Ghost Hunt Anime Review
I think fear is an extremely interesting state of mind. It’s fascinating to experience and see what scares you and what doesn’t. It’s that wide variety offered in the horror genre that makes it so popular and prominent in entertainment. However when it comes to horror in anime, it isn’t really its forte, and I think that it’s mainly due to the very similar nature of a large majority of them. With heavy emphasis on gore and grizzly death scenes, a lot of necessary elements to making a good horror takes a backseat. Now of course, in no way shape or form does that mean that the shows are bad or not worth your time, but it does mean that for some people it isn’t going to be the horror experience that they were looking for.
Having watched many horror anime, I can wholeheartedly say that these shows are really more uncomfortable to watch than they are scary. However discomfort is only one aspect out of many. I personally believe that if a horror anime is only able to make you feel one thing from a state of mind with a huge array of encompassing aspects other than discomfort, it isn’t a good horror anime.
However over the years I have been fortunate enough to experience some horror anime that isn’t necessarily bad, and the one that I’ll be reviewing for you today is,Ghost Hunt. This show originally started airing back in October of 2006, and finished airing in March of 2007. It’s a light novel adaptation with animation done by Studio J.C.Staff. So after two complete recent viewings, here is my review for Ghost Hunt.
Story of Ghost Hunt
The story follows a first year high school student named Taniyama Mai who ends up getting involved with Shibuya Kazuya, the president of the Shibuya Psychic Research Company. While Kazuya was conducting an investigation on her school’s abandoned building, Mai ends up interfering and after a series of unfortunate events,Kazuya hires Mai to be his assistant to make up for the damage she caused. Thus begins the ghost hunting adventures.
First let’s start with the good. The story is presented in the form of arcs. Each arc lasting between three to six episodes. Each arc covers a specific investigation that our characters are assigned. These arcs can be really hit or miss. They can either be extremely creepy, unnerving, and scary, or just extremely boring. However the way that they pace each arc, for the most part, is well executed. The slow and tense buildup is paced well and offers us insight into what exactly our characters are up against, but not to the point where we know exactly what they’re dealing with. An extremely interesting element that the show has to offer is that it isn’t completely grounded in reality. Because of this, during the initial exposition of each arc there’s this sense of mystery to what the characters are actually dealing with, and it helps add a layer of suspense that would otherwise not be there. The show also likes to include tools, procedures, and jargon used by “real” ghost hunters. This helps mask this element of the over the top supernatural elements of the show. It bounces back between this facade of being accurate, and being more akin to a fairy tale.
When the story of each arc really starts to pickup and we start seeing unnatural things happen, the order in which we receive this information is done well. There is this smooth sense of gradual growth. We aren’t thrown straight into the thick of things, rather we see the little clues, and small conversations slowly build into a worsening problem until we reach the climax. It is indeed formulaic but it’s effective and gets the job done when it’s done right.
Regardless of these good elements the show has multiple notable flaws in it’s story. The first major problem is that the show attempts to mesh genre’s that don’t mix well together. It shoves in this pointless shoujo element that feels extremely jarring to watch and experience. The fundamental flaw in this is the fact that the romantic tension, and over the top character drama can really take you out of the horror experience that the show is supposed to be offering you. Other than that, there lies another problem in a few of the shows arcs.
Some of these arcs are downright boring. The reason is because a lot of the investigations prior to these are far better paced and introduced, and to a greater extent, the stakes are far higher making it seem like the story is moving backwards rather than
forwards. Watching through these arcs is extremely daunting. The pacing is too slow or too fast, the characters become utterly stupid for some reason doing things that they would normally never do, and the conclusion to these arcs are unsatisfying or feel undeserved.
For the most part the show is able to offer moments of terror and discomfort whether it be through imagery, it’s dialogue or the decent pacing. However there are multiple issues that really prevent the story from being the best that it could have been.
Characters of Ghost Hunt
The characters in this show are at best serviceable and I think that it’s one of the shows weakest points. Starting with our female protagonist, Taniyama Mai, she’s extremely unlikeable as a lead, but because she’s painted as the innocent girl who wants to do good, we can get behind her basic ideals. But that’s really the extent of her likeability. She falls into a category of female leads that come off as extremely preachy, and sometimes you actually begin to get annoyed with her as there are moments where you think to yourself, “are you seriously thinking about that in this current situation?”, and it’s moments like this that really take you out of the experience. Along with that, it never seems like she grows as a useful character. We do get to see her become more accustomed to certain things, but she ultimately ends up still being underused and pointless. It feels as if she was only included to satisfy the shoujo aspect of the show, which strengthens my point that she’s is practically a useless character.
