Netflix’s Yu Yu Hakusho Should Learn From This Live-Action Anime Adaptation

In the grand history of adapting beloved manga and anime into live-action movies and series, Netflix has mostly been seen as a force for evil. Its many high-profile failures have embittered the fanbase over the concept, bringing beleaguered sighs from most die-hard fans whenever their favorite series starts getting its shiny new posters.

There has always been and always will be a new poster for the live-action anime adaptation craze. Ten years ago it was the most despised Dragon Ball Evolutionhalf a decade later, it was Death threatand last year it was cowboy bebop. With some of anime’s brightest and most beloved names dragged through the mud, some might be surprised to learn that there are quite a few good ones.

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Announced more than a year ago, the first images from Netflix Yu Yu Hakusho are finally hitting the internet and the reactions are mixed. With the wounds of cowboy bebopThe recent adaptation and almost immediate cancellation for most anime fans, it’s hard to trust another 90s mainstay. While far from the medium’s worst entry, this series was one of the most publicized failures in modern memory. There are a lot of “what not to do” to remember from the adaptation of Shinichiro Watanabe’s opus, but the next Yu Yu Hakusho adaptation could get a better education from a better project.


Rurouni Kenshin: The Final dropped last year, and it may be the best live-action take on a classic anime Netflix has ever funded. It is the fourth film in the series based on Nobuhiro Watsuki’s iconic 1994 manga series of the same name. The manga series stood out among stories of the time for its strong themes, distinctly grounded style, and elegantly beautiful character designs. Many see it as an inspiration for many modern shonen series that mix comedy, action and drama. Film adaptations began in 2012 with a series of useful but not groundbreaking samurai action dramas that still rank comfortably in the top echelon of live-action anime adaptations. The films were all written and directed by Keishi Otomo, who is also well known for his live action shooting. Museum and Mars is coming like a lion. Viewers with even the most basic understanding of the show’s premise can jump into the fourth movie without needing to watch the other three.


Himura Kenshin, a skilled former assassin who now keeps a solemn vow never to take another life, lives quietly in hiding when his world is turned upside down by a new threat. Shanghai mob boss Yukishiro Enishi arrives in Tokyo to make Kenshin suffer for a murder he committed in his former career. To that end, Enishi gathers a band of colorful warriors who each have their own grudge against Kenshin to wage war on Tokyo. As more and more lives are put at risk and the city threatens to burn, Kenshin must do battle with his old enemies while remaining true to his peaceful ways. It’s a fairly straightforward story that works without knowledge of the source material and comes across as a creative samurai movie.


However Rurouni Kenshin: The Final is far from a perfect film, it does a lot of things well that will be crucial for Yu Yu Hakusho. It nails down the most important aspects of adapting the popular source material. Otomo isn’t afraid to tweak the manga’s storyline details to better suit the format. Some die-hard fans may bristle at the new direction of an adaptation, some character fans like may be left out, and the pacing may be different, but not everything can work across all mediums. Knowing what to change and what to keep is one of the most important aspects of adaptation work. Although some plot details do not make the transition, the keys that do Rurouni Kenshin beloved ones still exist in The final.


The two aspects of Rurouni Kenshin this The final the highlights are its action and its thematization. The fast-paced, high-flying samurai action is perfectly preserved from the manga page, to the anime art, to the live special effects. Enishi might be one of the best anime characters to ever make a live action movie. Portrayed by Mackenyu, who is set to portray Zoro in the upcoming Netflix movie A play, he’s a stellar villain with a subtle physique and performance. Watching him in action feels as close as it gets to a real human who’s left the manga page. Meanwhile, Otomo understands the manga’s key themes and translates them effortlessly into the film’s narrative. Any anime adaptation must convey both of these elements to diehard fans and complete newcomers alike.

Yu Yu Hakusho might have a tough road ahead, but if its filmmakers learn the right lessons from their predecessors, they might do some good. Fans are probably already counting Netflix’s entries into the medium, but there might still be a chance for some decent live action from the ’90s shonen classic.

MORE: Why Yu Yu Hakusho Still Has The Best Anime Tournament Arc

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