16 year old Mai Taniyama is a happygolucky orphan who loves to hang out with her friends in creepy places and trade ghost stories with them. One evening as theyre doing this in an empty classroom theyre interrupted by Kazuya Shibuya a paranormal researcher whos been hired to investigate the old abandoned school house next door. Well prompted by this Mai decides to explore the building herself upon which she accidentily damages both Kazuyas camera as well as his cameraman. In lieu of a proper monetary compensation Mai agrees to work with Kazuya as his assistant and after one case she gets hired full time Now as a member of Shibuya Psychic Research shell have to face off against cruel curses petty poltergeists and dastardly demons for the sake of her handsome But extremely difficult New employer. For the most part Ghost Hunt looks like it was animated on a bare bones budget. There are static images key frames and some stiff jerky movements. This is nothing new from JC Staff a production company who normally only makes it rain on a few select titles like Index Railgun and Toradora. Ghost Hunt is not one of these titles but luckily where JC Staff normally shines is using its inspired art direction to cover up the blandness of their animation. In Ghost Hunts case this is achieved with clever and wellthought out camera angles distortions wherever theyre needed and a series of perfectly timed panning shots. The character designs are also very memorable despite being a little on the generic side. Remember I said For the most part. In addition to the cheap looking human side of the coin you also have the hauntings themselves most of which will take your breath away with their flawless CG design. There are moments in this show that look like they could have been taken right out of Mushishi and thats one of the many comparisons I dont make lightly. In a lot of cases it would bother me when a series was this inconsistent with its animation quality but in Ghost Hunt it kind of works Rather than a difference in budget sizes it seems to represent a difference in plains of reality and while that may or may not have been intentional its exactly how the difference between the human world and the spiritual world SHOULD feel. The characters despite their somewhat bland design are distinct and very likeable. Mai is a normal girl And I mean normal by actual human standards not normal by Nami Hito standards. Theres nothing moe or MarySuish about her and thats a pretty easy pit to sink into. Shes brave but also naive and prone to making mistakes. Shes aware of when shes in danger but often needs help getting out of it and never seems to make any headslappingly stupid decisions. She never makes a habit of denying her feelings either Which is another unfortunate pit that a lot of anime heroines inhabit. Kazuya on the other hand can be a bit of a problem sometimes. I wont say hes a poorly written character Not completely anyway But his flaws seem to overshadow his more positive attributes. Hes silent hes cold and while he needs help dealing with any situation thats out of the range of his particular skill set hes remarkably competent. On his own hes not very interesting and as such his likeability stems almost exclusively from his interactions with other characters. His prideful and prickly demeanor are only ever palatable when hes bouncing off of the more charming and open people he associates with particularly in his reactions with Mai and the famous medium Masako. I mean would he be nearly as enjoyable a character if Mai hadnt decided to start calling him Naru the Narcissist? Oh and while were at it I should probably address this Yes I took my name from this anime. I was originally calling myself Narcy as a quick nickname but my friends/video producers said it was too girly so I decided to adopt the infamous moniker from this anime instead. Moving on. If youve seen this show in English then you may be asking Wait if Kazuya isnt that great of a character then why did I love him so much? The answer is simple Todd Haberkorn. The dub was produced by Funimation and the staff somehow made the farleftfield decision to put a grumpy monotoned character in the hands of one of the loudest most over the top performers in their stable. The result is nothing short of pure gold. Todds rubber voice is famous for such ridiculous yet still perfectly pegged roles such as Death the Kidd Italy Natsu Dragnheel and Sergeant Frog but hes also able to go very low and serious with it as he did with Ling Yao from FMA Brotherhood. But even in THAT performance he never went AS low and serious as he did in this one. He sounds every bit the socially inept genius with a chip on his shoulder and he manages to outshine the original seiyuu by adding an air of superiority and some great sarcastic wit without ever breaking character or changing pitch. Cherami Leigh is also quite a bit better than her seiyuu thanks to a set of acting chops that have carried her very far in her career since this show. She has complete control over Mais voice and hits every single note Whether dramatic comedic upbeat or downbeat Perfectly. Its a very sincere performance and while it may not have been the one that made her a star it makes it very clear why she became one. The rest of the main cast is also spoton with Travis Willingham as the laid back reliable Monk Colleen Clinkenbeard as the hoity toity yet somewhat maternal Ayako and J Michael Tatum getting surprisingly scarce lines as Narus even more silent bodyguard Lin yet still knocking each line out of the park. Cheramis fellow Strike Witches alumnus Jad Saxton joins her here and once again theyre rivals for love The only real sour note in the dub is Jason Leibrichts phony sounding australian accent but give it a few episodes and youll get used to it. Several other well known names are sprinkled around the cast including recurring roles from Caitlin Glass Brina Palencia and Eric Vale. The writing in the dub is very naturalistic and straightforward which is odd when you consider the fact that the credited writer keeps changing Sonny Straights episodes can sound a little off but everybody else did a fine job especially when Luci