Yugo the Negotiator Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What They Say
No giant robots. No high school vixens. Just a professional hostage negotiator whose job takes him to hot spots around the world. In the third installment, Yugo's work takes him to Russia, where his negotiating skills will be put to the test!

The Review!
Yugo returns with the second arc of the series that sends him to another extreme, this time the cold harsh realm of Russia.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The included stereo mix is pretty much par for the course of an adventure show which is what parts of this is when it's not doing dialogue, dialogue and more dialogue. Those sections are well done and the dialogue is placed appropriately around the forward soundstage but it's pretty straightforward material until you get the music or a bit of an action sequence to really hear the stereo channels kick in. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout though and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing 2004, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The transfer for this set of episodes is pretty comparable to the first arc of the show though what it's displaying is far different. Instead of the earthy tones we saw in Pakistan we see far more white and dark blues and blacks this time around. The materials for the most part maintain the same level of quality though some of the animation looks a little more budgeted such as some of the panning scenes in Yugo's office. The opening sequence is the worst offender though as there is a fair bit of aliasing during the various pans across the different scenes. Beyond that, most of the episodes themselves look good and capture the cold feeling of the countryside.

The cover for the start of the new arc gives a cold feel right away as you get Yugo in a KGB style outfit and suited for winter wear with a shot of classic style Russian buildings behind him as well as the cold iciness of the blonde woman who plays a big role in the series. It's a very well laid out cover with several key points to it that let you know exactly what's in store without giving away anything substantial. The back cover provides a few sections to go through with a mix of shots from the show and a couple of paragraphs of story summary between them. The discs extras and production information is all easy to find and the technical information is well listed along the bottom. The insert adds a lot of information about the show, from how the language works, a glossary of terms and handy map that shows just how far Yugo really goes here.

The menus here are designed to look like someone's about to travel so you have the passport opened up that shows the basic bio information for Yugo on one side while the other has things like maps, papers and other odds and ends underneath the navigation, which is pretty simple with direct episode access, languages and extras, all of which has a brief bit of simple instrumental music playing along to it. The layout is very easy to navigate and the in-theme look works very nicely without being too much. Access times are nice and fast and as is usual, the disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

The extras for this release are close to what we got with the original arc and that's a really good thing. The opening and closing sequences are presented in their clean format and we get a new character relationship chart that covers the cast members for the arc. The creators are back with a new interview session and just as important as the Pakistan arc, we get a new discussion piece on the Japanese depiction of Russia. These elements are one of the reasons why the show is so fascinating since it actually takes real world perspectives and applies it to the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yugo the Negotiator really won us over in full with its first arc in the two volumes prior to this that had a real hardcore negotiator go all out to do a job in Pakistan. The shows attention to detail, pacing and way it didn't look away from the Japanese view of other cultures and countries helped it stand out among many other shows that often leave such things as a bland inoffensive area. Yugo plunges headlong into things and with the shift to Russia and a whole new storyline that you can just jump right into.

Yugo finds himself being called in for a new negotiation job by an exiled Russian man who has never actually been in his considered home country. His father was sent away at a young age during the revolution as his own father was the Imperial Governor of a trading company that was owned by the government. Relatives were split up during this and now years later, with the death of the son, his own son has now hired Yugo to try and find the granddaughter that was lost on the other side and now resides somewhere in Russia. There's an interesting pair of rings that can help tie the two together, and with the help of a young secretary who worked for the now deceased man, Yugo sees a complex web of relations and distorted history at the core of things. What's really there though that compels him to take the job is a twelve year old girl named Nadenka whose sad look in the only picture of her reaches him more than anything else.

Yugo goes through some interesting preparation exercises for the trip as he learns that some of the places he's going to have to cross could get down to 40 degrees below zero with the wind and there are a lot of different kinds of people that are going to be following him while he goes through this. The girl he's after has several other groups keeping an eye on everything as there is something far more reaching going on that Yugo is led to believe at first so as the series actually gets underway in Russia, there is a significant amount of deal breaking and changes in allegiances that shift the balance of power between the various sides. The most interesting character that comes along is a young college student that Yugo hires to help him track down information. Her first meeting with Yugo is amusing as she's expecting her being hired for her brains to coincide with the need for her body to serve him as well and Yugo lets that play out a bit. But she's a sharp person with some interesting motivations and like many people that fall under the purview of the military, easily brought in to be dealt with in time with little care.

Similar to the Pakistan arc, it's really hard to describe parts of the show since so much that's built up early on is twisted, distorted and changed as it progresses and you see what was truth and what was a lie. The show has some good setup after the initial negotiation as Yugo prepares his trip and sets up things to work for him even while he's away, such as ensuring that he can find out if he's being betrayed or not. Watching how he spends his time in Russia, between contacts he's established and those he forms along the way, such as the group of soldiers on the train, continue to show just how smart and resourceful he is but it's not entirely obvious up front and only after time as it plays out. The series is really one that what you see at the time can be so many more things later on that you simply don't realize. Listening to the commentary about the Japanese depiction of Russia, you can see so much more of this that you then realize is simply obvious, giving the show a really good replay value.

In Summary:
Yugo's a very interesting series but it's not surprising that it's something that a smaller segment of people are seeing. There isn't any real fanservice, though there is plenty of sex appeal at times. It's got a lead character that's male and isn't a pushover. How many anime fans can identify with that? Yugo is essentially a straight-played James Bond type character without the cheese, much more closely aligned to the original novels than the movies. He's an interesting character that was fleshed out a bit in the first arc but is given over to mostly just dealing with the complex story here as he does his best to try and find a young girl who is in need of help. Just as detailed and interesting as the first arc but in a new setting, this volume of Yugo the Negotiator is a real winner.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Interview with Shinji Makari (who supplied the original story) and Shu Akana (original character and mecha designs),Character Relationship Chart with extensive notes on each character,“The Japanese Depiction of Russia”,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Yugo the Negotiator