Character development comes out slowly as three more tales of the supernatural are explored in Ghost Hunt.
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 the enigmatic Kazuya "Naru" 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.
From the top of a church's tallest spire to the bloodstained walls of a legendary torture chamber, the quest to save the possessed gives way to a battle for the ghost hunters' very survival.
Contains episodes 14-25.
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 in an action scene with flames whipping around them. 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 and disturbing shots from the show. 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 Matsuzaki in her full priestess garb while the second has one of Masako with a somewhat scared look to her expression. 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 Naru and one with Lin, 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. 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 just like the first set that came out. The first is the inclusion 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)
After the first set with its thirteen episodes, the first season of Ghost Hunt comes to a close with this set as it brings out the last twelve episodes. This set covers three very different tales, four episodes each, as it exposes us to more of this cast of characters as their relationships grow and change. Not surprisingly, the introduction of Mai into the group has been a catalyst for change and growth and these things get explored as small threads in the larger narrative of the series. The focus is still very much on the ghost hunt aspect itself, but the character pieces are rather well woven into everything without dominating.
The character bits are rather fun and point to something bigger going on with some of them than one would have guessed. A surprising turn is when it’s revealed that Lin is actually from Hong Kong and there’s a strong sense of disgust within him over the Japanese in general. Mai’s attempts to get friendlier with him are thrown off by this since he basically indicates he doesn’t want to get close to anyone Japanese and that it even includes her, though it’s not “personal” in a way. It’s through this that it’s revealed that he’s very much only here because he’s protecting Naru at the request of his parents, who are in fact a pair of very well off doctors. Mai’s small inquiries, things she’s done her best to not do too much of, slowly help to start piecing things together in this area.
Most of the others don’t get too much in the way of exploration. Masako is given a little bit here and there, mostly in regards to how she’s interested in Naru. Ayako has her origins lightly touched upon when Monk and Mai talk about how unusual she is with her background. Monk actually comes to the forefront more in this second half, almost taking on a lead role for good parts of it. But the biggest revelations come towards the end of the set where Naru’s true abilities start to come to light after she spends the bulk of the story unconscious and protected by Lin. Like a good novel, the revelations are being teased out and hinted at without being outright thrown in the viewers face. The series isn’t following the standard “manga” approach of revealing things but instead is providing a much more natural flow to all of it which in turn makes it all the more appealing.
The opening story arc on this set, “Forbidden Pastime,” takes us back to the school setting where Naru has been called in to take a look at an exceptionally problematic location. The school has a whole lot of issues going on with spiritual appearances and it’s getting to the point where students are being injured seriously. The school is run very strict and there are some deep seated issues that have been going on for some time. There’s even a suicide from the start of the school year that seems related. What’s interesting with this storyline is that it introduces Yasuhara, the top student of the school, as someone who is slowly becoming involved with Naru’s team and has a definite if understated interest in Mai. This storyline also works to cement more of Mai’s abilities as she’s having more of her dreams and is becoming more aware of them and their impact. The story gets tense in several places and it fits well, though the school setting is somewhat tiring at this point.
Thankfully, it’s the last school setting of the season as the second story, “The Bloodstained Labyrinth,” takes us to someplace new. Naru’s brought into this by the woman who taught him to check out a massive mansion that’s been built over and added onto repeatedly over the years. Along with a few other people brought in, they’re trying to figure out what’s possessing the place and where people are disappearing to inside. Naru’s actually acting as a regular employee for this storyline and has brought in Yasuhara to take on the role of company manager, which brings in some amusing moments as everyone plays deference to him instead. Naru is still in control of course but it’s different to see him take on this particular aspect.
This storyline is a bit stronger in terms of what it’s presenting than some of the others, including the previous one. With the mansion being compared to the infamous Winchester House, having all the various designed rooms throughout gives it a creepy enough feel. But when you add in the room in the lower level where the previous owner spent his time killing young women in order to drain their blood so he could bathe in it, well, it’s pretty damn creepy. What takes it to the next level is that Mai has one of her dreams about it and lives the life of one of the past victims, from being dragged down there through the maze to being strapped onto the table so she can be cut open. It’s not incredibly intense, but the feelings it evokes and the way it ratchets up the atmosphere is quite strong. The storyline does have some unusual moments, and I tend to dislike shows that dip back into the old Vlad Tepes material, but at least they’re playing it straight here and work towards the real original ideas behind it rather than the Hollywood versions.
The final story of the season is the most awkward of them all in a way because after the first episode, they put Naru out of the picture. Naru takes the usual group off to the Yoshimi Inn where he’s been asked to look into the problem of one of the children having marks on her back and neck. As it turns out, there’s a long family history here where when the elder of the family dies, a lot of other members of the family dies as well shortly thereafter. The inn, set along a cliff, has a lot of history to it because of this and because of the bodies of seamen who ended up there dead along the rocks over the years. Add in a number of other things and it’s a place that’s heavy in concentration of the dead with a lot going on.
With Naru under wraps, the focus lets Monk take the lead and along with Mai and her visions they work to unravel the mystery. In a way, this was a really awkward way to end the season because Naru’s lack of involvement for most of it felt very off. The storyline itself is very rooted in a number of things from the past which can play out a little awkwardly as well, at least to someone not more familiar with all of it. The positive side is that it eventually does provide a fair number of revelations about Naru and his real abilities and that goes a long way towards making you want more and more of the show. Everything really does come together well here, in spite of the story that doesn’t really seem to flow well or connect easily with the viewer.
Ghost Hunt has been a fun series but in a way I’ve felt that, at least from a reviewers standpoint, doesn’t play out well in this kind of form. Going through all twelve episodes in the space of two days really diminishes the flow of the series and the ability to take in the individual story arcs. While it would have been a fairly standard individual volume release series, it’s one that I wonder if it would have held up stronger because each volume would have been close to covering an individual story arc by itself. Each story arc would gain more attention since you wouldn’t run right into the next one. Sometimes more means less in a way and I think Ghost Hunt is unfortunately one of those series. That said, it’s a show that I enjoyed a fair bit overall, but is one that I wonder if I’d enjoy it more if I’d been able to spread it out 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.