Anime DVD Review: Yu Yu Hakusho: The Complete First Season

Yu Yu Hakusho: The Complete First Season is a four-disc DVD set that contains 28 episodes; however, the title is a little misleading. The set actually contains the entire first season, as well as three episodes from the second season. The first disc contains eight episodes, the second disc contains six episodes, the third disc contains eight episodes, and the fourth disc contains six episodes. For the audio, you can watch the episodes in the set with either the English dub or with the Japanese audio with English subtitles. It should be noted that on the DVD boxes, the English episode titles are used. However, on the actual discs, the original Japanese titles are used in the episodes.

Yu Yu Hakusho: The Complete First Season
English Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Format: DVD
Release Date: July 8, 2008

Yusuke Urameshi, the main character of the series, is a teenage delinquent. He’s 14 years old and constantly gets into trouble at school during the times he bothers to even go there. Yusuke’s mother, an alcoholic, had him when she was 14 and is raising him as a single mother. Yusuke doesn’t have many friends; his main friend is a girl named Keiko Yukimura. They have known each other since childhood and are classmates at school. As the series progresses, Keiko becomes a love interest for Yusuke.

The series begins with Yusuke having a particularly bad day. He actually goes to school, but is chewed out by Keiko for his behavior. He also has run-ins with school officials. After ditching school, Yusuke’s rival, Kazuma Kuwabara, challenges him to a fight. Yusuke ends up easily beating the other boy.

As Yusuke walks along, he sees a little boy playing with a ball near the street. Yusuke lectures the boy about the unsafe behavior, but then spends time making funny faces at the boy and entertaining him. After crossing the street, Yusuke sees the boy playing with the ball again, and the ball rolls out into the street. Yusuke sees the boy going into the street, and a swerving car heading toward him. In an uncharacteristic act, Yusuke tries to save the boy’s life… but he ends up being struck and killed by a car.

His ghost is greeted by Botan, a young woman who flies on a broomstick and serves as the pilot of the River Styx. Her job is to ferry souls to the underworld to be judged for the afterlife. Botan tells Yusuke that his uncharacteristic act of helping the boy caught the Underworld by surprise. Since he wasn’t expected to die yet, there’s no room for him in either heaven or hell.

Koenma, the son of the Underworld’s ruler, gives Yusuke a chance to return to his body. He has to raise a spirit egg that, when hatched, may return him to his body. He’s able to use the fact that he’s a ghost to possess people to make sure his body isn’t cremated, as well as to give Kuwabara a helping hand. When Yusuke earns the right to return to life, he has to get someone to kiss his body within one day, since this will allow his soul to return to his body. Keiko ends up being the one to do it.

After being brought back to life, Yusuke is hired by Koenma as an Underworld Detective. It’s Yusuke’s job to investigate supernatural activity in the Human World. He’s also given the task of recovering three artifacts stolen by master thieves of the Spirit World. It’s this arc that Yusuke meets two thieves who ultimately end up becoming important characters in the series: Kurama and Hiei.

Yusuke then enters a fighting tournament. The winner gets to learn the secret techniques of Genkai, a master psychic. Yusuke is told to enter because Koenma knows a demon named Rando is after Genkai’s techniques. Yusuke is the ultimate winner of the tournament and gets to train with Genkai.

After his training with Genkai, Yusuke returns to his hometown to discover that it’s been invaded by Makai insects inhabiting humans controlled by the Makai Whistle that’s used by the four Saint Beasts. This story arc sees Yusuke, Kuwabara, Botan, Kurama, and Hiei fighting against the Saint Beasts.

This is followed by another story arc that sees Yusuke getting his next case: rescuing an ice maiden named Yukina from a greedy and cruel human crime lord named Gonzo Tarukane. It turns out Yukina is Hiei’s sister, and Kuwabara falls in love with Yukina.

The final three episodes in the set see the beginning of the Dark Tournament Saga, and Yusuke, Kuwabara, Kurama, Hiei, and a mysterious masked fighter participate in the Dark Tournament.

When it comes to the episodes in this set, I really enjoyed the 25 episodes that made up the first season of Yu Yu Hakusho. The idea of the main character dying in the first episode, having to earn the right to come back to life and becoming an Underworld Detective was an interesting premise and it felt unique. However, when the final three episodes in set start into the Dark Tournament Saga, there was a hint of a change to the tone and feel of the series. But this hint ends up being the tip of the iceberg for the shift in tone. It doesn’t become more blatant until the next box set.

The animation in the series reminds me a lot of the animation in the Ranma 1/2 series, and the tone and feel of the first season also felt rather similar to Ranma 1/2. Unfortunately, that tone and feel starts changing with the Dark Tournament Saga.

When it comes to the actual DVD set itself, there are a few bonus features included. On the first and third discs, the only extra are trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released, as well as a trailer for the FUNimation Channel.

The second disc has three extras. The first consists of character profiles, which are a single page for each character with an accompanying picture. On this disc, there are profiles for Yusuke, Kuwabara, Botan, Keiko (misspelled as Kayko), Koenma, Atsuko, Hiei, Kurama, Gouki, Genkai, Kazemaru, Kibano, Shorin/Rando, and Ogre. Next is “Textless Songs,” which has both the opening and closing credits; the credits are available in both Japanese and English. For the Japanese version, you still see the subtitles for the lyrics on the screen. There are also trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released, as well as a trailer for the Z-Store.

The fourth disc has three extras. The first is more character profiles, done in the exact same style as the profiles on disc two. On this disc are profiles for Genbu, Seiryu, Byakko, Suzaku, The Toguros, The Triad, Sakyo, Tarukane, Yukina, Yusuke, Kuwabara, Koenma, Gondawara, Rinku, Koto, and Shizuru. The textless songs that appear on this disc are exactly the same as what appears on disc two. The final extra are trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released, as well as a trailer for the Z-Store.

I would recommend this set to fans of Yu Yu Hakusho that want to own the episodes of the series in their anime home video collection. There’s also a Blu-ray pressing of this set that might hold appeal for Yu Yu Hakusho fans that have the ability to watch Blu-ray Discs.

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