Yu Yu Hakusho vol 1 - Yusuke Lost, Yusuke Found

UK Distributor:  MVM (DVD Only)

BBFC Certificate:  PG

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £14.99

Episodes:  1-4 (of 112)

Audio Options:  English 2.0 & Japanese 2.0

Subtitles:  English (two different tracks)

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


Yusuke Urameshi is a delinquent teen prone to fighting and skiving off school, and has built up a bit of a reputation in his home town.  However, it seems that underneath his tough exterior he has a heart of gold (as always...) - something which is clearly demonstrated when he is hit and killed by a car after pushing a small child out of its path.  This selfless act catches everyone by surprise, including those in charge of the Afterlife who aren't expecting him to die for a fair while, so he is given the opportunity to return to his body and to life.  Unfortunately to do this he will have to prove himself worthy through good thoughts and deeds, and also find some way of preventing harm coming to his comatose body - stopping it being cremated would be a good start...

Yu Yu Hakusho has built a reputation in the US for being an epic fighting anime and has found itself a good following with US viewers looking for the next Dragonball Z.  Unfortunately if it's episode long fights you want then you will be disappointed by this first volume.  Basically these first four episodes cover Yusuke's death and his agreement to undergo the trial to return to life, and apart from a few scuffles with other gangs of school thugs, fighting is very much on the back burner.  However, this isn't a bad thing, and what this volume lacks in action it more than makes up for in drama, comedy and characterisation.

The story in the first volume is very well done and is surprisingly moving in places, particularly the scenes of Yusuke's wake, but where this wins out is in characters.  Yusuke's 'thug with a heart of gold' personality may seem a little clichéd but he is likeable enough to make it work, by the end of the volume it is clear that his rival Kuwabara is more than just the persistent meathead he seems at the start, and the bubbly blue-haired Botan may be the Japanese equivalent of the Grim Reaper, but there certainly nothing grim about her!  The first volume does a great job of establishing the main characters in such a way that even the rubbish evil teachers who try and make Kuwabara's life hell can be forgiven.  The four episodes on this disc are enjoyable and despite Yusuke's death and some relatively dramatic situations, there is also a great vein of humour running through the story which make it all the more watchable.  Botan's interactions with Yusuke are usually great fun to watch, but the undoubted comedy highlight is when Yusuke possesses a schoolgirl who has been knocked unconscious and uses her to beat the crap out of a gang of thugs, the scene is worth buying the DVD for on its own!  There is also a nice romantic subplot involving Yusuke and his childhood friend Keiko which may seem pretty obvious, but it is interesting to see how both characters react following Yusuke's death.

Animation wise it must be said that Yu Yu Hakusho does look a little dated, but it isn't half as bad as some of its peers and the character design is clear and distinctive, the music is also a bit better than other series from the same era.  From the point of view of the DVD itself there are a couple of standard extras (clean opening and closing animations and character profiles) and an interesting extra which explains what the character names actually mean, and it is also interesting to note that there are two subtitle tracks - a literal translation and a 'hard of hearing' transcription of the English dub.

To be honest I get the impression that this volume will not be typical of the series as a whole, which may actually be a bit of a shame, as it is very good.  As well as handling Yusuke's death and his friends' grieving surprisingly well it doesn't get too heavy and balances the drama with plenty of humour and a little action.  The characters are likeable, the story strong and pretty original and, apart from a couple of over the top nasty teachers and a few slightly contrived situations, Yu Yu Hakusho is great fun and well worth a look.  It may not win awards for complex plotting or deep philosophy but if you want something funny and enjoyable with a supernatural twist then this is for you.

Best Bit:  When Yusuke possesses the comatose schoolgirl

Worst bit:  The rubbish evil teachers


Feature:   Extras:

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