Serving up stories of the paranormal across multiple episodes, Ghost Hunt is a solid and engaging diversion for the spiritually minded.
What They Say:
The appeal of the unknown is undeniable and freshman Mai Taniyama is hooked. This fact, coupled with her burgeoning psychic powers, leads Mai to join the ranks of the Shibuya Psychic Research team. Led by enigmatic Kazuya "Naru" Shibuya, she works alongside a spirit medium and a shrine maiden, an exorcist and a monk to uncover the darkest mysteries of the unseen. Using state of the art technology and their respective spiritual gifts, evil is confronted and vanquished time and again.
Contains episodes 1-13.
What We Say:
Ghost Hunt is pretty much all about the dialogue, so getting a pair of stereo mixes done at 192 kbps for the Japanese and English language tracks isn’t a surprise. The series doesn’t have all that dynamic of a mix in general, though there is some decent placement across the forward soundstage during key moments. It’s almost entirely dialogue driven and it has a generally full sounding design to it. It may not be the most engaging mix because of this, but it really does suit the material well and it’s very much problem free.
Originally airing in late 2006 and early 2007, this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episodes for this part of the series is spread on two discs with seven on the first and six on the second. The series isn’t a very active one in terms of animation, though it certainly has its busy scenes. By and large it tends to be more conversational and relaxed so that gives it something to work with since they’re not trying to keep up with a lot of action. The bitrates tend to average around the five range, which isn’t bad in general, but a lot of the backgrounds in interior scenes tend to come across as fuzzy. There’s a good bit of noise during this, especially in the green hall interiors. Beyond that though, there’s a general softness that’s present and seemingly intentional for the material and outside of a bit of aliasing here and there it’s a generally pleasant transfer. It won’t shock and impress but it’s serviceable enough.
Ghost Hunt is done similar to other new half season sets from FUNimation with a thin slipcover that holds two thinpak cases inside of it. The slipcover is appealing with its artwork as the front one has a good haunting shot of Naru and Mai together. The logo looks really good with both the English and Japanese versions to it and it overall has an eerie feel without exactly spelling it out. The back cover is fairly traditional with some tantalizing shots from the show, with Mai looking slightly attractive with what she’s wearing, and with a focus on the spiritual element. The summary covers the basics of the series and there are a few nicely done photographs along the bottom to draw you in a little more. The two thinpaks are nicely done and are free of logos which is a definite plus. The first volume has a good close-up of Naru while the second has one of Monk and nothing else to them. The back covers feature the extended part of the front cover with the bilingual logo there. The reverse side covers feature more artwork and use the same layout design, one with Mai and one with John, while also including episode numbers and titles as well as extras for the second volume. Though I’m still iffy on the flimsy nature of the slipcover itself, I’m enjoying these thinpak designs overall.
The menu design for Ghost Hunt is pretty simple but it’s nice and evocative enough to carry it off without seeming too cheap. Each volume has a static image with some good mixture of colors to it in the background to give it a bit more foreboding. The first volume has the artwork from the front cover with Naru and Mai together while the second volume features the artwork from that discs cover of Monk in his garb doing his job. There’s a bit of instrumental music to it which helps set the mood and the layout is certainly easy enough to navigate. Submenus load quickly and the standard issue of FUNimation discs not reading player presets is still very much here unfortunately.
The extras are all contained on the second disc and they’re mostly forgettable, though they’re a nice effort for something original. The first is the inlusion of several pages of the manga, courtesy of Del Rey who is releasing it in the US. The second extra is a look at the various characters in the form of one page bios that are little more than a listing of a personality quirk or trait at best and that’s it. Also included is a series of clips that showcase various ghost sightings from within the show itself. Add in the clean opening sequence and you’ve got some mild pieces but nothing all that exceptional.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I have to admit I have a particular love of Fuyumi Ono after the sheer pleasure that was Twelve Kingdoms. While I’ve only been able to dabble in the novel versions as released by TOKYOPOP, the anime completely wowed me and I was very open to anything she had her mind to work on. So when I got my hands on the Ghost Hunt manga a few years back, which is done by Shiho Inada as a shoujo series, I was fairly disappointed. Something about the book simply didn’t click with me and I gave up after just a couple of volumes. It felt too pedestrian and familiar without enough of a hook to make me want to see where it was going.
While the light novels have long since ended and the manga is still ongoing, the anime version is something that has to stand on its own. The twenty-five episode series looks to be working from the manga version and it’s managed to make the show fairly interesting once it gets underway. The general issues I have with the series from the manga version are still present, but what it comes down to is that I felt that the opening story was the weakest and it took some time to get going. The advantage to a thirteen episode set is that you’re able to move through a good chunk of the show fairly quickly and see if it gets better. The downside is that after thirteen episodes and multiple supernatural mysteries, it can get a bit overwhelming much like Detective Conan’s multiple single episode mysteries.
Ghost Hunt revolves around the idea of multi episode mysteries that involve the supernatural. The central player in the series is Kazuya Shibuya, a seventeen year old young man with a gift for hunting ghosts through technology and old fashioned research. Operating an agency out of Shibuya, he’s brought in to all manner of places because of his growing reputation as a solid investigator that gets results and cleans out situations that put people at risk or discomfort. The opening story brings him to a school where there’s haunting going on and that introduces him to fifteen year old Mai Taniyama. Mai is very drawn to Kazuya, who she nicknames Naru because she finds him to be something of a narcissist. She accidentally causes Naru’s assistant, the mysterious somewhat older gentleman named Lin, to be hurt and she has to make amends by helping Naru with this particular investigation.
