While Mai's own latent powers become stronger, the jobs that Naru's taking on become ever more dangerous, to the point where you do wonder if our gang of intrepid investigators are going to make it through the series alive. Let's find out…
What They Say
The dead have something to 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 the enigmatic Kazuya Shibuya, together they daily confront the unseen. But their work comes with its own heavy toll. While Mai's dreams herald priceless insight, nightmares and reality clash in the haze of pain encountered with every case. Only one thing is certain; Death has many shades, all of which are vividly gruesome.
Audio for this release comes in both Japanese and English 2.0 stereo – I listened to the Japanese track for this release, and apart from occasional placement of effects isn't that much to write home about. The series is more focussed on its stories than its presentation, usually, and that lets the side down a little.
Video comes in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and is a fairly solid transfer. The series is pedestrian for the most part, which means there isn't much need for fancy animation or anything that could tax the visuals. It's also heavy on darker scenes, which reduces the need or opportunity for much in the way of lavish backgrounds and such like. Overall, though, it's a decent looking release – just don't expect much in the way of visual fireworks.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
Menus on both discs in the set are fairly simple affairs – a static image (Ayaka and a wolf-like creature on disc one, Masako against a background of burning skulls on disc two), with options provided for Play All, Episodes, Audio and (one disc two only) Extras. It's pretty much what I expect on DVDs these days – quick and easy to use.
There's a decent selection of extras with the set, all contained on disc two. First up is another slideshow of pages from the Ghost Hunt manga, released by Del Rey – this gives you a feel for what the manga looks like, but even on my 37" TV the text on the pages was a bit too small to be readable. There's also a set of character case files giving short bios of the minor characters, and a set of screenshots showing the ghosts and spirits encountered in these episodes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
This set gives us another three story arc across two discs. The first introduces us to Yasuhara, student council president at Rokuryo High School, where they've been having problems with what seem to be paranormal events. The school principal has already approach Naru about looking into the matter, but the events have attracted quite a bit of attention in the media and he prefers to avoid involving himself with them, so he'd turned to job down. A personal plea by Yasuhara helps change his mind - but it seems that the school's staff are far from interested in co-operating.
In the second arc, SPR is called in to handle a delicate case on behalf of a former Prime Minister - and given the high profile if their client, discretion is important. For personal reasons, Naru decides to keep a low profile for this case, leaving Yasuhara to pose as him in all dealings with the client. The family home has a labyrinth of tunnels and corridors beneath it, which local kids have gained access to and used to play in. Now, though, one of them has gone missing, with psychic reasons being the main suspect. SPR isn't the only group invited to investigate, though, and it's not long before the rival teams are stepping on each others' toes.
Finally, Yoshimi Akifumi, whose niece Hazuki has developed a number of strange marks over her body, calls on the gang's services. To Naru and his team, it's clear at first glance that they're curse marks - "the one who carries these marks is cursed to go to hell" - meaning that someone, somewhere has a serious grudge. It turns out that there seems to be a curse on the entire Yoshimi family, one that becomes active whenever the head of the family dies - and Hazuki is just its latest victim. Having been asked to see what he can do about the problem, Naru and his team head off to the Yoshimi family home, where some of the family are far from welcoming.
On one level, this set is more of the same – the basic story idea is Ghost Hunt never changes from one arc to the other, all that differs is the nature and motivation of the spirits and people that the gang are dealing with. But Naru and the others appear, suffer a number of setbacks, before Naru finally works out what's going on and comes up with a solution. If you find that shows that stick to a formula frustrating, then you probably won't be all that taken by the stories we have here.
If you have an interest in things paranormal, though, you'll get more out of it. The stories are all well thought out, with decent logic underpinning Naru's investigations and their final outcomes – something that anime doesn't always get right. There are few things more annoying than 'investigative' shows that are easily picked apart, but that's not a problem here. What is a problem, though, is the cast. Mai is an interesting character, especially as she comes to terms with the impressive list of paranormal abilities that become apparent as the disc goes on. Her regular run-ins with Masako over who will get to be with Naru also add a little comic relief to the stories, not harmed by Masako being a fun little character herself. Past that, though, there's not much to like about the rest of the cast – Naru's aloof and arrogant nature quickly becomes annoying, while the other members of his team do little other than perform their signature exorcisms when required. The show seems to know this – when the stories take a turn towards the deadly, any truly life-threatening events happen only to Naru, Mai or Masako, with the regular characters that you're not likely to care about being left more-or-less alone.
It's also worth pointing out that the story arcs in this set are noticeably darker than the first set – people do die here, there are times when you do wonder if Naru is going to be able to solve the mystery, and there are some decidedly creepy scenes. It's just a shame that, for all the good aspects that Ghost Hunt has, there's nothing in the series that really reaches out and grabs you, or leads to you keep watching to see an arc through.
The whole of Ghost Hunt somehow manages to be less than the sum of its parts, and while the individual stories each have some good aspects the show's flaws combine to make the overall experience somewhat underwhelming. Just goes to show the importance of having a cast you can care about, I guess. The show's not without its charm, and the paranormal goings-on do have their appeal, but as with the first volume it's one to try before you buy.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Ghost Hunt Manga Pages, Character Case Files, Ghost Sightings
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.