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Yu Yu Hakusho Season 1 Steelbook Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read
A classic series getting some classy treatment.

Yu Yu Hakusho Set 1 Front Cover
A classic series getting some classy treatment.

What They Say:
Yusuke Urameshi is nothing more than a 14-year-old trouble-causing-punk, who’s always ready for a fight! But a single, selfless act results in Yusuke sacrificing his life for another person. Now, he’s been given a second chance at life, instead of spending time in the afterlife. Put to work as a Spirit Realm Detective with amazing powers, he’s tasked with tracking down demons and humans who desire to rule over the three realms of reality.

Contains Episode 1-28

The Review:
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 thirty 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 two discs and eight on the third. I do want to know that the silkscreening on the discs is incorrect as it has them covering just 21 episodes across the three discs. The fourth disc is listed as special features but contains just the one new one.

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.

With the last release for this series coming out back in 2011, wherein I say holy hell that’s been forever, the new editions for Yu Yu Hakusho lean into its classic status well as there are a lot of longtime fans out there. While the discs that we’re getting are repressings plus a new disc with the new extra on it, the packaging is slick. I love steelbooks and this one is really sweet as each of the case are getting the core cast of characters taking the stage and kicks off with Yusuke on the front of this one. The shadowed element is great, I love the classic serious visual for him here, and the shadows combined with the steel is striking. The back of the case itself goes with an all-black background (as does the reverse side of the case) but we get a silver stripe of size through the middle here. This puts the core four guys together as they hang out together with Yusuke’s soccer ball. It’s got a nice bit of seriousness but there’s a wonderful slickness about the whole thing that I really like. The set comes with a partial wrap on it for the shrinkwrap and so that the back avoids scratches and that gives us a standard back “cover” with a look at the premise, extras, and technical information. Underneath that, however, we get a black envelope that comes with two heavy postcards that features the case artwork on it, just with a white background. They’re fantastic and very framable. .

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 green. 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 basic extras included on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which can be found only on the third disc. The show also comes with a fourth disc that has a seventeen-minute Looking Back bonus that brings four of the cast members in to talk about it with Justin Cook guiding the conversation. It also brings in Chris Sabat, John Burgmeier, and Cynthia Cranz to reminisce about recording those early episodes and things like the distance from it all since it was eighteen years ago that they started on it. It’s a lot of fun and the kind of piece that should really run an hour and just have them going through all the memories and fun of that time in their lives.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Yoshihiro Togashi, Yu Yu Hakusho is a one hundred and twelve episode series with this first set containing twenty-eight of them. The series is one of the earlier licenses by FUNimation when it came to them expanding their anime shows after Dragon Ball Z and it certainly seemed like a good fit as it’s a long-running show with a lot of action, plenty of demons and a good sense of fun with the regular cast of characters and those that are introduced into it. My first experience with the show was positive, but it was weakened by the fact that it was spread across some thirty-odd discs and kept to three to four episodes a disc. It stretched out the show more than it needed to be, but the show still shined through. Revisiting it in marathon form with the last release in 2011 for the first time helped to really elevate my opinion even more, which made revisiting it now a lot of fun. And one where I was glad it finally got some classy treatment with a proper steelbook run as the show is one that has long earned its place as a classic with a strong fanbase across the decades.

Yu Yu Hakusho centers on the character of Yusuke Urameshi, a junior high school student who is pretty much the classic case of a delinquent. He’s got a reputation as the school badass, doesn’t exactly have a lot going on in the grades department or any love from the teachers as there are a couple that want to get him and others expelled. Yusuke’s not alone in the world though as he’s got a mother, though she’s kind of distant in a lot of ways, and there’s a girl named Keiko that likes him and he likes her well enough, though it hasn’t progressed far. What throws Yusuke’s life out of whack is when he does something good by trying to save a little boy from being hit by a bus and ends up getting killed. There’s always something fun about having a show start off within the first few minutes by having the lead character dead and then working backwards a bit before moving it forward again.

The death of Yusuke opens up a new world for him as he meets a young woman named Botan who it turns out is an assistant spirit detective. Yusuke’s not exactly thrilled with the situation, but Botan shows him that there’s a way to get back to life if he understands that there are people sad to see him go. He doesn’t believe it, but it does eventually turn in that direction and he begins to work through the challenges to get back into his body. It has some amusing moments early on as he can’t communicate directly with the real world but has to convince someone to stop his body from being cremated. Botan can’t quite help him, but we do get to see some creative spiritual approaches to get Keiko to help at first and then later to have another delinquent at the school to help. Yusuke actually spends some time in this ghostly form as he waits for the time he can return to his body and he uses it to actually help people who says a lot about his character.

As the show explores the larger world that’s going on here, it’s pretty standard but has a good design to it. While we have the world of the living, there’s also a demon realm and a spirit realm. Yusuke’s spiritual abilities are pretty significant with a lot of potential for growth, so he ends up drawn into it when he returns to life to be a spirit detective by the being that’s running it, Koenma Jr. Koenma’s cute as he’s done as a little kid with a binky in his mouth all the time but he serves at his father Yama’s pleasure. With Koenma giving him jobs, with Botan as an assistant, the series runs through a number of stories. What works in its favor though is that the stories generally aren’t one-offs but rather multi-episode arcs. Over the first twenty-eight episodes, there are probably a good five storylines to be had that deals with both the earth and some spiritual realm areas as well. And each arc expands the cast pretty nicely with characters that end up becoming more important than you’d think initially.

And the cast is a lot of fun. The best character after Yusuke to me is that of fellow delinquent Kuwabara. He’s highly spiritual sensitive so he gets drawn into things early on and has some good abilities that can be drawn out of him. He’s a bit rougher than Yusuke is but he’s got a couple of great sides to him and he brings the comic relief to the series. Yusuke’s group also grows with the additions of a pair of powered characters he comes across in his missions with the pretty school boy Kurama, who is actually a supernatural fox, and the deadly assassin Hiei who brings the calm, cool and deadly approach to the show. The cast is well rounded as you’d expect and watching them working against each other at first and then coming together, with plenty of friction and ribbing of each other, proves to be one of the real highlights of the show.

In Summary:
Yu Yu Hakusho is eleven hours of old school fun that looks almost new school because of this transfer here. The animation looks fantastic as it’s had a new life breathed into it which only makes the characters all the more fun. These are classic characters that never got the full loved they deserved here and may be a show that people passed over years ago when there was so much coming out and the releases were done in singles form. This series has a much better feel when taken in marathon form and spending the couple of days on it was great viewing. The characters are fun, the animation holds up well because of the transfer here and the stories, while familiar, are enjoyable and progress just right. I’m beyond glad that this series, which I’ve invested many hours of my life in watching, got such a great treatment here with a new original extra, the pickup for later of the new OVA, and this steelbook edition that will look slick on fans’ shelves. Yu Yu Hakusho is a series that comes together right on all counts. Very recommended.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 620 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
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.

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