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YuYu Hakusho, Vol. 18 Paperback – October 6, 2009
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About the Author
Yoshihiro Togashi's manga career began in 1986 at the age of 20, when he won the coveted Osamu Tezuka Award for new manga artists. He debuted in the Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in 1989 with the romantic comedy Tende Shôwaru Cupid. From 1990 to 1994 he wrote and drew the hit manga YuYu Hakusho, which was followed by the dark comedy science-fiction series Level E and the adventure series Hunter x Hunter. In 1999 he married the manga artist Naoko Takeuchi.
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During the last year of Raizen's life, Hiei is trying out for the masked Mukuro's personal guard -- he fights countless minor grunts, and finally is pitted against a powerful figure from his past. But after a talk with Yukina, Hiei remembers the terrible past that turned him into a bloodthirsty bandit -- and in his present fight, he is willing to go beyond his own limits one last time.
Meanwhile, Kurama is called in by a former partner-in-crime, the blind Yomi. Kurama wants to stay out of this impending demonic civil war, but Yomi is determined to have Kurama as his right-hand man -- and he's not afraid to hold Kurama's loved ones hostage.
But as Raizen's hunger drives him insane, he tells Yusuke the true reason that he stopped eating human beings -- and a bit more about their shared family history. And with his ancestor dead, Yusuke sets out to meet Yomi -- and present him with a very bizarre new idea about who will rule the Demon realm...
"Yu Yu Hakusho Volume 18" is evenly split between the old and the new. On one hand, you've got new characters, new sides, and a new form of government in the Demon Realm; on the other, we see some pleasantly familiar demons return, even as the pasts of Kurama and Hiei catch up to them. And Togashi sketches out the story of how Yusuke got that demon blood, although it's kind of gross (ritual cannibalism is involved).
It also starts off on a pretty bleak note -- dismemberment, torture, splatters of blood, head-squishing. Not to mention Hiei's horrendous infanthood or Kurama's icy cruelty during his bandit days. But things start perking up, ironically, with the death of Raizen, and Yusuke's bizarrely jovial, casual attitude brings a lighter tone to the proceedings -- which is only amplified by the arrival of Kurama's little band (who talk with signs around the blind Yomi) and some of Raizen's old buddies.
In fact, those two are explored the most in this volume -- Hiei struggles to find a reason to continue with his life, and Kurama tries to protect his newly expanded family even as he struggles with his inner fox. And there are some intriguing new demons -- Yomi turns out to be a Machievellian dictator who dreams of further conquest. And on the darker spectrum, Mukuro seems like a soulmate of sorts to Hiei -- rough, scarred and with a past that makes his look like a Sunday school session.
"Yu Yu Hakusho Volume 18" is a long steady wind-up to yet another tournament, exploring classic characters and introducing new ones. And it's pretty clearly almost over.
The penultimate volume of the long-running series gives us a pretty good indication of why the series folded; didn't we just get out of a big tournament storyline? Perhaps Togashi already knew of the series' demise and had to come up with a quick ending, but if not, man, what a letdown. He'd come up with a really interesting hook, and then he has Yusuke propose another tournament to decide the ruler of the demon plane? Repetition is in the air once again. It's enjoyable, as all the volumes in the series are, but it's more of the same. ***