Yu Yu Hakusho Vol. #01: Yusuke Lost, Yusuke Found (of 32) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, April 20, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2002



What They Say
Contains:
Surprised To Be Dead
Fourteen-year-old Yusuke Urameshi is having a typical day. He's cutting class at school, having arguments with his teachers, and getting into fistfights with his rival Kuwabara. Hey - when you're the toughest kid in town, you have a reputation to maintain! But then Yusuke does something that betrays his killer rep. He dives in front of a speeding car to push a little boy out of harm's way! Yusuke makes the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of another, but is it really time for this brash young man's life to come to an end?

Koenma Appears
Pulled by the sprightly, pink-robed Botan, Yusuke enters the realm of the Spirits. There, Yusuke meets Koenma, a 700 year-old ruler with the body of a toddler, pacifier and all! But there's no room for laughs, as Koenma gives Yusuke an ordeal to restore his life. Hatching a Spirit Beast!

Kuwabara: A Promise Between Men
Kuwabara was tormented by his rival's death. The loser in all 156 of his brawls against Yusuke, he's now lost any chance he ever had of evening the score! But with Yusuke out of the way, Kuwabara is the new kid to beat, which means he's making plenty of enemies. Yusuke isn't fond of this classmate, but if he wants to win back his life, he'll need to give him a ghostly hand.

Requirements for Lovers
Spirit World forgot an important question - does anyone want Yusuke back? Koenma sends an Investigator to find out, and Yusuke's friends answer quickly when a fire threatens to char his earthly body. But will Yusuke give up the Spirit Beast, his one chance of reviving, to rescue his friends?

The Review!
Yu Yu Hakusho is the next truly big series being released by Funimation with its total of 112 episodes. We’d seen one of the “movies” previously as released by Media Blasters and were far from impressed.

Audio:
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.

Video:
Originally released in 1992, things look 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.

Packaging:
If Funimation manages to keep the borders the same for each arc or for the entire series, I’ll be impressed and pleased because th elook of the covers is nice. There’s a gray border around the artwork on the front that becomes the basis of the back cover as well. The front cover has a good cast feature piece of artwork on it with some nice if overly reddish colors. The back cover provides a couple paragraphs worth of show summary and a couple of small a nimation 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.

Menu:
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 and don’t have the slowdowns we’d seen on previous Funimation menus such as Blue Gender. 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.

Extras:
There’s a few really good extras here. The first is the textless openings and endings which also include soft subtitles, a real rarity when it comes to the textless materials. There’s a section of character profiles that’s nicely done, but we only skimmed it to avoid any potential spoilers. There’s also a few pages of helpful translators notes under the Yama’s Notebook section that help explain all the little injokes to the series and its “ghost” name.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In one sense, I’d been dreading the release of this series since it was announced. Prior to seeing the actual TV series here, I’d been exposed to the 25 minute movie/OVA that Media Blasters had the rights to, which is really just one big fight sequence for the fans to enjoy. For those who hadn’t seen the series, it was just a mindless piece of fluff that you could fall asleep during. Suffice to say, it didn’t exactly warm me for the series, as I figured it was just 112 episodes of the same thing.

Thankfully I found myself proven wrong with at least the first four episodes here. The story focuses on fourteen year old Yusuke, a rather self styled badass of middle school. He rarely attends and even when he does, he tends to just hang out and not actually go to class. We see just how bad his relationships with the teachers and principal are here as well as with his fellow students. Some even invoke his name as a fake relative to intimidate other people into giving them their wallets. The final straw to how bad his life is seeing just how little his mother cares for him, telling him to move out if he can’t deal with it.

This all comes about after the show opens with Yusuke getting hit by a car and dying however. That’s right, his death is his introduction. But in the roundabout way they portray it, we see that he’s not that bad of a person in the end, because he dove into the street to push a little kid out of the way. The amusing part is when Botan, his guide to the afterlife, arrives and informs him that there’s a problem because the kid was supposed to die – they never expected that Yusuke would actually do that. So Botan, a very cute and perky girl who rides an oar, tells him that this very rare occurrence is something that can be dealt with. Yusuke’s not allowed to go to heaven or hell due to what happened, but he can take a trial that will give him the chance to return to life.

Of course, having just seen what Yusuke’s life is all about, it’s understandable why he’s not all that eager to return and to spend his life in between as some sort of ghost. But even with this in mind, he still decides to check out the wake that evening at his house to see what happens there. And he’s pretty shocked to find so many people there and so many people being emotional for different reasons. Keiko, the class president and the girl he’s known since he was a little boy is simply distraught and in tears over all of this. A surprising appearance comes from Kuwabara, one of his fighting nemsis, who pushes his way into the wake to demand Yusuke come back to life so he can’t escape undefeated.

It isn’t surprising to find some of the teachers uncaring about their worst student and biggest troublemaker being gone, but the principal puts them in their place and ends up being fairly emotional at the shrine. This is all played against his previously uncaring mother whose now simply huddled up against the wall in quiet tears over everything.

Yusuke is stunned by all of this and ends up agreeing to take the trial to Botan, and the two head off into the Other World for him to meet the person in charge and to get the whole thing settled out.

The majority of the show has him going through the amusing trials, so we won’t cover that too much here. The show definitely beat our expectations based on the movie and we found some good amusing characters here. Kuwabara is the one who really stole the show for us, with him being spiritually sensitive and always getting a chill when Yusuke and Botan were around him. He also became the prime target for a possession at one point due to this. Botan gets some good lines in throughout and proves to be an amusing character and Keiko plays things good as the potential girlfriend who really cares about this screwed up guy.

The show features some rather good animation for the time and for such a lengthy series, but after finding out that it was handled by Studio Pierrot, I realized why. In fact, after learning that, Botan begin to look and sound a lot more like Lum than I expected and some of the ways the characters move and act in general reminded me of Urusei Yatsura. Just little character tics and movements really, but it was fun to catch bits after I figured that out.

The only downside to this series is its length really. I’ve heard mixed about how the first half is, from decent to “it gets good in the 60’s”. These four opening episodes reminded me more of some of the good fun stuff from the 80’s than things you see today, which means I’m definitely going to be here for the ride to see where it all goes to. While it’s hard to recommend strongly since it’s long and being released with an average of 4 episodes a disc, I’d suggest a rental of the first couple at least and the recommend people come back when a lot more discs are out and they can get more at once.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Textless Opening/Ending,Translators Notes

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: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Yu Yu Hakusho