The real "Ghost Hunt" may lie in Naru's past.
Writer/Artist: Shiho Inada
Translation: Satsuki Yamashita
Adaptation: Satsuki Yamashita
What They Say
Naru is the brilliant, eccentric, and deeply mysterious leader of Shibuya Psychic Researchers - a band of intrepid ghost hunters. But none of his colleagues know anything about his past. Now the brave paranormal investigators venture to a haunted school - and deep into their leader's secret history!
When we last saw the Shibuya Psychic Researchers in volume 9, released almost two years ago, the outcome of the events at the cursed Yoshimi Inn has left Naru unconscious and hospitalized. It was here that it was learned that the seemingly supernaturally non-talented Kazuya Shibuya, nicknamed "Naru" for his overwhelming narcissism, really does have a gift for the psychic. And at the opening of this volume, it's Naru's paranormal perception of a village near a lake on the journey back to Tokyo that causes him to declare SPR defunct and the group disbanded.
There's always been a touch of Scooby Doo with the supporting cast in Ghost Hunt and there's a bit of that here in the scramble that occurs after the group decides to stay in the area with Naru. However, news of the arrival of the SPR has reached the mayor of the village and he asks Naru and company to investigate the haunting of the abandoned village school that is standing in the way of the plans to turn the area into a tourist destination.
The haunted school, much like the case of the cursed inn before it, is much more engaging for the reader than some of the previous cases where Naru's overwhelming sense of superiority and control sucked out some of the fun. Naru is at no advantage in this case when he and the group are locked in the school by mysterious forces and members of the group go missing one-by-one.
The blurb on the back of the book states that this volume will follow the Shibuya Psychic Researchers as they "venture...deep into their leader's past". Well, I think that's a little strong for what actually happens. If anything, the members of the SPR just bump into one of the secrets that Naru has been keeping close to the vest and even he doesn't deny what they have found out. Not much dramatic tension with a revelation as important as this, but then again it's an oddly appropriate tone and approach with a character such as Naru who is so distanced from the group and looks to be only tenuously connected to the events around him. What could be considered a fault in most situations actually works here.
The art is a very mixed bag and those familiar with the consistency in character design in the anime will be the most surprised. The rest of us have memorized the three or four possible variations on each character so that disruptions are kept to a minimum. However, Shiho Inada has a very good sense of the atmospherics needed for the various cases and the presentation here does not disappoint - the physical menace and sense of mystery are well laid out.
The supernatural cases of Ghost Hunt have their own distinct style and character. These are not the elegant, tortured dreams of the visitors to the Silver Star Tea House (Nightmare Inspector: Yumenkui Kenbun), the campy fun of the vampire ridden high school of Dark Edge, or the cerebral puzzles of Kindaichi. The cases in Ghost Hunt really don't invite reader participation in their solution; the attraction is experiencing the events along with the SPR. And in this volume, it looks as if the creepiness factor may have bumped up a notch with that puppy pelt.
After an absence of almost two years, it's good to see another volume of Ghost Hunt. There are reports that Shiho Inada is working on volume 11, so perhaps we will see another soon.
On a side note, for those fans of the anime who would like to experience more of Ghost Hunt, the manga series begins a new arc with volume 10.