Ghost Hound Complete Collection (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, September 14, 2010
There are worlds out there beyond what we see, and when three boys learn how to enter and navigate this world, they begin to unlock a dark secret in Suiten’s past that may soon consume the whole town.
What They Say
When he was three, Taro Komori and his sister were kidnapped, but the kidnapper was run over and killed before the ransom could be delivered. The police eventually found Taro, but not before his sister had died. Eleven years later, Taro still has nightmares of the events surrounding the kidnapping and is haunted by a tall, featureless specter.
Now, Taro searches for answers in the Hidden Realm, but something sinister is brewing there. The spirits are restless and a malevolent ghost is appearing with increasing frequency. In the “real” world, an out of favor religious cult is finding dozens of new converts, especially among high ranking politicians. And just what the scientists at Dai Nippon Bio are up to is a question in need of an answer. Can Taro and his friends find the answers they need in time to save their friends and families?
Unseen spirits, ghosts and out-of-body experiences all combine in an intriguing exploration into the workings of memory and our perception of the world. Don’t miss the latest masterpiece from Masamune Shirow and Production I.G: Ghost Hound! This set contains episodes 1-22
This release sports an English and Japanese dub, both mixed 5.1 surround sound. These two languages sound almost identical in quality and mix, which is something that is extremely important in a series like this. With a series so abundant with atmospheric sound, white noise, sound glitches, and deep creepy voices, it gives the illusion that one is completely enveloped in this fictional world. I experienced no (unintentional) audio hiccups or dropouts in either language. Overall, a solid soundtrack that greatly enhances the viewing experience.
The series is given to us in its native 16:9 anamorphic widescreen ratio. The animation itself is nice to look at, though it is a bit jerky during times of extreme movement such as running. 3D elements mix well into the 2D drawings and rarely, if ever, draw attention to themselves in a negative way. Very pretty to look at, and I could only imagine how great it would look on Blu-Ray.
The series comes on 4 DVDs in a thick DVD case. On the front is the simple artwork of the lifeless form of a young girl and a looming threshold into a shrine. It does a good job of capturing the desired tone. At the top it advertises the series director and Production I.G and at the bottom it advertises the new English dub that is unique to this set. It also makes it abundantly clear that the entire series is in this set, which is helpful, given how confusing “sub-only for a limited time” releases can be. On the back are the three main male leads of the series, an ominous specter, and some random pictures from the show. At the top right, it advertises the English voice talent (though it unfortunately misspells the name of one of the actors). A black band across the back shows that this series is the 20th anniversary project of the studio. The rest of the back reveals the special features, and crew of the series, the crew of the DVD, and main players in the English adaptation.
The DVD case opens like a standard DVD case, and you can find all four DVDs on a spindle. It’s pretty lazy and unfortunate, as you often have to take out each DVD one after another in order to get to the one you want to watch. Plus it also increases the risk of scratching the DVDs. On the left side of the inside of the case where one would normally find a booklet there is an unsightly thick card of foam that prevents the DVDs from getting jostled around too badly while in transport.
The DVDs themselves each have some nice artwork featuring the three main leads in various standing positions. It’s nice, but hardly worth mentioning.
Overall a fairly unattractive and uninspired package, but it gets the job done.
The menus in each DVD of this release is simple. On the left half of the screen is aged paper with burnt edges and a line of blood down the left side. On the paper is an easy-to-navigate table showing the episode number and its title. Below those are the language options, and (on some discs) special features. On the right half of the screen are, once again, the three main leads of the series standing around in different positions (depending on which DVD is in). The first 35 seconds or so of the opening theme plays in the background.
The menu is very basic. There are no animations, and nothing elaborate. It’s very easy to navigate, the cursor is shown in the form of a bloody streak that underlines the desired selection. Because of the simplicity, the menu jumps between sections very quickly, and I never felt confused or put off by it in any way.
Very practical, but almost TOO basic.
The extras on this set are located in the first two discs and almost aren’t even anything worth mentioning. The first disc contains the DVD credits and several trailers for other Sentai Filmworks titles, while the second disc only contains clean versions of the opening and closing. Pretty standard anime fare, really. Since the main attraction to this release was the English dub, I do wish that Sentai Filmworks had gone the extra mile and released an extra related to that. An audio commentary would’ve been nice, if nothing else. It really is a shame and feels like a missed opportunity.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ghost Hound is the original creation of well-respected production company Production I.G, and more specifically, the brainchild of Masamune Shirow, creator of Ghost in the Shell. It is also the series that marks the twentieth anniversary of the company; so needless to say, I had certain expectations before I even sat down to watch it. And while the series failed to impress in some aspects, it still created an experience that one doesn’t normally get in the anime we are exposed to nowadays.
