Yu Yu Hakusho: The Movie & Eizou Hakusho
by Jef Burnham
Available December 13, 2011 on DVD from Funimation Entertainment.
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In the wake of Yu Yu Hakusho Season Four’s Blu-ray release on Dec. 6th, Funimation follows up their definitive Blu-ray collections of the series proper with yet another must-own Yu Yu Hakusho DVD. Showcased in this release is a remastered and redubbed version of Yu Yu Hakusho: The Movie as well as the six episodes of the previously unavailable in North America, Eizou Hakusho OVAs. The set also includes a number of special features, notable among which is the “Yu Yu Hakusho Opening and Closing Encyclopedia,” featuring original scenes set one year after the series’ conclusion.
The movie here is not the feature-length 1994 film released in the States under the subtitle Poltergeist Report, but the 30-minute movie from 1993, alternately known as “The Golden Seal.” The movie is a simple, if rushed affair, with a solid climactic battle, the gist of which is that Koenma has been kidnapped and will be killed if Yusuke does not deliver the sacred Golden Seal to Koenma’s captors. And Yusuke, with Kuwabara at his side, rushes to the rescue. The quality of this version of the movie far exceeds that of the only other version of the movie previously available in the States, the 1998 DVD from AnimeWorks.
The picture quality of the 1998 release was incredibly poor and non-anamorphic with an embarrassing English dub, and was packaged with the unrelated and unbearable Ninku movie. Moreover, the packaging itself, with the title reversed on the spine, was such that the release looked just as horrible on your shelf as it did in your DVD player. Funimation’s release, on the other hand, boasts a gorgeous 16:9 anamorphic transfer (with the title sequence from the series that accompanied it cropped to match the movie’s aspect ratio), a new translation and a new dub from the series’ English voice cast. There is simply no comparison. The artwork too is a vast improvement, boasting a design in keeping with Funimation’s previous DVD releases of the series proper with Team Urameshi set against a tan background for the cover image. This is without a doubt the definitive release of the Yu Yu Hakusho movie. (Watching the movie with the new dub is interesting, as it has been some years since the actors last voiced the characters, and while their voices haven’t changed all that much, there are indeed notable differences among the leads’ voices past and present.)
The image quality of Eizou Hakusho isn’t quite as pristine as the movie, but given that the OVAs were by nature straight-to-video releases (OVA is short for Original Video Animation, after all), the step down in quality is no surprise. The first two episodes of Eizou highlight battles from the Dark Tournament, while the remaining four focus on the four primary members of Team Urameshi. These character-specific episodes highlight key moments for the characters throughout the series, and include original music videos and soundtracks featuring songs sung by the characters themselves. Presumably due to the difficulty in redubbing these music tracks, Eizou appears here exclusively in Japanese with English subtitles, with no dub available.
The episodes of Eizou as collected here, the way I understand it, are missing interviews with the original voice actors which originally appeared as a part of the programs. Moreover, portions of the original video program, including the anti-piracy clips that would have preceded the episodes, and the four installments of “Nightmare Hakusho,” no longer accompany the episodes themselves and appear instead as special features. While the removal of the interviews is indeed unfortunate, the separation of these other elements should in no way deter you from purchasing this set. In fact, the separation of them provided the English voice cast with additional dubbing opportunities. Sure, it would have been interesting to view the programs in their entirety, exactly as they would have appeared on the original VHS tapes, but to finally have Eizou Hakusho available to us in the States in any form at all is frankly a blessing. As such, if you’re a fan of Yu Yu Hakusho, this release is a must-own!
The special features on this 2-disc set include:
-the “Yu Yu Hakusho Opening and Closing Encyclopedia,” a half-hour feature that highlights a number of the series’ openings and closing sequences, including ones not used in the States, which are bookended by the aforementioned vignettes set one year after the series’ conclusion;
-textless songs including an alternate version of “Sayonara Bye Bye” as sung by Yukina;
-a vintage Funimation trailer for, additionally promoting Yu Yu Hakusho action figures, apparel, the Trading Card Game, and the then upcoming video game from Atari;
-as well as those previously mentioned separated portions of Eizou Hakusho including the anti-piracy/copyright warnings delivered by the members of Team Urameshi as well as Younger Toguro;
-original “Scenes from the Dark Tournament,” which find Team Urameshi prepping for battle in a sort of locker room and then taking a group photo following the tournament;
-& finally, “Nightmare Hakusho,” a bizarre series of vignettes that find Yusuke lost in a series of dreams within dreams.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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