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Ghost Hunt (TV Series)

So, one of my pet fascinations lately has been this animated series about a team of multi-denominational ghost hunters that seems slightly billed in the wrong genre. Ghost Hunt comes in a season peppered with ghost-busting shows. While it doesn't break the mold as an investigative show, it is a very well done show, and has a real added benefit of being one of the truly creepy ghost-related shows I've seen in a while. The story focuses on the Shibuya Psychic Research company, headed by teenaged wunderkid Shibuya "Naru" Kazuya. The team of parapsychologists he heads consists of a Chinese Taoist exorcist, a Catholic priest, a Shinto monk, a miko and two psychics. Each episode is seen through the eyes of Mai, Naru's secretary and a high school student who gets suckered into helping him early in the series. Almost every case is based in some kind of real parapsychological problem or case, leading to my incentive for watching this show -- the parapsychological geekdom and name-dropping harked back to one of my pet reading subjects as a puppy. As far as allusions to the outside world go, this show rocks.

One of the interesting differences between GH and similar recent shows is that although this series does have its share of supernaturally or spiritually powered exorcisms, the focus of the show has largely been about solving the paranormal with science. Naru himself takes on the role of hardcore scientist in the cases, being the one to offer the most logical answer to everything. The spiritually-inclined exorcists often complement the investigations by providing side support -- ie. getting rid of pesky ghosts or curses until the real cause of the problem can be found, or otherwise forming the hard labour. The other really cool thing for me about watching this was the fact that unlike some of the Scooby Doo-types out there, Ghost Hunt is a horror show, using every creepy sound effect and thing lurking at the corner of one's eye possible to send tingles down one's spine. It is the exact sort of show you want to watch past midnight, and after the somewhat softcore first arc (each arc is divided into "case files", with episodes numbered according to the file in question), it only gets increasingly chillier. None of the scary effects are actually blatant, with the stress being on psychological scares, which is just as well, since I'm the only horror writer I know terrified of horror movies. Still, after watching an arc aptly titled "The Bloody Maze", I thought twice about taking late baths for a week. Moral of the story: People who watch Ringu and keep wallpapers of Sadako should do just fine.

I personally would have liked to see more friction on how the individual denominations dealt with their different styles of tackling exorcisms, but this isn't the show for that. While none of the apparent religious conflicts of using, say, a Catholic priest and a Taoist exorcist for the same job ever arose, the SPR team does find that different denominations are better suited to different kinds of tasks (read: earth spirits are not Christian, and psychics have immunity to exorcism). If nothing else, the harmonious working environment is pleasant to watch. I couldn't imagine a Taoist, Buddhist and Catholic delegation in the same room doing nearly as well in real life.

Ghost Hunt, for all that it is a paranormal investigative team premise, is also a shoujo, with the naturally-occuring romantic allusions that come with this genre. I have to say that the actual shoujo content in this one is mercifully low. There are the odd blushing, pink-backgrounded moments very early in the show, but these get worked out as the story progresses. A good thing that comes out of the shoujo premise is that characterization is high, and part of the fun of watching this series comes from the way the different personalities in the team interact. Although it's not a comedy by far, there's a lot of clever dialogue to go around. Conversations are fast and snappy. The characters genuinely sound like they're enjoying themselves, and this makes the watcher enjoy what they're up to. The characters themselves are individually quirky -- for example, the monk is a rocker in his "day job", and the shrine maiden looks more like a tarted up office lady than she is "virginal and pure". Good natured Mai, our atypical heroine, would've annoyed me if this series had been all about her, but the focus on her as our eyes in the narrative provides us with an essential rookie fear. As the one character without experience in the supernatural events around her, she adds an appreciated human element to the proceedings. Many of the creepiest portions of the cases also revolve around her.

