I've always had a love / hate relationship with Anime over the years, but right now I'm lovin' it! There are several recent titles that have just knocked me out - Elfen Lied, Paranoia Agent, Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. and Gantz to just name a few, and with Gatchaman (a.k.a. Battle Of The Planets), Robotech and Star Blazers available in remastered DVD editions, I am rediscovering a genre I grew up with and haven't had much exposure to since. This doesn't mean that the OVA (Original Video Animation) Ghost Talker's Daydream is on the same level as those shows and in fact, it's quite far from it, but it is an interesting ecchi twist on your average "supernatural" anime series.
Saiki Misaki is a spiritual medium, or "Ghost Talker," and has been able to commune with the dead for as long as she can remember. However, in an increasingly jaded society such as Japan where spiritualists are a dime a dozen, how's a girl supposed to make a living? Why, she becomes a dominatrix of course. I know, I know, I didn't see that one coming either, but for some reason (the best explanation we get is that the money's good and "Hey, it's a living.") Misaki isn't just one of the most skilled Ghost Talkers in Japan, but she's also one of the best dominatrixes as well, with a devoted following at the S&M club she works at. Of course, we rarely get to see what goes on inside the club, but I guess that Misaki's preferred bondage outfits are meant to show us how comfortable she is in her line of work.
Right off the bat, this show's combination of sex and death kind of creeped me out. Not too mention that the spirit's Misaki usually seems to contact on behalf of her other employer, a secret government agency devoted to the paranormal, are those of dead children, suicides or other lost souls that couldn't find their way to the afterlife. She's also a bit of a disagreeable person, but under the circumstances I can't say I blame her when you see the things that she has to do and the people she hangs out with. Which brings me to the three supporting characters in this OVA, all of them completely useless. The first is her government handler, a coward named Souichiro, who is terrified of ghosts and can barely get it together enough to defend himself. Next is Ai, a high school student who somehow also develops the ability to see ghosts after Misaki helps her discover her niece's murderer and reveals the truth behind her sister's suicide. Fun stuff. Finally, there's Mitsuru, a boy fro Ai's high school obsessed with Misaki to the point of stalking her. How or why a high school boy would become obsessed with a dominatrix is a question that is never explained and I can't begin to fathom.
This show is classified as an ecchi series, which means that it shows a lot more than your typical "fan service" shows (like the disappointing Maburaho or Go Nagai's classic New Cutey Honey), but doesn't go as far as a "hentai" series would. The term ecchi means "naughty" and is actually derived from the Japanese pronunciation of "H," the first letter of the word hentai which means "perverted." Basically, it breaks down like this: fan service shows skimpy outfits or even quick glimpses of nudity while keeping things light, ecchi shows more nudity and for a longer period of time, as well as dealing with adult situations and sexuality, hentai is the most extreme even showing genitalia, intercourse and even bizarre sexual situations that could only be possible in the world of animation.
The four episodes included on this disc are:
Episode 01: "Ghost Talker": We're introduced to Misaki and Souichiro as they investigate reports of strange occurrences in an apartment building. Here they meet Ai who is trying to find her niece's murderer and discover why her sister killed herself.
Episode 02: "Bindweed": We learn a little bit about Misaki's past, specifically how difficult it was for her to grow up with these abilities. Ai, who can now see the dead, tries to be more like Misaki and use her new powers for good.
Episode 03: "Mad Skull": Misaki takes a well-deserved vacation only to stumble onto an unsolved case involving, what else, dead kids that needs her unique skills. With Misaki away, Souichiro enlists Ai's help with a new case he's working on.
Episode 04: "Cursed Water": Misaki's vacation is ruined, but she's determined to solve this strange case that's presented itself to her. Souichiro and Ai are in over their heads, and decide to visit Misaki on her vacation to get another opinion.
It might seem like I'm being a little harsh on Ghost Talker's Daydream, but really the show did nothing for me. There were some amusing recurring jokes involving, how should I say, Misaki's lack of hair, one of which is a visit she pays to a "Spring of Hair Growth" in order to sprout a bush to call her own. Still, the weird mix of nudity, depressing characters, adult humor and child murders was a little off-putting. I know that the show is based on a cult manga "Teizokurei Daydream" by Saki Okuse and Sankichi Meguro, but maybe these characters and situations just read better?
Picture: This DVD is presented in a 1.33:1 full screen presentation. Released in 2004, the transfer looks fantastic with bright, crisp colors.
Audio: There is a Dubbed English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Track and a Japanese 5.1 channel Dolby Digital Surround Track with optional English subtitles. Lately I have gotten into the habit of watching Anime shows with the English dub (sacrilegious, I know) and the subtitles on. For some reason, I feel like I have been getting more out of the shows this way. The English dub was actually quite good, as was the very atmospheric music. The Japanese track sounded fine.
Extras: Extras included on this disc are the show's US trailer, clean opening sequences to the four episodes in the series, previews for some other Geneon releases, and DVD-Rom content including printable posters and desktop wallpapers.
Conclusion: I know it's a cop out to say that I'm not familiar at all with this OVA's source material, but I really felt like I was missing something all the way through this series. I mean, it looked and sounded great, but just felt weird all the way through. I mean, I didn't get into it in my review, but Misaki even has something called "Kinui," which could be a spirit or some kind of… well, I don't know how to even describe it, but they're these purple energy bands coiled around her thighs that she can use to lash out and attack or restrain people. I mean, really, what the hell is that about? On the whole, while it looks great and has an interesting concept, Ghost Talker's Daydream was actually more of a nightmare. Skip It.