While Naru is quite good at his job and his understanding and depth of knowledge is strong, he’s not one that is a cure-all for any situation. What he is capable of doing is determining what’s needed for a particular job and bringing in those that can help. This leads to him bringing in a group of regulars over the course of the eight or so months that this first thirteen episodes cover after he hires Mai to help out in the office. The cast of regulars is fairly interesting and surprisingly inoffensive considering what they could be like based on other series that have done the same. Takigawa is a Buddhist monk in his mid twenties who has a very positive outlook on life and spends most of his day job time as part of a band, not that they get any play. He’s very laid back and outgoing with everyone. During the Silent Christmas storyline, he’s absolutely wonderful to watch as the kids take to him and he interacts perfectly with them.
The flip side to him is Matsuzaki, a slightly younger woman who is a Shinto priestess that is all about the confidence. She’s got her stock lines at times, enough so that she’s actually mocked in a friendly way about it by the others because she has that “I know what’s going on” vibe to her. She’s got a mild interest in Naru but nothing all that serious as she’s more interested in gaining more proficiency with her skills. She’s got the confidence and belief in what she can do, and she knows she can do it, but like some people she has a hard time really being effective in the actual moment. It’s never truly detrimental or done in a humorous style which leads one to feeling sympathetic for her overall and rooting for her to improve. This is also something of the case with the other regular, John Brown. John is a Catholic priest at the tender age of nineteen who is well versed in exorcisms. He’s a very pleasant and bubbly character almost which is made even more amusing by the fact that he comes to Japan by way of Australia and learned his Japanese in Kansai, which gives him a very amusing dialect that gets touched upon here and there.
The dynamic of the show is admittedly rather predictable. Once you get past the opening storyline that runs three episodes and handles the introductions, it shifts into having the multi part stories that has Naru taking on a job and eventually bringing in the others. Not everyone is involved at the same stage or for the same reasons, but it runs in a fairly standard mystery mode of discovery, deduction and revelation. Where it succeeds is that the stories offer plenty of possibilities once you work with the idea that the supernatural factor is definitely at play here. It’s not using it for wild laughs or gags but rather as something serious and eerie. The mysteries do unfortunately seem to center around high school aged kids for the most part, with about half of this set dealing with school related haunting, but it also shifts out of that realm for awhile as well which helped a lot.
The final two part storyline called “Silent Christmas” deals with a possession that happens from a young boy who died in a church years ago and is still waiting for his father to come and get him. This one dips back in time by about forty years to tell its tale and it adds some really nice touches to cover that tale from the past. With it being two episodes it also runs short which helps after the lengthier stories that preceeded it. The three and four episode stories are given more than enough room to breathe, but I was curious to see how they’d handle something smaller. And Ghost Hunt isn’t adverse to a standalone story with some humor either. This standalone episode, “Ghost Story in the Park!?” lets one of the lesser used regulars, spiritualist Masako, to take the stage as she gets possessed by a jilted lover who died and is now haunting a park. It’s played more for comedy than anything else and it provided a very good break from the ten episodes prior to it which were quite serious and played straight.
Ghost Hunt’s visual style isn’t one that exactly screams shoujo, which is a definite positive. If anything, it feels like a middle of the road show in terms of how it’s defined visually. The characters are all done through a realistic model, within the anime realm at least, with nothing that feels exaggerated or over the top. It’s the kind of show that you can easily imagine being used as a storyboard for a live action series. Everyone has the darkened hair colors outside of John, they wear fairly standard clothing and nothing flashy. Mai shifts between standard street clothes and her school uniform well while Naru keeps to his simple black suit which gives him a rather engaging if cool feeling. The only one that dresses up with any regularity is Masako and that’s part and parcel of her role in general. With solid character designs and a strong sense of set design for the real world settings everything takes place in, this comes across very well.
Where the real trick lies is in making the supernatural aspect of it work within this real world framework. Ghost Hunt does manage to pull this off as these elements tend to be more mysterious than out in the open for much of it. The moments of spoon bending and general psychic material is done well enough and fits in right, but when dealing with the actual spirits and foxfires, it becomes trickier. These aspects are all done in a straight manner, playing it for the actual eerie factor rather than shock value. This helps to elevate the material a bit since it’s treating the audience right and not going for the more obvious route. Beyond the one comedy oriented episode, everything is played straight and that lends the show to the more serious side and the design of it really does it all just right.
While Ghost Hunt didn’t enamor me when I read the manga, the anime version has a better feeling to it, especially if you watch it in smaller chunks by each of the stories. Taking it in that form rather than marathoning it will give you a better view of it, letting the situations linger in your mind more. Though not the same, Ghost Hunt fills the void left by the first season of Hell Girl being over by giving us creepy and eerie situations of a supernatural sort. These play out longer, more as a mystery, and with a larger cast, but it has that older audience design to it that keeps it from playing to the usual clichés. While Ghost Hunt doesn’t get a rousing and raving endorsement, it’s a wonderfully solid show that is perfect for settling into late at night and soaking up all of its atmosphere. This set left me wanting more.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Ghost Hunt Manga Pages, Character Case Files, Image Gallery, Textless Opening
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.