For those who aren’t familiar with it, Ghost Hunt is an anime series from 2006 that essentially goes through a number of story arcs about a team of paranormal researchers. While some stories are better than others, the whole series is actually pretty entertaining. What follows are my thoughts on each story arc after rewatching the series.
Evil Spirits All Over
This arc nicely introduces Mai to Kazuya Shibuya, a 17 year old who dresses in black and runs the Shibuya Psychic Research company. She also meets his assistant Lin and a range of other spiritualists including a monk, a shrine maiden (kind of), a clairvoyant, and a priest (from Australia and I must say that accent is truly dreadful though that’s only a problem if you watch the English dub as the Japanese version has a different location and accent).
The case in this arc involves an old school building at Mai’s school. A number of accidents have occurred and the Principal wants the building cleansed so it can be demolished. While the mystery in this arc isn’t particularly compelling, it is a nice backdrop to introducing the characters and Mai’s entry into the world of ghost hunting.
Without spoiling the conclusion of this arc, it is difficult to say anything more about what happens. We learn a range of facts about ghosts and poltergeists and are introduced to each of the characters specialties when it comes to dealing with spirits. We also see that they don’t always get it right.
This is a very satisfying introduction to the series.
- The voice actress for Mai is a fantastic screamer. Very few screams in television are as satisfying as some of Mai’s.
- Kazuya hates being wrong. He’s so cute when he is angry.
- The show isn’t going for flash or gimmicky. It’s keeping a steady pace and measured tone but uses the characters and the atmosphere to keep you interested. It’s refreshing for a show to not feel the need to dress itself up and go over the top.
- Already mentioned it, but John’s Australian accent is horrendous. To the point where I was showing Ghost Hunt to a friend of mine and she actually asked if his character was going to die soon so that we wouldn’t have to listen to it any longer.
- A lot of narrative convenience, like most mysteries. If you pay attention, you’ll probably solve this case before the characters do because it isn’t that mysterious.
Anyway, you should definitely check out Ghost Hunt at some point. The opening theme is also kind of interesting because it has no lyrics and doesn’t use character images. Instead you just get a simple orchestral piece and a range of visual effects that set a nice, spooky tone. While the opening gets old after a few episodes, it is definitely different from the usual anime fare.
The Doll House
The SPR team are hired to investigate a haunted house where a woman lives with her sister-in-law and niece. The rest of our psychics, spiritualists and mediums show up to help out on the case.
This arc is a great creepy, haunted house story. You’ve got the creepy kid with the seriously creepy doll and a step-mum who seems mysteriously cold. Add in some thumps, bangs, furniture rearrangement and messages being written on walls and you have everything you need for an entertaining ghost story.
This arc does use a lot of the same techniques as the first, but it feels more like they are trying to establish a pattern before they get a bit more experimental in their ghost hunting.
- Mai demonstrates some psychic ability of her own even while she continues to learn about the business.
- Ayami is adorable as the creepy kid.
- Minnie (the doll) is possibly able to hold up the horror end of a ghost story all on her own.
- Why doesn’t Kazuya just tell the others what he is going to do? I know this becomes an established pattern, but it makes no sense and adds needless conflict.
- The step-mum leaves and no one ever mentions her again. Hello, she just ditched her step-daughter and left and no-one thinks this is worth commenting on?
While the doll house isn’t one of my favourite arcs in this series, it certainly has impact and is effective as a ghost story.
Affiliate Link – Play Asia
The Afterschool Hexer
We’re back in school again, although this time SPR were called in to deal with a string of incidents including a haunted desk and a cursed club. Turns out a girl named Kasai demonstrated psychic talent and was then harassed by certain members of the student body and staff and declared she would ‘curse them to death’. However, Mai insists that Kasai isn’t the culprit.
This arc really brings out the investigative skills of SPR and friends as they are faced with what looks like a haunting and events that must be supernatural, but there are no spirits to be found. Thanks to Mai being clueless, many of the characters offer explanations of various phenomenon for the audience to get up to speed in a way that doesn’t feel overly forced, and the resolution is quite satisfying.
Also, while there is the investigation into the phenomenon, there’s a lot of discussion around how psychics and strange phenomenon are viewed by the public at large and how they are represented within the media. While this discussion doesn’t really come to any kind of conclusion, it certainly gets the audience thinking about their own views and how people are accepted or not within society.
- Mai continues to demonstrate growth in her abilities, even if she has no control whatsoever.
- Kazuya is at his absolute sweetest in this arc and the way he comforts Mai is the most human you will see him in the entire series.
- Takigawa and Ayako are at their most pig-headed in this episode. While they’ve butted heads with Kazuya in the previous arcs, there they seemed to have a point. Here, they seem to be objecting for the sake of keeping some tension in the group.
- The case may be solved but a lot of the emotional damage from the events in the story will remain. No clue is given as to how any of that is going to be resolved.
As a stand alone story I find The Afterschool Hexer one of the most satisfying cases in this series. It isn’t as dark as some of the cases later on, but it develops nicely and the couple of twists feel natural and planned. Well worth a watch even if you don’t watch the rest of Ghost Hunt.
Ghost Story in the Park
This stand alone episode is a refreshing change. We’re outdoors, in the park, and getting soaked by a petty and vindictive spirit who dislikes seeing couples in love. Honestly, it’s a filler episode at best but it does show Mai’s jealousy as Masako uses the opportunity to get closer to Kazuya. There’s not a lot more to say about this one but you can just watch it on its own.
