Netflix’s ‘Yu Yu Hakusho’ Is Exactly What Anime Adaptations Need


The Big Picture

  • Adapting older anime into live-action breathes new life into them and reintroduces them to the mainstream media.
  • Live-action adaptations provide an opportunity for older anime to redeem themselves and attract new audiences.
  • The popularity and success of live-action adaptations can inspire studios to take on more older anime titles and revamp them.

As adaptations of anime become a more popular trend in an ever-shifting entertainment landscape, it’s natural that there may be some skepticism about how each series may be handled. With any live-action adaptation, there’s the risk of missing the mark of the source material’s original run, and there are certain expectations regarding how the final product should fare in terms of quality. Netflix has tried adapting anime into live-action series a few times, though it surprised subscribers when choosing to take on Yu Yu Hakusho as its next original adaptation. Yu Yu Hakusho follows teen delinquent Yusuke Urameshi as he becomes an Underworld Detective, investigating demons in the human world. With the anime first airing in 1992, Netflix’s choice to approach Yu Yu Hakusho in the modern-day was an unexpected creative decision. However, the Yu Yu Hakusho is a good sign for older anime when it comes to encouraging studios to reach into the vault and take on titles that may not be as popular today. Because Yu Yu Hakusho may be a completely new title to some, there’s plenty of room for Netflix to bump it back into relevancy. This should inspire other studios to follow their lead when it comes to gambling on older anime titles that are ripe for some sort of revamping.

They’re able to approach “outdated” anime, breathe new life into them, and re-introduce them to the mainstream media with a more reinvigorated take. By giving these older series new life through live-action means, greater appreciation for the original anime can be reflected upon while building on the foundation that it has left behind. Adapting older anime into live-action also provides the grounds for these series to redeem themselves during their current-day revival. There’s also the appeal to new audiences who might take an interest in exploring the anime after giving the live-action adaptation a try, much like what Netflix saw with Yu Yu Hakusho.

Yu Yu Hakusho (2023)

A delinquent teenager is killed and gets resurrected to serve as an investigator of the supernatural.

Release Date
December 14, 2023

Takumi Kitamura , Jun Shison , Kanata Hongô , Shuhei Uesugi




Adapting Older Anime Like ‘Yu Yu Hakusho’ Reinvigorates Them

Netflix first started filming their live-action adaptation of Yu Yu Hakusho in 2021, though the news that their take on the early ’90s anime was in the works started to gain traction closer to the show’s actual release. As the streaming service began to promote its interpretation of Yu Yu Hakusho, they were able to put the title back into the public eye while introducing it from a fresh, contemporary perspective. If there’s one major win that these older anime can take away from being adapted into live-action media, there’s somewhat of a guarantee that they’ll be launched back into the highly competitive world of mainstream pop culture entertainment. They’re able to attempt to regain that lost popularity that may have been lost on audiences upon its first go, or may not have been handed down from one generation of anime fans to the next. The ongoing oversaturation of the anime industry is greatly inspiring for the future of the genre but threatens to wash away the success of more dated titles such as Yu Yu Hakusho. The live-action treatment rewarded Yu Yu Hakusho by calling attention back to the 1990s original — something that very well might not have happened if Netflix had not taken the IP into their own hands.

Considering the renewed market demand for Yu Yu Hakusho compared to the show’s popularity years down the line following its initial air date, there’s been an uptick in interest in the show altogether. Other anime with a bit more age to them could benefit from a live-action revival of their own when it comes to thinking about how those said titles could experience a new wave of demand on a case-by-case basis. Not only was Netflix able to resell the concept of Yu Yu Hakusho as an in-house series, but they were also able to promote anime that inspired their televised interpretation. Those who tuned in to watch Yu Yu Hakusho on Netflix were greatly reminded that the source material also deserved appreciation, and made it incredibly accessible for account holders to become aware of the anime. The prominence of older anime being re-launched in the mainstream media denounces any misconceptions that senior series aren’t as relevant as modern ones, and instead, chooses to remind viewers that they’re just as significant as ongoing

releases still airing today.


