Alright folks, time to get nerdy up in here. Chapter 1 of my YuYu Hakusho fanfiction, Awakening, is going up tomorrow! So it’s time for a crash course for context!
[Note: You don’t need the context/background to understand/enjoy the story. It functions well enough as a stand-alone. This is just for those who want more info on the existing canon, i.e. universe and characters.]
YuYu Hakusho (English equivalent: Poltergeist Report) is a supernatural adventure martial arts manga written by Yoshihiro Togashi during the early 90s. It also got an animated adaption that originally aired in Japan from October 1992 until December 1994.
The story follows a teenage delinquent, Yusuke Urameshi, after he is struck and killed by a car while trying to save a child’s life. This uncharacteristic act of altruism completely takes Reikai (Spirit World) by surprise and they have to figure out what to do with him, as they were not expecting him to die that day. After enduring a series of trials, and with the help of his only two friends in the living world, he succeeds in being returned to his body. His new lease on life does not come freely though, as he quickly learns he can now see demons and apparitions and fight them off with new abilities of his own. The prince of Reikai, Koenma, who gave him the trials to return to his life in the first place, informs him that he is now a Spirit World Detective. His new title comes with the thankless task of investigating the supernatural within the Human World.
Yusuke is a brawler, and tends to use his fists to solve his cases, and also to make friends. There are lots of martial arts tournaments over the course of the series, but not all combatants are evil. Yusuke gains many allies in his fights because his opponents respect his prowess in the ring. By the end of the series, they all come to bat for him. Of course, there are plenty of bad and evil men to be defeated, and many of them die the deaths they deserve.
On a personal tangent, one of the themes I find interesting in this series is its portrayal of good and evil. In many cases, the evilest characters are humans exploiting other humans and demons alike. It plays on the idea that the monsters aren’t necessarily the ones with sharp teeth and claws and scales. There are demonic humans just as there are humane demons. Also, the idea that good people can become evil, and bad people can turn a new leaf is something that comes up frequently.
But I digress. This post is for background and context, not philosophical wonderings! That post can come another day. *cackle*
Living/Human World (Ningenkai): The world as we know it. Normal, everyday life happens to billions of people here. The original series took place in the 90s so there are no cell phones in this tale. I suppose I could have modernized it a bit, but I left the technology as it was. I did not write anyone with shoulder pads though. Yeesh.
Spirit World (Reikai): The Underworld, or afterlife. It is ruled by King Enma and his son, Koenma, and is really more like a crossroads to the next life. There are ferry folk (grim reapers) who carry souls across the River Styx to receive their judgement and learn where they will spend the rest of eternity. There are infinite planes of existence where souls can be sentenced to. Spirit World weighs the actions of a person’s life and decides where they should end up. This is why Yusuke caused such a stir; he wasn’t supposed to die that day and they had no idea what to do with him!
Demon World (Makai): The realm of demons. It is a massive parallel dimension separated from Human World by a powerful Spirit World barrier. It is a lawless land, with territories ruled by the strongest and most cunning. A real “kill or be killed” world with a predominantly natural and primitive environment. There are vast wastelands, massive forests, mountainous regions, etc., but there are also cities and villages about. (Fun fact, Demon World has more impressive technology than Human World, though this isn’t important to this story.) There are civil demon-kind who inhabit these communities, and they live relatively peacefully there.
[Note: I use the English and Japanese terms for the realms interchangeably throughout the story, though I try to stay consistent depending on POV.]
As with most supernatural fantasy series, YYH has an inherent “magic” system. I’m using quotes here, because despite the story being fiction, the core concepts are actually rooted in very real belief systems that I would never deign to diminish as simple “magic.” Through rigorous training and meditation, it is believed you can harness the energy within and around you and direct it outward. YYH takes it once step further and utilizes the various energies as weapons and spells. Humans and demons have very different energies, or auras. Human spirit energy, or reiki, lacks the punch that demon energy (yoki) wields, but is also far more stable and has higher potential. There’s a rudimentary letter-based classification system to give an idea of rank, from D up through A, and above A there is S-class. These are demons with god-like powers, embodiments of destruction and chaos with the strength to annihilate the Earth with no one to stop them. The barrier between the human and demon realms is actually designed to confine them to the depths of the demon world.
Characters (in-fic order of appearance)
Yusuke Urameshi (YOU-skay YUR-a-mesh-ee)
YuYu Hakusho’s main character, relegated to side character in my fic. From the YYH wiki: “He’s short-tempered, impulsive, merciless and likes to intimidate those who are afraid of him. Underneath his bold, cocky attitude, he has a joking and kind nature.” His signature move is the Spirit Gun, where he channels his energy into a point blast through his right index finger and fires it like a gun. He has a deadbeat mom (Atsuko) and a definitely-too-good-for-him girlfriend (Keiko).
