What They Say:
The Dark Tournament has come down to a final grudge match and Yusuke’s full wrath is unleashed as a friend’s blood stains the arena floor. But there will be no time for rest or recovery as kidnapping follows victory and further intrigue threatens the boundary between worlds. A tunnel is being carved, and when completed it will lay waste to the World of the Living. There are seven who seek an age of destruction and chaos, and hero must battle fallen hero.
Contains episodes 57-84.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good as it has both the original Japanese and English in lossless form using the Dolby TrueHD codec. The original Japanese is in stereo and it usually spends its time in the 400-600 range for the bitrate and it has a very good feel to it. The English mix is in 5.1 and that gets bumped up to an average of 1.9mbps and generally comes across a bit louder and with a bit more impact, but it’s not a show that’s going to have a significant upgrade over the stereo mix. The show came out nearly twenty-years ago and was largely a center channel stereo mix so a 5.1 mix isn’t going to be all that impressive, but it’s definitely a welcome inclusion here. The show has a mix that’s definitely representative of its time and the dialogue comes across very well here overall while the sound effects and especially the music has a bit of a bump overall with a richer feeling.
Originally airing in 1992, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. This release, being from film sources, is not an upscale but a native high definition release. The twenty-eight episodes for this set are spread across three discs with ten on the first disc and nine on the second and third disc. The look of the show is very striking, especially if you were like me in picking up the thirty-odd discs that were put out for the original run on DVD when it was three or four episodes to a release. Everything here is brighter, sharper and clearer in so many surprising ways. The differences are very apparent as we’re now seeing the real and intended colors the show had in its source material, there’s no visible cross coloration or aliasing issues to it and outside of the expected noise/grain that comes from it being a film source, it’s very clean. The series is one that had a very murky and darkened look, even during the bright outdoor scenes, in past releases, but all of that is washed away here and we’re getting a look at what the show was originally intended to look like. This is the kind of transfer and release that old school fans hold out hope for with a lot of the series from the 90’s and before in that there is a significant upgrade in what can be done and FUNimation has finally been able to give this show the release it deserves.
The third season of Yu Yu Hakusho comes in a standard size single Blu-ray case where it has a hinge inside to hold all three discs. The package comes with a cardboard slipcover which mirrors exactly the actual cover artwork itself. The front cover has one of the standard pieces of artwork where it has Hiei in his usual black outfit though with his arms bared as he looks quite serious in manipulating his special skill. The background is made up of a mixture of grays and white to give it a bit of contrast. The clear listing of the season and the episode number of episodes is definitely welcome so you can check quickly what’s on it. The back cover provides a look at the run time and disc count along the top next to the season and episode count which again makes for a good prominent placement of important information. The summary text through the middle is of the small variety and it covers a good bit of ground while the right has more character artwork and some soft line work in the background. The bottom has a number of small shots from the show and the technical grid for the high definition side makes everything clear with a clean layout. There’s a little artwork on the reverse side with a close-up of Hiei while the majority of it breaks down the episode numbers and title by disc.
The menus for this release are definitely kept simple but it has a nice lead-in to things where it uses the animation of Botan from the start of the opening sequence flying in. In this rendition of it, the background is kept black while the animation itself is done in various moving shades of blue. That ends up becoming the whole screen itself with lots of green motions playing out while to the left a black block surfaces along the middle of the side that has the basic text for the menu navigation. This also doubles as the pop-up menu which is a surprise, though welcome, as it’s a decent size and its location is not where menu designers typically have pop-up menus come up. The three discs are all the same with the third disc just having an extra selection for the extras submenu, so it’s quick and simple to use and very effective.
The only extras included on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which can be found only on the third disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yu Yu Hakusho in the previous set was one that was both really fun and difficult to get through at the same time. The show introduced us to the Dark Tournament and worked through it for the whole thing, while still not finishing out even though it ran for nearly thirty episodes. It’s a great tournament overall with its creativity of characters and that it spent the time really going through things, but at the same time it just runs for so long that it can be a hard slog at times. With this set, the Dark Tournament does come to a close but it takes the first ten episodes here, the first disc worth in the set, to bring it all to a conclusion.
