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Yu Yu Hakusho Season 2 Steelbook Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read
The tournament gets underway in full here with wall to wall yokai action.

The tournament gets underway in full here with wall to wall yokai action.

What They Say:
Yu Yu Hakusho Season 2 Steelbook contains episodes 29-56 of the anime directed by Noriyuki Abe.

Survival is the order of the day as Yusuke and his allies face off against the worst of the worst in the Demon World. Locked into the fierce competition of The Dark Tournament, there’s more than the fighters’ lives on the line! Everything turns grim when a demon from the past is reawakened. Plus, the deadly Toguro brothers enter the ring, and a mysterious masked fighter steps in. Who will survive this tournament of suffering?

The Review:
Audio:
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.

Video:
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. The fourth disc is listed as special features but contains just the one new one, which was cheaper to do than re-authoring the prior discs. 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 ’90s 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.

Packaging:
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 continues with this installment with Hiei riding the dragon. The shadowed element is great, I really love that it blends easily throughout all four cases, and that we get a bit of the spirit sword sliding into this one as well to provide a little contrast. The back of the case itself goes with an all-black background (as does the reverse side of the case) but we get a stripe of size through the middle here. This puts the core four guys together as with them powered up down the line some with costume changes and the kind of confidence that they’ve earned. 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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 thirteen-minute Looking Back bonus that brings three of the brand managers in to talk about the show and how the steelbooks came together and so forth. It’s really neat to see how everything comes together and the way the steelbooks will look when laid out together in the end.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first season of Yu Yu Hakusho, we had a hell of a lot of things going on there with the stories and the characters. Starting it off with Yusuke dying, finding a way to eventually come back and then taking on the role of an operative for Koenma was plenty to deal with. Add in the cast of characters he encountered, and befriended, such as Hiei and Karuma as well as establishing a better friendship of sorts with Kuwabara, it covered a lot of ground and still made us enjoy the characters because they had a great sense of humor and action to it while mixing in a serious level as well. With the training that went on as well with Genkai, it all moved to a properly big level towards the end with the introduction of the Dark Tournament and all that’s involved with it. And it got Yusuke and everyone else to sign on to participate in it since they all have a reason to go against Toguro.

Because of all that goes on in that season, I find myself in an awkward place when it comes to the second season. We had a couple of episodes about the Dark Tournament in the first season, but all twenty-eight episodes here are all about the Dark Tournament. Why this is a problem in some ways is because while there are a lot of stories told along the way, it is far more about the competition than anything else. And there was a lot of fighting in the first season, but it was mixed with story progression and introductions that built the foundation of the series while letting Yusuke come to grips with who he is now. It also let us get a look at the other members of the group with Hiei and Kurama, but it also spent a lot of time with my favorite character here with Kuwabara.

This set spends a lot of time with all of these characters, but it’s direct tournament mode. Watching it in this form, as opposed to the three episodes at a time I watched it back on its original release, definitely makes it easier to go through the flow of it all here. Team Urameshi has a lot of competition here and a lot of dangerous people to face down, made more dangerous by the fact that Yusuke and Kuwabara are the only real humans participating in the Tournament and that’s barely allowed as is. With absolutely nobody cheering for them in the massive crowd, it’s definitely an impact on how they view things, but mostly it just encourages them to fight harder. As if they really needed it. The sheer number of fights here really makes it a whirlwind, whether they happen inside or out, and it does work well with proper tournament form here to get the point across.

While there are various advancements to be had in the tournament with our leads in how they grow and change, there isn’t anything particularly surprising. You know each will hit a wall during a particular fight and then gain a new ability, break through or something else in order to win the fight. They won’t always win either, though they’ll make it further into the tournament. Where the real fun comes is with particular characters and the secondary cast. Genkai in particular has a good arc here as she plays the role of the masked warrior and fights hard, but has an ulterior motive to everything when it comes to Yusuke. She’s generally silent for this run, but when she does get involved and makes things clear, it helps to elevate the show well by providing the mature view of things and prodding Yusuke in the right direction. Her path, from the first season to this one, is just a lot of fun.

The same can also be said of the other supporting cast members. With a few of them coming along to offer some support, they get involved in different ways. While Yusuke’s “girlfriend” gets the short end of the stick here, the others make up for it. Botan is a lot of fun to watch as she cheers everyone on while getting lightly involved. Koenma provides some colorful commentary at times while watching in his child form, but he also matures up and steps into things to sponsor the group at one point to ensure they can continue to participate. The best of them though is Shizuru, who is Kuwabara’s older sister. She has a real sixth sense to things here that shines well, but she also gets involved with Sakyo to some degree. His being the sponsor for Team Toguro makes it for a lot of fun, especially since she doesn’t know at first, but the combination of the two with their similar attitudes and styles really makes it a fetching subplot to watch unfold at a sporadic pace. It adds just that little bit of extra fun to make you grin at the right times.

In Summary:
While the first season of the series was strong, this is strong in a different way. It features a different kind of variety but its focus on the Tournament itself does change the pacing and slows things down. When you consider that as a weekly show that it spent over half a year working through this phase, it says a lot. It does it well though and we get a good number of fights, a solid amount of creativity and some entertaining challenges for Team Urameshi to face. There’s plenty to like when it comes to the action and the structure of it and it does change things up a bit here and there to keep you guessing. It’s all working towards the inevitable though, which does draw it out, as you know they’ll go against Toguro and his team. But the series of fights is important, like it often is in series like this, to help each of the teammates find their wall and then figure out a way to break through it. And they do that well here, with style, humor, and confidence. It’s a different work than the first season, but much of what made that work is still very much here.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Behind the Design (2019 Extra)

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 5th, 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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