There are many people who know nothing about the King of Fighters series of fighting games, and many aren't even interested in fighters. I was much like them until I played the good King of Fighters games for myself, and fell in love.
As a project to get people to play these awesome shonen action fighters, I am writing retrospectives on every single King of Fighters game in the main series, as well as writing a rundown on each game's epic finale (which are the most plot-critical parts) to show its grand scale plot of clones, deities, and metahumans. As you can imagine, that's a lot to write, which is part of the reason I'm not posting them on Japanator directly (spamming rules and all that). Instead, you can read it on my own blog, the Shonen Otaku corner, and tell me what you think of it. The link is here:
Please leave a comment. Nobody does.
I'd write a better introductory post, but... well... There's already one there.
I noticed Japanator has done its own review of the first season of Yu-Yu Hakusho already. I know they liked it, but in my experience, no anime has ever truly hit their stride until a number of episodes in. I like the first season of Yu Yu Hakusho too, but it didn’t quite reach its first high point until the Dark Tournament arc, widely remembered by just about all Yu Yu Hakusho fans. Since this particular shonen arc is one that begs for acknowledgement, I’ll give it the recognition it deserves with this review of the digitally remastered (but not blu-ray) release of Yu Yu Hakusho: Season 2.
I think I should point out that I am in no way blinded by nostalgia here. I did not watch Yu Yu Hakusho when it was on TV. I only remember seeing a couple of episodes by chance when I woke up really early, and I only distinctly remember one because I saw Karasu blow up a guy by touching him, and I didn’t even know what the show was called at the time. Knowing this should emphasize how much I genuinely like this anime.
Looks like he's been... Disarmed! *self-slap*
First, I should give some backstory for context. In the last few episodes of the first season, Yusuke defeated a powerful gang leader named Toguro to rescue an ice apparition named Yukina. As it turns out, Toguro threw the match, and he came back later to confront Yusuke and show him his real, overwhelming power. There, Toguro told Yusuke that he wants him to compete in an upcoming demon world fighting competition called the Dark Tournament, and said if he doesn’t, he’ll kill Yusuke and his friends. Speaking of friends, Toguro gave the same invitation to Hiei and Kurama, who helped Yusuke fight the Saint Beasts before, and, in need of one more teammate after Kuwabara, Yusuke enlists the aid of a masked fighter, whose true identity is not yet known.
The second season of Yu Yu Hakusho isn’t exactly the entirety of the Dark Tournament arc, unfortunately. It starts halfway through the first match with Kuwabara fighting the yo-yo wielder Rinku, and ends with the conclusion of the first round of the finals with the battle between Kurama and Karasu, leading to a feeling of a lack of self-containment. Still, while it doesn’t get everything, it does get the real meat of the arc, i.e. the epic fights with a variety of colorful opponents. It just feels a little anticlimactic to not end with the finale.
Speaking of colorful opponents...
If you thought Yu Yu Hakusho was a fighting anime before, you have not seen anything yet. This is the tournament arc common to shonen series, and that means there is an even bigger focus on the fights. Tournament arcs don’t always exactly work, as they can generate a sense of repetition if all it is is a series of fights that play by the same rules under the same circumstances with little time put aside for character development (the World Tournament Arc in the Yu-Gi-Oh anime comes to mind), but Yu Yu Hakusho is able to avoid all of that.
None of the matches in the Dark Tournament play the same. At the beginning of each round, the team captains decide on the victory conditions. It can be best 3 out of 5, elimination matches, or, for one match, a 3 on 3 battle royale. That combined with the various specialties and powers of the combatants themselves ensure none of the matches feel the same.
The best part of any shonen action series’ fight is the way the protagonists use their skills and their brains to come up with a way to win, be it using the enemy’s power against them, finding their weakness, or using what they know in new and creative ways. Yu Yu Hakusho is one of the best examples of this. In almost none of the fights in the Dark Tournament do conventional tactics work, and even when they use new and special tricks to beat one opponent, there are later fighters that anticipate them and are ready for it, meaning even more new ideas need to be made for the heroes to win. The resulting provision of new moves, techniques, strategies, and powers only further keeps the episodes fresh and unpredictable.
