The 2nd Dimension

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Viewing Journal: Yugo the Negotiator (complete)

Series Overview
DVD Info

Overall= B
Story = B
Video = B
Audio = B-


This is a hard title to categorize. You can't really call it an action title, because there is very little action in it. And you can't really call it a drama because there it's not really about relationships. It's not a mystery, and I don't even think I'd call it a thriller.

The closest thing I could come up with is that it is a smart, character-driven political suspense story, and it's a damn good one at that. The story revolves around Yugo Beppu who is a negotiator (as you may have guessed). This means that he represents his clients in talks with another party and tries to make deals in order to get something (usually a kidnapped person) that the client wants.

Now I know that doesn't exactly sound like the most exciting plot, but Yugo is a negotiator like Indiana Jones is an archiologist. So his negotiations often end up involving exotic locations, violent war mongerers, and excruciating torture.

The thing that really makes this show stick out above the rest is the fact that you'll never see Yugo try to fight his way out of a tight spot. Instead, he uses two things to get himself out of trouble: his smarts and his communication skills (well that and an uncanny ability to resist torture). It's a strange thing to watch because I've just been conditioned to expect fists to fly when characters get in certain situations. But the fact that Yugo doesn't makes the show that much more involving because I started to think "well, if he's not going to fight, then how is he going to get out of this mess." And thus it pulled me in.

The thirteen episodes in the series cover two unrelated story arcs: the first takes place in Pakistan and the second in Russia. I wasn't quite as impressed with the Pakistan one because it seemed to focus more on how tough Yugo was than how smart he was. But the Russia arc was was smarter and more complicated and I think had stronger characters. So I loved that one, and if there ended up being more Yugo like the Russia arc, I'd definitely buy it.

Another cool thing is how realistically the show tried to portray situations. Not just the historical or scientific references, but the visuals too. Like when Yugo's wrists have been bound or tortured, the bruises are still there days later! The show's interpretation of the Russian and Islamic cultures were also a surprise. It was more balanced than you'd ever see in a movie made in the US.

The unfortunate thing is that, since this show doesn't seem to fall into any one category, I don't think it has much of a shot of doing well in the US. The reason being that if a show doesn't fall into a certain category then people won't know if it's their "kind of show" or not. Of course there's also the fact that it's not it's not the action-oriented storyline that makes a lot of anime popular here in the US. The only thing I can say is that if you like smart anime, then this one is for you.

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