The other big new show of 1992. Or at least the one I am able to see the first episode of (sorry Crayon Shin-chan).
Based on the manga by Sailor Moon creator Naoko Takeuchi’s future husband, Yoshihiro Togashi, this anime would run until January 1995 and 112 episodes. A pretty good stint for the 90s, there’s a bigger Shonen Jump manga that gets its anime in 1993 that didn’t run that long.
This first episode introduces us to delinquent with a heart of gold, Yusuke Urameshi, just after he’s been hit by a car and killed. We learn in a flashback some of his troubles, including mean teachers, a drunk mother, unwillingness to attend classes and other kids wanting to fight him. Then we see exactly how he ended up getting hit by a car – he was saving a little kid from getting run over.
A girl riding a flying paddle shows up, introduces herself as Botan, and says she’s here to take him to the other side. There’s one problem though, they weren’t expecting him, so they need him to go through some sort of trial before bringing him back to life. Yusuke is happy though remaing a wandering spirit on Earth, until he sees how his death is effecting his friends and family, and so decides to let Botan take him to do this trial.
And that’s your lot for this episode.
The positive is it does a really good job of establishing Yusuke’s personality and the world around him, the negative is it feels a little insubstantial as a first episode. We don’t really get to the actual hook of the series. Possibly it didn’t matter at the time as Shonen Jump was still selling like hot cakes, and they take their time and assume familiarity with the source material.
The animation varies from good – the opening shot of Botan – to rough around the edges – there’s some weird proportions in some shots, but nothing too outrageous in either direction. Having seen other shows directed by Noriyuki Abe (Ninku, Flame of Rekka, GTO, Bleach), it feels recognisably his show, but at the same time I can’t say why. There’s something there, but’s not big and flashy enough to be obvious.
An enjoyable enough first episode, but I have One Piece to scratch this particular itch, and I wasn’t able to give Hunter X Hunter my full attention, so I can’t see myself going back to this.