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Justin Cook Talks Returning to Yusuke for 30th Anniversary, the Best Scenes, and More

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Yu Yu Hakusho is currently in the midst of celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the original anime taking on Yoshihiro Togashi’s legendary manga, and it’s still seen as one of the best anime ever released to this day. It’s one of the franchises that continues to have an impact on anime fans of a certain generation, and has likely been in the conversation for many fans’ favorite anime releases of all time. This was true for both the original Japanese language release, and for the English dubbed release as well. Serving as a pillar of anime on Cartoon Network, it’s still got an impact. 

One of the main anchors of the anime’s success was its central star, Justin Cook, who provided the voice for its main character, Yusuke Urameshi. Celebrating the release of the special 30th Anniversary box-set for Yu Yu Hakusho, and Cook returning to the role of Yusuke for the newly recorded OVAs included with the collection, got the chance to speak with Cook a little bit to talk coming back to the franchise, the best scenes in the anime, and more! 

Read on below for our chat with Yusuke Urameshi star Justin Cook (which has been edited for clarity), and let us know how you feel about this major milestone for Yu Yu Hakusho! Where does it rank among your favorite anime of all time? Let us know all of your thoughts about it in the comments! You can even reach out to me directly about all things animated and other cool stuff @Valdezology on Twitter!

Yu Yu Hakusho’s Impact

(Photo: Pierrot)

NICK VALDEZ, COMICBOOK.COM: From your perspective, did you expect Yu Yu Hakusho to have such an impact all these years later?

JUSTIN COOK: I’ve learned in my time, I try to minimize expectations like that to a pretty large degree, but I can certainly say that the show has had a profound effect on me and it constantly and continues to inspire me, so it makes sense if it does it for other folks.

You’ve had a great career! You’ve done many things that aren’t Yusuke since then, so did you bring any of Yusuke into any of your future characters?

Ooh, I don’t know. I think when we get the opportunity and the honor to be able to take on one of these characters, there ends up being a little bit of a mixing that happens. A little bit of Yusuke kind of stays with me and hopefully if it worked right, a little bit of me stays with Yusuke. I suppose those parts can find their way into other characters, but I really do try to make each character unique and its own flesh and blood persona.


Returning to Yusuke for the 30th Anniversary

You recently got the chance to return to Yusuke for the [30th Anniversary OVA dub] which is awesome! Was there any kind of adjustment needed in order to get back to Yusuke in particular?

No, no. He’s kind of always got a spot up here. He lives, I have to call him to the front basically, but I’ll tell you what was absolutely incredible was just getting the whole band back together. That was absolutely just a stellar experience, so getting to work with Cynthia [Kranz], and Kent [Williams], and John [Burgmeier], and Chuck [Huber], and Chris [Sabat], and bringing all the crew back together. Even getting Sean Teague to come back as Koenma, it was a real pleasure to visit that territory again.

Along those lines, we’re starting to get all sorts of revivals and reboots. Yu Yu Hakusho is usually one of the tops of the list for fans with ones that should come back. If it ever does come back for a full anime, would you be down to do it again?

If I was invited to come back, I would absolutely love it. It would be a continued honor.


Breaking Down THAT Yusuke Scene From the Dark Tournament

(Photo: Pierrot)

Digging into the series itself, one of my favorite moments to this day is Yusuke’s passing the test. He’s got Genkai’s power, and you do this yell that’s like guttural, but it’s also not just a regular anime yell. It’s got multiple layers and octaves and emotions. I’ve always wanted to know how do you even prepare for something like that, and how do you go about making sure that it lands in the way it’s supposed to?

Justin Cook: Well, going and making sure that it lands the way it’s supposed to is that’s just time and effort. It’s doing it until you get it. If I recall, and that’s in the mid-forties in the Dark Tournament, and if I recall that scene correctly, it wasn’t just trying to tag up where the flaps were and grab that emotion that was in there, but there would be moments when he would take a step and you’d see that blood or what whatnot fire out from his knees or something to that effect. It was also making sure that we were trying to tag up all of those different things you’re seeing on screen to where that scream or that yell kind of happens.

Look, for what it’s worth, when I was in the sixth and seventh grade, I was in my first rock and roll band and I was the lead singer. I never had a microphone or a PA system to use, so it was just always screaming over the drummer and the guitar players. I’m going to guess that maybe I just ran the old vocal cords here through the ringer back when I was a kid and who knew? I guess I was preparing myself for. I was bringing my own spirit wave orb into my body at that time to kind of prep for this.


Justin Cook’s Favorite Moments

Now that’s one of my favorite scenes. Do you have a particular favorite moment that you look back on all so many years later?

It’s hard to pick a moment or a scene and say that I like that better than others. There are so many magical moments. You know what it does, as soon as I start to pick a favorite scene, it cascades into the hundreds of great scenes that are in that series. All the moments between Keiko and Yusuke are brilliant. You were talking about the Dark Tournament a little bit, but when she shows up after that spirit wave orb bit and he falls asleep in her lap. There’s just so many great little moments.

The two different times that Kuwabara gets tossed back to the original ring during the Dark Tournament are hilarious. Shizuru’s character, Sensui from the third season, getting to meet the three Demon Kings. Each one of these moments and new characters really do hold a spot in my heart because I lived with that for so long. It’s hard for me to tear out a page of the book and say, this is the thing that encapsulates that show.


Bringing Balance to Yusuke

(Photo: Pierrot)

As someone who brought Yusuke to life, do you have a perspective on making sure that even though Yusuke was initially portrayed as a delinquent, that he’s still a lovable hero?

My approach was to really let the animation guide me and the storyline itself. There’s no way to say that I added something that wasn’t already there. I believe everything really was there. Him being a delinquent, that is part of his demeanor as it were, but his character’s not a delinquent for the sake of being a delinquent. He’s troubled, as it were, but he’s got a heart of gold. What it is that his friends mean to him is quite frankly, that’s a trait I really do try to bring into my life.

That’s that part I was talking about earlier where use a little bit of Yusuke stays with me and hopefully a little bit of Justin stays with him. Yeah, all of those things came right out of the animation, came right out of the script. It really does fall on any performer who’s taking on any of these roles to be able to identify what are those moments of humanity. They’re there. It’s on-screen. It’s just our responsibility to make sure that we’re being able to identify it and then bring it out.


Jumping In Now

As a final question for me, do you have any advice for the many that are jumping into Yu Yu Hakusho for the first time to celebrate the 30th Anniversary? Like maybe what to keep an eye out for?

I think it’s a great time to become a fan of Yu Yu Hakusho, that’s for sure. I think anytime that you’re being able to get additional pieces of the story, maybe a little bit more to it, kind of helps flesh it out a little bit more, give more background. It’s an exciting time to get into the show and I think give it a shot. I think you’re going to really find that you might like it.


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