degree, everything from the Daily Life arc to just before the Dark Tournament is adapted faithfully. Of course, this being the anime there are plenty of minor alterations here and there but for the most part, all of the changes are just general extensions of fight scenes.

I don’t consider things that don’t help or hinder the adaptation to be worth discussing. An occasional fight scene or extra banter in a scene here and there is doing what this adaptation does best, adding character to the content that already there. As such I don’t want to spend time commenting on things you could pick up yourself.

However, I do think that when talking about Togashi’s work, too much is more damaging than too little. Togashi as a writer is always sure to cover his bases. If you were to just adapt what was there into anime you would have a short, punchy and functional piece. Adding too much, however, means to a degree diluting his natural ideas and tendencies and can ultimately counteract those themes.

The Dark Tournament is long. In my opinion much too long and it suffers on rewatch. This breaks down into separate issues. The first being the quality of the fights, the second being the addition of certain character arcs that… well they don’t work. Let’s talk about the first.

Most of the additions to the Dark Tournament are, as to be expected, cosmetic. Extensions on fight scenes, periods of build-up followed by some of the most legendary animation clips of carnage you could ask for from a fighting anime. While I’m not opposed to this fundamentally I need to stress that Yu Yu Hakusho’s fights aren’t the greatest in anime history from a technical standpoint. When ToGODshi wrote Yu Yu Hakusho he hadn’t developed the concept of Nen (although he showed numerous signs of establishing the basis for it) and they mostly run on pure emotion or tactics we aren’t privy to the possibility of happening.

Surprisingly, many moments of the fights maintain the desired effect these twists were supposed to have but the longer you, as a reader, are made to spend time on the fights the more noticeable the lack of solid ground they have. Keeping the fights short and relatively punchy when not backed up by a strong emotional core is what made them good in the manga. When it comes to the anime the Dark Tournament fights get almost painfully dragged out.

Of course, this is just my opinion but I think a general culling of some of these scenes to be closer to the whole would do wonders. I won’t be giving an analysis of each individual fight scene to telling what needed to be cut as extra. That would be a job for a professional and more importantly, it’s too time-consuming.

Alteration 6 (Removal): There’s No Freedom For The Sinner Named Sakyo

I’m not letting this abomination slide just because it panders to people’s hearts.

So remember how I was just talking about too much being more damaging than too little one section ago? That comes to a head right here in most disgusting fashion. Sakyo is established to be complete human trash devoid of any redeeming qualities. A rich sociopath who treats lives, resources, and consequences all as things to just entertain him. He’s the mastermind behind much of the shady goings-on into the Dark Tournament and his ambition to open a portal to the Demon World is one of the inciting incidents that leads directly into the Chapter Black arc.

In many ways, Sakyo was the perfect villain for the Dark Tournament, even more so for Toguro. Because where Toguro’s heart was stained by tragedy and he never truly sold his standards for his ambitions. Sakyo was the opposite, always inundated from the consequences of his relatively cushy life and money his obsession with death turned him into a monster through no one’s fault but his own. Sakyo was the worst type of person. A degenerate that calls himself as such.

He was the perfect embodiment of evil that Sensui saw in humanity. A man with no ideals and no ambition to help anyone but his own entertainment. So it’s a damn shame that the anime attempts a slapdash effort to make him a more human and down to Earth character when he himself established in no uncertain terms that he is anything of the sort.

The Yu Yu Hakusho anime attempts to flaccidly humanize Sakyo with two mechanisms. By vaguely alluding to the idea that Sakyo has some sort of grander altruistic vision of a united demon and human world. And by giving him a romantic subplot (gag me). 

First things first. Why?

Second things second. The line in question for Sakyo goes as such, “And somewhere along the line you learned of my humble aspiration to dissolve the barrier between worlds. To let demons of every size cross to the human side. Annul the careful your kind has enforced. I find life would be better that way and I know that one day it will be so.”  And I can only wonder at this point what they are thinking in adding this line. While the justification of Spirit World’s order is a discussion that the manga would eventually have there is no way Sakyo would be privy to the issues behind the curtain that even Koenma doesn’t know about.