The male protagonist of the show is Shibuya Kazuya. He is leagues better than Mai as a character. Although he does have the typical archetype of super smart, quiet, cool guy, there are hints that there are layers to him, as we learn more about who he is and why he does what he does. But to my disappointment, any resemblance of this character plot point developing is immediately eradicated as it’s hardly ever touched on again. Conclusively this makes the character two dimensional and stale, and considering that he is a lead character, it’s unacceptable.
As for the side characters, they too are simply just okay. I will say that the diversity of the cast is nice to see. You don’t have to deal with all the characters having similar personalities. However the major flaw with these characters is that they’re simply there because they have one part to play in the arc of the story. Even then they’re only used to either worsen the problem, or lighten the mood. They’re relationships, backstories, and overall personalities are non-existen. They simply rely on the extremely generic moral code and belief that they are the good guys to garner some sort of sympathy from the viewer.
Ultimately you only care enough about them to fear for them in moments of peril but at the same time you aren’t able to really get attached to them. It’s almost as if the writers couldn’t be bothered to expand and flesh these characters out after they were given a brief introduction. It’s because of this lack of care and attention given to these characters that a lot of the arcs in the show are poorly done. Writers can’t simply come up with a story and fill it with uninteresting and poorly written characters and hope for the best. A story with terrible characters will simply amalgamate into a show with terribly written characters and an equally terrible story.
Art and Directing of Ghost Hunt
This is by far the best aspect of this anime. The bland and dark color palette thatthey chose to go with really helps add to the atmosphere of the show. There are some scenes where they use the darker colors to their advantage. The actual use of the color in combination with the art makes for a sleek looking show. The character designs look appealing, albeit some of them look like they were pulled straight out of a 1980’s romance shoujo manga.
The interesting thing about the way that many scenes were directed and drawn is that they harken back to the very basic art of horror. Not showing what we should fear. There are multiple moments in the show where because of a certain way the frame was positioned or drawn really helped to emphasize the anxiety, the fear, and discomfort.
Without giving away too much, there is a scene that is shown from the perspective of a fallen camera, and what we get is an extremely tight shot where very little is visible until we see the decapitated head of a doll. It’s directing like this that really helps make up for a lot of the issues this show has.
I didn’t have any major problems with the art with the exception of Mai’s character design. Compared to the other characters having a sleek and stylized design, she looks completely out of place, with her awkward body proportions and over the top facial animations. She sticks out like a sore thumb and really breaks the continuity of the overall art.
Music and Sound of Ghost Hunt
Another aspect that this show does extremely well. The music is exceptional. It offers fantastic atmospheric and tension building melodies that really keep you engaged in scenes that need you to be. Even the opening song isn’t your typical J-Rock or J-Pop song to get you hyped for the episode, rather it’s this eerie yet bombastic piece with opera like vocals to accompany it. To be completely honest, I found the opening song to be scarier than some of the actual “scary” scenes in this anime.
As for the sound design, it’s okay. There’s nothing too special in this anime that sticks out. I mean I’m not gonna say “wow the sound the of that cup shattering was really well done”. They’re creepy enough to help certain scenes but other than that it’s nothing too special.
Voice acting wise, it was okay as well. I am basing this off the Japanese dub, so keep that in mind. With the voice actors for Kazuya, and side characters, Takigawa Houshou and Ayako Matsuzaki being the ones to standout amongst the rest. All the other voices seemed bland and uninteresting, or too over the top and awkward to listen to. It’s like the voice actors and actresses were either falling asleep, or trying to make do with an extremely lackluster script.
Final Verdict of Ghost Hunt
Ghost Hunt is a show plagued by many problems. Ranging from it’s poorly written story arcs and characters. But the thing is fear is very subjective. What one person finds terrifying might be something someone else might not have a problem with. With that in mind the individual experience a person might have with this show is going to vastly differ from that of another persons.
However despite it’s major flaws, I enjoyed this show. Even though I’m convinced that the writers were purposefully writing Mai to be a contender for “Worst Character of The Year” back in 2006, I can’t deny that I had fun with this show. The fact that this show is episodic to a certain extent it makes it possible to pick and choose what stories you want to watch, and I highly suggest going about watching this show that way. The fact that they aren’t just dealing with “ghosts” also broke up the monotony of the repetitive storyline in the specific arcs. In these different moments I hope that if you choose to watch this show, that it offers enough to satisfy your need for horror.
Are there better horror anime out there? Oh hell yeah. Still, this is a show that was extremely overlooked and is considered to be a hidden gem by many in the anime community. If you can get past the major problems of this show and simply watch it to experience some decent horror in anime, I’d say give it a go.
This isn’t a show that you need to go out of your way to watch, and you may never get it to it. You might even completely ignore the fact that this show exists. Therefore my final rating for the show is: “Backlog It”
SUPER SHORT REVIEW
Characters: OH GOD NO!
Art: Aye, that’s pretty good.
Sound: I like that Sh*t
Voice Acting: Meh
Overall: “BACKLOG IT”