Ghost Stories Vol. #5 (of 5) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, June 06, 2006
What They Say
It's the final semester for our intrepid grade school ghoul fighters. But will they live to see graduation? Doesn't seem likely when a vengeful snow spirit screws with their winter break, a decapitated biker tries to get some head, a demon dj pumps up the volume, and the most powerful ghost the kids have ever encountered tries to make the kids' mother's memorial service into a group funeral. So send out the evil invitations to the spectacular supernatural finale that has critics and audiences screaming "with laughter.
Tackling another round of standard school ghosts, Satsuki and friends bring the series to a rather decent close.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. This series has a pretty standard stereo mix which has both dialogue and sound effects being well used across both channels and in a full sense. Right from the start the dialogue has some good placement in order to be scary and it moves across the forward soundstage in a good manner. This is the kind of mix that would have been better in 5.1 from the start so it could move things around better but the stereo mix does a good job overall. In listening to both tracks, we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing back in 2000, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. For a show of this time period where a lot of studios were in a transitional phase from standard to CG productions still, it looks remarkably good and avoids a lot of the problems some of the studios had at the time. Most of the obvious CG work is relegated to camera movements such as fast handy-cam shakiness movements down hallways and the like. Other areas are some of the more supernatural elements which should look otherworldly so they fit in nicely as well. There's a bit of aliasing in some of the usual places but cross coloration is a non issue. Colors are mostly solid, though some of the darker colors show a bit of breakup at times, and while not a terribly vibrant looking show it maintains a good consistent feel. This isn't a show that would knock one out of the park in terms of visuals but the transfer here does a solid job overall.
Probably the best cover of the series, this one has a good mix of the ghosts that appear in this set of episodes as well as a really good group shot of the lead characters in front of them. The artwork here is nicely detailed and the colors look great with their vibrant hues. The back cover goes for a standard school approach with a lined paper background that has several shots from the show and a pretty decent snarky summary of what to expect from the dubbed version. The discs production and extras information is pretty cleanly listed while the technical grid continues to list all the important information in a very effective manner.
The menu layout is pretty simple across the board with one of the ghost images with the white cloak flowing from it making up a portion of the left half and the white spreading through the bottom half while a basic blue background is along the top. The selections are all lined along the white area and it has a very quick and simple feel to it that's a step or two above some of the older ADV releases that didn't even have artwork in the menu. Access times are nice and fast but the disc has a problem in doing up the player presets properly. Fixing an issue with the first volume, the accurate subtitles are now the first track on the disc so if you default to Japanese with English via player defaults, it will now properly pick it up..
The extras section is a bit deceptive here since it looks so minimal. The basics are here in having the clean opening and closing sequences and there's a ghost profiles section as well. The profiles cover each of the ghosts in this volume a short but interesting bit.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Many months since the pre-release hype of the series with its Adult Swim skewed English script and "fresh" approach to handling the dub, Ghost Stories ends fairly quietly with the last four episodes. At least in terms of the hype and controversy surrounding it as people have made their choices and rolled with them. The final volume of the series doesn't stray too much from the formula though it does at least work through its final standalone episode in a manner that gives the series some solid resolution and just a touch of sadness as it brings it all to a close.
The last set of stories tackle more of the standard kinds of ghosts that show up in these stories and they're quite a bit of fun and rather well done in some of them. The opening tales has the group heading off to a distant cousin's of Satsuki's for a weekend ski trip since the relatives own an inn by the mountains. The cousin doesn't actually show up to meet them but they head into town to get to the inn on their own only to find that the inn itself is fairly empty of people until the young girl arrives. It's from here that the tale of a local who had died starts to be told and before everyone knows it, the area starts to fall under the spell of this snow ghost who wants to claim Satsuki's cousin as her own. The snow stories like this one have always been some of my favorites since the mixture of the dark icy weather and the heavy streams of snow mixed in with the level of fear gives it an edge that other traditional ghost stories don't. Having the gang out of their normal element puts them in a situation where the ghost diary doesn't help any and they realize just how weak they can be in dealing with all of this.
The area where Ghost Stories surprised me the most was how good looking the episode dealing with the broadcast room ghost came across. Not so much the episode in general but that of Akane the ghost where they use some creative visual effects to give her a static look as she haunts Satsuki and those who are in the room. Stories about broadcast room ghosts are things we see in all manners of anime that deal with school settings that aren't even horror related so it's the kind of episode I expected to see but I didn't guess it would be this enjoyable, or that they'd pull in an adult character to be exposed to everything that was going on. The same with the headless rider episode which was less of a school based horror since it wasn't something that was freed or in Satsuki's diary but something that the town has had to deal with each year. It drew in more of the normal characters and adults, moving it to the general populace and more common fears. Similar to the snow spirit episode, it also showed that the knowledge in the diary isn't all encompassing and reinforced the weaknesses of Satsuki and the others in dealing with the unknown.
With the way the volume was playing out, I wasn't expecting the last episode to be a closure on the series itself. Maybe it would have something that would serve as a closing to the chapter but it actually goes fairly well towards resolving the supernatural aspect of the kids lives as the school and everyone in it gets sucked into a mysterious red fog that's actually one of the more powerful demons that had been put to spiritual sleep in the past. It builds upon some of the themes of the previous episodes about the inherent weaknesses of the kids but it also pushes forward some of the more interesting elements that have cropped up throughout the show about Amanojakou and how close he's actually gotten to them, particularly Keiichirou and the way he keeps calling him Kaya. Amanojakou really shines in this last volume during his couple of appearances and what lengths he goes to.
I've enjoyed Ghost Stories for the most part but it's been a frustrating title on some levels because I can't recommend it to people who watch dubs since I found a lot of it to be simple crude and offensive and even worse " unfunny. Having been familiar with the origins of the school ghost stories and knowing a lot of them over the last ten years it was something that had appeal. The creative team behind the show did a really good job of avoiding some of the usual pitfalls, especially with such a young cast. When all the hype and controversy about the title is long gone, what we're left with is a fun and rather well done series that has some good replay value, especially if you're learning about the world of Japanese ghost stories.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Ghost Profiles,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: C+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ghost Stories