A lot goes on outside the fights as well for extra character development and breaks from the normally tourney-structured action. There are corrupt tournament committees, chatty announcers, and Yusuke’s friends in the stands along with Koenma and a blue ogre providing observation and commentary to keep the fights from getting stale. The characters in the fights themselves are also fairly well-established with their own reasons for entering the tournament. Some of the fighters are actually decent people that even Yusuke takes a liking to, and I guarantee there will be a favorite character for any viewer among this ensemble of combatants. For me, that'd be Shishiwakamaru, because he knows showmanship.
They look so huggable.
For something that’s apparently Funimation’s second big dub job ever, the voice acting is very good. Justin Cook shows off his range in a number of situations and characters, and the supporting cast is just as well-acted as the main characters. Above all else, they’re just fun to listen to. Of particular note are the characters of Chu and Jin, who are both given distinct foreign accents to spice up the diversity even further. Since they got a lot of experience from dubbing Dragon Ball Z, there’s also a lot of rather hammy acting when things get really intense, but if you weren’t expecting some screaming, you clearly don’t know shonen. Ham takes up half the menu.
But as good as the voice acting is, it’s not nearly as good as the script they’re reading off of. The English version of Yu Yu Hakusho is vastly different in its dialogue from the Japanese version. While the Japanese version has a lot of average, predictable dialogue, the English version turns a lot of the main characters into smarmy, sarcastic teenagers… Which is exactly what they are. The fruitier adapted script makes them all sound much more natural as well as more fun to listen to. There are several lines that are just an average piece of dialogue in Japanese that the English version changes into some kind of smart-ass remark.
For example, after an opponent purposely uses Hiei’s sword to badly cut himself, Japanese Kuwabara says “Is this guy an idiot?”, while the English Kuwarbara says “These guys are making it a little easy for us to beat ‘em.” Much earlier, Kurama is ready to kill a scumbag that tried holding his mother hostage through an explosion of flowers. In the Japanese version, the guy makes excuses to save his own sorry life before Kurama just says “Die”, and he dies. In English, the guy’s last words are “You believe in mercy, don’t you?” And Kurama says “No”. It’s those kinds of flavorful adjustments that make the English version superior to the original Japanese. Even the English openings and credit songs are better than the Japanese openings, and with this DVD release, they sound even better than before.
Yes, the digitally remastered frames are nice and sharp, and the animation and artwork is easy enough on the eyes, but I was more impressed with how great it sounded. I don’t normally give notice to a DVDs’ audio quality, but it bears mentioning here. No anime I own has come out of our HDTV’s speakers sounding so good and so clear. Sometimes I almost felt as though the characters were in the same room. No matter how loud the music and sound effects get, the sound mixing is always spot-on, and there is no kind of crackle or hiccup to be heard. This first came to my attention with probably the loudest, most destructive attack in the season, the Dragon of the Darkness Flame, which was probably the peak of the season’s volume. Don’t be afraid to play it loud.
As much as I love this season of Yu Yu Hakusho, and as much as I recommend it, I can’t quite call it, or the series as a whole, a masterpiece. It falls for some of the writing hitches that other shonen series have stumbled on, like plot or character-critical details and weapons never alluded to or given any foreshadowing, or powerful weapons and techniques that are only used once and then never again with no explanation. There’s also Hiei, who’s a bit of a Marty Stu, so much so that he only fights a few times in this season, but those are some minor gripes. If you want a written masterpiece from Yoshihiro Togashi, watch Hunter X Hunter or Level E. If you just want something fun to watch with a respectable amount of heart and thought put into it, Yu Yu Hakusho will definitely fits the bill.
