Togashi, Yoshihiro

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Yoshihiro Togashi

Born April 26, 1966 (Yamagata Prefecture, Japan)
Japanese author, illustrator

Thanks to the success of his manga series YuYu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter, Yoshihiro Togashi is one of the most popular manga-ka (manga creators) in Japan. Both series have been released in the United States by Viz Media, one of the biggest publishers of Japanese manga for the English-speaking market. Both of Togashi's stories are shonen manga, a form of manga that is especially popular among teenage boys because of its high levels of action and adventure, humor, and the rowdy behavior of the major characters. As with many popular manga series, YuYu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter have been made into anime series (animated cartoons), card games, DVDs, and video games.

Wins manga prize

Yoshihiro Togashi was born on April 26 (some sources say 27), 1966, in the Yamagata Prefecture of Japan, which is located in the northwestern portion of the main island of Japan. He has an older sister and a younger brother who also became a cartoonist. Little is known about the details of Togashi's early years and family life; this is probably due to the respect that the Japanese pay to the private lives of famous people. Togashi broke into the highly competitive world of manga publishing when he was just twenty years old. In 1986, he won an award sponsored by Weekly Shonen Jump, the most popular shonen manga magazine in Japan. The Tezuka Award, named after the famous Japanese manga creator Osamu Tezuka (1928–1989), allowed Togashi to publish a short work called "Tonda Birthday Present" in the magazine. In Japan, most manga are first published in the hugely popular magazines; then, if they are extended into a series and embraced by fans, they are collected into tankoubon, or graphic novels.

"I lived only to elude the letter of the law, and to come up with ways to goof off without getting caught by the teachers."

Togashi began publishing his first series, Tende Showaru Cupid (An Ill-Tempered Cupid in Heaven), in 1989. Originally appearing in Weekly Shonen Jump, it was later collected into three tankoubon volumes in Japan, though never published in the United States. Also in 1989, Togashi published the series Okami Nante Kowakunai! (I'm Not Afraid of Wolves), which was collected into a single volume in Japanese only. These series allowed Togashi to expand his skills as both a storyteller and an artist, and he would soon use his talents to create one of the most popular manga series ever: YuYu Hakusho.

Publishes fan favorite

Yu Yu Hakusho began appearing in Weekly Shonen Jump in 1990 and soon became one of the most popular series in the magazine. (The title is literally translated as "The Playful Ghost White Paper," but is taken to mean "Ghost Files" or "Poltergeist Report.") YuYu Hakusho tells the story of Yusuke Urameshi, a fourteen-year-old student at Sarayashiki Junior High School. In the early part of the series, Yusuke is revealed as a terrible student, more interested in fighting and combating authority figures than in attending classes. The only one who sees his good side is his longtime friend Keiko Yukimura, who later develops into his girlfriend. In an uncharacteristically selfless action, Yusuke saves the life of a young child by jumping into traffic, but he himself is killed. Now a ghost, Yusuke journeys to the underworld, where he finds out that they are not ready for him. The leaders of the underworld send him back to the world of the living, where he is looked after by Botan, a pretty young spirit from the underworld. Yusuke returns to school, but he is now charged with being an underworld detective, assigned with bringing back demons who have escaped from hell.

Best-Known Works

Graphic Novels (in English translation)

YuYu Hakusho. 8 vols. (2003–).

Hunter x Hunter. 5 vols. (2005–).

During the course of the series, which ran in the weekly magazine from 1990 to 1994, Yusuke had a variety of adventures: first, he fights and defeats three demons who have stolen three powerful artifacts from the underworld; next he participates in a contest to become a disciple (student) of a powerful warrior named Genkai. With each battle, Yusuke grows more skilled and powerful, but so do his opponents. Eventually Yusuke gains so much power that the king of the underworld questions whether he should be allowed to remain among the living. As the series ends, Yusuke helps contribute to ridding the world of demons and is united with Keiko in a mysterious ending that sees them both washed out to sea.

Though YuYu Hakusho is full of action—with nearly every chapter containing some kind of fight scene—the engaging plots and insightful characterization keep readers coming back for more. All of the characters grow and change in interesting ways through the series. Yusuke, for example, begins the series as a rowdy, disruptive character who claims in YuYu Hakusho Volume 3: In the Flesh, "My only mission in life is to get my kicks while I can." But he grows more responsible as he becomes an agent of good and gains power. An interesting subplot in the series involves the rivalry between Yusuke and Kuwabara, a student who wants to challenge Yusuke's stature as the toughest kid in school. At first, the two are bitter enemies, but they slowly learn to appreciate each other and become friends. These developing characters and their relationships make YuYu Hakusho more than just an action story.

