It’s time to retire the last of those standard definition DVDs as Funimation releases the final installment of their four-volume, definitive release of the anime classic Yu Yu Hakusho. For these releases, the series has been fully restored from the original film elements, and Funimation has pulls out all the stops for Season Four, which is packaged with an impressive array of special features as well as a limited edition trading card from the Yu Yu Hakusho Trading Card Game. Collected here are the series’ final 28 episodes, comprising the remainder of the “Chapter Black Saga” and the entirety of the “Three Kings Saga.”
At the climax of the “Chapter Black Saga,” which opens this set, Spirit Detective Yusuke Urameshi faces off against his predecessor Shinobu Sensui, whose plot to destroy the barrier between the Human and Demon Worlds nears completion. This epic battle features Kuwabara at his most integral and concludes with a revelation about Yusuke’s demonic ancestral lineage that effectively places the Spirit World Detective at odds with the Spirit World itself. Thus sets the stage for the series’ final saga, representing the bulk of the collected episodes.
The “Three Kings Saga” is by far the most intellectual and nuanced of the series. While the previous sagas had established Team Urameshi as more than capable of facing any foe on the battlefield, the “Three Kings Saga” explores the fighters’ capabilities in the political arena. Even the hard-headed Yusuke, a staunchly improvisational fighter, proves that he can match wits with the best minds of the Demon World. In this saga, Yusuke, Kurama, and Hiei (but sadly not Kuwabara) travel to the Demon World where they are each recruited by one of the realm’s Three Kings as the millennia-old stalemate between the kings nears its conclusion. Of course, our heroes have their own agendas in the conflict, but, as they find themselves on opposing side of it, they cannot confer with one another about their strategies. This leaves us, the audience, to interpret and guess at their motivations and plans of action based almost exclusively on subtext. This allows for greater audience engagement in the series than any saga before it had, making the “Three Kings Saga” by far the most rewarding. For some, however, the saga lacks in action, especially when compared to the non-stop brawl that is the Dark Tournament. But for me, the “Three Kings Saga” marks a welcome change of pace that allows this 112-episode series to wrap on a high note rather than tediously taper off.
The painstaking restoration of the series, which I spoke so highly of in my previous reviews of the series’ HD releases, is indeed a benchmark for the restoration of animation on film. It is absolutely gorgeous. The picture is clean with vibrant colors and crisp lines that will make you wish you had a bigger television to watch the series on. The series also features a totally new 5.1 audio mix of the English dub that is better synched with the animation than previous releases had been. And as indicated at the outset of this review, Funimation has put together a number of special features to send these essential Blu-ray releases off with the reverence such an indispensible series as Yu Yu Hakusho deserves. These features on this three-disc set include:
-“Yu Yu Hakusho Trading Card Game Revisited,” a nearly thirty-minute featurette that looks back at the card game inspired by the series, which never really achieved the success of other anime-inspired/related card games such as those for Dragonball Z or Pokemon, although a dedicated few continue to keep the game alive;
-Textless Opening Song “Smile Bomb,” and textless closing songs “The Sun Will Shine Again” and “Daydream Generation,” all of which are presented in HD;
-A series of commentaries from the Funimation team with the commentary on Episode 99, “Remixing Yu Yu Hakusho,” addressing the new audio mix and English dub that are featured in their series of Blu-ray releases;
-“Actor Commentary” on Episode 108;
-“ADR and Mixing Commentary” and a “Supporting Cast Commentary” on Episode 110;
-“Writer Commentary” and a selection of “Outtakes and Foul-Ups” from the English cast’s voice-over recordings, hosted by Justin Cook, on Episode 111;
-as well as “Leading Cast Commentary” and Justin Cook’s “Memoirs of Yu Yu Hakusho” on Episode 112;
-and, finally, trailers for additional Funimation releases.