If I haven’t made it clear enough yet, Yu Yu Hakusho Season 2 is well worth having. It’s even better than the first season, and although it doesn’t quite cover its entire story arc, it still gives several episodes of action-packed, well-paced, character-driven shonen goodness. At the 20 dollars I found it for, it is an absolute steal. Even if you haven’t seen the first season, the second season is well worth your money all on its own, if only for the fight scenes. I give Yu Yu Hakusho: Season 2 an 8.5 out of 10.
And yes, I have played the PS2 game Yu Yu Hakusho: The Dark Tournament. It sucks.
Greetings people of Japanator. I am Karutomaru, the king of cards and Viewtiful Joe's #1 fan, best known for my blog on Destructoid. As some of you may have noticed, my blog there seems to have disappeared. This is because of a slight conflict with Destructoid's community, but I assure you I am doing everything I can to get my blog there up and running again and I will not stop until it is. In the meantime, I can try my hand at my second favorite hobby: anime.
In the same way most of the games I have are Japanese, just about all of my DVDs are anime. The two intertwine regularly. I don't have a single DVD of Naruto, but I have Clash of Ninja Revolution 3, which is a very good game, and I have Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2 without owning and DBZ DVDs. My favorite anime of all time is the Viewtiful Joe anime, and the Sengoku Basara game and anime are on equal levels of awesome. Of course, we can't forget the single greatest Nintendo DS game ever made: Jump Ultimate Stars! Now that I'm actually taking Japanese as my language course in college, I can understand more of it, which is great. I even wrote a series of articles going over different games based on shonen series.
If anything I've said haven't tipped you off as to what my tastes in anime are, here are twomore.
That's right. SHONEN!
In the same way I am an action gamer I am a shonen otaku. Shonen series have always been my forte, focusing on conflict and wit as well as skill.
Even if there's a series I don't own much of, I often have a favorite character. At home I have a plushie of Naruto's Kankuro under a little keychain of Mayuri Kurotsuchi hanging on the wall. Next I should get one of Cell.
As for my collection, it's actually kind of wimpy compared to the nerds on here. I watch quite a bit of anime on both the Funimation Channel and Toonzaki, but I do have some manga volumes here and there.
My sister owns a number of volumes of Law of Ueki, the greatest manga of all time, while I have 4 volumes of both Yu-Gi-Oh and Hunter X Hunter and 1 volume of the Yu-Gi-Oh GX Manga, Bobobo, and Yu Yu Hakusho.
On the anime front, I have all 8 volumes of the Viewtiful Joe anime, the greatest anime ever made, 3 seasons of Case Closed with 2 movies, and one season of Yu Yu Hakusho. I also have the second volume of the original Comic Party anime, because I found it at an old store for 3 dollars and I love collecting rare and cheap Japanese stuff.
Mind you, this is before I got volume 3.
Let me conclude this with some of my principles you'd be wise to know.
First of all, I am not picky when it comes to animation. Like manga, I believe the most important thing when it comes to anime is the writing and the artwork. Even if there were an anime that was just a bunch of still frames, good artwork and writing could save it. Then it would just be a manga in anime format, but at least it would be a good manga.
Second, I follow the golden rule. I am a very nice person, and I believe in what is right more than anything else (like most shonen heroes). I never troll, and if I'm making you angry, I assure you it is not intentional. Sometimes I'll say something silly to be funny, but never to troll.
However, there is one exception.
Smokers. There is absolutely nothing I hate more on this earth than a smoker. I'd write a long-winded hate speech all about smokers, but that's not what this blog is about. The point is, I will never treat a smoker with any ounce of respect, nor show them pity, sympathy, or compassion. I do not treat smokers like people. I treat smokers like the filth they spew, and there is nothing they can do to change that save for growing a brain cell. There is nothing more I will say about that.
Anyway, I'm glad to be here, and I hope we can all get along. I've written a ton of reviews on games on my other blog, so now I can take a crack at reviewing some anime.
Also, I'm afraid that the website hosting the comments here will send me spam. Can any comment on that?