Christian and Monica Rial are at the helm. The subbed version is great on its own and perfectly listenable but in my opinion the dub is still quite a bit better and has my easy recommendation. Unfortunately the writing is a bit of a mixed bag. The characters do gradually develop from a group of bickering strangers into a tightlyknit family by the end of the series but the only one who gets any good individual development is Mai. The other researchers representing the spiritual perspectives of their respective religions seem like theyre only present in every single arc so they can pad out the run time and occasionally become useful to the plot Which to be fair every single one of them does at least at some point or another. But for the most part its really hard to justify their presence beyond their assorted talents. There are a lot of interactions between them that serve to develop their family dynamic and while most of them are executed nicely there are a few that do feel forced or out of place with one example being a highly emotional discussion of Hong Kong history between Mai and Lin. As far as the development of the two central characters goes Mai and Naru go through an interesting parallel Throughout the series we slowly become exposed to the true nature of each character as well as to the supernatural powers that each one possesses. This works very well in Mais case because shes learning everything while were learning it Her new discoveries and developments are shared with us on the same level. But unlike Mai Naru already knows what hes capable of and yet his abilities develop at a slower pace. Yes theres an excuse made for it at the end but even with that given it still feels like a deus ex machina whenever he pulls a spell or piece of information out of his ass at just the right time. Yes there are issues with the writing and character development and while theyre not serious issues they are very noticeable. Luckily there are two specific things this show does so brilliantly that all other transgressions can be all but ignored. The first one as you may notice early on is the music. Toshio Masudas compositions are by far the best aspect of this series as he matches the tone of any given situation with not only tense orchestral tunes with stings and percussions blaring but with an electronic track that in its creepiest moments seems to have been heavily inspired by the undisputed king of horror music the theremin. Toshios the same man who composed Mushishi and to say it shows would be an understatement. I could honestly say that Ghost Hunt wouldnt be even half as creepy or heartpounding in its terror if it wasnt for his work. The other saving grace is the pacing of the series and there are two sides to this. The first is with the individual story arcs which are built up very well from beginning to end if not a little repetitive. Youll start off with a light hearted summary of where the cast is in their development and it wont take too long for a new case to be introduced. Youll get a brief summary of what the case is but the devil is in the details which will be revealed piece by piece throughout. The tension builds as do the stakes and Masudas music keeps perfectly in tune with this right up until the climactic conclusion Which fails to be climactic only once or twice due to Narus exposition dumps. Theres foreshadowing throughout each arc and it can take the form of anything An odd piece of dialogue a suspicious camera angle or even a cleverly placed set piece. The astute viewer will have no problem noticing these and while it does bring an element of predictability to the show it never gives away more than it wants to. The other side is with the structure of the series itself and the order of the story arcs resting within it. Yes there are a few arcs in the first half that feel tame compared to what comes later but thats the beauty of it Every single arc with the exception of one filler episode just gets better and better. They progressively become more creepy more tense less predictable more disturbing and with everincreasing stakes leading up to what most viewers consider the crowning jewel of the series the penultimate arc The Bloodstained Labyrinth which takes a lot of acknowledged inspiration from the real life legends of Vlad Tepesh Countess Bathory and the Winchester manor. Its easy to see why this arc is as popular as it is considering how hardcore and wellestablished the enemy is but Id have to confess a strong preference to the final arc The Cursed House. The consequences are similar but the stakes are much higher and it carries a much heavier lean towards eastern mythology than its predecessor. Unfortunately this arc has the bad luck of being the final one so it carries a substantial amount of the blame for one of Ghost Hunts biggest problems which would be its lack of a satisfying conclusion. Or you know any kind of conclusion. Several plot threads are just left dangling there with the relationship between Mai and Naru as well as the true nature of their respective powers being no small part of it. It doesnt necessarily end on a bad note but it leaves you hungry for a sequel that hasnt yet been confirmed after seven years of waiting. Its a read the manga type of ending but since the translated mangas out of print and I hate streaming them thats a problem for me. Ghost Hunt offers a very unique experience for horror fans It contains all the thrill and suspense of a normal paranormal investigation show but since it actually ADMITS that its scripted its able to offer solid scares and a solid story without ever feeling like its wasting your time. It has several weak points particularly in its writing and character development but the execution and art direction are strong enough to make up for it many times over. Its positive aspects far outweigh the negative ones and for the most part you can watch this series with your brain on or off and still have a great time with it. I give Ghost Hunt an 8/10 and a strong recommendation to pick it up if youre looking for an outstanding horror title to entertain you throughout the spookiest time of year.
80 /100
9 out of 10 users liked this review