‘Yu Yu Hakusho’ Ending Explained: Is the Spirit Wave Orb Safe?

Yusuke had one job. Did he manage to do it?

Adaptations Can Redeem Its Sources And Reflect On Their Roots

When comparing older anime to today’s anime, advancements have been made in technology and evolved art styles that have transitioned away from the look and feel of more dated series. Because of this, there could be a greater interest in fans feeling more drawn toward how anime is manufactured when being influenced by the industry’s modern standards, or they may not be able to harbor that same connection with more veteran series. Netflix’s Yu Yu Hakusho didn’t attempt to completely re-construct itself to appeal to a broader audience; instead, it pulled key plotlines, characters, and story elements from the anime and applied them to the live-action that was touched by their in-house style. Netflix pivoted around ideas that would make their live-action adaptation of Yu Yu Hakusho more memorable and buzzworthy while retreading the framework that was left behind by the animated version. The emphasis on intense fight scenes became an online talking point for viewers of the show and allowed the live-action interpretation to reflect on one of the anime’s high points.

Critical consensus for Netflix’s Yu Yu Hakusho is mixed, though it is given a positive skew. While the original anime doesn’t have a definitive Rotten Tomatoes score, the audience score sits promisingly high. Compared to other older anime, Yu Yu Hakusho didn’t need to redeem itself, per se, but more so, prove itself as a series worth investing in. However, when it comes to other anime that may have been released around the time that Yu Yu Hakusho did, that may not have landed glowing praise upon their debut, they could be able to recover their reputation through live-action series. Through the live-action reiteration, older anime can undergo a transformation that Yu Yu Hakusho did, and remind viewers that there was quality present from the very beginning. There is a good deal of antiquated anime that have untapped potential and haven’t had it mined yet. By rewarding them with the live-action treatment, they’ll be able to have the grounds to redeem themselves by re-evaluating what can be improved, what worked in the original, and what’s almost working, but can be elevated through creative liberty.

Adaptations of Older Anime Create New Fans Of The Original Shows

Image via Netflix

For some, Yu Yu Hakusho could be a completely new title. This brand-new series has the possibility of enticing new fans of the show, and encouraging them to dive head-first into watching the anime. This phenomenon was also seen with Netflix’s One Piece, and was seen again when it came to Yu Yu Hakusho. It’s also understandable that some may not have even been aware that Yu Yu Hakusho was first an anime before Netflix’s series hit small screens (which then claimed the top-watched spot upon debut). Regardless of why some Netflix users haven’t seen anime before the live-action take, the streaming service could have inspired those who did enjoy the show to dig into the source material for themselves. This same trend could easily catch on and has become more likely to happen now that the hobby of watching anime has become more destigmatized. With the live-action version of Yu Yu Hakusho fresh in mind, there’s a stronger inclination to check out the original animated series.

It also can’t be expected that everyone who decides to tune in to watch a live-action adaptation of an anime is already an anime fan. Perhaps they’re new to the genre as a whole and are looking for a starting point to start their anime-watching journey. It’s also a reminder to audiences that it’s never too late to indulge in a new interest, such as watching anime. Live-action adaptations can serve as a more palatable, less intimidating introduction to these animated series. These shows (or movies, if that’s the chosen route) can warm up newcomers now that they’ve been able to receive a heightened amount of exposure. By having that familiarity, the anime feels more welcoming, or maybe more interesting, than it did before. There’s a fair chance that these older anime series, like Yu Yu Hakusho, wouldn’t have been given a second chance to capture the attention of a new generation of fans if Netflix hadn’t taken a risk with adapting anime for their streaming platform. For other series that may have fallen by the wayside, they too could regenerate the following of their original anime if they’re given the grounds to be transformed into a live-action production.

The live-action adaptation of Yu Yu Hakusho is available to stream on Netflix in the U.S.

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