That disc brings us the finals, which covers a fair bit of ground in those ten episodes, and gets us to the inevitable fight between Yusuke and Toguro. But it has to deal with other fights first and it actually works through them in fairly quick order in a way that is rather fun. Hiei’s growth in the series has been mostly in regards to his powers and he makes some serious progress here with what he’s capable of, though his fight is fairly short when you get down to the past ones he’s been involved in. Still, seeing him make this kind of progress and have a fairly tense fight that has him getting to a whole other level with his ability. While he can’t take down Toguro, he’s definitely become so much more than he started out to be.
That’s basically something to be said of everyone in the group but the one that won me over the most in the past arcs and this one is Kuawabara. The guy just has such a fun personality about him and an incredible persistence that you can’t help but to root for him. He’s also got a skill that’s continually letting him experiment in grow, though he doesn’t realize it until it happens each time. With what he’s done with his reiki sword, he really takes it up a few levels here when he goes against the elder Toguro brother and has such a strong push against him that you practically yell out in support. And his own actual support group with people like his sister and Yukina only make him more interesting with how they nudge him along in very different ways.
Even though it’s just a third of this set, the Dark Tournament is a huge part of this series and the real evolution of Yusuke. He’s been intent to go against Toguro for so long now, so desiring of power to match him so he can be his equal but show a different way of doing it, that getting to that part of the arc is just very well done. Yusuke’s youth is definitely a factor in it, but Genkai adds a lot with what she’s taught him and having Koenma in his corner as well helps beyond measure. But it does come down to Yusuke himself and the fight is one of the more exciting ones of the series because of just how into it both of them get. And it really lets Yusuke cut loose in a big way unlike what he’s done before, showing the fruits of what he did with Genkai during the training and when she passed on power to him.
Unlike some shows that would have a bit of a break or even some filler before going into the next arc, Yu Yu Hakusho leaps right into the next. It’s more Earth based here though, but it has much bigger implications as it progresses through the set. With a little bit of time having passed, Yusuke and the others have settled back into their routines but not much has really got them going at the moment. That starts to change when a threat to all three worlds arises, though it takes some time to get there as there are challenges to be had first. For Yusuke, it’s to realize that the thrill of the challenge is what drives him as he’s spinning his wheels after the Dark Tournament. The worst off from the Tournament is Kuwabara who has had his spiritual power go dormant on him, leaving him feeling a bit on the outside and just trying to enjoy his life as he can.
While the threat takes some time to be realized here, there are some neat changes as we learn that the world is changing because of events unfolding in the city they’re in where normal people are now starting to gain some powers called Territories. They offer up a different kind of challenge for the group since it’s a mixture of physical and intellectual problems to deal with and even Yusuke gets taken out of the picture a bit so others take center stage. And even better in my mind is that Kuwabara becomes a key player in it even though he hasn’t a clue why since he’s so non-powered at this point. What I really liked here though is the introduction of a previous Spirit Detective, something that’s been completely ignored in the overall series mythos, and that has Sensui coming across as a really interesting character with potential and a distinct look as well that really draws you in to see what he’s up to.
There’s a lot to like with this set when you get down to the two main storylines presented here. With the Dark Tournament, we get a solid conclusion and some ramifications from it and some real growth. With the follow up story, it shows us the characters in a different light and avoids the tournament aspect, though there are still challenges to be had. It ups the ante from a story involving the competitive nature, with some danger in what the prizes are, to a threat to the very fabric of existence itself and an expansion of how the various realms are and just how powered some of these demons are. The characters are what makes it work though as Yusuke continues to work well, but as much of a focus as he is, it’s still an ensemble cast. This set lets everyone shine in different ways and has some neat ties between the cast and the two arcs that unfold here. Good stuff and definitely a lot of fun to watch in this form.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closings
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: September 27th, 2011
Running Time: 620 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.