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‘Yu Yu Hakusho’ Kicks It Up in ‘Born Anew’ and ‘Three Kingdoms’

by on January 26, 2005

Yu Yu Hakusho DVDs have been hitting the shelves for over a year now, and two of the latest, Volume 26: Born Anew and Volume 28: Three Kingdoms are now available. The series is now a decade old. Can these episodes still enthrall new viewers with their animation and storytelling? The short answer is “yes.”

But you’re here for the long answer, right? Okay then.

Born Anew opens immediately with Yusuke seemingly dead (again), meaning that newcomers will instantly be lost, not knowing what’s going on in the show, who the characters are, or what they’re doing. I know, because this disc was my first experience with the show, and I’ll admit that jumping in at episode ninety-one had me a bit worried. But don’t worry, newbies: by the end of the first two episodes, not only did I feel comfortable and familiar with the characters, I was also starting to get into what was happening on screen.

In what may be the most drawn-out battle I’ve ever seen (lasting almost the entire length of three of the four episodes on the disc), Sensui takes on all of Yusuke’s friends and then Yusuke himself. With Yusuke’s return, however, not everything was as it seemed; Yusuke possesses demon blood, and, with his most recent death, he comes back with it in full force. Still the wise-cracking smart-ass, Yusuke goes on to take down Sensui once and for all.

This is where that really long battle comes into play. After a few minutes of pre-fight babbling, Sensui and Yusuke take off like bats out of hell and begin throwing blazing fast punches. Being not much of an anime buff, I hadn’t really been looking forward to watching this disc, but I was thoroughly entertained. Maybe I’m easily pleased, but I think it’s also because there’s more to this series than I had previously thought. The characters are deep, interesting and great fun to watch as they go through their experiences; the fact I could pull all of this from four episodes so late in the production run is a testament to the skill of those behind the show.

One of the better animes I’ve actually sat down and watched, Yu-Yu-Hakusho‘s “Born Anew” DVD will work for beginners of the series. While I would’ve liked a little more background on the characters, the finale episode did fill in some gaps pretty nicely. If nothing else, “The Proof” and “Sensui’s End” are definitely sights to behold, both in terms of character and action.

Three Kingdoms opens up with Yusuke leaving for the Demon World to find his calling. Upon arriving there, however, he finds more than he bargained for; not only does his true father make an appearance (as a starving-for-human-souls-demon guy who promptly beats the crap out of Yusuke), but he begins training with other Demons so that he can take down his father. While he gets severely beaten at first, he remains steadfast and dedicated to the training.

The real meat of this disc, though, lies in the final two episodes, “Haunted by the Past” and “The Secret of Jagan,” which delve into Heie’s origin. The animation and storytelling are entrancing, and the story is told in such a dramatic way that I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. The Ice Village where Heie was born; the women who inhabited it, the finale battle with Shigure—nearly everything about the last two episodes is enthralling and packs a strong emotional punch.

With these last two episodes, Heie’s character goes from being a demon with ADD to a Demon you can actually feel for. Abandoned as a mere infant due to his Demon-infested body, Heie vowed to return to the Ice Village where he was born and kill those responsible. Intercut with his travels are scenes where we see his story: as an infant with a group of pillaging Vikings who care for him until they become tired of his constant and ferocious killing. With Shigure, who puts the Jagan in his body during an excruciatingly painful surgery and teaches him sword technique while extracting a promise to not reveal his identity to anyone. His journey with his new Jagan eye, which allows him to reach the Ice Village within a matter of days. Here, he learns that his mother had committed suicide a few years after Heie’s “death” (shocker #1!) and that his sister had disappeared a few years later (shocker #2!). Going to find his sister, Heie travels to the Human World where she is hiding. Heie is defeated by Yusuke and joins his team, albeit a bit reluctantly, so as to keep an eye on his new-found sister.

It is an amazing ride which culminates in the final showdown with his former surgeon and sword trainer, Shigure. It’s pretty bloody, what with all the arms, heads and guts being lopped off or sliced open. The battle ends with both of them dying…well, almost. Heie is revived by the one who had arranged the battle, Murkuro. In a bacta-tank like structure, Heie regenerates, while Murkuro de-robes and stands in front of his tank completely…well, yah know.

For being a DVD that was rated TV-PG, it’s pretty violent, much more so that the other volume. There’s nothing here that fazed me, but a system that gives it a “TV-PG” rating seems a bit skewed to me.

The DVDs look good for a show from 1992. Compression can be a bit obnoxious in spots (mainly during the fast-paced fight scenes, but this is to be expected), but it remains consistent. It’s definitely better than most animation I’ve seen from the early 90’s; in fact, had the frames not shown so much dirt and grain, I would’ve place it in the late 90’s at least.

Audio remains clear and consistent throughout. Both English and Japanese come through nicely, and I didn’t have to fiddle with the volume controls at all, like I often find myself doing with older shows on DVD.

Special features include character profiles; English subtitles (which automatically turn on); textless songs; scene selection (always a welcome feature—I really wish more shows on DVD would implement this); and trailers. Not too much, but for a series on its 28th volume, it’s to be expected that it wouldn’t be loaded down with extra content.

Volume 28 is lighter, containing only three episodes. I guess they didn’t want to start the next story and have the next volume not come out for awhile. That’s understandable, but some extra content to replace the missing fourth episode would’ve been nice.

The series and the DVDs impress me. I’ve never had anything from FUNimation before, but I’m extremely satisfied by what they gave me with these two volumes. Being new to the series (hi, Knux Five!), I think that’s pretty high praise.

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