What They Say:
The gateway between worlds lies open and past must battle present, but with Yusuke’s final death his friends rush onward. Risen once more with the blood of ages coursing through his veins, the young man sheds humanity as the war shifts realms to the land of demons. Three legendary kings seek power where only one can rule, and friends are enlisted as champions to become foes in the final struggle for control. From troubled teen to royalty, Yusuke’s final chapter unfolds.
Contains episodes 85-112.
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 starting its airing run 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 fourth 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 Kurama in his red school uniform complete with rose in hand as he has a darkly serious look about his expression. 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 Kurama 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 red. That ends up becoming the whole screen itself with lots of red 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.
Unlike the first three sets, there’s more to the extras here than just the clean opening and closing sequence, though they all fall to the last few episodes. There’s a series of four commentary tracks along the last few episodes with it focusing on the adr crew, the mixing crew, the writers and the lead cast talking about the series. We skimmed through them and enjoyed what we heard as it has the cast just enjoying talking about the work and their characters. We also get a good inclusion of some outtakes from the dub which just has to make you smile if you’re a fan of the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Yu Yu Hakusho progressed along its run, the Sensui arc is one that really felt like it wasn’t sure what it wanted to accomplish. It moved faster in getting us through it since it was more of a gateway to the ending storyline of the series, but mostly it felt drawn out at times because of the puffing of chests and the talk about how dangerous the world was about to become if the S-class yokai actually made it through. Sensui himself and the supporting cast of characters working with him just lacked the right kind of prominence to actually feel like worthy opponents. I liked Sensui’s being a former Spirit Realm Detective, but it’s something that never felt like it got the right amount of material dedicated to it.
The first disc of this set covers the remainder of the Sensui arc and it does have its good moments. The simple face off between the two men is made even more epic in what it wants to be as you have Koenma getting directly involved and revealing that he’s been pouring energy into his pacifier for centuries in order to stop a humanity-threatening event several hundred years in the future that he’s aware of. You also have his father getting directly involved in things by sending a special defense force down to Earth to seal the hole but also to place Yusuke on the hunt list because of new issues that arise. And we get more of the other members of Yusuke’s group all caught up in a special space where they can only observe events going on at this point.
When you get down to the core of it though, it’s about the face off between Yusuke and Sensui. We learn a good deal about Sensui and his past but also how his life has fractured, which makes for an additional challenge for Yusuke in dealing with him. But it’s more than just that as we see how Yusuke has really grown to desire fighting and challenging himself. The Dark Tournament brought that out in full and now he’s always wanting to prove himself. What’s driving that is one of the big revelations of the series itself though and a huge focal point for the remaining eighteen episodes. And that’s the true lineage that Yusuke has.
Discovering that he’s actually a distant relative of a very powerful S-class demon that resides in the Demon World is pretty shocking as even Koenma seems uncertain about it. And having that demon lord get involved from a distance in the fight only shows just how far Yusuke himself can go, so much so that later even Genkai admits there are but a handful of people left in the world that can deal with him. While we’ve had a lot of material dealing with demons and a bit on the demon world, this introduction starts to expand it and we also get a look at the first human Spirit Realm Detective, someone Yusuke goes to for advice on how to deal with all of this. Yusuke’s youth and desire to fight, to be challenged, is what defines him at the moment more than anything else, and getting the chance to head into the Demon World in order to meet his father, who is of some huge significance there, is far too appealing since it would lead to fights that could give him what he craves.
The demon world adventure dominates the end of the series and it’s rather appropriate in a lot of ways because Yusuke has proven himself to be a catalyst throughout the shows run. What his arrival here does is introduce the way the demon world has its three main nations at the moment that have been in a stalemate for nearly a thousand years. But all of that is about to change as his father is close to dying and that puts a lot on the table with how it can all go to war. And to make matters more complicated, the other two leaders have drawn in both Hiei and Kurama to their sides in order to support and operate on their side as the balance is about to be thrown out the window. The introductions aren’t too lengthy, but each of the three sides gets plenty of time to really be fleshed out in a good way and to show the connections that all have, which helps to deal with some of the longstanding plotlines, especially with Hiei and his origins.
While there is a good drumbeat to war with it, it also goes in a rather expected direction as Yusuke nudges everything towards a tournament. This is something that was frustrating the first time I saw it, but I have to admit again that it does work well for the show in what it’s trying to do here, though Yusuke claims he’s just rolling with things. Putting the entire demon world into a tournament style match for who can take over leadership of it all is a fun idea, and one that works really well when you consider the popularity of the Dark Tournament, and that brings in a whole lot of personalities as well. It really is surprising how well the just introduced power players of the demon world come across here as they deal with a lot of long term issues in a very short amount of space. And they manage to cap it all off with a huge change in the way of the demon world and a spot on epilogue that deals with the couple of years that take place over the course of this particular arc. It’s the kind of arc that at the end really brings everything together in a great way while still leaving a whole lot open.
My original experience with Yu Yu Hakusho was a drawn out thing with over thirty DVDs that had three to four episodes each. That wasn’t a great way to watch the show in the slightest, so going to this form was a pretty big change, as much as I liked what I saw before. This set covers a whole lot of ground with the more personal Sensui arc and then to the dynamic changing demon world arc. I really liked how big it went here at the end with this storyline and that it advanced the timeline a year or two at a time in order to let everyone really grow well. My only disappointment is that Kuwabara is largely kept out of the second half and he’s still my favorite character. But everything just has a sense of fun even as it moves quick to wrap things up in this last arc that it leaves me smiling, both while watching it and while thinking about it afterward. Very recommended and one of my favorite shonen series.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closings, Commentaries
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 29th, 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.