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

By:Dani Moure
Review Date: Thursday, May 03, 2007
Release Date: Monday, February 19, 2007



What They Say
In a land of pride, betrayal and broken dreams, only the strong survive.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, a 200 billion-dollar legacy was left buried in its ruins. The key to uncovering it lies in the hands of Nadenka, a young girl who possesses a mysterious Khristos ring. When Yugo is hired to bring her to Japan, he finds himself trapped in the midst of a deadly web of greed and treachery.

Traveling to the frigid land of Siberia, Yugo is left out in the cold in more ways than one, as he discovers that his contractor has a sinister ulterior motive for hiring him. With the KGB hounding him at every step, things quickly turn from bad to worse as Yugo is subjected to an interrogation so cruel that even he may be forced to give in.

His only hope lies at the end of a frozen path that even Russians fear to tread, leading straight into the heart of the enemy.


The Review!
The second negotiation begins, and this time Yugo is on his way to Russia.

Audio:
I listened to the English language dub for reviewing purposes, and enjoyed it a fair deal. The 5.1 mix comes across well, decently, and I noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback. The dub for this volume is a fair bit better, as although the Russian accents most often sound very put on, they don't sound quite as silly and forced as some of the accents in the first two volumes.

I also spot-checked the disc in Japanese, and again noticed no issues with the 5.1 track in general. It isn't really a great deal different to the stereo mix either.

Video:
With four episodes on this disc plus extras, you'd expect the video quality to be good, and indeed it is. Colours come across extremely well and no noticeable artifacting occurred during regular playback. The series in general looks pretty good.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font (ADV's usual), and I didn't notice any major grammatical or spelling errors.

Packaging:
The front cover features Yugo to the right, with Olga to the left in the background. The layout is the same as earlier volumes, with the logo at the bottom and volume number and title scattered neatly around. The back cover contains the usual summaries and screenshots, with ADV UK's excellent technical information boxes at the bottom. The reverse cover also has information inside, including some cultural notes, a glossary and examples of military insignia.

Menu:
The menus are simple but functional. They take the idea of a desk in the office and run with it, with the main menu being at the desk, and one of the sub-menus is on an open dossier. The selections in the centre are thankfully comprehensive. You have the ability to select an episode, the usual languages and special features, as well as scene selection. A theme song plays over this menu. Submenus are simple and static, but all have music from the show playing over them. The menus are nice and functional with quick access times.

Extras:
The extras continue to be great for this release, with a nice featurette on the Japanese Depiction of Russia on this volume, which helps give an understanding of certain cultural aspects of the show. There are also some really good interviews (with the Original Story Creator, and the Original Character Designer), that reveal more insight into the production of the show. Finally there's a nifty little relationship chart describing how everyone is linked in the show, as well as the usual clean opening and ending.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the start of a new arc, the episode count on this disc is bumped up by one to four, as Yugo's job takes him from one extreme to the other " the heat of Pakistan to the blistering blizzards of Russia. With the new arc comes a bit of a change of pace again (as strange as that seems to be, given the pace of the show anyway), as the perhaps more action-orientated Pakistan arc makes way for more of a battle of wits in the Russia story. No, I can't believe I just described anything related to Yugo as action-orientated, but while the two arcs definitely share parallels the first arc had the odd bit of war and bombing here and there, especially at the end, whereas thus far the Russian arc lacks that.

That isn't necessarily to its detriment, it just goes as an example of how the show is capable of changing even within its own bounds. And thus far, I have to say I'm finding the Russian story more intriguing than the Pakistan one. It's still a hard show to talk about though, that will never change, because often a lot of time is spent on just one small point and it's hard to explain how that can be as gripping as it often is.

With the Pakistan saga out the way, Yugo receives a new assignment from a Russian woman named Olga Elenova, who is acting as an intermediary for a man called Andrei Romanovski. His father was a prince of noble decent, and had sent his two sons away some time ago. The other son, Vladmir, went missing, but Andrei remained living in exile from Russia. The Romanovski empire was worth billions of dollars, and it turns out that Sergei (Andrei's father) had a granddaughter called Nadenka, who is 12 years old now. She is in Russia and they want Yugo to get her back, unable to do so themselves because they are in political exile. Yugo accepts Andrei's assignment, but only as the executor of his father's will.

Yugo prepares for his assignment in the best way possible, by experiencing the extreme temperatures as much as possible, and having a counterfeit made of the ring that matches Nadenka's so he can prove who he is acting on behalf of. There are, as you'd expect, a number of twists and turns awaiting Yugo once he gets to Siberia. He meets some pretty interesting characters when he first arrives, in particular an interesting local who takes him to an interesting club, leading him to the introduction of Lyuba, a Russian girl who comes expecting to have to strip for Yugo but he ends up using her brain instead. Lyuba gets a fair bit of screen time over a couple of episodes but it's still not really enough, unfortunately.

The plot continues to develop, and it gets more interesting as it goes. Like the previous story in Pakistan, it becomes more layered with each move as the various people involved reveal their sides, and it's hard to work them all out. You have Olga, who clearly has lost a little bit of support from some sides of the military because it's taken her so long to reclaim the ring her superiors wanted, but you never can be clear whose side she's on. Is she on the side of her country, or just out for riches? We do get some answers by the end of the disc, as some interesting points come in to play.

Likewise the rest of the military proves pretty interesting. We only really hear about General Garrachova in the four episodes on this volume, but she's sure to set sparks flying when she appears, and Viktor, one of the Lieutenants, proves to be brutal in one of the series' trademarks " the torturing. There's a very harsh and nasty looking torture session lined up for Yugo, which goes to show not only what the military are prepared to do, and the harsh conditions of a war-type criminal, but also Yugo's resolve and strength, as he desperately tries not to give up and withstands an awful lot of punishment for the sake of his job. He even manages to use his brains to outwit those he's up against when he's stretched so far.

While the story is more gripping over these four episodes, my main issues with the series do remain. Yes, it is a breath of fresh air to have an adult-oriented, thinking person's series. But it is also a little frustrating to see a lack of character growth in Yugo in particular, although the torture scenes do show us a lot about his character and especially his mental strength, and the story does still move quite slowly.

In Summary:
If you enjoyed the first arc, then there's absolutely no reason not to start the second. While it does change things round a fair bit in terms of story and structure, the core of the show remains and there's a lot to like about the Russian story; I actually enjoyed the opening half far more than the first half of the Pakistan story. This is definitely still not a show with mass-appeal, but it's something more grown up and different.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitle,Character Relationship Chart,Video Interviews with Japanese Staff and Cast,Japanese Depiction of Russia,Clean Opening and Closing

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Yugo the Negotiator