Yū Yū Hakusho has a lot of things going for it, but one of the best things about it is its characters. Their personalities and the way they bounce off of one another are enjoyable and endearing. Many of the characters can be unapologetic wise guys, but that just adds to their humanity as well as their charm. At the center of all these likable characters is the series’ ma Yūsuke Urameshi.
There are a lot of things to like about Yūsuke. He’s a great fighter, has an unmitigated swagger, and is one of the best trash-talkers in anime. This alone is enough to make him the ideal delinquent character. However, Yūsuke’s character is much deeper than this. His personality and character arc add not just to his delinquent image but also to his relatability.
What Is Yūsuke Like at the Start of Yū Yū Hakusho?
At the start of Yū Yū Hakusho, Yūsuke came off as the textbook definition of a delinquent. He was raised by a single, irresponsible teenage mother; this gave him several issues growing up, especially a disregard for older authority figures. He barely attended school and when he did, he got in trouble with students and teachers alike. His childhood friend Keiko was thru e only one who showed him any kindness, but he repaid her by peeking under her dress. When he was tired of school and how the people there treated him, he would leave and get into fights with other delinquents on the streets, especially Kuwabara. This is all to say nothing of the fact that he would smoke, gamble, and drink in the manga. The only things missing from his delinquent image were a punch perm and sarashi bandages.
For a time, it looked like Yūsuke didn’t have anything going for him. The rumors about his biker gang may have been false, but between how he was treated and how he treated most others, he didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. Even he felt like the world would be better off without him. It was only after he gave his life to save a kid from an oncoming car that things started to change. At his wake, he saw how much he meant to those around him and decided he wanted a second chance.
When Yūsuke was given his second chance, he was made into a Spirit Detective. This job got him into a lot of fights with supernatural enemies, so it was perfect for him. However, if he really wanted to do well in this line of work, he needed to be more than the punk kid the Spirit world picked off the street.
How Does Yūsuke Develop As Yū Yū Hakusho Progresses?
Yūsuke being a delinquent made him a unique brand of protagonist. Most shonen protagonists are pure, optimistic souls who always seem to know the right thing to do; they set the example for a good moral compass. Yūsuke had been led astray his whole life, so he never had the opportunity to develop the same good morals as those other protagonists. Thus, a big part of being a Spirit Detective was becoming a better person as well as a better fighter.
Throughout, Yūsuke learns a lot of life’s most valuable lessons. He learned how to be responsible, how to step up as a leader, how to push himself without giving up, and so much more. He even learned to put his faith in others, something he explicitly struggled with at the start of the series. In this sense, Yū Yū Hakusho is a coming-of-age story.
At the same time, Yūsuke managed to hold on to many of the traits that made him a delinquent. He still ignored authority figures at his own discretion, got snarky with everyone around him, avoided showing his emotional side, and, of course, got into more fights than he needed to. These traits not only kept Yūsuke true to himself but also made him seem more real and, in some ways, relatable.
In another series, a character like Yūsuke could easily become insufferable, but Yū Yū Hakusho makes him work. His delinquency sets him up as a unique protagonist while also setting up his character arc. His deeper kindness and sensibilities kept him closer to endearing than unlikable. With this style of writing, his character becomes one of the greater charms of Yū Yū Hakusho as a series. It’s been keeping anime fans entertained for the last 30 years and will hopefully contunue to do so for many more.