** SPOILER ALERT: Pretty much guaranteed to have some spoilers here. You’ve been warned. **
It’s Halloween! Woo! As I grab my black cat, Magi-kun (technically Magick, but meh), and fire up my favorite anime for this season, Ghost Hunt, I think this could be a good opportunity to do another Anime Revisited. Rather than just watching as I would normally, I’ll take a more critical look and see if it still holds up.
Unlike my last Anime Revisited, I’ll also touch on how it does as a Halloween series. Seems appropriate, since I’m putting this out for the holiday, right? Let’s get into it.
For those unaware, and seemingly not fazed by the spoiler warning, Ghost Hunt follows Mai Taniyama and her experiences with the Shibuya Psychic Research company, headed by Kazuya “Naru” Shibuya. SPR, as the series title of the series implies, investigates and deals with hauntings. You know, ghost hunters or paranormal investigators.
The series is broken up into different arcs, separated into each individual investigation. Some arcs are better than others, as far as content, but overall they’re all pretty good. The pacing for each is pretty good too, so nothing feels out of place.
Speaking of specific arcs, our introductory arc, “Evil Spirits All Over!?”, serves as a solid first arc. We’re introduced to the characters and their abilities. The exposition and explanation of the paranormal investigation techniques are done to teach Mai, a nice method of delivery so it doesn’t feel out of place.
“The Doll House” and “The After School Hexer” arcs were also decent. We continue to learn about the characters at a nice pace, and see more of what exists in the realm of the paranormal. They also have their creepy moments. Especially “The Doll House”. Minnie freaks me out, but dolls like that are disturbing regardless…
We get some, umm, intermission (?) arcs in “Ghost Story in the Park!?” and “Silent Christmas”. If there were episodes to skip, these would be them. While not technically filler episodes (they were bonus chapters in the manga, so not really filler?), they don’t really serve much purpose. “Ghost Story in the Park” is just kind of fun, but “Silent Christmas” gets me pretty emotional. I feel so bad for that kid and his fate. But, what the fuck… Clap, or throw a shoe at them, or SOMETHING! Don’t just sit there and freeze to death while they’re looking for you!
After this intermission is where the story really starts to ramp up. You know the characters. You know the basics of the paranormal field. Mai’s latent powers are revealed and can now be used for story telling. The stage is set.
“Forbidden Pasttime” escalates the situation for the team, getting you to realize the danger they’re putting themselves in. There’s some straight up terrifying situations that take place in this arc (perfect for Halloween!), especially if you put yourself in the shoes of the character. The part in the nurse’s office would scare the shit out of me. We’re also getting Mai some techniques to defend herself, though I’m glad they have her fail miserably here. Who masters something immediately, let alone when under threat, you know?
My favorite, however, had to be “The Bloodstained Labyrinth” arc. This was straight out of a horror movie. The threat level spikes to “Fuck it! RUN!” levels, with people straight up disappearing, and the constant reference to blood. Mai’s abilities really shine here, giving us the horrific experience she had of being dragged off to her death (in a dream, at least). This alone would probably suffice to make it the scariest arc. Finish it off with a monster so horrible that the team is incapable of dealing with it and our favorite narcissist pulls the cast off the case. Just an awesome arc, with great character moments.
The final arc, unfortunately, didn’t really do it for me. “The Cursed House” had a very complicated plot, which, while fun, I don’t think really made it any more suspenseful. The lack of Naru throughout also didn’t help, and it felt like some of the characters didn’t really serve any purpose being there. John, for instance, did a couple exorcisms, but that’s it. Masako seemed underutilized here also.
This arc definitely felt like a redemption arc for Ayako, and to eventually show off Naru’s power, which was hinted at throughout the series. All in all, I never felt the cast was under threat from something paranormal (probably because it was all from possessed individuals), and really struck the fictitious chord. The battling the undead thing just felt out of place in this series, and they probably could have taken a different approach to leverage the possession idea.
Any good series is supported by good characters. Ghost Hunt is no different. Our motley crew of characters is varied, developed, and likable.
Mai serves a pretty generic role, to be honest. An initially clueless character who wants to be useful. But, by the end of the series, she’s fully contributing, and even the crux of their success in some cases. She also serves as a comedic point, as well as giving us even scarier perspectives with some of her dreams. And, of course, I really enjoyed her romantic interest in Naru. What can I say? I’m a romantic at heart, even on Halloween.
Naru serves as a pretty decent leader for the group as well. Initially, he appears cold and calculating. While calculating certainly is accurate, he actually has a soft side, and what appears to be a hidden interest in Mai (again, I’m a romantic). Adding to this all is the mystery of what ability he seems to have. While it’s never fully explained in the anime, the manga dives into it more. I’ll spare you that spoiler at least.
The rest all support Mai and Naru very well. Takigawa-san (or, “Monk”) is awesome. Very protective mentor who also initiates most of the jokes. Ayako seems to be the punching bag that punches back, literally. John is quiet, but regularly seemed like the most reliable member of the crew, alongside the enigmatic Lin. Masako served dual roles, as a friend and fellow spiritualist for Mai to turn to, as well as someone to stir the pot of Mai’s interest in Naru (always need a romantic rival). The cast just works so well together, and you get to see multiple sides to each of them as the story progresses. They all felt fleshed out.
In addition to that, we get some side characters (non-clients) Yasuhara-san and Madoka. Madoka serves a good role in furthering Naru’s character. Yasuhara, however, stands on his own merits. He’s a big contributor to the cast in several cases since his appearance. More importantly, though, is he provokes more comedy. Monk was doing well, but when he and Yasuahara team up, it’s excellent.
The music for this series was perfect. It’s suitably creepy when it needs to be. The eerie tones just amplify the feeling of unease or dread when they’re most needed. It also does an excellent job switching to a more light-hearted tune when the time is right, but it’s the creepy music that really stands out in this one.
The voice acting is solid as well. In Japanese, at least (I think I watched it dubbed once a while ago, and can’t say I know it well enough to comment on, but I recall it being passable). Mai’s voice actress, however, was my favorite. Kaori Nazuka continues to impress me. In normal speech, it seems unremarkable, but it’s when Mai is angry that Nazuka-san’s acting really is impressive. Most notably when she’s yelling at Naru, you can feel her acting. It’s really incredible.
The animation is decent throughout. There wasn’t much in the CGI realm when this series was made, so thankfully we got pure artwork. The character designs were also decent, with some good variety. I do question some of the representations of the paranormal events, but meh. It’s an anime, you expect to have some of that. Just struck me as weird that all the characters were witnessing the events that supposedly were happening in a different plane…
Okay, so how does it hold up? This series definitely gets passing marks. The plot is solid, especially for someone into the paranormal already. The characters are some of my favorite across all the anime I’ve watched. The music works impeccably with the story. And, of course, I really dig the subtle romantic moments. It does lose some points for the final arc, as it’s a bit too over the top for me and just pales in comparison to “The Bloodstained Labyrinth”, but still a great series overall.
And, for our Halloween Special post, how does it do as a series for the holiday? Ghost Hunt has some very creepy moments. The spook and specter theme is definitely there, enhanced by its eerie music. While it shouldn’t go giving you nightmares, I’d say it fits well into the season. There’s a reason it took the #1 spot on my Non-Scary Halloween Anime list.
There we go. Another Halloween come and gone, and another post in the books. If there’s an older series you think deserves an Anime Revisited, let me know down in the comments. Time for me to go eat candy and feel terrible for it. Catch you in the next one!