The first season of one of the more popular shonen titles sets up an interesting premise and shows the sort of action and storytelling that will be displayed in later seasons.
What They Say
From cutting classes to brawling in the streets, Yusuke Urameshi is not your typical role model. In fact, this kid's nothing more than a fourteen-year-old delinquent with a talent for trouble. But in a single selfless act Yusuke dies while saving another. For such noble sacrifice he is given a second chance at life, but it's to be a life far different than the one left behind. Now a Spirit Detective, the young man must track down demons and humans alike who desire to rule over the three realms of reality.
Contains episodes 1-28.
For this viewing, I listened to the English dub, which is offered in 2.0 stereo. The Japanese track is also available in 2.0. For the most part, the mix is pretty basic, with little directionality. The different audio tracks sound distinct, but much of it sounded muffled. In particular, dialogue seemed to be muted more so than the music or effects.
The video for Yu Yu Hakusho is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the transfer is pretty flawless, with no real technical problems to speak of. On the other, this is definitely a title that shows its age. The coloring is dull at times, and the lining is indistinct. In particular, when the show shifts into the dark, stormy atmosphere that signifies the presence of a demon, objects tend to become a bit hazy. It is definitely a transfer that could have used some touching up.
The packaging for this set is pretty nice. The four discs come in two double-sided thinpaks. Each thinpak has an image of a number of the characters on the front with an episode listing on the back. The box itself has Yusuke on the front posing as if he is getting ready to fire his spirit gun, while the back has the season summary along with technical details. All of this is set to an earth-tone motif of greens and tans. For an anime set, it is a fairly subdued color scheme, and provides a nice change of pace. As an aside, it should be noted that the episode listing shows that each disc has seven episodes, when really the set is in an 8-6-8-6 format. In other words, episode 8 is on the first disc and episode 22 is on the third, rather than the second and fourth like the cases depict.
The menus are basic, but functional. To the right of the screen is the same image of Yusuke from the front of the box. This is set to a montage of images of various characters as through a green filter. The selections are to the left of the picture in white, with the highlight in bright green. This does actually show up well over the dimmer green of the background. The bottom of the screen has a black bar, with the disc number and title listed. Submenus follow a similar pattern. There is not a whole lot of pizzazz to the menus, but they match the color scheme of the outer packaging, so they fit well.
There is not a whole lot of extra content, at least in terms of diversity of content. There are no extras on the first and third discs, but the second and fourth have clean openings and character bios. The character bios are pretty inclusive, though, as it seems that just about every character, no matter how minor, got a write up. Overall, though, they are not that interesting once you get past the main characters, but it is a bit impressive that they went to such detail.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Prior to checking out this season of Yu Yu Hakusho, I had read what I thought was a fairly significant amount of the manga. Then season one took me almost to the point I had read to and disabused me of that notion. Despite my frustration with typical shonen titles, the Yu Yu Hakusho manga was one that I enjoyed to an extent, but ultimately one I felt failed to reach its potential. Considering that so far the anime has pretty much followed the manga exactly, it has given me the same attitude.
Yusuke Urameshi is a no good middle schooler. A bit of a loner, he is the toughest kid in school and has a long history of beating people up to back that idea up. He skips school regularly, does not do his homework, and does not even attempt to maintain any sort of friendship with anybody. Of course, the apple does not fall far from the tree as his mother refuses to hold down a job and loves to spend her time drinking and partying. That is why is comes as a shock to pretty much everybody who knows him that he is hit by a car and killed attempting to save a little boy who had run out into the street chasing a ball.
The problem with this is that Yusuke was not destined to die at that moment. In fact, had he not rushed out into the road, the car would have swerved and missed the child. As such, Koenma, the son of the spirit world King, is willing to give Yusuke another chance. Though Yusuke is reluctant to go back at first, feeling it would be a waste of time, seeing an outpouring of affection for him at his wake from his teachers and classmates, not to mention his would-be girlfriend Keiko and his mother, Yusuke changes his mind. With Botan, the oddly cute Grim Reaper, as his spirit guide, Yusuke is sent back to Earth as a ghost to prepare for a return to his body and to life.
Of course, Koenma forgot to read Yusuke the fine print. Once Yusuke is returned to his body, he is contracted to become the Spirit Detective—an operative of the spirit world who tracks and hunts down demons who break spirit world law. Though he is reluctant at first, wishing only to resume his lazy lifestyle, the powers he has been granted intrigue him, and he begins to find himself drawn into bigger and bigger conflicts in the spirit realm. Besides, since he enjoys fighting more than anything else, then he might as well do it for a living, right?
As I mentioned before, I really like the initial premise for Yu Yu Hakusho. The idea of somebody working hard with the spirit world to be revived is one that has a lot of potential, and the time spent here with exploring that is fascinating. In this particular setup, Yusuke has to fight with his baser instincts, as he has to do positive things to return. Koenma gives Yusuke a golden egg which he has to keep safe until its time of hatching. The egg feeds on Yusuke’s vibes: so if he is overly negative, the beast will consume him, but a positive hatching will open the possibility of his return. Due to this, Yusuke finds it within himself to actually start being a decent person, even if it is to further his own ends.
Unfortunately, this concept only takes up the few episodes, though the manga explores it more than the anime. Yet, even the concept of the Spirit Detective is a neat one, and the first episode upon his return has him unknowingly tracking and defeating a rogue demon. It is this case that convinces him to commit to his new job. The next job, hunting down three demons who have stolen three rare artifacts right from under Koenma’s nose, takes a bit more effort, but by the end he is starting to settle into a groove.
But once he gets the first couple of cases out of the way, Yu Yu Hakusho settles into being a somewhat typical tournament fighter, and it is at this point that my attention started to wane. And this happens early in the second disc. Barely ten episodes in. As a tournament fighter, it tended to keep my interest better than most others, as the actions and interactions between bouts piqued said interest like the initial premise, but that really is not saying much as I am typically not a fan.
Essentially, I was fighting with myself through watching this. I really wanted to like it. The basis is neat, the characters and relationships are well thought out—in particular I enjoyed the exchanges between the “screw the world” Yusuke and the ditsy, but still sarcastic in a “don’t forget I am your boss” kinda way, Botan—but I just had trouble getting past the tournament fight nature of it. As a tournament fighter, it is decent even if it does nothing much to stand out from the rest. While the premise carries it a lot, we get less of that as the tournaments begin to take more importance.
Yu Yu Hakusho has a fascinating initial setup, and I really enjoyed the first few episodes. However, I wish that it had continued with Yusuke’s journey back to life at least a little longer, because once it settles into the never-ending series of battles that these types fall into, I lost interest. Still, the basis for the story is interesting enough that it makes me want to continue watching to find out what happens, so I suppose it wins there. I would definitely recommend it for fans of tournament fighters, but others I would tell to approach with caution. Mildly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Character Bios
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System