The story revolves around several inhabitants of the unassumingly quaint town of Suiten, namely three middle school boys and one grade school girl, each of whom has had some kind of traumatizing event in their past. Taro Komori was kidnapped when he was three years old. It was a tragic incident that left his older sister dead and his family somewhat broken. Makoto Ogami is the heir to a religious sect that he desperately wishes to break away from. Eleven years ago, his father committed suicide, and Makoto can’t shake the feeling that his death was somehow related to the Komori’s kidnappings. Masayuki Nakajima is a transfer student from Tokyo. He may have a cool and outgoing exterior, but in reality he’s haunted by the fact that not too long ago his bullying led to the suicide of one of his classmates in Tokyo. Finally, there is Miyako Komagusu, a young girl with the ability to see ghosts and a tendency to get possessed by otherworldly beings.
When the three boys go out to explore an abandoned haunted hospital in the hopes of overcoming their fears, they start to experience O.B.E.s, or out of body experiences. What’s more, they even learn to control these experiences and explore an alternate world, known as the Hidden Realm. As time goes on and the boys learn more how to dig deeper into their psyches, and slowly begin to unravel the mysteries of their past, and the mysteries of the town of Suiten.
The setup is promising enough, and the series does a good job of establishing the tone and easing the viewer into the story, which may be necessary for some since it’s a lot different from your standard anime fare. No pulsating veins, sweat drops, or flashy backgrounds will be found in this series. It ditches most anime conventions in favor of realism, and although it quickly forays into the supernatural realm of things, it still clings to realism and embeds the mental issues of the main characters solidly in science. This creative decision did have its consequences, however. This emphasis on science is also one of the reasons the show tends to drag. Every few episodes the show goes off on an expositional tangent about the science of certain mental conditions or brain functions or what not. It’s helpful and useful information to the overall plot, but it is presented in too condensed a fashion to be ideal. All the same, it is clear that a lot of work went into the research of the series, and it does wonders to add to its believability.
As impressive as the science in the series can be, the real star of the show is the sound design. Trust me when I say that if there was a show to be watched in surround sound, it is this one. Watching this show out of context, one can draw certain parallels with similarly stylized shows such as Boogiepop Phantom, though Ghost Hound is a decidedly less morbid series. There isn’t so much a score as there is a series of tones and notes that punctuate the overall creepiness, and it blends in perfectly with the sound effects to give an interesting and seemingly subjective point of view. In short, the audience gets to feel the mental anguish and confusion along with the characters, and the result is a very rewarding experience.
Unfortunately, as unique as the series is, it never really seems to completely live up to its potential. As time goes on, the novelty of it all wears off, and in the end we are left with a flawed, and at times, sagging narrative. While I eventually grew to care for the characters, they were so emotionally closed off early on that it took a good eleven episodes or so for me to become truly invested in them. One could say that’s a strength in the character arcs, but it doesn’t make for a very interesting first half. Several times in the series we are left with cliffhangers only to be launched into a completely unrelated (and often times less interesting) subplots, and by the time we are brought back to that cliffhanger, we hardly even care. To top it off there are a few mysteries that are given to us at the beginning of the series that are never fully explained or paid off. All of these weaknesses seem to stem from the main characters, who always seem reluctant to ask questions when they should be asked, or accept answers when presented. It’s a bit sloppy, but there enough mysteries layered on throughout the show that, by the time the show ends, the average viewer may forget that certain questions weren’t addressed.
Unique to this DVD set is the English dub. Last year, Sentai Filmworks released sub-only versions, so needless to say, the main draw of this release was the dub. I’m pleased to say that, on the whole, they did a solid job. The actors believably capture their characters and, for the most part, are able to get some good feeling across, even when their characters are in an emotionally repressed state. It’s not without its weaknesses, though. Every so often the writing comes across as stiff, and the lip flap match as liberal, and newcomer Corey Hertzog (voice of Masayuki) is a bit grating to listen to early on. He does improve over time, and by the end he seems to have found the balance between confident and annoying.
Production I.G’s twentieth anniversary series Ghost Hound is a unique and admirable series despite its narrative shortcomings. Its distinctive features in the end, however, help overshadow its flaws and make it something that should at least be picked up, even if only for a few episodes. The dub is a welcome addition to this release and is a worthy alternative for those looking to get friends into the series. On the whole, Ghost Hound is a reminder that anime doesn’t necessarily need to fall into a certain style or pattern in order to be anime.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Trailers, DVD Credits
Sony KDL-40EX400 BRAVIA EX400 LCD hdtv 40 inch. Sony SLV-D370P DVD Player. Electrohome ELE-HTB920E 5.1 Channel Surround Sound Home Theater Speaker System
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: C+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Running time: 550
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ghost Hound