Mania Grade: B
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Bandai Entertainment
- MSRP: 39.99
- Running time: 300
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Haunted Junction
By Chris Beveridge
June 06, 2000
Release Date: June 06, 2000
What They Say
© Bandai Entertainment
Meet Haruto Hojo, an ordinary high school student with an unusual problem. He's got ghosts and spirits running amuck at school! Appointed President of the Saints Club, Haruto, Mutsuki, and Kazuo are charged with the task of investigating strange phenomena on campus and improve the quality of life for the school spirits that roam the halls. But how can three students handle the likes of Hanako, the sultry bathroom spirit, a Kosak-dancing skeleton, a fish monster living in the school's pool, Red Mantle, Nino-kun, and the rest of the Saito school spirits?The Review!
Okay, so, a Buddhist monk, a Shinto priestess and the son of a minister walk into a school... You know, I can almost see the show being sold that way to someone. Haunted Junction is the tale of the schools Holy Student Council members and the various school spirits who inhabit the school. A limited run twelve episode TV series whose particular claim to fame is Atsuko Nakajima who does the character designs also worked on the Ranma 1/2 TV series. Don't expect the same kind of designs however.
In the US, Haunted Junction wasn't released in a dubbed format, only in its native Japanese with subtitles. As such, the DVD is presented with the stereo mix of the Japanese language track only with no English dub to be found. The stereo track is actually pretty decent and the opening song has some sound being sent to the rear channels. Dialogue is clean and undistorted, sounding quite good on our system but nothing more than you really expect from a recent anime television series. There's some decent directionality across the front soundstage at times, but for the most part sound comes out of the center channel since the characters who are speaking are usually dead center on the screen.
As with all their releases to date, the video on this two disc dual layered collection is impressive. While we did find a few seconds of pixellation here and there and one scene of very busy linework that goes slightly awry, this is a solid transfer that doesn't break up anywhere or have any color bleeding. Unlike some of their other recent releases though, this is a very muted show when it comes to colors. There are lots of dark browns, blacks and greens. Even things that you would expect to be vibrant, such as the red hair of the Shinto priestess is more subdued. Of course, it was animated this way, so to expect anything else would be silly. Simply, this transfer won't shine as much as something like Blue Submarine or Eat-Man, but it is another top notch transfer from Bandai.
Not messing with what already works, Haunted Junction is packaged in the double keepcase that was last seen with the Eat-Man '98 Collection. The thickness of this case and what it contains really makes its mark when you compare it to the six VHS tapes that the show was originally released to. The front cover contains a picture of the three main characters, in what looks more like a manga version than their anime counterparts, in a very serious pose. Of course, this show is anything but serious! The back cover gives icon shots of most of the main characters as well as a good summary of the series. The main cast list is given here as well (it's not on the disc itself anywhere) as well as the main staff members behind the production and the English adaptation credits. The insert provided opens two a full two page spread that has more character artwork and lists which episodes are on which disc.
When it comes to the menus though, there's little to talk about. Keeping things budget conscious, there's no animation though there is music playing throughout them. The scene selection menu is set up nicely with three episodes to a page. All of the menus are accessed fairly quickly and are laid out in a logical fashion. The first disc has an extras selection that contains a character gallery. Each of the main characters is presented with a brief summary of them.
Haunted Junction is the story mainly of three characters in Saito High School. Ryudoh Kazumi, a Buddhist monk, Asahina Mutsuki, a Shinto priestess and Hokujo Haruto, the son of a minister. Haruto is pretty much the main character of the three as we're introduced to him being kept a part of the schools Holy Student Council. He also gets a number of the best lines of the series and gets the last word in each and every episode with the same line.
Haruto has the special ability to summon the seven main spirits who inhabit the school to help him and the others deal with the variety of problems (and spirits) that plague the school. These kids don't spend much time in class (only Haruto is actually seen in class a couple of times) since being on the Council gets them out of it. So while it takes place in a school, don't expect the usual school antics.
Each of the seven school spirits are pretty well thought out, though only a few of them are given much of the air time beyond being summoned and doing something quick. Those few who do get a bit more revealed about them are the more interesting ones, though Toilet Hanako is of course the favorite of many, if simply because of her kawaii factor and her cleavage-showing outfit. I personally like her for her "Hai, hai" saying and the way she says it.
The twelve episodes in the disc comprise the entire series and are pretty close to standalone episodes. You don't need to watch more than the first episode to get a feel for it and then you can bounce to any episode and be fine. One of the things that kept running through my mind while watching this show is how some of its roots are based in the same kind of storytelling that Rumiko Takahashi did with Urusei Yatsura. The frantic nature of the characters, the sometimes historical aspects of the spirits, the religious aspects in general. That's not to say that this series is just like the other, but there are some familiar feelings between the two.
Atsuko Nakajima, who was the character designer on the Ranma 1/2 movies and I believe the OVA series as well, goes in a completely different direction with the characters here. The characters are more in a shoujo flavor for several of the males and many of the secondary characters are in a slightly non traditional manner.
Speaking of non-traditional... there's several aspects of that in this series. Don't expect this show to be run on Cartoon Network or US television at all. Beyond all the various religious reasons, there's several other things that will keep it off the air. The priestess, Mutsuki, has a Shouta Complex. Shouta Complex you ask? It's the women's version of the Lolita Complex. Give her a boy under the age of twelve and she'll have some proper shorts on him faster than the animators could animate it! There's lots of references to this throughout the show and they show her going after the boys many times. It's hilarious! One of the school spirits is the same height/look of one of these young boys and ends up in several compromising situations with Mutsuki.
There's also one other sequence that ends in a fantasy vision of Kazumi and another male completely naked and embracing, expressing their feelings for each other. Anyone want to lay the odds on that making it past the censors? That whole sequence was extremely entertaining.
Haunted Junction is a decent short run television series. It's got some high points and has a pretty good cult following. For most people there may be some boredom throughout the episodes or they may be easily offended by Mutsuki's Shouta Complex. It's a mildly entertaining romp into the ghosts and goblins side of anime. For the cost of this series, it's a true bargain in getting five hours of anime in one collection. Haunted Junction won't be one of the biggest series of the year, but it's an enjoyable collection and provides some good laughs.
Japanese Language,English Subtitles,Two Disc Set,Character Gallery
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.