Anime studio Production I.G. is one of Japan's premiere anime studios. Known for their work on series and films such as the "Ghost in the Shell" films, "Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade", "Evangelion: Death and Rebirth" and "The End of Evangelion", "Blue Seed", "FLCL", "xxxHolic" to name a few, the studio is known for their animation quality, exquisite art backgrounds and their work is known worldwide.
Masamune Shirow is also known worldwide as his manga works "Ghost in the Shell", "Appleseed", "Black Magic M-66', "Dominion Tank Police", to name a few, have received an anime adaptation and also hailed by fans for the intelligent and creative writing that is involved with his work.
And both Production I.G. and Shirow have had a wonderful collaboration especially with the success of the "Ghost in the Shell" animated films and the TV series "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex".
So, in 2007, when Production I.G. celebrated their 20th Anniversary in 2007, the studio collaborated with Shirow again for a series known as "Shinreigari/Ghost Hound". A dark, unsettling, humorous and addicting series which premiered on Japan's WOWOW at 11:30 p.m.
As Shirow provided the original concept and design (which he did back in 1987), Production I.G. took the concept and design and the series was well received in Japan.
Ryutaro Nakamura ("Legends of Crystania", "Kino's Journey", "Sakura Wars") directed the series, while Chiaki J. Konaka ("Eureka Seven", Kino's Travels", "Armitage III", "Air Gear") provided the screenplay. Character design is by Mariko Oka ("Hell Girl"), art direction is by Hiromasa Ogura ("Appleseed", "Ghost in the Shell" movies, "Last Exile", "Samurai 7') and music is by TENG.
"Ghost Hound" is presented in 1080i High Definition (note: There was an error on the packaging that mentions the anime series in 1080p but it is in fact 1080i). Production I.G. literally went all out in making sure their 20th anniversary anime series looks incredible. The artistic backgrounds are just amazingly detailed and it's quite obvious that it was a priority to capture the look and feel of the mountainous region and the town of Suiten by making sure each background scenery looked amazing, especially the detail on the buildings. Animation was also well done and in many ways, character designer Mariko Oka's work on "Hell Girl" is quite apparent in the look and feel of the characters.
As for the picture quality, I did notice some jaggies at times but aside from that, I felt that "Ghost Hound" looks very good in HD. Granted, it's before my usual feeling that Blu-ray series look better after 2008, but this 2007 anime series looks great. Blacks are nice and deep, colors are vibrant and for the most part, fans of the series will notice how much more detail there is in "Ghost Hound" compared to the original DVD release. Also, it is important to note that this is a TV series and not a film and typically, I don't expect too much from PQ in a TV series compared to an OVA or a film but Production I.G. has done a wonderful job with this series.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
"Ghost Hound - Complete Collection" sounds fantastic in lossless audio. Presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, this series is probably the first non-action anime series that didn't involve massive battles or action sequences in which the audio sounds spectacular and actually enhances the dark and brooding feel of the anime series.
The first episode alone shows you how the anime series really takes advantage of the soundscape by making various sounds such as light flickering, bugs flying around to the screams of a person and literally, there were times when I was watching this and the sounds really made this series creepy. Well-done!
As for my preference between the English dub and original Japanese voice acting. I watched the series with both English and Japanese dialogue and enjoyed both. Granted, the only thing about the English dub is that Makoto does have a lower, much more manlier voice for a young teenager at times. But in a way, I did enjoy the English voice acting for this series and felt that the ADR on the American did a great job on casting for this series. Japanese voice acting was of course awesome and the seiyuu's did a fantastic job capturing the more emotional moments of the series.
Subtitles are provided in English.
"Ghost Hound - Complete Collection" comes with the textless opening and closing themes.
I have to admit that I have a personal bias towards Masamune Shirow works. Ever since I first read his manga series "Orion", I have been hooked on his works because not only are they intelligently written, Shirow knows how to add layers to his characters and is very good at character development. But although he only provided the overall concept, credit has to go to Production I.G. for going all out in creating this TV series. Granted, it's a series to celebrate Production I.G.'s 20th anniversary but you can't help but appreciate how much went into the series story-wise, animation wise, artistic backgrounds and audio.
I guess my overall impression after watching "Ghost Hound - Complete Collection" is that this is the first TV anime series on Blu-ray that I absolutely loved. Not only was I hooked and could not stop watching, it was a series that just captivated me from beginning to end. There are way too many anime TV series on Blu-ray that have too many filler episodes or storylines that are primarily episode-based and most often at times, series in which the storyline picks up at the second half. For "Ghost Hound", it's an engrossing anime series from beginning to end.
Sure, I still have some questions that relate to certain characters or even some plotlines (especially the ominous black figure) but I was still content with the overall series. As for the Blu-ray release, I know there are some people who are going to be upset that this is not a 1080p release but a 1080i release. Also, that the series does not come with many special features but the textless opening and closing themes. Personally, when a series only have these two to give for special features, sometimes I just hope they can include audio commentary and it would have been nice if there audio commentary included. But I suppose that is me being picky and wanting to see more special features on anime on BD especially for a 20th anniversary project from Production I.G., if anything, I was expecting some time of featurette or the making of the series.
Overall, for those wanting an anime series on Blu-ray that features a fantastic storyline, great character development, animation and background art, awesome loss audio and more..."Ghost Hound - Complete Collection" is highly recommended!