Ghost Stories Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     December 27, 2005
Release Date: December 20, 2005


Ghost Stories Vol. #2
© ADV Films


What They Say
After her brother gets beat up again, Satsuki and her friends decide the little crybaby needs to butch it up and join the relay team. (Hope he can outrun the ghost who likes to chop off runners’ feet.) But that’s just the beginning of the second semester of scares for this group. There are classroom ghosts beginning to show up with more frequency—and ever-increasing power. From Babarase who haunts children left alone at home, to an internet ghost who can’t wait for you to go on-line, it looks like our little intrepid elementary school spirit slayers have some rough new tests to take. And when certain mirror ghosts begin reflecting on their current environment, the kids don’t even know if they can trust each other!


The Review!
Four more tales of spooks and demons unleashed on the town make up the second installment of Ghost Stories.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. This series has a pretty standard stereo mix which has both dialogue and sound effects being well used across both channels and in a full sense. Right from the start the dialogue has some good placement in order to be scary and it moves across the forward soundstage in a good manner. This is the kind of mix that would have been better in 5.1 from the start so it could move things around better but the stereo mix does a good job overall. In listening to both tracks, we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing back in 2000, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. For a show of this time period where a lot of studios were in a transitional phase from standard to CG productions still, it looks remarkably good and avoids a lot of the problems some of the studios had at the time. Most of the obvious CG work is relegated to camera movements such as fast handy-cam shakiness movements down hallways and the like. Other areas are some of the more supernatural elements which should look otherworldly so they fit in nicely as well. There's a bit of aliasing in some of the usual places but cross coloration is a non issue. Colors are mostly solid, though some of the darker colors show a bit of breakup at times, and while not a terribly vibrant looking show it maintains a good consistent feel. This isn't a show that would knock one out of the park in terms of visuals but the transfer here does a solid job overall.

Packaging:
Unlike the first volume that used pieces from different volumes, the cover artwork here is the same as the second Japanese volume but not without some changes. The character artwork of the two girls and the cat are placed in the lower left corner while the original had them larger and in the center. The shift to the lower corner appears to have been necessary so they could squeeze in some quotes about the show on the front cover. The actual artwork is pretty good though as it brings in just one of the ghosts from this volume and the character artwork has some good detail and colors to it. The back cover goes for a standard school approach with a lined paper background that has several shots from the show and a pretty decent snarky summary of what to expect from the dubbed version. The discs production and extras information is pretty cleanly listed while the technical grid continues to list all the important information in a very effective manner.

Menu:
The menu layout is pretty simple across the board with one of the ghost images with the white cloak flowing from it making up a portion of the left half and the white spreading through the bottom half while a basic blue background is along the top. The selections are all lined along the white area and it has a very quick and simple feel to it that's a step or two above some of the older ADV releases that didn't even have artwork in the menu. Access times are nice and fast but the disc has a problem in doing up the player presets properly. Fixing an issue with the first volume, the accurate subtitles are now the first track on the disc so if you default to Japanese with English via player defaults, it will now properly pick it up..

Extras:
The extras section is a bit deceptive here since it looks so minimal. The basics are here in having the clean opening and closing sequences and there's a ghost profiles section as well. The profiles cover each of the ghosts in this volume a short but interesting bit.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While fairly formulaic as one would expect from an episodic show based on a manga that does episodic ghost stories, this series doesn't exactly conquer new worlds and break new ground with what it's doing. The first volume did however prove to be a fun and entertaining show in its original form, something that's been talked down by a lot of people unfortunately, with a younger set of kids in school having to deal with the various ghosts that have been unleashed in the town recently by using the tricks and tips left by a long dead ancestor who first bound them.

The four stories in this volume make out a bit better than the first volume in a way since it doesn't have to go through the setup or dealing with new introductions as we've gone through it already. Each episode just moves fast into the storyline and gives more time to the story of the ghosts themselves or pushing the scare factor up a good bit. The opening episode, which focuses a good bit around young Keiichiro who is the weakest link of the show, has him trying to find something he's good at so the other kids won't beat him up. He's encouraged to do some track running by Hajime and the others so that he can win first place at the Sports Festival and thereby win the admiration of others. Keiichiro is trying very hard even though he does suck but his skills pick up along with his determination as someone else is often running with him. Of course, it's actually a ghost that's doing this and it's one with an age old grudge that intends to cut off the feet of particular runners during the upcoming Sports Festival. Talk about a foot for a foot. The Sports Festival is fairly standard material but the episode does a good job of getting Keiichiro to eventually not be quite the milksop he's been so far.

One of my favorite episodes of the series so far ended up on this volume with the Babasare ghost coming into play. The kids start hearing about others in their school being found by their parents with completely scared witless looks about them as they've seen something that just pushed them too far. What the kids are seeing only arrives when they're alone so the group decides that they should hang out together to some extent in order to avoid such things, not that they believe it. Amanojaku spends most of the episode laughing and waiting for the kids to get picked off in the smaller groups which is amusing. Hajime and Keiichiro spend time playing video games together but for some reason Hajime leaves Keiichiro at his house and goes to bug the girls. Leo spends time alone working on a project which means he becomes a prime target of Babasare and then leads it to the girls and everyone else, causing mass panic. The concept of how this particular ghost works is fun and the episode does a really good job of building up potential scares and then changing it by having doors to different places open instead of what you expect. Visually and with the music, they hit a lot of the standard western horror motifs which are well played and just fun to watch.

No ghost stories series is really complete with out some kind of inclusion of mirror ghosts and the way they're able to swap out bodies with their real counterparts so this volume brings that out for a spin and does a nice job with it. The episode that really felt weak though was the final one here that deals with the ghosts that haunt the dark corners of where travelers go and spirit them off to the underworld so go across the river Sanzu. This one takes on a more modern twist as it's not a ghost that can be banished or bound as the demons who deal in this business have moved on to better places like the Internet. Since there are so many well lit places in the modern day, they go where people are which means the dark closed in rooms with only monitor lights to guide the way. Leo gets to be the main star of things with this episode and his focus on computers while the others get a crash course in such high technology as scanners and web pages. Even for 2000/2001 this comes across as a bit condescending at times especially given the intended audience age that's grown up with these kinds of things.

As is our usual practice, we ended up listening to both language tracks for the show, though only one of them is used for our primary review. While I didn't care for the English language script during the first run I wanted to see if things felt more balanced in the second volume as well as, well, funny. A lot of the script in the first volume just didn't have us laughing and this volume, while I think was acted better as there's more familiarity with the characters and pacing now, still didn't have much humor to it. A lot of the jokes already felt dated and that's the death knell in a comedy show. Not that Ghost Stories was originally intended to be a comedy and I think that's where a good portion of my disdain for what's done here comes from.

In Summary:
Ghost Stories continues to be a fun little series that runs with the basic premise as established by numerous movies and other media properties throughout the nineties and gives it a bit of a fresh spin with the younger kids taking the lead. The four episodes here overall are a fun batch but not without their weak points as the five kids panic and freak out while dealing with the many spirits that have found their freedom as of late. It's simple but effective material that was certainly an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Ghost Profiles,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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