Judge Brett Cullum thought this was a spinoff of The Love Bug, starring a crappy Yugoslavian car that dabbles in contract disputes. Oh, how wrong he was...
His tongue is a double edged sword!
ADV has found something completely different for this anime release—real drama. Yugo The Negotiator (Volume 1: Pakistan) is about a Japanese man who talks terrorists into releasing hostages. No robot battles, big-breasted fighter pilots, or talking animals to be found. Instead, we get a dark, well-constructed drama about a guy heading in to Pakistan to save a distraught girl's father. The show unfolds slowly and deliberately, but it is a wonderful-looking anime that offers a good character study of a man on a mission. Anyone who wants to look at something off the beaten path for the genre will be tickled pink with this first volume of three episodes.
Yugo Beppo heads to Pakistan to square off with a fierce antigovernment faction holding a man hostage. He is hired by the man's daughter, because he is rumored to be the world's best negotiator. He will have to talk his way out of a lot of life-threatening situations, and brave the punishing heat and dangers of the desert. The last negotiator on the assignment was killed for not "being a hero," and things look just as bad for Yugo. He is Japanese, and is about to face a Muslim fundamentalist, who believes God is not with anyone but his people. Along the way he travels with a badly abused woman who has had her tongue cut out. Not exactly the best companion for idle chatter; but when the chips are down, she's a feral fighter. These first three episodes merely serve to set up the situation, define the characters, and set the stage for the negotiation.
If nonstop action or humor is what you are looking for, Yugo The Negotiator (Volume 1: Pakistan) should be the last disc on your wish list. It's made for people who yearn for anime that can carve out a legitimate place in the world of cinematic storytelling. Pakistan looks very realistic. The show's attention to detail and stark reality is uniformly high, and startling for an anime series. You don't expect cartoon characters to be this three-dimensional, and it's refreshing to see an animated series tackle something dramatic and disturbing. I found myself easily wrapped up in the drama, and stunned at the way the show developed.
Kudos to ADV for not only releasing such daring material, but also treating it with the utmost care and consideration. The transfer is solid—there is a softness to the images, but that's an artistic choice rather than an authoring issue. There is also a fair amount of grain, but it's not as noticeable as it could be. Compression artifacts are visible in some places, but overall it looks good. The audio tracks both fare well, although I prefer the Japanese track. The English track is mixed in Dolby surround, but there aren't many action sequences that rely on the full set of speakers. Yugo The Negotiator (Volume 1: Pakistan) is a dialogue-driven series, and the Japanese performances presented in simple stereo just seem more accomplished. The American ADR cast does a fine job, but they have a tendency to overact; this show relies on a calm tone for serious situations.
Extras are plentiful here, and are all extremely insightful and well done. There are the standard clean openings and closings (I hated the bright bouncy pop theme, so I'm not sure what value these have) and assorted trailers. There are character bios, and a variety of features with the Japanese cast and crew. The creators of the show actually show up and explain what they wanted to do. There is also a commentary over an episode, done by the ADR director and ADV's cultural consultant, which consists of them discussing how accurate the show is.
Yugo The Negotiator (Volume 1: Pakistan) is the start of something new: a dramatic anime that relies on reality rather than fantasy. Some people are going to find the deliberate pace and plodding plot boring, and will quickly scramble for the latest robot battle epic. They are missing out on a fine series that offers us a new look at what anime can mean. ADV is doing fine work with some adventurous material lately, and they should be quite proud of Yugo The Negotiator (Volume 1: Pakistan). I'm anxiously awaiting the second volume just to see where all of this goes. I'm hooked, so the ploy worked quite well. Hopefully we'll see more daring visions like this. No fan service, no nearly naked maids, no silly fighting creatures—just a plain, old-fashioned story about a hero on a mission in a strange country. Who knew anime could get so serious?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• "What is Yugo the Negotiator" Featurette
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