Netflix Japan has officially revealed details regarding the cast and director of their upcoming live-action Yu Yu Hakusho adaptation, including the actors set to bring the dynamic four to life on the small screen – and surprisingly, none of them appear to be gender, race, or sexuality swapped.
Revealing one of the main four every day starting on July 16th, along with comments from each respective actor regarding their respective castings, Netflix Japan kicked off their announcements with the man, the myth, the legend himself, Yusuke Urameshi.
As per the streaming giant’s Japanese arm, the series’ lead Spriti Detective will be portrayed by Takumi Kitamura.
Kimura’s filmography includes several leading roles in various anime and live-action adaptations, including Naomi Katagaki in Hello World, Haruki Shiga in the live-action adaptation of Let Me Eat Your Pancreas, and Takemichi Hanagaki in the live-action Tokyo Revengers film.
“At first, I thought it was a huge joke because of the nature of the series, and all I could do was laugh,” said Kitamura (translated via DeepL). “But I was really excited to be able to challenge myself again with Director Tsukikawa, this time on Netflix.”
“I believe that this work is so historical that it is no exaggeration to say that it is the origin of Japan’s proud manga and anime culture,” he added. “It is universal and unique.”
Speaking to his approach towards portraying Yusuke, Kitamura noted, “I think I have the impression that he has a darker atmosphere than the original work. I play the role of Yusuke with a sense of the yankee’s quick wittedness and the kindness of not turning away from what is in front of him.”
“It’s very congenial,” he said of the series’ filming. “I think it is a challenge for all the cast and crew, so we always keep that in mind, but we enjoy making the production.”
“I am happy to be able to deliver the historical masterpiece ‘YuYu Hakusho’ as a live-action series, as I thought that Japan needs to send out more and more messages to the world,” the actor concluded. “I wish for the further spread of Japanese entertainment and to create a work that people around the world can enjoy.”
The next day, Netflix Japan confirmed that Jun Shison, whose impressive list of credits include stints as Right Suzaki/ToQ 1gou in Ressha Sentai ToQger and Masa in the live action adaptation of The Way of the Househusband, had been cast as the demon fox Kurama.
Reflecting on his casting, Shison asserted, “I had watched and loved ‘YuYu Hakusho’ when I was a student, so I never thought I would be offered the chance to play the role.”
“Of course I was happy, but at the same time I felt pressure to play the character of Kurama in this work that has many fans around the world,” he admitted. “However, the director is Tsukikawa, who shot my first video work, the leading work. I wanted to show how I had matured over the past 10 years, and I wanted to be a part of the seriesthat Director Tsukikawa was helming, so I decided to do it.”
The actor also offered his thoughts on the appeal of Yu Yu Hakusho, opining, “In every time period, in every environment, people are fighting for their own things. For money, for status, for friends, each of them has their own reason for fighting, and the direction of that reason must be different.”
“However, in this work, everyone is fighting for something or someone else, even though they have different feelings, respect each other, and sometimes clash with each other,” he continued. “Times change, but I feel there is something in this work that resonates with people no matter what era they live in.”
Likewise discussing his experience filming the series, Shison stated, “I have experienced so many things that I don’t think I have ever been in a shooting environment like this before.”
“We spent about 2 to 3 years working together on the visuals alone, going through trial and error to find the finest details,” the actor detailed. “The sheer size of the set, the scale of what we put into each scene and each cut. It was all new to me, and it was an experience that reminded me of my beginnings. This shoot, where we are all exploring creatively with the theme ‘From Japan to the World,’ has been very fulfilling, and I don’t want it to end.”
Addressing fans of the series around the world, Shison’s message to Yu Yu Hakusho fans around the world (translated via DeepL) “This work has been serialized for more than 30 years. I am sure that many of you have many feelings for this work, and there are many different interpretations.”
“We are all working together to create this work with everything that we can express in this day and age in Japan,” he reassured. “I would be very happy if you could look forward to it.”
Next up was the group’s third recruit, the short, three-eyed demon Hiei, who Netflix Kapan announced on July 18th would be played by Kanata Hongo.
Hongo has starred in several anime/manga live-action films across his career, including The Prince of Tennis as Ryoma Echizen, Fullmetal Alchemist as Envy, Armin in Attack on Titan, and Kingdom as Seikyou.
“I was very happy when I heard about this series because I have known it for a long time,” exclaimed Hongo. “I was very much looking forward to the filming because I knew it would definitely be a big production, featuring flashy battle scenes with a variety of characters.”
“Of course the variety of characters and original special moves are interesting, but the way the main characters grow and confront difficult enemies is a model of Shonen Jump’s basic philosophy of “friendship, effort, and victory,” he commented of the original series. “I think the heat that keeps readers constantly excited is the charm that has made it so beloved.”
Regarding his time filming, the actor asserted, “I have tried to create a fighting style that makes use of speed, a cool but actually companionable personality, and a sense of Hiei’s character so that even those who like Hiei will be satisfied with my work.”
“‘The scale is just so big…!’ That was my honest impression,” he added. “I can’t go into details, but there are a lot of flashy things going on. There are many battle scenes of a scale that I have never seen before in Japanese produtions. The action team’s spirit is tremendous, so it will be a very powerful battle scene.”
Speaking to fans, Hongo acknolwedged, “YuYu Hakusho is one of Japan’s most popular manga works,” before promising that the series’ production team “believes that we will be able to create a powerful visual work using modern state-of-the-art technology, while keeping the image of the popular original work in mind.”
