Three young men with problems find themselves all having out of body experiences – and looking like weird Pokemon in the process.
What They Say
Three boys' traumatic childhoods have given each the ability to slip into a parallel dimension known as the Unseen World. But the Unseen World is going through changes, and its ghosts begin to appear in our real world.
Ghost Hound makes out really well with its audio presentation, though like other Sentai releases they have only the Japanese audio on it. The series has a 5.1 mix to it, encoded at 448kbps, which provides for a pretty strong forward soundstage presentation overall. There doesn’t appear to be anything coming from the rear channels that I could discern, but the bump up with less compression works out well for the foreground as the dialogue feels well placed and crisper than usual. The single language track here is in good shape with no problems that I could find during its regular playback.
Originally airing in 2007 and 2008, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This collection is split across two discs in a five/six format so there’s a fair amount of space for each set of episodes. Production I.G. has a very good look designed for this show and the transfer here captures it really well. There’s a lot of earth tones, dark colors and moments of vibrancy that gives it a very real world feeling with very little problem. The show manages to avoid main problems like cross coloration and most line noise with only a few areas of background noise in the night time scenes with the dark skies. Overall this is a really appealing looking show with its visual design and the transfer captures it quite well.
Ghost Hound certainly has a creepy looking cover with this standard sized keepcase. The front cover has the three leads standing around in the woods with lots of fallen leaves on the ground, but it’s the way the camera angle is done that makes it creepy with the curved design. Taro certainly has the look here as he gazes upward and provides a contrast to Masayuki in his school uniform and Makoto in his usual street clothes. There’s more mixed into the background and around the edges that makes it worth spending some time lingering on the cover as well. The back cover goes for a rather bland gray background with some opaque material from the show, but the full color piece to the left is pretty nice with the trio shown from another angle as Makoto takes the foreground. Several shots from the show are included and there are a couple of paragraphs going on about the plot. The rest of the cover is fairly standard with the production credits and a solid technical grid that breaks down all the details in one easy to find place. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus use the same kind of grayish background from the back cover while also using the cover artwork as well. The first volume uses the artwork of the trio from the front cover along the left while the navigation is along the right in a quick and simple strip. The second volume uses the character artwork from the back cover with the same layout, making it easy on the eyes and quick to use for the navigation itself. Submenus, what few there are, load quick and easily with no problems. With the discs being monolingual, there are no problems to be had with player presets but it is worth noting that you can switch the subtitles off during the show itself. Access times are nice and fast overall and while not flashy, these are good basic menus.
The only extras included are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which are on the second volume.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based off an original idea by Masamune Shirow back in 1987, which ties in really nicely to things being part of Production I.G.’s 20th anniversary event back in 2007, Ghost Hound is a twenty two episode series that will alternately bore you to tears or have you laugh out loud at certain visuals. I’m a huge fan of Shirow, and I like how his works get adapted out of his hands into something just as intriguing, but he’s had his share of misses over the years as well and the first half of Ghost Hound feels like one really big miss.
Ghost Hound takes place in the sleepy little mountain town of Suiten, which is along the mountainous area of Kyushu. It’s a very quiet place where small town politics are amusing, everyone knows everybody else and when things go badly, well, the blame is something that permeates that particular person of family for what seems like an eternity. The series revolves around three middle school students who all have some form of trauma in their lives so far. Taro was part of a kidnapping when he was younger that was the cause of his younger sisters death, Makoto’s father killed himself years earlier after that kidnapping though he doesn’t appear to have been involved and Masayuki transferred from Tokyo with a fear of heights caused when he used to bully someone who ended up falling off of a rooftop to his death. The trauma for all three has deeply impact who they are, and while they don’t get along at first, they do eventually find some common ground.
Interestingly, it’s Masayuki who is the initial driving force as he’s found the rumors and stories of Suiten to be fascinating and discovers that both Makoto and Taro have ties to these events. Obnoxious at first, because of his Tokyo attitude and the way he’s so blunt with things, he eventually is able to get closer to both of them and they sort of joke around about their traumas and the things that make them who they are. Taro is dealing with his out of body experience dreams, Masayuki plays video games that deal with heights in order to try and conquer his fear while Makoto is trying to find out more about his father and who he really was, which can be quite dangerous in a small town environment.
One of the interesting factors to the story is that the town has a history involving a dam that was built quite some time ago which ended up leaving a big chunk of a town in ruins, covered in mud and left to rot. There’s a fascination with a hospital that’s there which has all kinds of stories associated with it. In fact, Makoto’s father is tied to it when he and friends went there when young, which also brings in connections to other people who have grown up since then and have various positions in the town and possibly know the details of what happened back then. There are a lot of little secrets that are on the verge of being discovered throughout the show which gives it a feeling very reminiscent of Kaze no Yojimbo.
When the show moves fully into the paranormal material by having the three kids perform OBE’s, or out of body experiences, we start to see more of the Hidden World as opposed to the Visible World that we normally inhabit. It’s through these trips that the trio start to work through their issues, since flying in this form helps Masayuki for example and Makoto starts to learn of his father’s past while talking to others. Calling it soul travel, they explore a fair bit of the countryside and discover ghost spirits of extinct animals and more while also starting to see things from their own pasts that still haunt them, particularly the image of the spirit of the man who was involved in the kidnapping that got hit by a truck when he ran. It’s filled with some terribly creepy moments that really do put you somewhat on edge.
I’m of two minds when it comes to the visual design of the show. On the positive side, the characters have a very strong real world look to them for the most part which is complement by some great settings. It feels like an extension of When They Cry in a sense because of the locale, but it feels a bit more oppressive and not quite as lush which works in its favor, giving it a more earthy feel that gets into your skin. The character designs are very appealing to me in how they’re portrayed, move and interact with the world. Where they lose me though is their soul travel forms when they go out of body. They’re so comical looking that they push it beyond that realm of disbelief that I can suspend. It just makes me laugh.
Ghost Hound has a lot of familiar elements to it and puts it together with a really strong visual look for the most part. What holds it back is that it is familiar but also that it’s bogged down in its own thoughts. It’s such a slow moving series that at the end of the first episode, there was absolutely nothing that compels you to watch the second episode. And this goes on for several episodes until you start the real out of body material, and that’s either going to sell you on the show or make you laugh. It made me laugh unfortunately and caused the show to feel even weaker. A series can get by easily with atmosphere and style but there has to be a real hook in there. Ghost Hound takes awhile to get to it and it’s not all that engaging of a hook.
Ghost Hound also takes an unusual approach for a release from Sentai Filmworks as its priced higher than anything else they put out and it has less content overall as well. Most of their releases are around $40 each for 12-13 episodes while this one is $60 for 11 episodes. They’ve priced it in the same range as many new titles from other publishers that involved dubs and better packaging. It’s really quite boggling that they did it this way, especially considering the content as it’s not the kind that I think can really sell itself at this price.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.