When Ghost Hound came out in the latter part of 2007, I was stoked. Granted the show wasn't out in the States then, and I refuse to go pirate and download it. I was stoked simply because I knew the show wouldn't be long until it hit store shelves on our side of the pond. It may have taken a couple of years to do so, but Production I.G.'s latest work was everything I wanted. Just what makes this 22 episode anime so special though?
One of the best ways to answer that feeds directly to the well-educated anime fan. For starters it's Production I.G. I mean, they have a strong reputation and haven't really made a dud. Add to their involvement the fact that the series was also conceptualized by Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed), directed by Ryoutarou Nakamura (Kino's Journey, Serial Experiments Lain), scripted by Chiaki Konaka (Serial Experiments Lain, The Big O), and received art direction from Mariko Oka (Hell Girl) and Hiromasa Ogura (Jin-Roh, Ghost in the Shell), and that reads like a veritable laundry list of who's who in the anime business. With that amount of creative talent running the framework of the series Ghost Hound truly stands out as one of the most creative efforts I've seen in a long time.
The show revolves around the exploits of three youths who have all experienced one tragedy or another in their past. The star of the show is a young boy named Tarou, who is something of a narcoleptic and a rather quiet kid regardless. Eleven years ago Tarou and his sister, Mizuka, were kidnapped. It was a rather violent and traumatic experience and in the end only Tarou made it out alive. Ever since then he hasn't been "right" and he frequently has nightmares. More recently he has been having out of body experiences and these all seem to stem from his visitations with a psychologist.
Though Tarou is outwardly a seemingly normal kid, aside from the whole narcoleptic out of body thing, he meets other characters who are every bit as interesting as he. Makoto is a rather aloof student at Tarou's school, and he brings out some fascinating emotions from Tarou. You see, when Tarou was found after an investigation into the kidnapping, Makoto's father committed suicide and due to that series of events he somehow blamed Tarou. Joining the two of them is Masayuki who is a transfer student and very interested in learning more about the kidnapping incident. He also has a bit of tragedy in his past since he witnessed a fellow student fall from the roof of his old school and die. There are other characters involved in the show as well such as Miyako, a mysterious girl who can see spirits and those who are having out of body experiences, and Tarou's psychiatrist who provides interesting insight into what's going on as his patient reveals his visions.
With an eclectic cast of characters taking center stage Ghost Hound really springs to life and leaves you wondering what's real or imagined. Tarou, Makoto, and Masayuki all share the common ability to have out of body experiences and that leads them to some interesting places. But then again, are these experiences real? Or are they just made up? There's a fair amount of supernatural phenomena here and Tarou's visits to the shrink and neurologist will really leave you questioning what's going on. It's handled in such an intelligent way that you never quite know where the show is going to take you, even though the path seems fairly obvious at times. Because of that the show remains a large mystery and the slow pacing truly strings you along.
The first collection by Sentai Filmworks includes the introductory eleven episodes. In these episodes we're introduced to the characters and get to see the story of Ghost Hound unfold. It's completely fresh with each episode and there's quite a bit of continuity. For instance you start out learning about Tarou and getting snippets of his past in each episode and from there the show goes on to look into the psychological, neurological, and supernatural side of things. It's utterly fascinating to behold and it's wholly unlike any show you have ever watched before.
Ghost Hound is something to treasure and it should be on any anime fan's wish-list. The artistry in this series is astounding and the visuals stand out in both the real world and unseen one, though admittedly the spiritual forms of the kids are a little too cute for my tastes. What really drives this show is the character development and sense of supernatural mystery backing everything. With that being said the pacing is much slower than most shows and this is definitely one that's a slow burn that may not be for everyone. For me though, I felt it was totally worth the wait and can't wait for the next installment.
Ghost Hound is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. Considering this piece comes from Production I.G. I can't say that I'm surprised by the overall quality. The artistic nature of the series truly stands out and I can honestly say that the show doesn't remind me of anything I've seen before. Technically speaking the series looks very good as well with clean lines, bright colors, and an overall shiny presentation.
In an interesting move Ghost Hound hits DVD with a Japanese only dub track. There is no English to be found on this release, and I'm sure some of that will be off-putting for many fans of the show. Still, the track that is here is quite good and comes with a 5.1 surround mix that features some nice directionality at times. The sense of immersion isn't the strongest for this show, but there are definitely some times when the kids are exploring the unseen world that the ambient noise comes to life. English subtitles are included as well. The translations are pretty solid here as well, though there are definitely some lines that don't quite seem to fit or sound right.
Some clean animations are really all you're going to find on this release for bonus features.
Ghost Hound was a series I had a lot of hopes for when I first heard about the project. For over two years I waited in anticipation for the show to hit the States and I have to say that the wait was worth it. Production I.G.'s latest effort is absolutely fascinating, original, and the first half of the show kept me glued from start to finish. I can't wait for the second set to arrive and have to give props to Sentai Filmworks for the presentation. The video is smooth and the audio is pretty decent as well, though the 5.1 track could have packed more punch. If you're looking for something that marches to the beat of a different drummer then this is definitely something to look out for.