Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ghost Hunt Anime Review

Ghost Hunt
Gosuto Hanto
Funimation
Complete Collection - 4 discs
600 mins. - 25 episodes
$29.98 (2010) S.A.V.E.
$59.98 (2009)
$49.98 (2008) Parts 1-2/ea.
ISBN 704400079122
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Rei Mano
Studio - J.C. Staff

Synopsis: Mai Taniyama is an ordinary high school girl who likes to tell ghost stories with her friends.  She meets a mysterious young man who turns out to have been hired to investigate a supposed haunting in an abandoned school building.   Then Mai accidentally breaks one of his video cameras and even gets his assistant injured.  Feeling guilty she ends up taking the assistant's place during the investigation and witnesses some unexplained phenomena.  The young man is Kazuya Shibuya who runs Shibuya Paranormal Research (SPR), but Mai decides to call him 'Naru' because of his lofty, narcissistic attitude.
From left: Masako, Ayako, Yasuhara, Naru (Kazuya), Hosho, Mai, and John
The apparent haunting gets more severe and more investigators are called in.  They include:
  • Hosho Takigawa is a former Buddhist monk who is adept at exorcising spirits (using Buddhist mantras) and is very brave.  He appears to be very laid back and even wears stylish clothes.  Mai is put off by his appearance at first, but soon discovers he is a capable expert and very brave.
  • Ayako Matsuzaki is a Shinto shrine maiden who is brash and outspoken.  She doesn't look or act the part of a holy maiden by any means.  She also has the ability to release spirits (using Shinto kuji like the 'nine cuts') although her reputation is not very good.  Mai surmises that she talks a good game, but doesn't have the spiritual power to back it up.
  • John Brown is a Catholic priest hailing from Australia.  He is very soft spoken and kind.  When performing an exorcism he uses holy water and reads passages from the Holy Bible.
  • Masako Hara is a famous television star who has the ability to sense and even channel spirits (a medium).  She apparently has a crush on Naru, but its unknown whether he returns her feelings.  Mai is instantly jealous of her.
  • Lin Koujo is Naru's assistant and keeps to himself.  He is highly capable and even has some spiritual abilities.  Mai is convinced he hates her.  
I really hope, for Mai's sake, that's just a dream
Naru ends up hiring Mai to work with SPR to pay off the rest of the camera she busted.  The group investigates a wide variety of 'hauntings' with varying degrees of authenticity and danger.  Each member contributes in some unique and valuable way.  Mai feels a bit out of place among these seasoned hunters, especially Naru and Lin who are both very forthright in their dealings with others.  Over the course of the investigations Mai becomes a believer and she even begins to show some skill at solving cases.  When the group find a real haunting or possession is when the true danger begins.
The team have fun investigating a possible haunting in the park
Subsequent cases SPR takes on include:
  • They visit a home where it's believed a poltergeist is at work.  The family includes a young girl who has a creepy doll.  Can the group uncover the tragic history of the house and the mystery of the doll before another accident happens?  
  • The team is then called in to a school where many strange accidents have been happening to students.  It appears a desk is cursed, but also other places in the school.  A girl who exhibits psychokinetic abilities (spoon bending) has been blamed, but Mai is convinced she's innocent.  Is the girl lashing out at her enemies after they publicly ridiculed her?
  • Something is purposefully interuppting young lovers at a local park.  Whenever someone tries to kiss they get splashed with cold water.  Is it the work of a jilted spirit?
  • John brings the team to the aid of a local parrish where possessions have been happening more frequently.  A boy disappeared many years ago and it appears his spirit is becoming agitated.  Can the SPR team solve the mystery before another child goes missing?
  • The team is called to another haunted high school where the principal and headmaster are both gruff unbelievers.  They meet a helpful young man named Osamu Yasuhara who explains the curses started happening after a first-year student named Sakauchi took his own life.  Add the fact the entire student body has been playing a strange game similar to a Ouija board and the school has become a hotbed of spiritual activity.  Mai has a horrible dream which spells disaster for the group.  Can Naru solve the case before anyone else gets hurt?
  • Several groups of paranormal researchers are called in to solve the disappearance of a pair of young men in an old mansion owned by the former prime minister.  Not all of the investigators are what they appear to be and not all of them make it out alive.  The house has a macabre history and Mai seems particularly sensitive.  When a seance is held all hell breaks loose!  Can the group escape the horror hidden beneath the house?
  • A family hires SPR to help them avert a curse which happens any time the head of the family changes.  The team faces their toughest challenge yet as they encounter possessions, malevolent spirits, and even Naru is caught unawares.  The death toll rises and Mai's dreams become increasingly dire as time runs out.  During the last change a team of ghost hunters were lost and SPR could suffer the same fate!
Keep your eyes on this creepy doll...or else!
Pros: Good cast of characters (with actual character development), nice blend of creepy horror sprinkled with a little lighthearted comedy, opening/ending sequences/music were decent and reminded me of those late night psychic/spiritual infomercials, I liked the multiple episode story arc format which allowed suspense to build up until the last episode of each case, a few genuinely scary moments, not many horror anime out there that do a good job
The SPR crew encounter this dangerous hell hound!
Cons: Some of the solutions to the cases can be far-fetched (like the first case, the one with the boy who disappeared, and the last case), the ending of the final case was too convenient for all of the story buildup, some goofy moments, not all questions are answered
What has Mai gotten herself into?
Mike Tells It Straight: I almost quit this series after the first three episodes, but am very glad to have stuck with it to the end.  The story was originally a light novel series, then a manga, then adapted into this anime series, and currently an ongoing manga again.  There are not many decent horror anime out there and I can say Ghost Hunt is one of them.  One of the best aspects of the show are the interactions of the SPR characters.  Mai is the main protagonist/narrator and she gives a good perspective on the other characters.  The characters grow over the course of the series (especially Mai's latent psychic abilities).
Performing a seance in the bowels of a haunted mansion
The series is split into multi-episode story arcs which I found to be very appropriate.  Each case takes a few episodes to solve and it allows a nice buildup of suspense before the finales.  I liked the characters which definitely grew on me over the course of the series.  There's some nice character development.  Some of the later stories were particularly scary (the Bloodstained Labyrinth and the Cursed House) and I enjoyed watching the series alone at night!  It's few and far between to find decent horror anime and Ghost Hunt does a good job.
Mai comes face to face with an unspeakable horror - is it just a dream?
Some things which bothered me about the series were the convenient ending to the final story arc.  We get a great buildup to the final episode and then it just ended with a convenient reveal of some hidden power.  Not how I would have liked it to end.  Everything up to that point was pretty good, but the ending was a letdown.  A few of the situations in the series were kinda lame and very far-fetched (even for an anime).  Okay, so it's way harder and more uncommon to have ghosts/poltergeists show up than what happened in the series (I've watched a few episodes of Ghost Hunters on SyFy network).
Some spirits can actually do harm to the living
Despite its flaws I still enjoyed the series and would recommend it if you are looking for a creepy anime to watch alone at night.  It's a good combination of humor (Mai's pining for the stoic Naru and her rivalry with Masako) and suspense while the group is confronted with difficult psychic phenomena.  The character interactions make the series along with a few scary moments.  It can be a little slow-paced at times, but I was surprised at how much I actually liked the series.  
The team visits Naru in the hospital after a particularly nasty case
TO BUY and Recommendations: