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, a show that was simply overshadowed by the likes of Dragon Ball Z and others of the era. Fortunately FUNimation has the license in its catalogue and all 100 episodes of the series are coming down the pipeline for those of you who may have missed it.
If you're checking out this review for the third season of Yu Yu Hakusho I'm going to assume you already know something about the series and are familiar with FUNimation's release structure. Rather than go through a diatribe about how the show was released on DVD and what it's about, I'll just skip right to the recap of the prior season.
About two months ago the second season of Yu Yu Hakusho was released and it more or less picked up where the first left off. Yusuke was still going through the motions of living between both worlds and a nice support cast of characters filled in the blanks. With the ensemble in place (Kuwabara, Botan, Hiei, Genkai, etc.) the Dark Tournament begins and it takes up the entirety of the second season. All 28 episodes were a part of this one storyline and right up to the end the good guys were fairing well, but as they entered the final rounds things got much more serious. The season ended with Yusuke in the midst of a fight against Yoko, so naturally I was eager to see how that finished off here.
Right away the third release for Yu Yu Hakusho picks up where it left off. With Yusuke and Yoko's fight coming to a close there's a rather unexpected twist that lands the good guys in a bit of hot water. Through a loophole in the rules Yusuke loses, even though Yoko is unable to continue fighting. It's kind of silly the way it all happens, but if Hiei can defeat the heavily armored Bui in their match, our heroes may just stand a chance. There are some interesting moments here as Hiei unleashes his dark dragon attack, and Bui reverses it on him. Ultimately this is a fight that features the fighters constantly outdoing themselves, much like we see in DBZ, and it's very entertaining if you love this sort of stuff.
After this fight there are still several rounds to go. Kuwabara has a fantastic battle against the elder Toguro, Yusuke rebounds to tackle the younger Toguro, and right up to the end the Dark Tournament arch is quite riveting here with lots of surprises. Yusuke is pushed to the limits, but eventually he and his companions come out on top and win the Tournament. In all honesty I'm glad this arch came to an end because it was kind of exhausting in the second season. However, it ended satisfactorily and there's plenty more Hakusho remaining in this volume.
The very first episode after the Dark Tournament is over sees Yusuke being kidnapped and Kuwabara, Hiei, and Kurama team up to rescue him. This storyline takes up a good chunk of episodes here, and after that there are a series of events that lead up to the opening of a gateway to the Demon World. Naturally Yusuke and company don't want that to happen and it's up to them to put a stop to it.
With the Dark Tournament coming to a close and the show exploring other material, this installment of Yu Yu Hakusho feels much better than the previous one. The action is just as good as always, but with the different plotlines the show is able to develop more. All around it's a lot of fun and if you enjoyed the other volumes you'll definitely want to give this a whirl. Again, if you're just coming to this review knowing nothing about Hakusho, check out one of the other reviews to get the full scoop on the plot and see if it's up your alley.
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 once again 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 second season offered more action than story thanks to the Dark Tournament arch, but the third season rounds it out nicely. With the tournament coming to a close and the show exploring other things, the characters are able to develop more and the series can introduce different elements. If you've been watching the show to this point then there's no reason to stop now because it just keeps getting better!
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