Yusuke Urameshi may think that his trials to return to life are tough, but it hasn't got anything on his next task! Appointed as a Spirit Detective it is up to Yusuke to foil a trio of powerful demons who have stolen three treasures from the Underworld - the titular Artefacts of Darkness. The three items - a mirror which can grant any wish, a sword that turns whoever it cuts into a demon and an orb which can steal and store souls - have the power to enslave humanity, and must be recovered before Enma (lord of the underworld) returns and discovers they are missing. Unfortunately for Yusuke it seems that guts and his newly appointed assistant Botan alone may not be enough to win the day against the powerful demonic trio of Gouki, Kurama and Hiei.
Following the surprisingly emotional first volume, Yu Yu Hakusho settles down in to the actioner you expect it to be. The volume starts in much the same vein as the last one, with Yusuke trying to clear his final hurdle of attempting to return to life - persuading someone close to him to kiss his sleeping body in order to transfer the life energy required for his return. Although this sounds like a very contrived situation it does work surprisingly well, there is a genuine sense of tension towards the end of the episode and it manages to blend drama and comedy to great effect. After this episode however the story really flips into action mode.
The next three episodes revolve around Yusuke's first case as a Spirit Detective, and in particular his battles with Gouki and Hiei. He is presented with magical tools to help him in his task (such as an x-ray monocle which can be used to see hidden items) and we begin to see his latent spiritual powers blossom, which luckily gives him with an energy beam attack in time for his confrontation with Gouki. It is in these episodes that the similarity to Dragonball Z becomes apparent, with Yusuke battling against opponents more powerful than himself and growing stronger through his battles, whilst also gaining superpowers like his energy attack and the ability to see demons. However, Yu Yu Hakusho does still have plenty of things that still set it apart.
Firstly, there is still a good vein of humour running through it (Kuwabara having a dream about resurrecting Yusuke with a kiss is a good example...), secondly it doesn't completely lose the emotion of the first five episodes, and finally the characters and character interactions are superbly done, particularly the exchanges between Yusuke and Botan. It's not all good though, the animation - whilst not bad - is still dated, there are some cheesy moments and the voiceover introduction of each important item or rival does begin to grate after a while. Another disappointment is that the extras are the same as on the first disc, although the character profiles and name translations have been expanded to include the new characters. I was also a little put out that Kuwabara - who was one of my favourite characters from the first volume - has quite a minor role in this one, although this will no doubt change over future volumes.
To be honest though I'm really enjoying this series, it's got more emotional attachment and depth than most series of its ilk, yet still manages to come up trumps in the humour and action stakes. The characters are likeable, the story, if a little clichéd, is good, and I find myself really itching to see the next volume. If you are not a fan of the likes of Dragonball Z then it is unlikely that this will change your mind, however, if you give it a chance you will find that it has depth you wouldn't expect and shows signs of becoming every bit as addictive as its peers.
Best Bit: Kuwabara's dream in