Ask John: Where are the Yu Yu Hakusho OVAs?
Yu Yu Hakusho was a big hit in America, doing well on Cartoon Network and selling a ton of DVDs and merchandise. Yet, for some reason, the OVAs for YYH have never come out. Why haven’t they been licensed and released in America, and do you think they ever will be?
While American fans did get the complete 112 episode Yu Yu Hakusho television series and both of its theatrical films, the follow-up OVAs have never been officially released in America. For reference, the Yu Yu Hakusho: Eizou Hakusho ~Ankoku Bujutsukai no Shou~ (Poltergeist Report: Image Report ~Dark Martial Arts Tournament Chapter~) volumes one and two were 25 minutes each and premiered on Japanese VHS on September 21 and October 5, 1994. The second Eizou Hakusho series consisted of four 25 minute volumes, each concentrating on one of the series’ main characters. Yu Yu Hakusho: Eizou Hakusho 2 ~Yusuke no Sho~ hit Japanese VHS on December 16, 1995. Yu Yu Hakusho: Eizou Hakusho 2 ~Kurama no Sho~ premiered on VHS on January 1, 1996. Yu Yu Hakusho: Eizou Hakusho 2 ~Hiei no Sho~ released on VHS on January 19, 1996. And Yu Yu Hakusho: Eizou Hakusho 2 ~Kuwabara no Sho~ hit VHS on February 7, 1996. These releases were later followed by the 21 minute long Yu Yu Hakusho Opening Ending Daihyakka (Poltergeist Report Opening Ending Encyclopedia) which, as far as I know, didn’t exist until its DVD debut on December 15, 2004 as part of the Yu Yu Hakusho Favorite Edition boxed set that compiled the Eizou Hakusho OVAs onto two DVDs.
The content and circumstances of the Eizou Hakusho OVAs closely mirrors the Mobile Suit Gundam W: Operation Meteor OVAs, which have likewise never been officially released in America. The Eizou Hakusho volumes mostly consist of “best scene” video montages culled from the TV series, music videos, and voice actor interviews. While the OVAs do include a small amount of new animation set after the end of the TV series, they’re primarily a bonus for especially devoted Yu Yu Hakusho otaku and not very interesting for casual viewers. Considering that there’s so little new footage in these OVAs, I’m sure that they’ve never been considered worth the effort and cost of localizing for domestic release.
The Yu Yu Hakusho franchise hasn’t totally exhausted its American commercial potential, but its DVD sales are far less now than they once were. Considering the minimal consumer interest in the franchise now, there’s probably little incentive for FUNimation to acquire and release the OVAs. However, FUNimation did pursue and acquire distribution rights to the Vandread Taidouhen and Gekitouhen TV specials that include minimal original footage, so the distributor seemingly isn’t entirely opposed to the possibility of going back and picking up remaining OVAs for the sake of completion. FUNimation acquired the Vandread Specials to compliment its own debut release of the franchise. The same situation could not occur with Yu Yu Hakusho since FUNimation has already released the series in multiple iterations. So I don’t foresee FUNimation or any other domestic distributor bothering with licensing the old and partially pointless Yu Yu Hakusho OVAs, but the possibility of a future domestic release can’t be entirely ruled out.