Another interesting element of the series is the way that Togashi inserts himself into the story from time to time. In Volume 6: The Four Beasts, for example, he teaches readers how to play a game he calls "Dice Roshamboxing," which he invented while he was in school. Togashi explains to readers that he wasn't a rebel like Yusuke: "I lived only to elude the letter of the law, and to come up with ways to goof off without getting caught by the teachers." In Volume 7: Hiei and Kurama: A Tale of Friendship, Togashi adds a number of pages of sketches that explain strange dreams that he has had, or pranks that he pulled when he was young. These additions to the series help readers relate to the author, imagining that he was once a young boy attending school.

YuYu Hakusho was published as nineteen tankoubon volumes in Japan and sold 40 million copies, a huge number even in a country crazed for its manga. Beginning in 2003, Viz Media gained the rights to publish YuYu Hakusho in English translation. As of late 2005, Viz published eight volumes of the series, and English-speaking fans could follow the continuing series in Shonen Jump, the English-language equivalent of the Japanese magazine. YuYu Hakusho was also made into an anime series; in Japan, there were 112 episodes of the television series and two feature-length movies. American fans could see the series on the Cartoon Network, though it has not been aired consistently and—because of its violence and occasional harsh language—is considered too mature for young audiences.

Innovates with Hunter x Hunter

In 1998, Togashi proved that he was not a one-hit wonder when he began publishing the action-adventure tale Hunter x Hunter, which features twelve-year-old Gon Freaks and his desire to follow family tradition and become a Hunter, an elite class of fighter licensed to hunt for treasures and magical beasts—and to fight other warriors. Gon must undergo a challenging licensing exam that involves extreme feats of strength and fighting skill, and then he is teamed with other Hunters in a series of physical and mental challenges. Gon is joined in his adventures by several friends, Kurapika, Killua, and Leorio, and episodes in the ongoing series focus on the motivations and actions of the various characters.

High-Profile Manga Marriage

Manga artists, like many Japanese celebrities, are known to be quite vague about their private lives, rarely releasing information about their families or their personal hopes and aspirations. This penchant for privacy made the very public announcement of the marriage of manga superstars Yoshihiro Togashi and Naoko Takeuchi (1967–) all the more notable. Togashi, creator of YuYu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter, and Takeuchi, creator of the hugely popular Sailor Moon series, announced their romance at a popular comics convention in Tokyo by issuing a self-published comic book that they created together. Their fame and wealth were well known to manga fans, and collectors quickly snatched up the limited-edition book. Just before their January 6, 1999, wedding, the couple appeared at another comics convention and sold limited-edition postcards and calendars commemorating their upcoming wedding.

Like YuYu Hakusho, Hunter x Hunter is first and foremost an action series, and there are frequent violent fight scenes. Sometimes the violence is quite graphic, with hearts ripped from chests and heads lopped off with swords. Yet Togashi also focuses on character development and, notably, on the complex code of conduct that rules the behavior of the Hunters. The Hunters are frequently involved in contests or games, and they must work together as a team to attain victory. Togashi sometimes steps away from the action to explore just how groups make decisions; in Hunter x Hunter Volume 3: Resolution, for example, he uses several pages to explore how a majority rule vote can destroy a group's unity, writing "If group conflict keeps arising, with one side always on the outs … the group's cohesion, never very strong to begin with, will eventually collapse!!" Such material adds a seriousness that is in contrast to the violent action.

Hunter x Hunter has been published in Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan since 1998, and also in the English version, Shonen Jump. However, ill health forced Togashi to take a break in publication in 2005. As of that year, sixteen volumes of Hunter x Hunter had been published in Japan, with sales numbering twenty million copies. English translations were released beginning in 2005, with the sixth volume expected to be published in 2006. In the United States, Hunter x Hunter is released as part of Viz Media's Shonen Jump Advanced series, a category not appropriate for younger teen readers. Hunter x Hunter has also been released in a Japanese anime version, numbering sixty-two episodes, and in various card games, video games, and DVD movies. While production of new Hunter x Hunter episodes were delayed because of Togashi's illness, expectations remained that he would begin publication again in 2006.

For More Information

Books

Togashi, Yoshihiro. YuYu Hakusho. Vol. 3: In the Flesh. San Francisco: Viz, 2004.

Togashi, Yoshihiro. YuYu Hakusho. Vol. 6: The Four Beasts. San Francisco: Viz, 2005.

Togashi, Yoshihiro. Hunter x Hunter. Vol. 3: Resolution. San Francisco: Viz, 2005.

Periodicals

Publishers Weekly (April 11, 2005): p. 36.

Web Sites

The Official YuYu Hakusho Web Site. http://www.yuyuhakusho.com/index.cfm (accessed on May 3, 2006).

Viz Media.http://www.viz.com (accessed on May 3, 2006).

"Yoshihiro Togashi." Anime News Network.http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/people.php?id=1608 (accessed on May 3, 2006).

"YuYu Hakusho." Shonen Jump.http://www.shonenjump.com/mangatitles/yyh/manga_yyh-artist.php (accessed on May 3, 2006).

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