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 example of this 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 circulating 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.
It's from this point that Yu Yu Hakusho gets going and the first season explored what life was like for Yusuke from here on out. Being back among the living, he kept some powers from his time in the Spirit World. Because of this he becomes an agent on Earth for Koenma and works with Botan to undertake missions and rout evil demons out wherever they lurked. It quickly became a show that involved a lot of fighting and fantasy elements, and it's one that blended a great deal of humor and charm into the mix. All told the first 28 episodes were a lot of fun, but how do the next 28 stack up?
Well, things get started right where they left off with the Spirit Detective Team taking part in the Demon Tournament. Kuwabara is still locked in battle with the childish Rinku, who uses yo-yos as his main method of attacking. With Yusuke still unconscious, the Team comes together to do their best to win round after round against the strange pack of demons. Once Kuwabara's fight concludes, it's up to Kurama to step into the ring against a warrior known as Roto. In between it all Yusuke eventually snaps out of it and comes back for a fight against the Demon Team's leader Chu. This tournament storyline continues on as the Spirit Team advances past the first round.
For the remainder of the second season of episodes, right up to episode 56 "Yoko's Magic", the show focuses entirely on events during the tournament. Each of Yusuke's friends takes to the ring and has their own fight as opponent after opponent steps forward in an effort to stop them. Due to the fact that this entire collection of episodes takes up just one part of Yu Yu Hakusho's story it feels very drawn out. There's a certain Dragon Ball Z vibe to the way the battles are approached that works for better or worse, depending upon your perspective. If you were hoping that there would be some lengthy story arcs with character driven events or diverse plots, then you're going to be disappointed. However, if you simply are craving action with decent progression, and some slight character development, then you're going to be pleased.
At the end of the day the second season of Yu Yu Hakusho is a success with regards to what it intends to do. I wish that the tournament didn't take up all 28 episodes here, but despite that, the show still proves to be entertaining with a great amount of personality and flare for fighting. If you love the genre then consider this show a pinnacle example of what makes it great. Don't come expecting a serious story or major developments here and you won't be disappointed. It's a nice successor to the first season and helps set up the third, but doesn't necessarily stand out too much by itself.
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. There are a lot of nicely animated moments during the tournaments though, and if you thought some of the things found in the first season were impressive, wait until you get a glimpse at some of the stuff here.
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. The first season kicked everything off and set the tone for the second season, which follows suit with more action than you could have thought possible. This entire season is virtually one string of fights with a dark tournament encompassing every episode. It's entertaining as part of the established series, but there's not enough to help it stand on its own two legs. If you enjoyed the first then you'll definitely get into this season, but it caters more towards the crowd of viewers wanting more action than actual story. Recommended.
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