You know, it's really a shame that some anime never really latches on to the American audiences like it does in Japan. There are so many long-running series around that for whatever reason just never made it to American television or into the hearts of our youth. One prime examplethis was Yu Yu Hakusho. Maybe it's because shows like Dragon Ball Z simply overwhelmed the market, but whatever the case Hakusho aired for a few year run in Japan with over 100 episodes.
Here in the States, FUNimation has been handling the release of the show and it has been in the DVD market since 2002. With individual volumes and episode collections aplenty kicking around, the publisher finally decided to put together in thinly packed season boxed sets. It's an effort that may garner a new audience due to its affordability, but considering how long the show has been around chances are very good most potential viewers have seen it at some point or another. In case you haven't though, you're missing out on a blast of a series that was very original in its day and it's definitely one worth checking out.
The whole series revolves around the exploits of a 14 year-old boy named Yusuke Urameshi. In the opening moments of the show see Yusuke dive in front of a car in order to save a child in the middle of a busy street. While the kid is safe, Yusuke dies on the spot. Before he's ushered to Heaven or Hell though, he meets a ghostly girl named Botan who is essentially the Grim Reaper even though she dresses in a pink kimono, is very perky, and is cute. Botan explains to Yusuke that the child would have survived had he not intervened and because of that, the afterlife isn't quite ready for him yet.
Naturally Yusuke is annoyed by that, but due to his hot-headed nature he flies off the handle somewhat. You see, before the incident revolving around his death, Yusuke had always been a delinquent. He had constant problems at school, was being raised by a lousy parent, and went out of his way to get into fights with anyone who looked at him the wrong way. In other words he wasn't exactly Heaven material, if you catch my drift, but after Botan takes him to see the Great Yama, Koenma, that kind of changes. Yusuke is charged with the ordeal of doing good deeds in order to get his life back, which is kind of difficult due to the fact that he's a ghost. This leads to the boy possessing people in an effort to save his earthly body from cremation and to help those in need. He's in for quite the fight to get his life back and realizes through these events that the people who surrounded him really did care for him. Thusly he is granted a second chance.
From this point Yu Yu Hakusho really takes off. Even though he is now living, Yusuke still maintains connections to the spirit world. He can see things and beings that others can't and has been given certain powers as his ordeal continues. His being resurrected came with a catch and basically he's forced to become a Spirit Detective for the afterlife. Essentially this means Yusuke has to run around looking for demons up to no good as they possess human form and attempt to gain power through manipulation and whatnot.
In this first season of Yu Yu Hakusho, Yusuke is assigned several tasks by Botan and Koenma. On some of these missions he has to go it alone, but in others he enlists the help of friends from the human world such as Kuwabara. Mostly his human compatriots get drawn in through series of events and simply being around him though. Along the way Yusuke also meets other people from the Spirit World who are at first considered bad, but determined to be allies after a while. The show crafts an eclectic roster in the first 28 episodes here and there is a certain energy enjoyed by the cast that definitely helps the tone of the series.
I really enjoyed this first season, but if I have any gripe it's that the episodes become rather episodic. Many episodes begin with Yusuke being approached by Botan or becoming involved in a mission through a series of events. From here he has to use his newfound Spirit powers to save the day and restore good to the world. It's not necessarily a bad trait, but the series revolves around a set order of events or actions and because of that it feels very structured. This isn't the case for all 28 episodes though, which is good because it keeps the first season moving at a decent clip.
If you have never seen the series before then Yu Yu Hakusho is definitely one to check out. The characters are fun, the concept is entertaining, and all around the animation is good for a show that's roughly 16 years old. If this first year is any indication of its quality there's no surprise that the anime ran for over 100 episodes. It's easy to get into and it's the kind of show where you can sit back and relax while watching it. It's also accessible to a wide audience of anime lovers too thanks to the comedy, action, detective, and fantasy elements. Consider the first season an easy recommendation.
Yu Yu Hakusho is a good looking show for its age. The 1.33:1 full frame picture retains some vibrant colors, some fine resolution, and very little in terms of degradation of the print source. No dirt is present in the transfer though grain can be a little heavy at times. Otherwise there are some compression artifacts (28 episodes are crammed onto four discs after all) and only a little aliasing. All around this is a solid presentation for a show that is more than 15 years old, but it's not going to "wow" you.
Likewise, the audio presentation in Yu Yu Hakusho is passable, but not necessarily impressive by any means. The Japanese and English dubs come in the form of 2.0 stereo and the suit the material just fine. A 5.1 English track would have helped during some of the more action oriented moments, but wasn't really necessary here. As it stands the audio quality is a tad flat though it's clean with no distortion or loss. The dubbing quality of both tracks is fine as well, but the original Japanese track was a tad better in my opinion.
Some character profiles, textless animation, and trailers are all you're going to find on this release.
Yu Yu Hakusho is a classic anime that hasn't really taken off here in America for whatever reason. It's a fun show with a great cast, a sense of humor, and a lot of action so there's no excuse not to at least give it a chance. Sure it can be a little episodic and the pacing is all over the map sometimes, but you can pick up this collection for under $30 at many retailers, which is a darned good price for an entertaining show. After this season I'm looking forward to the others, but until they come out consider it recommended.
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