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Sun’s Out (Spirit) Guns Out in Netflix’s Live-Action ‘Yu Yu Hakusho’ Cast Reveal

In the countryside, I wander far and wide...

Netflix Live-Action Yu Yu Hakusho

Back in 2020, it was announced that the beloved shonen anime series Yu Yu Hakusho would be getting the live-action Netflix adaptation treatment. This was, understandably, met with mixed responses since “Netflix” and “live-action anime adaptation” transports everyone back to 2017, in a bad way, for … reasons. What made Yu Yu Hakusho a bit more favorable (not by much, folks were still concerned) was the fact that it was, quote, “assembling a team of the best talent from Japan and abroad.”

Live-action anime attempts here in the U.S. haven’t been all that great. Even the productions that looked pretty solid ended up falling flat and, unfortunately, were not given a chance to take the feedback, dust themselves off, and try again. However, live-action anime in Japan? Well … that’s been hit-or-miss, too, to be honest, but I will say that there have been releases that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. It’s that notion that makes me a bit more hopeful about Yu Yu Hakusho, especially when they revealed who’s playing the main protagonist, Yusuke Urameshi.

The part I’m actually excited about

For the past couple of days, Netflix has been revealing who will play the main four characters of Yu Yu Hakusho in their adaptation. The story of the original anime focuses on a delinquent named Yusuke Urameshi, who has one of the fastest deaths in anime history when he risks his life to save a kid from being hit by a car. This is such a surprising act that the Spirit World itself isn’t prepared for it, and through a series of tests, he’s able to get a second chance at life. That chance comes with an unexpected job title of “Spirit Detective” where Yusuke (and the ragtag team he unintentionally puts together along the way) investigates supernatural activity in our world.

Yusuke is one of my favorite shonen anime protagonists and is a fantastic example of the “delinquent with a heart of gold” archetype that I discussed with Tokyo Revengers. That’s why this particular casting announcement has me excited. Takumi Kitamura, the actor who will be playing Yusuke, played Takemichi Hanagaki in the live-action adaptation of Tokyo Revengers (which is, to this day, one of the best live-action anime adaptations I’ve ever seen).

Live Action Tokyo Revengers
(Warner Bros. Japan)

It’s obvious that the goal was to make a good movie versus trying to set up for several films that covered all of Tokyo Revengers, and, well, I think they succeeded. I think it’s the perfect way to entertain existing fans and even create new fans who might be wondering just how far Takemichi’s story goes. Tokyo Revengers is a hell of a ride that fans of the anime/manga—and anyone who just feels like watching a good beat-em-up film—will enjoy.

Kitamura did an amazing job bringing Takemichi to life—not an easy task, since it’s a time-traveling character dealing with an absolute mess of emotions while trying and retrying to save the ones he cares about. I’m excited to see him bring Takemichi’s stubborn determination to Yusuke, a character who also refuses to go down without a fight.

Who else is in the cast so far?

Joining Kitamura, we have Jun Shison as Kurama, Kanata Hongō as Hiei, and Shūhei Uesugi as Kuwabara. Fans may recognize Shison as the voice of Hibiki in Bubble (which was released back in April) or as Masa in the live-action The Way of the Househusband series. Meanwhile, Hongō’s been in several live-action anime adaptations, such as Fullmetal Alchemist (as Envy), Attack on Titan (as Armin), and NANA 2 (as Shin). Last, but not least, is Uesugi, who played Shinichirō Kazama in the recent live-action adaptation of My Boyfriend in Orange.

According to Crystalyn Hodgkins over at Anime News Network, Sho Tsukikawa (director of the live-action Let Me Eat Your Pancreas) is directing the series. Let Me Eat Your Pancreas is another adaptation that Yusuke’s actor, Takumi Kitamura, was a part of, so he and the director have history together. Along with Tsukikawa, we have scriptwriter Tatsurō Mishima, VFX supervisor Ryō Sakaguchi, Netflix content acquisition director Kazutaka Sakamoto (live-action Alice in Borderland) working as executive producer, and Akira Morii (Wild 7, Brave Heart Umizaru) working as producer over at ROBOT

Admittedly, I haven’t seen Kurama, Hiei, or Kuwabara’s actors in anything yet, so my excitement is based purely on Yusuke at the moment. Appearance-wise, there are things I miss seeing, like Kuwabara’s bright orange pompadour, and my standards for Kurama are terribly high, since he was one of my first anime crushes.

The Yu Yu Hakusho fangirl in me wants things that probably won’t happen (like Hiei being a tiny little gremlin), but I am curious to see what it looks like to have these four together. I want to see a trailer, at least, and a shot that makes the team look like they finished a photoshoot for a badass album cover. I also want to see other characters like Botan, Keiko, and Koenma. (Is he actually going to be a child throughout the series???)

If I had to describe how I feel about the whole thing, I guess the best way to phrase it is “cautiously curious.”

(featured image: Netflix/Shueisha/Yoshihiro Togashi)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)