Yu Yu Hakusho Vol. #02: Artifacts of Darkness (of 32) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, April 26, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2002

What They Say
Yusuke's Back
Yusuke has reclaimed his life, but has only one day to be revived by someone's kiss - and that someone might be Kuwabara! Back in the flesh, Yusuke finds he can see supernatural creatures hiding in the living world, and quickly hunts down a demon criminal. With this move, he learns his adventure is only beginning. Yusuke is a Spirit Detective.

Three Monsters
Yusuke receives his first real case as Spirit Detective. Three demon thieves have muscled their way into King Yama's sacred vault, stealing the three Artifacts of Darkness. Yusuke must recover the artifacts and bring the thieves to justice before they unleash dark and deadly powers on the people of Earth.

Gouki and Kurama
The oafish demon Gouki is using the stolen Orb of Baast to capture children's souls. If Yusuke doesn't track down and defeat this monster quickly, those souls will become the monster's next meal. But Gouki isn't the only one Yusuke has to worry about when the second thief suddenly appears. His name is Kurama, and to great surprise, he asks Yusuke for a favor...

The Three Eyes of Hiei
With two artifacts under his belt, Yusuke heads for his most dangerous challenge yet - the ruthless demon Hiei. But unbeknownst to Yusuke, Hiei is chasing him, and kidnaps his girlfriend Kayko! Unless Yusuke can retrieve the antidote inside Hiei's Shadow Sword, Kayko will become a brainless, monster slave! Can Yusuke close the case?!

The Review!
The second installment of Yu Yu Hakusho does a solid job of moving the plot forward from the first four episodes to a new arc and in expanding the cast.

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 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 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 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.

There are a few really nice 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 in-jokes to the series and things like “Behind the Kanji”.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After fairly well enjoying the first four episodes of the series and breaking our preconceptions of it, I figured the next four would sway us back to what we experienced in the movie. After all, it can’t last forever can it?

Thankfully we were proven wrong and while these four episodes do move more towards a fighting aspect, it’s continued to be done with some style. Things open up with Yusuke getting things done to come back to life in his own body. Koenma manages to toy with Yusuke in his own way by laying out the rules about coming back to life. It’s not going to be easy. Koenma begins by starting a process within Yusuke’s body that will align the bodies energy with his spiritual forms energy. The two will align over the next twenty four hours and the human world body will glow when ready. At that point, the energy of another via a kiss is required to make it all happen.

So whose it going to be, Keiko the attractive schoolgirl or Kuwabara, one of his nemesis. After all, his mother is ruled out right away when she goes off for a few days of drinking…

Yusuke’s return to the world of the living has come with a price though, one he wasn’t really aware of but something that Koenma is going to take advantage of. He’s been given the job of Spiritual Detective and is to help out the Spirit World in times of crisis there and on Earth. The downside is that he’s not told of this for awhile and ends up discovering it on his own.

When he encounters one particular group of thugs that’s out to blackmail Kuwabara over his kitty, he notices the leader seems to have a vague form of horns on his head. He makes little note of it and just gets to the business of kicking their asses until he deals with the leader himself. After knocking him out cold, a small demon crawls out from the unconscious body and begins to complain about things. Yusuke can’t believe this and grabs the little guy whose now dumbstruck that he can both be seen and understood by this human.

And naturally, this is where Botan arrives to explain what’s going on with him and his new abilities. Yusuke’s something of a natural at all of this but isn’t taking it too seriously yet. Koenma gets him to take it seriously though when three thieves steal some very powerful artifacts and return to Earth to use them to their own advantage. This sets up the majority of the disc as he tracks each of them down and tries to recover the objects and to get comfortable with his own powers.

The only drawback to these early episodes is that you know whose not all bad, because they’re shown as teammates in the opening credits and so forth. This is always a problem with long series that take time to build the team up but don’t bother to do multiple openings until they actually arrive. It really does take some of the mystery out of it.

These episodes were pretty good, though just a notch under the first four since they moved in a pretty predictable manner towards their various conclusions. They certainly aren’t bad episode and watching Yusuke master his Spirit abilities is interesting, but the foreknowledge hinders things a bit here.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Textless Songs,Yama's Notebook

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