Wednesday, 20 December 2006 00:00

Ghost Hunt (TV, 2006)

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Overview

The first time that I ran across Ghost Hunt was when I saw it at Barnes & Noble, featured on the New Manga rack. I read through the first issue, though ultimately decided to put it back because I'd already collected what I wanted to pick up for the day, and didn't really have the money to buy more. Honestly, though it looked like a pretty good manga, an occult series set in the modern day world, it didn't make enough of a splash in my mind to actively remember to go back and look at. Skip ahead six months, when I see the name Ghost Hunt pop up in my RSS feeder. I remembered the manga, and decided to take a look.

Review

Set in modern day Japan, the series is about a high school girl named Mai Taniyama, and opens with Mai and three of her friends telling ghost after school in a darkened class room, each turning off the flashlight they're carrying as they finish their story. According to the myth, when the last person has turned off their flashlight, and they count off, there'll be an extra person - a ghost. In this case, there was indeed an extra person, only it wasn't a ghost; it was the handsome Kazuya Shibuya, owner of Shibuya Psychic Research, who's been hired to investigate the old school building. This building has quite a history for being haunted, apparently. Several students were killed in the building, a teacher hung himself, and then when the building was being demolished, the roof collapsed, killing a worker; a few years later when they tried again, a truck went out of control and drove through a sports field during class, killing several students. The place is cursed, to say the very least.

Mai's friends are immediately drawn to Kazuya's good looks, but Mai is instantly suspicious of him. The next morning as she passes the old school building, she thinks about the story from the night before, and peers inside, to see something in the shadows. Wondering what it is, she enters the lobby, and discovers that it's a video camera. She reaches out to touch it, and gets startled when somebody shouts at her, bumping into the old lockers. They start to topple, and the shouter pushes her out of the way. This is Lin, Kazuya's assistant, who's been injured. Mai tries to apologize, but Kazuya points out that the school bell just rang. Later on in the day, after being accosted about their story telling by a student from the an upper grade, Kazuya appears again, and asks Mai to come with him. In the hall, he points out that Lin isn't able to move, the camera was broken, and that she is going to have to pay for it... and so Mai becomes his temporary assistant. It's not long after this that Mai gives him the nickname 'Narcissistic Naru-Chan', Naru for short.

Ghost Hunt is a series built on Naru's method of ghost hunting... he's an investigator. Quite an accomplished one, in fact. He's not the only ghost hunter in the series, though. There's also Ayako Matsuzaki, a Shinto shrine maiden, Takigawa Houshou, Buddhist monk from Mt. Kouya, John Brown, Catholic priest - who speaks with a Kyoro accent, and Hara Masako, spirit channeler. Each has their own personality quirks, and it actually makes for a fairly balanced cast, considering that they all do more or less the same thing, just in different ways. I'll admit that at first, Mai seems rather out of place in this surprisingly varied cast, but it soon becomes clear that she has quite an impressive observational ability, and she's an almost required foil to Naru's withdrawn and harsh nature.

The series is built in cases, sets of three or four episodes centering around one particular case. The first case does double duty as both character introduction and a surprisingly quick to the punch plot line. That's not to say rushed - with three episodes to spread the initial character building out in, it actually takes more time than the average anime does these days. What Ghost Hunt doesn't do is spend time building into that speed; instead, it pretty much takes off right away, dragging you right along with it. That having been said, they did a great job of interweaving character development with the cases at hand, building one right in with the other, so the series isn't really lacking in either. In a lot of ways, Ghost Hunt reminds me of the Poltergeist TV series, not just in the way that it's presented - the opening is right out of that sort of occult series, a dead ringer for an Outer Limits opening - but in the way that the series handles its episodic nature while maintaining an overall sense of advancement. It's a hard balance to strike, and thus far the writers have done a good job of it.

As long as I'm thinking about it, I will point out that, damn, did they EVER hit the nail on the head in terms of the creep out factor. The first case isn't too bad... lots of zoom-boom rooms - fans of the Evil Dead series will recognize the reference - bumps in the night, things like that... but nothing that doesn't fit the final solution. The second case, though... yipes. I'll just say that I will never, ever buy any little daughter I might have a dollie. Nor will I allow her to be given one. Especially not dollies that look particularly realistic. Awesome job on the job of hitting that boogie man factor.

The animation is alright, clean and crisp, but nothing special for today's series. They use a 24 style multiple-panel approach at times that is probably meant to suggest manga pages, but usually just manages to be a little jarring. It's not that the split images don't get the point across, just that there are better ways to do things. There's also a fair number of shots depicting watching a video screen... this is how Naru investigates, yes, I understand that, but sometimes it feels like a little too much of the series is being watched on a monitor... so to speak. On the other hand, as mentioned above, the spook effects and scenes had their time taken, and things look good there. Like I said, clean and crisp, nothing special, but alright overall.

The voice acting is solid, with the characters very comfortable in their roles. I mentioned above that John speaks with a Kyoro accent, and while I myself don't speak Japanese, even I can hear how... odd it is compared to the more standard dialects. Nice work there on the part of Nobuhiko Okamoto. Mai's character acts as the main narrator for the series as well, and her VA, Kaori Nazuka does a great job of keeping her voice level on the narration overtones and then varying it as needed for actual character dialog. You might recognize the name from other recent works that she's done, including Innocent Venus, Eureka Seven, .hack//Sign, and Tsubasa Chronicle, among otherseries. The music could actually use a little work. The opening theme is utterly unremarkable, essentially a pantomime for something you'd hear in Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, Tales From the Crypt, what have you. I honestly haven't registered any music in the series proper, which means that it's either entirely forgettable, or there isn't any.

Overall

I've been enjoying this series since it came to TV, more than I enjoyed reading through the manga. It's not that the manga is bad, just that the story, I think, translated much better to celluloid than it did to paper. It followed the manga storyline in the first case to a T, so fans of the manga will most likely be pleased with the anime. Fans of the occult should like it, as should fans of series like Sci-Fi's Ghost Hunters. It goes without saying that fans of The Outer Limits, Twilight Zone and similar series will love this as well. I can't think of anybody that wouldn't like Ghost Hunt off the top of my head, save perhaps those that don't like occult series, so overall I'd say it's a safe bet if you're looking for a new series to watch. Don't forget to turn out the lights!

Additional Info

  • Title: Ghost Hunt, Gōsuto Hanto, ゴーストハント
  • Genre: Mystery, Occult, Horror, Bishounen
  • Director: Rei Mano
  • Studio: J.C. Staff
  • Licensed: Funimation Entertainment
  • Network: TV Tokyo, TV Aichi, TV Osaka, TVQ, Kyushu Broadcasting Co
  • Format: Television
  • Episodes: 25
  • Animation: Good (+2)
  • Writing: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Pacing: Groovy (+5)
  • Voice Acting: Very Good (+3)
  • Soundtrack: Above Average (+1)
Last modified on Saturday, 31 March 2012 21:27

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