Yu Yu Hakusho Vol. #03: A New Apprentice (of 32) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, July 22, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, July 16, 2002

What They Say
Yusuke's three-day weekend is cut short when Botan delivers his next big case. Genkai, an aging psychic, will hold a contest to find a worthy apprentice to her powerful technique: the Spirit Wave. But Koenma has learned an evil demon, Rando, plans to steal the technique and use it for mass destruction!

Yusuke must now go undercover and infiltrate Genkai's compound - and he's got more than a murderous demon to worry about. His chief rival, Kuwabara, has shown up as well.

The Review!
After all the fun and wackiness of the earlier episodes, things get a little more routine here and enter the mini tournament stage. This is where I think you can get a feel for how the series is going to evolve.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The track for this features a decent if pretty normal stereo mix. There’s little in the way of directionality and nothing going to the rear speakers at all. Most of the dialogue is center channel based but the music and most of the sound effects make use of the full left/right channels.

The transfer here looks pretty good with the masters here being in quite good condition. There’s hardly anything in the form of nicks or scratches or other print damage. Cross coloration is pretty minimal overall and everything looks good for colors and saturation. The animation itself doesn’t come off as striking since it’s mostly done in natural colors and nothing really vibrant. The openings and endings are done with alternate angles so you can see the translated versions or the original versions depending on the language you select.

There’s a gray border around the artwork on the front of Yusuke and his three targets for these episodes that becomes the basis of the back cover as well. The front cover has a number of the cast from these episodes done up from what looks to be animation captures, so the blending is a bit awkward and off. The back cover provides a couple paragraphs worth of show summary and a couple of small animation shots. The episode numbers and titles are listed as well as the discs features and extras. The insert provides the artwork from the front without the border and larger, a very nice touch. The reverse side provides an episode summary for each one on the disc, going into more detail than the back cover.

The menus are nice and simple and feature some good bits of animation with the backgrounds moving around to give it a polished and professional feel. These are quite nicely done. Access times are nice and fast and moving around is pretty logical, though the language selection area still strikes me as not being all that clear.

There’s a good selection of extras here if you’re up to delving into it. We get the same character profiles section again as we did in earlier volumes as well as the textless versions of the opening and ending. Yama’s Notebook is where all the stuff is this time around, with information on the name translations, more behind the kanji segments and a look at the tournament matches. There’s also a look at the fighting techniques and a translation of one of the incantations from the fights. A really nice extra is the script for a scene that never got animated.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first two volumes, which introduced some likeable characters, an amusing setup and an all around fun time, this volume decides to take a lot of it and put it out of sight for a bit. Yusuke’s looking to take a break from things since there’s time away from school and he’s just plum tired from everything that happened. Unfortunately, Botan shows up to give him his next mission from Koenma.

Apparently one of the most gifted spiritual practitioners, Master Genkai, is realizing that her time is almost done on this plane. After years of refusing to teach anyone her myriad number of secrets, she’s decided that it’s time to do so. Fearing that her secrets could end up in the hands of Rondo, a rather powerful demon whose killed ninety nine other practitioners, Koenma is concerned that he’ll strike here and gained unparalleled abilities. So he’s intent on having Yusuke guard her while Genkai chooses.

Yusuke grudgingly accepts, only after Botan entices him with tickets to a sporting event he really wants to see. When he arrives at Genkai’s place, he’s surprised to see what looks like hundreds of people who want in. He’s even surprised to see Kuwabara there, though he’s mostly come to just get some information about what’s been going on with him lately, such as the body possessions and his heightened spiritual sensitivity.

Of course, Rondo is hidden amongst these candidates. Genkai’s sworn to teach whoever wins, regardless of their ideology or profession. But she’s devised many tests to weed out those who cannot learn, starting with a simple lottery that’s done to tell who has the basic level of power required to achieve victory. So things get paired down right from the start, but of course you know Yusuke and Kuwabara are going into it. From there, it moves forward through various tests of combat and strength as well as skill and the ability to use their spiritual energy. At this phase, it’s not unlike most other tournament shows, so your mileage is really going to vary.

I’m still enjoying it, though I think the things that make it work are missing right now, such as Reiko, the banter with Botan, Yusuke’s mother and the general setting. But these episodes are important as they help move forward the training phase of things and get the characters powered up to deal with the bigger looming threats. The fight sequences are at least well done and there’s enough wondering about whose going to make it, though I’m amused I picked out who Rondo was right from the start.

These episodes won’t change the world, and they might push away some fans of the earlier episodes. I’m still giving it a chance though, since there’s enough to pique my curiosity.

Japanese Language,English LAnguage,English Subtitles,Yama's Notebook,Textless Opening/Ending,Character Profiles

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 82
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Yu Yu Hakusho