It is as I said. An allusion, only there to raise a last-minute question, and considering that the anime would not truly follow up on this plot thread it is also an unresolved promise. For whatever reason, the anime has an aversion to the cold and evil depiction of Sakyo ToGODshi intended. And that’s one thing in and of itself… but for what purpose did they have to bring Shizuru into this?

To start with, the Dark Tournament adds numerous scenes of interactions between the girls of Yu Yu Hakusho. Specifically the dynamic of Keiko, Shizuru, Yukina, and Boton. None of these happen in the manga. While it is established that the girls are present in the tournament audience the vast majority of their antic and commentary aren’t present. From this, we can determine that they just wanted the girl to have more of a presence in the arc itself, which is fine itself, but their attempts to use Shizuru as a tool to humanize Sakyo are just as they sound. Now I enjoy the extended scenes of the girls, personality is what this adaptation accels at after all. But what good is it to both build up Shizuru as a solid woman that keeps the punk Kuwabara in line while at the same time making up some half-interesting excuses for her to project past relationships onto Sakyo? I’m left with so many questions, least of all is why is Shizuru acting like a damsel in distress towards a man she meets no more than 4 times.

Was this to emphasize the tragedy of Sakyo choosing to kill himself with his ambitions? Well again, and I cannot stress this enough, and today more than ever, rich evil bastards like Sakyo do not deserve empathy. They don’t need to be given any sort of sympathy when the life of evil they chose is entirely their own and Sakyo admits as much himself.

Not only was this an unneeded addition to the watch time that everyone would be better off without, but it signals a sharp divergence from the inherent misanthropic core at the heart of many of ToGODshi’s ideas. What I can only suspect compelling the appalling changes was that they wanted to further push the more romantic angels of Yu Yu Hakusho by having one of the other females finding some sort of love. What I don’t understand is if they wanted to have a scorned woman archetype going through the arc of overcoming alienation to find connection why use Shizuru if all people when Yusuke’s mother is perfectly available for this task.

And that’s another thing I didn’t even touch about this entire arc but Yusuke’s Mom is just in the stands in the manga along with Shizuru and the rest. She gets no less page time than Shizuru, more in fact, and at the end of the manga, we get to see her chatting it up with Yusuke’s piece of garbage father.

By the way Yusuke has a dad.

Cut it all this Sakyo and Shizuru buisness out and don’t turn back.

Alteration 7 (Keep): Yusuke Saves Puu

There are some scenes that I find it hard to reasonably do without in Yu Yu Hakusho. So much so that I think they’re easily viewable on there own without the need to watch the entire arc back again for them. But less so because they signify emotional or skeptical impact and more because they’re natural extensions of the characters arcs.

Did I really need a several minute long scenes of Hiei amping himself up for the Dragon of the Darkness flame? Strictly speaking no. Is it welcome? … Yeaaaaaah~

Yusuke saving Puu however I always found to be one of those transcendent moments of the anime. In part because of the metaphorical role Puu plays in this being a representation of Yusuke. The ideal shonen protagonist, as I’ve mentioned before, is someone both entirely selfish and completely selfless. With no contradiction between such dynamics, these characters have enough greed and personal motivation to keep themselves going while also understanding the higher nature of generosity and friendship.

Yusuke’s constant struggle for self-determination while also coming to terms with the fact he isn’t capable of becoming a heartless brute like Toguro (or alternatively a sadistic capitalist like Sakyo) is the dynamic that exemplifies this sort of struggle between extremes. Puu himself is unique because he can be seen as both Yusuke himself but, because he is an entity set apart from Yusuke, someone else. Either way, you chose to look at it, it’s a great moment for Yusuke to save Puu in the cave both as an act of selfless heroism and desire to improve himself for well being.

The music kicks all kinds of ass too. 

In effect that will do it for Part 2 if only because I’ve run out of space in a practical sense. This was a more difficult section to create because baring Sakyo’s “humanization” there was few and far between to really grab my attention on what needs to be deliberated over without getting into the content.

However, I remain unsatisfied as a result. Without and true meat it could hardly be called a meal. So considering I am still trapped at home because with an unspecified sickness I’ll be doubling up and talking about something that I couldn’t quite fit into any particular space of this series.

Also if you ship Shizuru x Sakyo both ironically or unironically dose yourself in holy water. Ya nasties.