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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Yu Yu Hakusho: Season One (Blu-ray)
Yu Yu Hakusho: Season One (Blu-ray)
FUNimation // Unrated // May 31, 2011 // Region A
List Price: $44.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted May 26, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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Yu Yu Hakusho
is one of the best anime series ever made.  It is easily one of the greatest action anime series (one that may even surpass Dragon Ball Z for some audiences), and this translates into a firm status as one of the most beloved anime classics from the 1990's. It is a series packed with strong action sequences, worthwhile character development for many immensely enjoyable characters, a delightfully wacky sense of humor, and an incredible style that contributes to the overall success of the show.

The story focuses on the rebellious student Yusuke Urameshi (a 14 year old student who wears a green outfit to school despite the blue uniform being mandatory -- an early clue to his unique and mostly harmless rebellion). As an audience, it becomes almost immediately clear that Yusuke is someone who doesn't fit in with the rest and who doesn't want to. Some of the other students he encounters seem to perceive him as being a cold and distant troublemaker. In some ways, this is actually really far from the truth. In the first episode of the series something unexpected happens. Yusuke dies while risking his life to save a young boy who wanders into a busy street. A selfless sacrifice serves as an entirely unexpected and genuinely moving introduction to our lead hero, who will become a Spirit Detective (you know - someone who fights using their spirit energy).

How can there be a series when the lead character dies at the very beginning? Yu Yu Hakusho spins a fascinating start to its "Ghost Files" by playing with this notion and many early episodes deal with the fact Yusuke is dead and must find a way to return to the living. Yusuke meets an unlikely ally in the grim reaper, Botan, a blue-haired girl who flies around on an oar and always manages to crack humorous jokes. Botan isn't exactly what one would initially expect, and she serves as a great friend to our lead character throughout the entire series. The first several episodes mostly serve to establish the characters and the world of this unique anime.

Kuwabara is another rebellious teenager who often duels it out with Yusuke before his death. Without giving away what happens to Yusuke (newcomers will want to discover that on their own) the pair eventually end up working together to face down countless demons and baddies during the course of the series and, indeed, they face down many enemies in this run of Season One episodes. In addition to the introductory arc, there are three more story arcs central to these episodes (each batch of episodes follows an ongoing storyline of action-packed duels between the good characters and their opponents). One particularly fascinating character encountered is Genkai, an elderly female fighter with immense spirit strength, who trains Yusuke in increasing his own spirit energy - an important aspect to winning the duels featured throughout the anime.

These earliest episodes remain as some of the best produced in the entire 112 episode run. The 28 episodes that comprise Season One are instrumental to enjoying the overall saga with strong focus on establishing the series regular themes of friendship, honor, and the good old fashioned fight of good vs. evil. Director Noriyuki Abe does an excellent job in adapting the manga series by Yoshihiro Togashi and manages to make the anime series every bit as excellent (if not better) than the original work. The pacing is uniformly excellent with nary a dull moment. The storyline is also kept surprisingly grounded and doesn't leap into too many obstacles at any given moment. The rare blend of finely-tuned character interactions and strong action sequences make this one of the greatest sagas in action anime history. It's just getting started! Season One concludes with the Dark Tournament Saga just beginning. Newcomers will have much to look for in later episodes, while long-time devotees (who followed the show with those many Cartoon Network Adult Swim and Toonami broadcasts) will enjoy the chance to revisit this gem.


 The Blu-ray:


Yu Yu Hakusho: Season One is presented on Blu-ray in Native High Definition with three 50 GB discs, each containing 8 to 10 episodes. The AVC 1080p transfers are stunning to behold. The series is presented in the original broadcast ratio of 1:33:1. This set represents the very best in quality transfers that fans can realistically expect to see for classic anime series. Because the show was made in the early 90's there was an opportunity to return to the original film sources and restore the series to the highest quality possible. Unlike recent series (where the animation is often done in SD) the animation has had an opportunity to look every bit as pristine and amazing as newly made anime series. While the series animation may look a bit older compared to recent series the quality is immensely high. One of the joys of Yu Yu Hakusho is undeniably the great animation that remains consistently well-done from start to finish. While these transfers show the occasional specks of dust or minor print damage these moments are few and far between. This is easily the best looking Blu-ray anime release in North America for any classic series available on the format (and it ranks as one of the finest examples, period).  The upgrade from the original DVD releases (or the re-released season sets on DVD) is dramatic. The colors have received a dramatic boost and also appear to be more accurate with this set. Contrast is also much better and the overall look is improved with the sheer power of a natural High Definition image. Detail is remarkably sharper. Fans couldn't ask for a better release in the video department and this is one set guaranteed to please even the most demanding of viewers.


The artwork on this release indicates that the release is Region A/B compatible, which means that overseas fans should be able to import and enjoy the series in High Definition as well.

The images featured in this review are from the Season One DVD release and do not represent the High Definition Season One Blu-ray picture quality.


Yu Yu Hakusho has received a nice improvement in the audio department over previous DVD editions. The English stereo mixes from before have been upgraded to rather nice 5.1 surround sound that is reasonably improved with a nicer sound-stage for the music and sound effects.  Presented with Dolby TrueHD audio, the remarkably strong English language dub is sure to please. Fans of the original Japanese language dub (which does contain some differences in translation) will be happy to know that the original 2.0 audio had been preserved with Dolby TrueHD audio as well. Either option manages to create a convincing aural experience. English subtitles are included for viewing with the Japanese language track.


Unfortunately, the bonus materials featured on this set represent the only area where this release is found to be less fulfilling. The only included extras are clean opening and ending credits, which feature the downright catchy and addictive songs "Smile Bomb" and "The Homework Doesn't End".  Funimation trailers for other releases are also included on the third Blu-ray disc.

Final Thoughts:

Yu Yu Hakusho remains one of the most exciting action anime series to ever grace television. This was a staple anime series for both Adult Swim and Toonami (and these viewings represent how I was introduced to the series myself).  The season set DVD's were excellent releases but Blu-ray capable viewers couldn't ask for a better release from Funimation. These transfers match what is found on the expensive Japanese Blu-ray releases and this series couldn't possibly look better.  It was thrilling to experience the series all over again in glorious native 1080p HD. Fans will be thrilled. Despite the lacking extras, the immense high quality of the PQ/AQ make this Blu-ray set one of the best anime releases to date and an essential purchases for all series fans. DVD Talk Collector Series.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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