A Silent Christmas
While it only goes over 2 episodes, this arc hits a fair emotional punch. We’re dealing with orphan children at Christmas time and a possession by a child’s spirit. When the spirit possesses Mai things get even more distressing.
- Lin actually speaks in whole sentences during these episodes.
- Because the cases are smaller there is more focus on the characters in these episodes.
- The storyline is pretty uncompelling as there is little mystery in what is going on.
- Kazuya seems to take a back seat to some of the other characters during this story.
I must admit, I regularly skip right past this story when I’m rewatching Ghost Hunt. It doesn’t add a great deal to the series and doesn’t quite match the tone of some of the other story arcs. That said, if you’re watching the series for the first time, there is some good character development to be found.
Affiliate Link – PlayAsia
And for a third time this series returns to a school setting, but this time it returns for my favourite story of the series. Strange occurences are happening on a daily basis all over the school and the students are panicked. Several aren’t coming to school anymore at all. However, the strict staff at the school think it’s all in their heads or that they are playing some silly game and won’t deal with any of the issues. When the SPR and friends arrive on the scene it is already chaos and within minutes of setting up a base a phantom dog attacks a girl in a classroom.
There are several reason why this is my favourite story but the first would have to be the introduction of a new character, Yasu. He’s a student who contacted SPR to try to get the situation resolved and he hangs around helping out with odd jobs and providing valuable insight to the location. He also stays on in a support role in the remaining narrative arcs.
The second reason I like this story is there definitely seems to be more menace in this story. We’ve encountered ghosts and curses and all sorts of other things previously, but there’s been very little sense of ongoing danger. The Forbidden Pastime turns that on its head and at time you genuinely wonder how things are going to be all right at the end.
- Mai learns some magic. Not well and she doesn’t use it particularly well here but it is about time she learned something about how to defend herself from spirits given her current occupation.
- Yasu is a fantastic addition to the cast and adds some genuine levity into scenes that are very heavily weighed down by the dark atmosphere of this story.
- Lin finally gets to show off some of his expertise.
- Kazuya continues to not tell people things for the sake of being Kazuya. Seriously, would a ten second explanation kill him?
- A lack of any teaching staff at the school that express anything other than contempt for the ghost hunters. If phantom dogs, weird smells, fires and other strange events are occurring that often, how can all of the staff assume the students are lying?
There are some tense moments in this story. It isn’t exactly horrific but it will make you sit up and take notice. Well worth a watch.
The Bloodstained Labyrinth
Okay, I’m not overly squeamish, but I found some parts of this story hard to watch. Probably because the story is being told from Mai’s perspective and she goes through some genuine trauma during this arc. While the theme is still more mystery than horror, if you don’t like blood or dismemberment, you should probably give this arc a miss.
Kazuya and team are hired to investigate a mansion that has a very weird design and is known to be haunted. A teenager went missing while inside with friends and then a fireman who was part of the search team looking for him disappeared. However, Kazuya is not the only one hired for the job and so he asks Yasu to stand in as the company boss so he can get to work and not deal with the other teams. It’s pretty cold and pretty typical of Kazuya this far into the series.
Once inside the house, the weirdness keeps growing. The design is insane and without a floor map a lot of the earlier episodes are devoted to exploration and holding a séance (which ends about as well as expected when you are in a haunted house). Mai also begins experiencing some very vivid and very disturbing dreams. Once not one, but two members of other teams go missing, Yasu is sent away to ensure that everyone has someone with them at all times that can protect them.
There’s a couple of twists and turns in the dealings with the other teams that I won’t get into to avoid spoilers. The main mystery is solved but there’s definitely a sense that this wasn’t a victory this time around. This story is dark and highly affective.
- Yasu is back and has some great lines early on when little else is happening. Without him, there’s a good chance the first episode in particular would have been snore worthy.
- Mai continues to grow as a person and psychic.
- Kazuya get’s put in his place a couple of times by a former mentor.
- John’s presence in this entire story is almost completely pointless. So much so that at times you forget he is actually with the team.
- Why are the other psychic researchers so useless? Surely even they can do some basic background checking on the house?
Once again, if you don’t like too much blood then maybe don’t touch this particular story. It isn’t horrific but it isn’t exactly nice either.
Affiliate Link – PlayAsia
The Cursed House
It’s going to be hard to really review this without spoilers so I’ll keep it simple. A family who own a certain property have been cursed and they hire SPR to look into it. Unfortunately several members of the family are already possessed which leads to some very violent encounters. You can tell we’re at the final as the body count in this story stacks up and the number of spirits encountered is quite extraordinary.
One key event that I am going to mention is that Kazuya is possessed in this story arc and then knocked out and kept unconscious by Lin until he can be exorcised. While we’ve kind of had indications before that Kazuya must have been dangerous, this is the first time we are overtly told that he has power.
Needless to say, he’s in a bad mood when he does wake up.
I’m going to leave it there because anything else is going to spoil this final story for you.
- All of the characters get a moment to shine in this final story, including Ayako who has previously had very little chance to show off what she can do.
- It suitably ups the tension to leave us with a very satisfying conclusion to the series.
- Talk about leaving you wanting more. It feels like these characters are just touching the edge of their potential and we could learn so much more about them.
Overall, Ghost Hunt is a great mystery anime with a focus on the supernatural. Its episodic nature works in its favour when you only want to watch a couple of episodes and this allows you to see a whole story quickly. However, I’d love to see more stories with these characters and watch them grow even more and encounter other supernatural events. It was just great fun watching them.
Images used from: Ghost Hunt. Dir. A Mano. J. C. Staff. 2006
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