Animation is solidly good across the episodes. This isn't a show for crazy CG, though CG is put to tasteful use in many of the most surreal scenes here. Cutaways, boxes and split screens feature heavily throughout the show, giving a slightly arty feel to the proceedings. The soundtrack is completely instrumental and nicely subdued. It gives the show a quality more like a fine drink than a promo for the latest pop group, and I'm going to say that I appreciated this. In fact, the entire opening sequence and closing sequence comprised of screensaver mode floating will-o'-wisps set to pleasant, ghostly lift music for most the series. Someone did decide to cobble together an opening sequence from what appears to be leftover Blair Witch footage and corny horror movie clips about halfway through -- but we'll skip that. The last two episodes did completely without opening or ending sequences. In-show sound effects are effective. Again, this is a horror show at heart, and the proverbial bumps in the dark hallways were worth their salt. I sincerely appreciate any show that makes good use of silence. This is a show where the silence creeps me out, so it's all good. Episode 25 has the most awesome use of bells and rustling tree effects for one of the most important exorcism sequences -- I completely recommend this episode and this scene for a brilliant example of restraint in evoking a mood.

Ghost Hunt is 25 episodes long. The series is based on a set of novels and short stories published in the mid-90s by Ono Fuyumi. A manga adaptation of the novels, which I'm told is more faithful to the original material, is also available. As far as I know, the anime covers all the main stories of the novels, where the novels apparently end on an open note. This is true of the anime as well, so I doubt there'll be any more after this series ends. It's a pity, because it is a great series, neither too heavy nor too light. I watched the entire series using a combination of Shinsen-Subs excellent fansubs (SHS is one of my favourite fansubbing groups by virtue of the amount of work they put into their footnotes; in a rare bit of luck, they're also quite fast with subbing Ghost Hunt), ShadowDreams' unparalleled notation on and translations of the original novels and manga and SaiyaMan's raw Japanese episodes to fill in the gaps.

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( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
countlibras
Mar. 28th, 2007 02:05 pm (UTC)
Almost every case is based in some kind of real parapsychological problem or case

Oh? I didn't know that.

I didn't know that the manga was based on a set of novels either. You are good and research stuff. I'm too lazy.

The English translation of the second half of the 'Bloody Labyrinth' just came out. The anime stuck pretty close to that. I was thankful that Urado wasn't so scary on paper. But, after more than two weeks of having watched that episode, I'm still a bit afraid that I'm going to see Urado's eyes glowing in the dark. (bath tub has not been a problem since mine is pink, the wrong shape, and only used for showers)

And Shinsen Subs and ShadowDreams really have done a great job fansubbing. I still haven't watched the last two episodes, but I'm sure they'll be out soon.

I wish there'll be more episodes. Lin needs one entirely dedicated to him. ;-)
countlibras
Mar. 28th, 2007 02:07 pm (UTC)
P.S. I love you for watching this. It's nice to have someone know what I'm talking about. :)
vampyrichamster
Mar. 28th, 2007 04:33 pm (UTC)
Awww. You're sweet. :)
Seriously though, you were one of the people who inspired me to watch this because you mentioned it in your journal. And I'm glad someone out there understands what I'm talking about too!
countlibras
Mar. 28th, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)
Ah! I almost forgot - I think I found something to mail to you. Hopefully, I will be a good girl and write it up this week. :)
vampyrichamster
Mar. 28th, 2007 04:50 pm (UTC)
Mail, you know, makes my shut-in existence happy. :)
vampyrichamster
Mar. 28th, 2007 04:45 pm (UTC)
Really, really. "Bloody Labyrinth"'s mansion, for example, was very clearly based on the Winchester Mystery House -- in fact, I think the first episode in that arc has either Bou-san or Yasuhara mentioning this to Mai. All that Urado/Vlad wordplay was called by Naru as being based on the fictional Dracula. In the same breath, he also mentioned Countess Bathory, who was the inspiration for Urado's bath tub. Any time a character gets into theories of psychokinesis, telepathy or precognition, they're actually spouting bits of real parapsychology trivia. Even the equipment the guys set up are not too dissimilar from what real parapsychologists use. (Clearly, I've been watching things into this too much.)

I found out about the novels from ShadowDreams, actually. She translates bits of the novels on her LJ (kagedreams). It seems neither the manga nor the anime has been completely cool with us about everything.

I saw that SHS put up Eps 23-24, was it? Wanted to grab them, but alas, my download limit this month is nearly up, and I had to have some spare for Ep 25 raw (which I totally do not regret watching raw even with my shameful Japanese -- Team SPR were SO COOL. TOTAL exorcism COOLNESS. There are NO WORDS. *flaily x5*) Urado is still the scariest thing in the series though.

