What They Say:
Yusuke Urameshi is not exactly what you’d call an angel. In fact, some might call him down right devilish. But when he dies in an accident trying to save a child, he finds himself in the Spirit World, too good for hell, but not good enough for heaven. Now Yusuke works as a half dead, half alive agent for Koenma, son of the ruler of the Spirit World. This position does have its disadvantages, especially after Koenma gets kidnapped, and Yusuke must find Koenma to trade the Golden Seal of King Enma for his life.
The audio presentation for this release is straightforward with a bilingual mix where the Japanese is in stereo encoded at 192kbps and the English is in 5.1 at 448kbps. It’s kind of amusing when you flip between the tracks in that the Japanese mix feels louder and stronger in general, especially during the opening, as it went with a big screen theatrical sound mix for the stereo design that it had. The show is pretty much action through and through and it comes across really well here, leaving me enjoying the whole feel of it. The English mix is good as well as dialogue has a bit more clarity to it in places and the action has a bit more impact to it, though I felt the stereo mix was a bit fuller overall. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 1993, the transfer for the movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The movie disc has some extras on it but not enough to really impact space as the movie itself spends the majority of its bitrate is in the low nines and looks really good. There’s some film elements to be found here with some shaky moments here and there and some film grain to be had, but colors are very strong as it progresses and it looks very good and makes you wonder what the high definition version would improve on. The second disc features the OVAs which is basically recut versions of TV series and it looks like past TV series DVD releases in that it’s soft and bland, especially after watching the Blu-ray editions this past year.
This release mirrors past releases when it comes to its design which is a welcome choice as it has the same layout and widgets where the title, logo and other information is presented. The main piece of the cover though is given over to the four main characters as Yusuke takes the center and the others ring around him in the background looking all fierce. With the light background in general it has a very clean and appealing look with bright, vibrant colors that stands out. The back cover goes for the standard split with the right side showing the four guys in their street clothes (not that Hiei has street clothes) while the left has the basic premise and a good breakdown of what the release includes. The bottom has a good little strip of shots from the show and the standard production credits and technical information that’s all laid out clearly. The release has artwork on the reverse side where the four are again laid out looking serious while set against a black background. It’s a good looking release overall and one that fits easily with the previous DVD releases, which isn’t always easy to do.
The menu design for the release is simple and understated while fitting in with past releases well, including the overall look of the Blu-ray releases. The main menu features character artwork with the first disc showcasing just Yusuke while the second brings in the other three male leads together with Kuwabara getting a lot of love. The artwork looks great with strong colors and the instrumental music really sets the mood well. The background is done with a charcoal color that gives it a good rough feeling which blends well against the vibrant character artwork and the clean white of the navigation that’s along the left and includes the logo as well. Submenus load quickly and navigation is a breeze though the discs did default each time to English with sign/song subtitles, which is important since you may not realize that the extras are generally bilingual pieces.
This release has a good bit of extras for the fans that will make them happy, especially since older shows can be really spotty with it. The main pieces that we wanted and got were the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences but we also got the alternate English version of the closing and a “vintage” trailer. The Yukina alternate version is just the voiceover though so the screen simply has the series logo. The big batch of material comes in the “Scenes of Eizou Hakusho” section. The Dark Tournament piece has a cute little bilingual piece with the gang being interviewed during the Dark Tournament segment of the series and coming across as pretty harsh guys. A ten minute piece called Nightmare Hakusho is something that today would be done as a picture drama as it does a fun little side story to the series where things simply don’t seem right for Yusuke. I also love that we got the inclusion of the anti-piracy clips, something we used to see more of in the old days and they’re fun here since they’re all in character pieces and done bilingual. The big extra here though is the opening and ending encyclopedia, a twenty-one minute piece that’s almost like a recap of sorts as it blends animation from the series with the opening and closing sequences from the thing as a whole and ties it all together. It’s rather cute and a fun extras for fans that almost feels new but isn’t.
Originally released during the first year of the TV series run, the thirty minute Yu Yu Hakusho movie was part of a double feature with the Ninku movie and was released years ago in North America by Media Blasters. Unfortunately, at the time, the TV series wasn’t yet licensed and wouldn’t be for a bit and all we had was the other movie as released by Central Park Media. And neither were good introductions to the property and it left me really disinterested in the whole franchise when it first started. The movie did nothing for me back in the day, though I appreciated its overall sense of style and that it delivered thirty minutes of action. Revisiting now over a decade later and after watching the TV series on Blu-ray over the course of 2011, it proved to be a heck of a lot of fun.
The premise of the movie is pretty much painfully simple as it involves Koenma being kidnapped by Koashura over a slight that happened when they were tiny children. Because of this, Botan has to get Yusuke and the others to help go after him since it also involves the Golden Seal, which is needed to defeat the evil that’s also being used with all of this, and that ends up becoming a part of the problem along the way as well. The feature is pretty much a non-stop action sequence, first showing us Yusuke getting into a bit of trouble in the human realm with some thugs and then having to plow through a wide variety of demons and one tough head demon that requires a whole lot of luck on his part to be able to defeat. It’s fun and simple and definitely a great little addition to the series itself by going back to a simpler time to revisit the characters.
While that and the extras flesh out the first disc, the second disc includes the Eizou Hakusho OVAs. These six OVAs really should be considered extras rather than full on content but I can certainly understand framing it this way since it helps beef up the release a bit. The OVAs are essentially large chunks of recap material that deals in different parts of the TV series. Using all the original footage (certainly not the remastered pieces0, the first couple works through a variety of the key fights from the Dark Tournament. Each of the main characters also gets a bit of a focused OVA in which their big fights are shown and it covers other areas as well. It’s definitely got its appeal if you’re a hardcore fan of the series, but having just finished the series it held little real interest for me. These kinds of OVAs were definitely more common back in the day, especially when shonen action series like this dominated the airwaves and had deeply invested fans in the action.
Outside of the 1994 movie, this release brings to North America just about everything that was left waiting for release with the Yu Yu Hakusho series. I had a rough ride with Yu Yu Hakusho at the start, and my first viewing of this movie years ago didn’t help, but I definitely came to enjoy it and become a fan. Revisiting this piece of it now has me enjoying it for the action romp that it is with some really solid traditional animation with a high cel count, great colors and a vibrancy that’s very appealing. This movie isn’t anything that will change the world or perception of the show itself, but it’s a great bit of extra icing on a fun shonen cake that’s still very tasty twenty years after the TV series first hit the airwaves. Definitely recommended for the fans of the series and those that want to complete their collection as best as possible.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Nightmare Hakusho, Scenes from the Dark Tournament, Anti-piracy Clips, Opening and ending Encyclopedia, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Vintage Trailer, Alternate Ending Song (Yukina Vocals)
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 13th, 2011
Running Time: 170 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / 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.