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What's that sound?
on 24 March 2010
For the record, "Ghost Hunt" is an anime series based on a manga series based on a novel series. Surprising, it doesn't suffer in translation.
And "Ghost Hunt: The Complete Series" does an excellent job bringing home elaborate and genuinely eerie scares, based on curses, possessions, psychic powers and the occasional roaming ghost. It can be rather slow-moving at times and some questions are left unanswered (just who is "dream Naru"?), but it has a winning mixture of comedy, horror and suspense.
After she destroys his camera and injures his assistant Lin, the icy "ghost hunter" Kazuya Shibuya (aka Naru) allows Mai Taniyama to work with him as his assistant -- he's investigating a haunted part of her school. They're soon joined by some professional exorcists: slinky Shinto priestess Ayako, renegade Buddhist monk Hosho, psychic Masako, and Catholic priest John Brown.
The little group soon find themselves dealing with many strange cases: a house oppressed by an evil doll and the ghosts of tormented children; a high school whose students and teachers are being tormented by strange apparitions; a Christmastime visit to a haunted Catholic church, and a ghost who likes to drench parkgoing lovers with water.
Then things take a darker turn when the gang is called in to deal with a school haunted by horrifying specters and fires; a vast labyrinthine house with a bloodthirsty secret; and finally a seaside hotel whose inhabitants have been possessed by vengeful spirits determined to stop any spiritualists who come around. Even worse, Naru has become possessed.
The supernatural stuff in "Ghost Hunt" is pretty intense stuff -- howling ghosts, haunted wells, curses, onmyodo, exorcisms, fox spirits, zombies, ouija, and a creepy possessed doll. Those who like a lot of action and melodrama will undoubtedly find all this to be rather slow, since every episode is a sort of supernatural detective story.
The overall series has a nice haunted house atmosphere, although the last couple arcs get flashier horrorwise (bloodbaths! Zombies!). There's a general atmosphere of overhanging dread, psychic/supernatural trivia (wooden effigy dolls) and eerie Japanese spectors (a buggy-eyed ghost that pulls a scythe out of its mouth). But fortunately the writers keep it from getting too grim with regular doses of humor, such as the rock'n'roll monk, or a romantic rivalry popping over Naru.
The big problem is that the otherwise satisfying open ending leaves some questions unanswered, such as Mai and Naru's budding relationship and the mystery of "dream Naru." Just what is going on there?
Mai is a likable heroine -- she's hardworking, honest and resilient, and seems to have some hidden psychic powers; Naru is a chilly, sarcastic teenage genius, but he has a lighter side that comes out in less stressful circumstances (his "talking pet coin"). And the supporting cast is a fun bunch -- the mellow, sweet Aussie priest, the strong-willed Ayako, the devious stalkerish Masako, the enigmatic Lin, and finally the hilarious rock'n'roll Buddhist cleric Hosho. And as the icing on the cake, all the voice actors are perfectly suited to their roles.
Ghosts, curses and bizarre occurrences abound in "Ghost Hunt: The Complete Series." It moves rather slowly at times, but has the right balance of comedy, suspense and horror.