Honestly, this series has always kind of fascinated me. My personal history is that I’ve never seen the whole series, but I’ve seen bits and pieces of it growing up: first a few episodes on Adult Swim when I ran into them (this and Cowboy Bebop left an impression on my 8 year old brain) and then seeing most of the Shadow Tournament Arc when it aired on Toonami. Needless to say, not having seen most of it and comparing it to other anime I watched at the time, I recognized it as a more mature offering than other series I was watching (Dragonball Z was a soap opera for me that I don’t think I have the strength to revisit, Yu-Gi-Oh was more about my obsession with the card game, Digimon was clearly for kids, 4Kids didn’t butcher it, ect.) and it continued to be this series which captivated me while never fully experiencing it. That is why I’m now giving this show the proper viewing it deserves.
The first thing to note, from the start, is what sets this series apart from other Shounen action titles: our protagonist is an asshole. It’s not even ambiguous with that case: the show constantly reminds us that he mostly does things out of self-interest or because he doesn’t feel like he’s worth saving. The egg he needs to hatch to live is said to actually have hatched into a monster to kill Yusuke if he didn’t throw it into the fire. But that is why the series seems so endearing: Son Goku he isn’t. Yusuke is a thug who hates everyone.
Which makes these first episodes so weird to watch. The whole point of the series is that he’s given a second chance because of an out-of-character action (it’s called as much in the show). He needs to do good, yet is constantly complaining about the limitations with which he can attempt to do so while a ghost. It shows that the mangaka of the original manga would go on to make HunterXHunter (which, similarly, takes a craptastic world, stars a wide-eyed “Son Goku” clone and includes his friends: a cynical doctor, a child assassin whose family is breeding him to be a perfect killing machine, and a vengeful loner, has a killer clown who should NOT be in a kids series at all, and gets continuously darker as it continues).
This was probably the biggest Shounen action series of the 90s (Dragonball Z was 80s in Japan) and it age does show, especially in Funimation’s aged dub (it’s dated, but the dialogue choices do work in the dub’s favor). Still, it is fascinating and I can’t wait to see how much further this rabbit hole will take me.