Tuesday, April 3

Ghost Hunt

There's creepy fun to be had in Ghost Hunt.

I was able to watch several more episodes of the anime Ghost Hunt over the weekend. I've posted about this supernaturally-themed title before, but not yet in-depth. Based on a manga, Ghost Hunt is all about the investigations conducted by the
Shibuya Psychic Research Institute, a small but talented group of paranormal investigators/exorcists/troubleshooters who investigate creepy cases now abundant in modern-day Japan.
The core group is composted of Shibuya Kazuya, a somewhat aloof teenage genius who is both the Institute's boss and head investigator. Bringing up the rear is Mai Taniyama, a first-year high school student and ghost story-lover who is more or less forced to become a part-time worker for Shibuya to pay off for some equipment she damaged. Then there's Lin Koujo (or Rin), Shibuya's mysterious assistant who has his own set of talents and secrets.
While not really a part of the Institute, a group of psychically-talented individuals are regularly called in to help in investigations; Housho Takigawa is a laid-back, fun-loving monk who often acts as a protective big brother figure. Ayako Matsuzaki is a beautiful but often haughty self-proclaimed miko or priestess who has the tendency to blame each and every case on earth spirits. Masako Hara is a 16-year old spirit medium and celebrity, and finally there's 19-year old John Brown, a friendly Australian teenager who is also somehow a Catholic priest and exorcist.

Now, while Ghost Hunt seems to be an animated version of popular paranormal investigation shows, it IS still an anime so there's your touch of romantic tension between the earnest Mai and the distant Shibuya AKA 'Naru' (Mai's pet name for her boss is 'Naru', which is short for Narcissist). While Mai and Shibuya don't seem to get along that well, they clearly have a bond, particularly since Shibuya appears as a kind of guardian angel in Mai's precognitive dreams regularly during cases, and she's plainly attracted to the handsome but cold genius. Further complicating things is Masako, who also seems to be interested in Shibuya.
But for the most part, this is about ghosts and hauntings, and the anime does a good job of establishing a creepy atmosphere thanks to nicely haunting opening music, liberal use of chilly sound effects and multi-layered supernatural mysteries that start off small but escalate in seriousness and magnitude as the investigation stalks its toward the case's resolution.

Ghost Hunt is divided into story arcs, or 'Files' which go for about 3 to 4 episodes each in length- there's been only one single-shot story ('Ghost in the Park'), which is played more for humor and light for the most part. The majority of the series deals with cases that range from a couple of haunted houses to a high school crawling with curses to a secluded villa that bears a striking resemblance to the real-life Winchester Mansion.

This isn't Ghost Hunters, where the usual trace of the supernatural is few and far between- the anime takes license and there is pretty much no doubt that ghosts exist, along with stuff like telekinesis, psychic powers, spirit beings and even demonic beings. To combat any particularly dangerous attacks on the investigators, the exorcist members of the group, Housho, Ayako and John, are usually able to use their faith and skills to ward off spirits, giving Buddhism, Shinto and Christianity equal powers. Shibuya and Lin also seem to have their own talents, which are revealed as the series goes on.
The series is mostly seen from the eyes of Mai Taniyama herself, who starts off with apparently no powers but is eventually revealed to have some sort of exceptional sense for danger (found out when during a test she manages to get all 1000 attempts of an ESP test wrong). But even more than any latent psychic powers, Mai brings to the table her kindness, honesty and uncannily intuitive dreams... special gifts which even the cold Shibuya seems to appreciate every now and then.

Ghost Hunt is a title which enthusiasts of the supernatural should enjoy for the likeable characters, intriguing stories and well-directed, eerie atmosphere. It's not an action-packed title, and the story arcs have a very deliberate pace to them, but anyone liking this subject matter should like tagging along with the Shibuya Psychic Research team on their many cases, particularly the last couple of story arcs- The Blood-stained Labyrinth is so far my favorite and the creepiest so far.

The first and current season of Ghost Hunt ended at episode 25 this year, but the manga is still ongoing. Another season of ghosthunting with the SPR would be pretty cool, I'd say. There are tons of unanswered questions and issues still to be learned and revealed, and of course more mysteries and enigmas to be uncovered.

So for a dash of comedy, drama, mystery and a whole lot of spine-tingling chills, go out and hunt down this title at your favorite anime dealers in the Metro.

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