Speaking of Lin, the last arc has way lots of Lin. Crazy, crazy lots of Lin. It's like there's nothing he can't do. Youmustwatchthelasteps.
countlibras
Mar. 28th, 2007 05:00 pm (UTC)
Actually, I did look up the Winchester House, so I guess I'm not totally lame. I wish I had been able to find more pictures of the interior. Maybe I just have bad google-fu. The best hit I had was an old blog from a tour guide.

I am familiar with Vlad and Bathory, so that was stuff I didn't need to look up. (Bathory, to me anyway, is infinitely freakier than Vlad) But the rest of the parapsychology trviva isn't stuff I read up on.

Oh, is ep. 24 out? I'll have to look for that when I get home. LIN! (but I'm going to look up that eljay now - whee!)

What kind of a Chinese name is 'Koujo' supposed to be though? I think I need to look up the kanji and ask my mom what it actually sounds like.
vampyrichamster
Mar. 28th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC)
I went "SQUEE!" when they started mentioning the Winchester House. I've been reading about it since I was 7, since I had an encyclopedia with a whole section on mysterious places, and that was one of those places. Just being able to recognize the place from something I watched though was fun. I got the old blog by the tour guide too!

Vlad was just a bloodthirsty warrior, by all accounts. Bathory actually went around killing and draining virgins for a specifically more senseless purpose. Me, I was happy enough to see Naru haul around all that electronic equipment. Too many shows out there exorcising by the power of magic and pretty boys alone!

I was wrong about 24 being released by SHS. Just checked. Still up to 23. However, Lin is definitely prominently featured in the last arc. They were waiting all that time to unleash everyone in the cast, really.

Now you've got me curious as to the pronunciation of his name too. I need to go crossreference all the names in Saiunkoku Monogatari as well. Some of the Chinese names there are truly suspicious.
countlibras
Mar. 28th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
yeah, Vlad was just extreme in his method of keeping his neighborhood safe (if you will).

Bathory, on the other hand, enjoyed the insanity. I remember reading somewhere on the net that there was a torture device that her husband owned but deemed too cruel even for his tastes. So, she took it up afterwards.

I know! Because 'koujo' certainly isn't something that sounds Cantonese (if we want to pretend that HK is still mainly Cantonese speaking - I like to pretend anyway. I'm bad that way).
and I don't suppose Yasuhara makes an appearance... I think he's a great character. I was happy to see him in the Urado arc. I know, probably not. *le sigh*
countlibras
Mar. 28th, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC)
oh! Someone posted ep. 24 subbed on youtube. I'm in the middle of watching now, but I just wanted to say two things.

1) Lin!!!

2) Yasuhara!

:D
(no subject) - vampyrichamster - Mar. 29th, 2007 02:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - countlibras - Mar. 29th, 2007 03:41 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - countlibras - Mar. 29th, 2007 03:46 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - countlibras - Mar. 29th, 2007 12:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - countlibras - Mar. 29th, 2007 06:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vampyrichamster - Mar. 30th, 2007 05:37 am (UTC) - Expand
countlibras
Mar. 28th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
I looked around kagedreams... I want the novels now. O_O
vampyrichamster
Mar. 29th, 2007 02:12 am (UTC)
I'd love to read the novels myself, except I already have 7 or so books I will need to sit down with a dictionary for just to read as it is. *sad* But you, you have Japanese skills to be used! *peers*
countlibras
Mar. 29th, 2007 03:43 am (UTC)
I'll be frank: I have shitty Japanese skills to be used. DDDD:

Hmmm, now where would I obtain those novels? *ponders amazon*
(no subject) - vampyrichamster - Mar. 29th, 2007 04:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - countlibras - Mar. 29th, 2007 03:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
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desertwolf
Mar. 30th, 2007 03:05 am (UTC)
I've downloaded all of them to ep. 23 but only have watched up to 19. I've gotten out of watching anime due to the lack of good stuff from SHS (besides Ghost Hunt.)

*still is impatiently waiting for new Ergo Proxy and Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi stuff*
vampyrichamster
Mar. 30th, 2007 05:27 am (UTC)
If I weren't so ridiculously close to the end of my download limit this month, I'd start on TIAA. Speaking of SHS, have you watched Zegapain, which they're also doing? Pretty cool stuff. Kind of Evangelion/Gundam/.hack.
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