“I am sure that the work will exceed expectations,” he concluded. “So please wait with anticipation.”
Finally, on July 19th, Shuhei Uesugi was announced to round out the team as Kazuma Kuwabara.
Compared to the other three, Uesugi has the least acting experience, with his filmography primarily consisting of roles in live-action adaptations of drama, slice-of-life, and romance manga such as Hajime in One Week Friends, Kannonzaki in River’s Edge and Shin’ichiro Kazama in My Boyfriend in Orange.
On joining Team Urameshi, an excited Uesugi declared, “I never thought that I would be able to play a role in a work that I read in elementary school, and I was very happy to be able to play the role of Kazuma Kuwabara, the coolest character I have ever felt as an adult, who is honest, rugged, full of love, and straight ahead in what he believes in.”
“At the same time, I felt a lot of pressure and worry about how I would face the live-action adaptation of this work, which has many fans around the world, and what role I would play in making it a work that would be loved by everyone,” he admitted. “I was also very excited to be working on a project for Netflix, a format with a global market.”
Proceeding to gush about the original series, Uesegi highlighted how “each character has a distinct personality, and once you see them, you can’t forget them.”
“It was more than 20 years ago that I picked up this work at a friend’s house and read it, but even as a child I felt the indescribable fear and eeriness of Toguro’s brother and the overwhelming sense of strength and charisma of Toguro’s brother,” he reminisced. “Even now, as an adult, I remember those days with an indescribable sense of wonder. In addition to the fascination of the enemies, all the allies and characters have their own unforgettable scenes and stories that stick in your mind.”
“I faced the role of Kuwabara while valuing his kind and straightforward feelings of wanting to become strong in order to protect someone important,” the actor said of his approach to portraying Kuwabara. “At the same time, I realized that trying to do so is a very difficult, lonely and lonely thing.”
He added, “Kuwabara is not the type of person who is good at hiding his emotions, so I played the character while discussing with the director and cast members how Kazuma Kuwabara would feel and act in each scene and each cut.”
Regarding his time on-set, Uesegi stated that he “was elated every day as I headed to the shooting site, as the scale and schedule of the filming was the most spectacular I had ever experienced.”
“The set was of a size I had never seen before, the scale of the CG shooting method I had never experienced before, and the location shooting that took place all over the country with a top-notch team,” he noted. “It was the best shooting site where not only the cast but also the whole team communicated with each other and everyone involved was seriously committed to making a great series.”
“I am so happy to think that the live-action adaptation of ‘Yu Yu Hakusho’, loved by people all over the world, will be available on Netflix for people all over the world to watch,” said Uesegi as he drew his thoughts to a close. “I can confidently tell you that this is a work that can be enjoyed regardless of national borders. We are confident that the series will be enjoyed regardless of national borders. Please look forward to it.”
The series’ director was also revealed to be Sho Tsukikawa, who helmed the critically-acclaimed live-action adaptation of the Let me Eat Your Pancreas anime.
Unlike the director for Netflix’s live action Cowboy Bebop, Tsukikawa not only is an actual fan of the series but, is passionate about bringing it to live-action.
“When I first heard about Yu Yu Hakusho receiving a live-action adaptation, I honestly wondered if it would even be possible–but after being presented with the producer’s vision and possibilities with Netflix, my expectations grew and I found myself burning with passion to make this project come to life,” said Tsukikawa in reaction to being chosen to direct the series.
“I think the charm of ‘YuYu Hakusho’ is above all the charm of its characters,” he opined. “I am still moved by the characters I fell in love with as a child. When I read it again as an adult, I discover new charms.”
The director further asserted that “the themes that the stories encompass also never get old.”
“For example,” said Tsukikawa, “even though the story is set in a fantastical setting of a yokai and a human, there is a universal question lurking in the story: ‘Can people of different races understand each other?’ The more you read, the deeper you get into the story, which may be the reason why ‘YuYu Hakusho’ has been loved for so many years.”
Discussing the challenges in adapting the series to live-action, Tsukikawa noted, “our goal was to create a visual work that could be enjoyed simply as entertainment, while keeping such universal themes at its foundation.”
“Although the initial stage of script writing focused on extracting themes that are relevant today, we decided that the appeal of ‘Yu Yu Hakusho’ lies in the relationships between the characters and the battles, and we included plenty of action scenes,” he explained. “The VFX are quite challenging, but we are working to achieve the highest quality that can be achieved today.”
Tsukikawa also spoke to Kitamura’s casting as Yusuke, recalling, “I asked one of my most trusted actors, Takumi Kitamura, to play the role of the main character, Yusuke. This is the fourth film we have worked together, and I feel that his expression has become even more refined.”
“From the subtle expressions of emotion to the various actions, he embodies the character of Urameshi Yusuke with his whole body and soul,” he argued.
“From the very beginning of this project, we have been working on this work with a strong awareness of the need to reach a global audience,” the director told fans. “Just like when I first heard about the live-action film, there may be many people who feel that it is impossible to realize, but I believe that no matter how many words I can use, I have no choice but to prove it by the film itself. I will pour my heart and soul into this project until the very end, so that we can deliver the highest quality entertainment from Japan to the world.”
Will shonen fans finally get an a respectful, quality adaptation of a beloved series, or will Netflix destroy our childhoods with another woke production?
At this point, only time will tell.