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Yugo the Negotiator Vol 1
You all know as well as I that the bulk of anime that is released provides a lot of fan service with kinetic action, lots of excitement and bubbly bouncy characters. It's rare that a title comes along that is so completely different from the norm and tries hard to do unique and unpredictable things. Yugo the Negotiator is one of those series that breaks the mold and tells its tale in a different fashion, though this doesn't mean that the show is for everyone.
The pacing is much more deliberate and slower than a lot of anime out on the market right now, and for all intensive purposes it has a very realistic vibe. There are no flying ninjas, robotic space pirates or fuzzy alien critters here; instead things take place in our present time with current technology and a real world feel. This means that unless you keep an open mind or are interested in slower dramas, Yugo has the potential to bore you out of your skull.
With most of the worlds attention focused on the Middle East right now, Yugo the Negotiator - Pakistan comes into the light with an interesting story that could have been ripped from today's headlines. A Japanese national has been kidnapped and negotiations have gone sour, to the point that all military personnel involved and the negotiator have been killed. Things are getting desperate for the man and his family so his daughter tracks down Yugo Beppu, who is renowned as a first class negotiator.
Yugo researches the situation and gets in contact with some of his resources to aide him on his quest. Things fall into place for him in an almost MacGyver fashion and maybe it's his worldly experience, but he has an air of confidence about him, almost like he's Mr. Know-it-all. Even though some of his cockiness lends an air of silliness to the show, we see his character develop in these three episodes and also learn some stuff about his past.
He goes deep undercover without any governmental endorsement or military assistance and works his way through the Pakistani underground to achieve his goal. His brazenness helps him find new allies and gain assistance at times of need, plus his charisma and sincerity lend to his skills as a negotiator. Yugo is a man seemingly without fear and one who uses his resolve to see hostages make it out alive.
Even though there are only three episodes on this disc, the pacing is such that there isn't much of a climax or conflict until the third episode. They run in conjunction with each other and there is a lot of continuity, but these three installments are just a portion of the Pakistan story arc, so don't expect to see any startling revelations here. This adds to the drawn out feel of the show and even though there are a few snippets of action here and there, a lot of your time watching it will consist of lots and lots of dialogue.
I appreciate the distinct realistic feel to the story and it is certainly interesting enough to keep you going with lots of dramatic nuances, but this type of show formula doesn't work well with 25 minute intervals. After watching Yugo a couple times I got the feeling that the story was sort of rushed at parts to accommodate the time frame it was given. The series is also broken up into two different negotiations, so it's not like this one story arc is going to last for the length of the show, but it does give you a good idea of what it's all about.
Yugo the Negotiator - Pakistan is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. While a lot of the show is clean, there is quite a bit of grain found in the image. There are also some slight compression artifacts that work their way in and are easily noticeable. This series is not only different in terms of story, but also style and you'll see a lot of soft lighting in some parts with great contrast used in others. Everything seems to depend on the location that the show is taking place in, so if it's Tokyo you can expect some crisp images and colors, but if it's Pakistan everything is washed out and brown.
There are two audio tracks on this disc, but both of them feature some questionably different translations for the dialogue. The subtitles are competent enough on the Japanese track, but some of them read stiffly like the translation is off. Watching the same scene with the dubbed track offers mostly the same dialogue, but at times there are noticeable differences. It's not enough to ruin the experience or hurt the story telling, but I've definitely seen better quality work before.
After viewing the show once with English and once with Japanese, it's clear that the dubbing track is pretty obnoxious with some horrible performances. My advice is to view it with the Japanese audio and subtitles, since both feature some nice use of directional sound, but the original language's quality is significantly easier on the ears.
Despite the fact that the disc features only three episodes and some quality control issues, there is a wealth of extras to be found in the release. For starters we have the clean opening and ending bits plus a handful of ADV previews and a trailer for Yugo the Negotiator. Along with some character bios there are also a variety of interviews including talks with original story creator Shinji Makari and artist Shu Akana, director's Seiji Kishi (the Pakistan negotiation) and Shinya Hanai (the Siberia negotiation) as well as voice actor Takashi Hagino (Yugo). There is also some commentary by the English director about the Japanese depiction of Pakistan and the accuracy of the artistic vision.
Yugo the Negotiator - Pakistan is definitely a different style of anime than a lot of what's currently on the market. The pacing and story is slower than most, plus the realistic worldly setting gives it a sense that it's something that could plausibly take place in the world today. The only problem is that the minor points of tension come few and far between spread out across 25 minute episodes. Even though there are two negotiations (Pakistan and Siberia) a series like this needs room and time to grow, but it doesn't really seem to have it.
Add to that some lower quality video and audio compared to other shows and you've got a hit or miss title that is aimed at a specific audience. This first volume introduces the characters, plot and direction of the show, but the previews for the second release promise more action and intrigue. I'm going to advise that you rent it unless you have an open mind to slower tales or enjoy the manga.