Prince of Spirit World. It’s his job to judge the souls of the departed and send them to their final resting place. Really, it’s a bureaucratic nightmare that usually sees him buried in paperwork or furiously stamping his seal on the unending piles of documents awaiting his attention. He is over 700 years old, but in Reikai terms, he’s essentially still a child. He usually appears as a toddler, complete with pacifier, but when he wants to impress someone (read: appear like a “cool” adult) he can make himself appear like a teenager. He still has the pacifier in his teenage form, though. It’s actually a sacred object that stores his spirit energy over the centuries, meant to be used only as a last resort. Koenma is a tertiary POV character for this story.
Kazuma Kuwabara (KA-zoo-muh COO-uh-BAR-ah)
Yusuke’s best friend and YYH’s primary comic relief character. Much like Yusuke, he’s been relegated to the wings for this story. He’s another tough guy, though he has a heart of gold and a strict honor code. He’s incredibly spiritually sensitive to the supernatural, and he discovers he can wield his own spirit energy just like Yusuke. His signature move is the Spirit Sword. He is hopelessly in love with the ice maiden, Yukina.
Starter villain turned ally, Hiei is actually the secondary POV character for this fic. A male fire demon born to an ice maiden (koorime), he was cursed from birth. Later in life, he acquired a Jagan eye that granted him immense psychic and telepathic abilities. After learning of his twin sister, Yukina, he used it to track her down. His search led him to Human World where her trail went cold and he met Kurama. They caused some mischief by stealing three sacred artifacts from Spirit World, which brought them into Yusuke’s sights and eventually led to their future partnerships. He is an incredibly agile swordsman, and his signature move is the Dragon of the Darkness Flame.
From the wiki: “Hiei prefers to keep his distance from others, so he often comes across as aloof and elusive. He has a rather cynical and even misanthropic view of the world around him, often belittling and mocking humans and their emotions and the significance they place on friendship and life. And while he is relatively taciturn, he occasionally squabbles with and insults his teammates, especially Kuwabara. It is obvious that deep down he holds a certain amount of respect and kinship for his teammates, but seems to be closest to Kurama and Yusuke. While he holds an affinity of kinship towards demons, this goes as equally far as his preference for humans, despising weaker demons, including braggarts and “tourists.””
What do you get when an ancient fox demon spirit fuses with a human infant? You get Shuichi Minamino, AKA Kurama. Youko Kurama was a ruthless, cunning, silver-haired fox demon and a master thief renowned in Makai as the “Legendary Bandit.” After a botched robbery, he was mortally wounded and fled to Ningenkai to bide his time long enough to regain his powers by implanting his own soul into an unborn child. He only planned to remain for about ten years, but he grew to care for his human mother. He joined forces with Hiei to steal the Reikai artifacts so that he could use one to save her life after she became gravely ill. Yusuke intervenes and saves them both, as the artifact required a sacrifice to grant the wish of the user. Kurama becomes a valuable ally for Yusuke afterwards.
Kurama is an incredible tactician, always planning for every outcome and thinking 4 moves ahead. Of the four detectives, he is the most patient in his fights, as he is calculating and analytical of his opponents and studies them to learn their weaknesses. His vast intelligence and ability to switch to a detached emotional state in the middle of a fight make him a dangerous enemy. His signature move is the Rose Whip, in which he uses his demon energy to grow a rose from its seed state to its flowering state and then into a long thorny whip. He can manipulate almost any plants and as such, has the most versatile arsenal of all the characters.
Botan (bottom right): Koenma’s assistant, Yusuke’s handler, ferry girl
Keiko Yukimura (center front): Yusuke’s closest childhood friend. Was instrumental in bringing him back from the dead.
Shizuru Kuwabara (top left): Kuwabara’s older sister. Also spiritually sensitive. Calm, cool, collected. Walking sarcasm.
Yukina (bottom left): Hiei’s twin sister (though she doesn’t know he’s the brother she’s looking for), love interest of Kuwabara, ice maiden living in Human World
Atsuko (top right): Yusuke’s mother. Ever since he came back from the dead, she’s been overprotective.
Yusuke’s teacher and arguably the most powerful human psychic in the Living World, she is a gruff old woman who wants nothing more than to retire but she has to keep training her “idiot pupil” so he doesn’t accidentally get himself killed before she can pass on all her techniques to him. She is also a steel-minded tactician like Kurama, but she would just say that it comes with age.
So, now that you have a picture (or twelve) of the characters and the world, I hope you join me for the next five weeks and enjoy some good old fashion fanfiction! See you tomorrow!
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