Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Yu Yu Hakusho: The Movie & Eizou Hakusho
Koenma, Yusuke's pint-sized boss, has been kidnapped! A monster nabbed him while he was sunbathing and now he's at the mercy of his equally pint-sized nemesis Koashura. Koashura wants the Golden Seal of Spirit World in exchange for Koenma's life, and Yusuke has been elected to take it to him. Naturally, that won't work out well. Afterwards, unwind with a six-episode compilation of important scenes from the television series. Whee!
The key to enjoying this movie/OVA set is to realize right off the bat that it isn't a traditional DVD release so much as a two-disc collection of extras. This set collects together a variety of Yu Yu Hakusho rarities and oddities, creating a hodgepodge that is in turns fun and tedious, interesting and redundant.
The hodgepodge feeling is encouraged by a somewhat odd division of the material, which shaves off the parts of the Eizou Hakusho recap OVAs that are newly-animated and collects them, dubbed, along with the movie (also dubbed), on the first DVD. The remainder of the OVAs is collected on the second disc and presented in Japanese only. The result is a haphazard first disc and a rather dull second one.
The centerpiece of the first disc is of course the movie. Calling it a movie is a bit of a stretch since it's only twenty-five minutes long, but it was made for the big screen so we'll let the tag stand. It's a fun little film, focused less on its breezily disposable story than on having fun with its theatrical budget. Yusuke's rescue of Koenma is mostly just an excuse for the camera to follow him and his allies as they dash, leap and brawl their way through a variety of settings and enemies. It's surprising how much of a difference a little polish makes as Botan soars through clouds and over cities on her way to fetch Yusuke, or Yusuke and Kuwabara dodge boulders, pipes and I-beams while escaping a canyon ambush. It's fun just to watch; the fact that it has the humor, carefree sense of adventure, and even some of the intensity of the series at large is pure gravy. There's even a plot twist in there, and of course a punch-line at the end. There are far worse ways to spend half an hour.
And some of them are on this set. More on that later. Among the things that remain on the first disc, the scenes from the Dark Tournament Eizou Hakusho episodes are probably the least important. One is a short humorous bit about spunky tournament announcer Koto trying to interview a very uncooperative Team Urameshi and the other a post-finals sequence that explains a photo that crops up in one of the closing sequences. A little more substantial, time-wise at least, is a series of four shorts about a particularly odd dream of Yusuke's. It's silly stuff, but funny—especially in the English version, which curiously enough is also easier to understand. It is perhaps most notable for featuring some early storyboarding work by future Madoka Magica director Akiyuki Shinbo, from whom it gets its surreal, disjointed feel.
The last of the extras is the Opening and Ending Encyclopedia, which is exactly what it sounds like. The OPs and EDs are hardly the point, however. Between them are a series of short new scenes that follow up on the cast members after the end of the TV series—the only such follow-up they ever get. It is a highly unusual place to discover such a satisfying surprise.
All of this is dubbed. Funimation reunites the series' original cast for the task, and they appear to be having a blast slipping into their old roles and tearing through the typically fast and loose script. It's a lot of fun to watch, and adds considerable value to some of the lesser extras and lesser parts of the film. The dub's fans, having spent a hundred-plus episodes in its company, will of course enjoy it more but even non-fans should check it out, if only to see if it's to their tastes.
Which brings us to the second disc. There is no dub here. In fact, the whole disc feels distinctly like a dumping ground for the set's leftovers. It is comprised solely of the Eizou Hakusho OVAs, which themselves are comprised of scenes gleaned from the series at large. These are recap episodes, pure and simple. Six of them. There is, frankly, very little reason to watch them. Other than the music, that is. The episodes are backed by a series of image songs that become so prominent that the later episodes are more like image albums with visual accompaniment than OVAs. The songs themselves are interesting more for what they say about the various characters than for their musical quality.
For those that are actually interested in the recaps themselves, the first two deal with the Dark Tournament—episode one with the prelims and episode two with the finals—while the final four (the image-album episodes) deal each with one of the four main protagonists. Each of the four begins with a music video devoted to its character, animated in various interesting styles by a variety of different artists.
This is very much a release intended for completists. Other than those few short scenes in the OP/ED compilation episode, there's nothing here that's required viewing for casual fans. On the other hand, for those looking to round off their Yu Yu Hakusho collections, or just replace that miserable Yu Yu Hakusho/Ninku double-bill DVD, this is more than they could ever have expected. Hodgepodge though it is, this is a kindness to the series' fans, and for that Funimation should be thanked.
As it is the only major piece of original content, the grades below are for the movie alone. If they deserve a grade at all, the OVAs would get a C.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : B-
+ A fine collection of rarities for Yu Yu Hakusho devotees.
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