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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, March 10, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What They Say
In a harsh and frozen land, the prayer of a child will guide a dying nation to rebirth. Surviving snowstorms, betrayals and mind-numbing torture, Yugo has managed to infiltrate a KGB military base. Manipulating the organization from the inside out, he constructs a plan to negotiate with Major General Garrachova.

Feared by enemies and allies alike, Garrachova would sooner see Yugo dead than meet his demands. Subjected to an interrogation that makes the rest of his trip seem like a vacation, Yugo must unlock the mystery of the Romanovski rings or be sentenced to death. His only hope lies in the hands of Nadenka, the rightful heir to the Romanovski fortune.

The Review!
The Russian arc comes to a conclusion with this volume as does the series but not without a huge helping of torture.

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.

Not quite as striking as the previous volume, this installment provides a good shot of Yugo in the foreground wit the rings while he's surrounded from behind with the three main women who've made this arc interesting so far. It's an interesting layout with the darkened sky while the spotlights flash over the characters just enough to let the rings glitter. 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 previous discs 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 return with a new interview session and there's the second part of the English language look at how the Japanese approached displaying Russia and the time that this takes place in. There's also a music video that covers the Russian arc that's interesting to see since it's not a show that you'd imagine would generate much in that area. Overall, the extras for this series have been fantastic in how they expand and enhance the show itself, the kind of extras that you really want.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yugo the Negotiator has been a violent series for the most part but it's done it in very controlled ways throughout the two arcs. A lot of the violence in a way is self inflicted, such as the last volume with Yugo making that trek across the sub-zero temp plains, but he also tends to find himself in a lot of places where the only way to deal with the real people who can make changes require some sort of test in order to meet them. This was made plainly obvious in the Pakistan arc and it's something that Yugo is certainly prepared for.

Yugo's wormed his way into the base as we saw and he's made his moves with Olga in order to secure his position as he real goal is to reach General Garrachova as she's the one he really has to deal with. He's still angling to get there in as best a shape as possible which has led him to dealing with Viktor once again but in an attempt to have the upper hand with it. Both are very keen men and the traps that Yugo's laid down are instantly recognizable to Viktor that he realizes quickly the kind of trap he's falling into and desperately searching for a way out of it, almost coming up with one or two ideas along the way. It all goes horribly wrong though and Viktor finds himself in the same kind of bad situation as Yugo is as Garrachova has little love for anyone who may be holding out on information. Even if they don't have it and must be made an example of.

With both Viktor and Yugo now under Garrachova's immediate control, this powerful and determined woman who has reached quite a high position in the military now has what she needs in front of her in order to secure the Romanovski legacy and to do what needs to be done for Russia. Her methods really aren't surprising when put into context of the time and the things that motivate her, never mind the things she must have had to have done over the years in order to reach that position. Those around her appear completely loyal and don't blink at anything that they're asked to do. Viktor's sufferings are some of the worst I've seen for a torture scene and Yugo doesn't make out too much better in a lot of ways. The key is watching the verbal play between the interrogator and negotiator as the events play out though, as this is what Yugo has been working towards all this time.

Similar to previous episodes for both arcs, so much of what goes on here is about the way that Yugo is able to endure what's thrown at him but also how he uses language and simple determination to get to his goals. There have certainly been action scenes along the way but this is one of those shows that tries to go the more sophisticated route by making the dialogue key to things, to moving the storyline forward more than an action sequence or a big rescue or military action. Force of will and Yugo's determination to see the job he's been hired for come to completion is what pushes this all along and it's really engaging to see. This is the kind of material that typically does far better in manga and novels rather than the anime world but it's wonderful to see such a show be made. There should be more of them but we tend to be limited to one or two like it every year. And it's unfortunate that as good as this show is, it's licensing and release won't be enough to justify the release of the original manga which is even more detailed and intense.

In Summary:
Yugo reminded me a lot of the kinds of shows we used to get as OVAs back in the late 80's and early 90's but spread out across more episodes. Real world tales about men who had a set of circumstances to deal with in creative ways and generally through their own skill and personality, not so much from weapons, powers or a bevy of a female attendants. Its basis in reality, something that is covered in detail in the extras here, the attention to detail and the presence of such strong characters makes Yugo a very engaging series. Both arcs are different and similar but both are very enjoyable and bring something different to the table than the bulk of other shows out there. This is a series that really needs to be checked out to see how much more anime is than the numerous harem or kids shows that dominate these days.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Interview with Director Hanai, Interview with Kenichi Imaizumi (Character Designs) and Kenichi Kanemaki (Series Planning), Interview with Scott McClennen and Eddie Shannon Jr. on the Japanese depiction of Russia, Russia Music Video,Character Relationship Chart,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