While the anime adaptation of Ghost Hunt didn't hit the airwaves until 2006, the franchise has actually been around for much longer than that. This series dates back to the late 80's when Fuyumi Ono wrote a pair of light novels based off of his Evil Spirits series. The novels were later adapted into a manga, and that turned into the anime we're taking a look at today. The gestation period for this show has definitely been interesting and relatively unique, but no matter how you look at it, it's an entertaining anime that's definitely worth checking out.
If you have never seen the show then you should know that it carries a real Scooby Doo kind of vibe. There's a supernatural event plaguing some building or someone and the Ghost Hunters at Shibuya Psychic Research Center (SPR) are brought in to see what's going on. Sometimes it turns out to be human causes, other times psychokinetic, but most of the time there's a spirit of some sort messing around with stuff. The 25 episode show takes its time to look at each individual story and gives them plenty of room to develop. This helps the overall quality, though there's a certain formulaic nature to it all that settles in quite early.
At the start of the show we're introduced to Mai Tanamiya and a couple of her schoolmates while they're sitting in the AV room telling scary ghost stories. They each take turns telling their tale and lo and behold someone shows up. This person isn't a specter though, they are actually a ghost hunter hired by the principle to get rid of a spirit in an abandoned building on school property. The guy's name is Shibuya and almost immediately he makes a strong impression on Mai. As fate would have it they bump into each other again and through a bit of bad luck Mai winds up being his assistant on the hunt for a spirit.
Fearing that Shibuya alone may not be able to do anything about the ghost, the principle also brings in a spirit medium, Shinto priestess, a catholic priest, and a former monk. Each of these exorcists goes through their motions and do what they do. When all efforts are exhausted that's when Shibuya breaks out the "I'm better than all of you" mentality and cracks the case without breaking a sweat. While it definitely seems like he doesn't know it all, he sure behaves like he does sometimes and that all leads to part of his narcissistic charm (Mai ends up calling him Naru-chan).
With the first case solved and out of the way, Shibuya hires Mai to be an assistant on future cases for SPR. This kicks off with the next case that involves a house that is seemingly haunted with two women and a child living there. Furniture is turned over, apparitions appear, and a lot of the poltergeist-like focus seems to be on the little girl that lives there. Watching as Shibuya, Mai, Monk, and Misako the priestess get to the bottom of it is quite entertaining and downright haunting at times. There are moments where the show feels a tad predictable, but they don't reveal too much in each story and thankfully there's always a twist somewhere.
As the show continues forward the supernatural continues quite strongly with more ghosts ripe for the hunting. From a haunted orphanage to another school, a mansion, a house, and even a tavern near the sea, there's plenty of stuff for the SPR to do. Like I said earlier, each story is given plenty of room to flourish and you'll never feel like the show is being rushed. You'll easily go from one episode to the next on the edge of your seat and will hardly even notice that you're three or four episodes along. Time just slips away from you while watching the show, and that's definitely a good thing.
While the haunting atmosphere never really spooks you as much as you'd think it would, the show definitely has a lot of charm. The characters are all well-developed, there's a great brand of humor, and the series' tone is mysterious enough to string you along. If you enjoyed shows like Case Closed and want something with a more supernatural spin then this is without a doubt something you should check out. It's nothing groundbreaking, and it's not the finest piece of animation ever to grace the screen, but it's well produced and thought out to the point that it will draw you in. That's a plus in my book and because of that this show is easily recommended.
Ghost Hunt: The Complete Series is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show maintains a very stable image with a strong use of colors, solid resolution, and an all around attractive atmosphere. There are glimmers of aliasing at times and compression and grain can be seen in the darker backgrounds. There are quite a few of these though I'm sure you've already figured out this was kind of a dark show. Despite these minor occurrences the picture quality in Ghost Hunt is pretty solid overall.
The show is presented on DVD with English and Japanese 2.0 stereo. This is a quieter show and didn't necessarily need a bombastic 5.1 selection, though I'm sure with the spooky atmosphere the experience would have benefited from some more ambient noise. Despite the otherwise disappointing lack of surround sound the show's audio is quite adept with the material. It's quiet to the point and full of dialogue, so there's really not much that can go wrong here.
The complete series of Ghost Hunt includes trailers, textless songs, character case files, ghost sightings, and some pages from the Ghost Hunt manga. In other words there's nothing really interesting, but there's some additional resources on the franchise that's worth checking out.
I didn't really know what to expect when I sat down with Ghost Hunt. I thought it was going to be a little more serious in tone, but the lighthearted nature of the material kept it rather refreshing and entertaining. It's more of a supernatural Case Closed than anything else, and I dare say if you enjoyed that show you would like this one. From start to finish each case that the SPR undertakes is entertaining and there are certainly enough areas that will leave you perplexed as you try to figure out what's going on. Ghost Hunt may not be an epic masterpiece, but it's a solid show with a great sense of awareness that keeps you glued from start to finish. Recommended.
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