Yugo the Negotiator Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: TV 14
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 14.98/19.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Yugo the Negotiator

Yugo the Negotiator Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     August 08, 2005
Release Date: July 26, 2005

Yugo the Negotiator Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© ADV Films

What They Say
A hostage has been taken in Pakistan; the chances of his survival are slim to none. With keen intellect, quick wits and indomitable willpower, Yugo Beppu has earned a reputation as the world’s leading private negotiator. When the negotiations in Pakistan break down, Yugo is called to the scene by the hostage’s beautiful daughter to deal with a fierce anti-government faction. Walking a dangerous line between the powerful military and ruthless guerrillas, it will take more than words for Yugo to survive in the blazing desert.

The Review!
More real world and detail oriented than the bulk of anime series ever get, Yugo the negotiator is a rarity that's focused on telling an interesting story across two arcs.

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. Other than a few areas of noticeable mosquito noise where some of the solid colors such as the grays and browns have a hard time staying solid, this is a solid looking transfer. The earthy nature of the locations and the soft skies and other areas that are kept that way look good throughout here and the general style and tone of the piece keeps it from looking too vibrant. It's not a real stand out piece because of the style they chose to animate it in but it's a good looking piece throughout that does a great job of maintaining a look and feel. Colors look good, aliasing is virtually non-existent and cross coloration wasn't visible during regular playback.

Using the same artwork as the Japanese release but adding in some more background pieces to it of action scenes from Pakistan, the cover looks good in that you get the prominent character shots but also enough smaller things going on to draw your eye to that as well and keeping you looking at the cover. It is fairly bland in its color design though but there's little to do with that and the look overall is really good with a couple of in-theme choices such as the font and the marking of it as the Pakistan adventure. 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 even a text interview with the writer of the original story.

With the release of the first volume of the series, you can get the disc by itself or go for the disc + box release. The box is of the good chipboard variety and is one of the easier to layout releases since the series is divided in two. One main panel has the cover art from the first volume of the series and the other panel has cover art from the Russia part of the series. Both look good and have a mix of characters and settings that push their locales. The top of the box and the spine go for the simple approach and just have the series name over an obscured map of the parts of the world.

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.

There are a lot of extras included here to help expand your enjoyment of the show. The standards show up in the form of the clean opening and closing sequences as well as some character designs. For the newly created extras, there's a video piece that's done by the cultural person attached to this series and the ADR director that go over how detailed and accurate the show is and how they had to craft that for the English language adaptation. From the Japanese releases, we get a "What is Yugo" segment that serves as a preview/promotional piece explaining the shows premise. The bulk of the rest of the extras are various interview pieces, either with the creators, the directors or the voice actor for Yugo. There is a lot of material to go through here for this show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yugo the Negotiator is a series that ADV Films really seems to be interested in promoting but it's been kind of haphazard. This thirteen episode series is built in two arcs, or two specific negotiations. The first arc which runs the first six episodes takes place in Pakistan and the first volume lists for $14.95 without the box. Yet some retailers are selling it for anywhere up to $29.98 because the price drop information didn't get out there. But ADV's support of it is kind of weird in that the second volume is back up to the full price of $29.98 which makes the retailers not quite believe the consumer. Go figure. Regardless of price, Yugo the Negotiator is worth the admission if you're into dialogue driven adventures.

Get rid of the idea of things like Samuel L. Jackson from the movie The Negotiator. We're introduced to Yugo, a quiet but serious looking Japanese negotiator whose had some bad luck in the past and it's really formed his attitude in how he deals with the jobs he picks and the clients he's willing to go to any length for. A recent kidnapping in Pakistan of a Japanese citizen who was there on company business has been in the news and it's gotten worse after the negotiator there ended up being killed because he was little more than a military stooge, something that the kidnappers insisted not happen. The hostage is still alive and his daughter has decided to seek the help of someone who has a reputation of never failing to rescue a hostage.

Yugo's acceptance of this mission has him going through a few of the routine things of getting ready for it, such as having the daughter be part of the team in listening for his calls from Pakistan to provide up to date news on what's happening. The travel agency downstairs serves as a way for him to get cheap tickets around the world and a friend of his works out the communications angle. It's all quite tidy and quick and before you know it, Yugo's in Pakistan and working his way through a few people he'd been told to get in touch with to try and find out more in order to get to the guerillas so he can begin the negotiation. With this being an actual group interested in more than just causing trouble, he knows that the hostage will be safe since they want the money so he's not rushed but he does find out that the negotiation window is closing on him after dealing with one of his contacts.

Slowly but surely, Yugo makes his way out into Pakistan, surprisingly accompanied by a woman he saved who had her tongue cut out. Their travels lead them deep into some very nasty territory with the military now hunting them down since they don't want anyone to interfere with the negotiations. With bandits all around, the bad guys out there waiting for them to arrive and the military certainly not being any friend, it's a dangerous place and Yugo's the type that won't use weapons to defend himself with either. Watching him try to survive by his wits alone is what makes a lot of this engaging but it's also the attention to detail that really captures the feeling for this.

The opening three episodes are fairly slow in getting things rolling but I think there's a certain way that you have to take this series. With it broken down into two arcs, you're basically getting two two-hour movies split into episode length chunks. If you view this volume as the first half of the story, it does everything right in terms of introductions, set up and tension in order to build the mood and get your attention. Combined with just how well they researched this show and are presenting the situation on the ground there it's all quite engaging if you like this kind of material. It's devoid of most of the usual tricks and gags you find in series and is played entirely straight. I almost think it's unfortunate that they couldn't just do it as two actual theatrical pieces since the flow would have worked much better.

Yugo is also a series where it has the potential to be far better in English than in Japanese. While most anime series don't really matter with the voices, something like this can be key in changing perceptions of it. With the detail to reality in the portrayal of Pakistan, the dubbing had to be equally as important and they got some good actors to handle it. It is unfortunate that the standard voice of someone from Pakistan is considered a running joke by many but it works here because it is accurate. Having the mild mannered and low talking Japanese lead mired in a world of numerous Pakistani accents, the show takes on a new life because of the dub. Scott McClennan took on a seriously difficult challenge here that really walks the fine line of being accurate or being too racial but I think they pulled it off nicely. It would have been infinitely worse with your average actor trying to do the voices and accents and falling out of it frequently like they do when trying to do the Queen's English sometimes.

In Summary:
Yugo isn't a show for everyone but it is a very interesting piece of work and one of those that fairs better on the international stage when done in English since it allows for more varied dialect performances that only serve to enhance the great detail given to the location and situation in Pakistan. The hostage story doesn't have a lot of tension at first since it's still working its way towards the negotiating table but it does have an energy of its own as Yugo discovers his way across the land and its people towards his final goal. Yugo is the series that will attract a very interested group of fans who will talk about it in great detail but it's not the kind of show that will get widespread appeal. Unfortunately.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,“What is Yugo the Negotiator?,” Interview with the original story’s author Shinji Makari and Character Designer Shu Akana, Interview with Directors Kishi & Hanai, Interview with Japanese voice actor Takashi Hagino (Yugo),“The Japanese Depiction of Pakistan: Comments on Yugo” by Cultural Advisor Nawaz Charania & ADR Director Scott McClennen,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.


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