Ghost Hunt Series Review: Episodic, Mysterious, Awesome

Overview:

Ghost Hunt follows Mai as she takes on a part time job working for Shibuya Psychic Research under a guy she ends up nicknaming Naru the Narcissist for obvious reasons. With the help of other psychics/spiritualists/etc they take on a number of cases involving ghosts and spirits and work to bring them to a resolution.

Review:

It occurred to me recently that despite having reviewed the individual stories within Ghost Hunt I never reviewed the show as a whole show (though I can’t imagine why not). So if you want to know my thoughts on the individual cases, click here. Admittedly, you can watch an individual case from the show and have it make perfect sense, but the series manages to bring about some nice character progression for most of the characters so watching it in sequence gives the better viewing experience.

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I really love Ghost Hunt. It is one of those anime I genuinely enjoy revisiting every so often because it knows exactly what it wants to be and it doesn’t attempt to be anything else. It is a mystery. Each episode starts with the date coming up and Mai giving us an introduction into the current case they are working on and then we see how the case unfolds. Along the way the characters meet set backs, have interesting asides, occasionally some banter and insults with a low key possible romantic tone between Mai and Naru, and very short bursts of actual supernatural activity or action sequences.

Right from the opening theme you know this story is pretty laid back and heavily focussed on the mystery aspect. It isn’t really a mystery that is asking for audience participation though, it is more the mystery of ‘isn’t this mysterious’. We end up with haunted schools, ghost children, dolls that change location, creepy messages appearing on walls, and all the usual staples of ghost stories will appear throughout the series. There are some moments that go more for horror and the final two cases both really escalate the amount of blood and the unsettled feeling you get while watching, but for the most part this show isn’t about shock and gore. The show is very much about feeling unnerved. And it manages that feeling spectacularly. While it isn’t making you cringe or hide under the chair, it certainly will have you looking at dolls a bit differently and that old house that you thought was empty…

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The characters are all pretty fantastic in their roles as well. You have Mai, the ‘normal’ high schooler taking on the part-time job who acts as the audience’s guide to the world of spiritualists as she asks the questions needed to get explanations that the other characters would have no reason to give one another. Mai also turns out to have some not so normal aspects as you would imagine as the show continues and it is a shame the show doesn’t have a second season because developing this would be fantastic.

Naru is pretty standard for overly confident and young boss type, but he works really well due to the cast surrounding him. Plus his chemistry with Mai works really well and the two of them together (even when they are involved in a silly argument) is just great fun to watch. Of course, dream Naru who helps out unconscious Mai is always more fun and again it would be nice to see further development of Naru in another season but he’s great nonetheless.

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The Priest, Shrine Maiden, Exorcist, and Medium all make for a great supporting cast with each one serving their role in the team as well as bringing their own personality quirk to the table. Ayako as the self-styled Shrine Maiden is probably the most annoying of the group, but even she has some truly great moments particularly during the final case. Honestly, John as the Exorcist is probably the one who annoys me the most and that’s only because of the accent in the English dub. Wow, that is bad. I will point out though, I’ve only ever heard the English dub of this anime, it is one of the very few I’ve never watched subbed or heard the original Japanese. For the most part the dub is fantastic and really great to listen to, but John has the kind of Australian accent that people who have learned Australian accents by watching TV think Australian’s have. It hurts just listening to it.

There’s definitely some down sides to this story though. The animation and art are definitely looking dated and it isn’t that old of an anime. While this isn’t really a problem because the story works regardless, it isn’t exactly visually appealing and the overuse of purple to make things look creepy seems to scream Sailor Moon villain from the 90’s.

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The story is also decidedly slow paced. The characters take their time setting up base each case and while a case might go for multiple episodes, by the end of the series you have to wonder just how many times you watched the characters setting up a camera or running a cable. Regardless of how quick a response the characters claim they are getting from the ghosts, there is still a lot of sitting around and talking, interviewing people, musing about the possibilities, and just a lot of nothing really happening moments.

Still, if you like a good ghost story, and you don’t mind some blood and gore, Ghost Hunt may be just the thing for you.

If you’ve seen it I’d love to know your thoughts.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime by Studio J.C.Staff

Another studio list. So far I’ve done fun titles by Bones and favourite works by P.A Works but today I turn my attention to J.C.Staff mostly because while they aren’t my favourite studio and I find their work a bit hit and miss, they’ve produced a fair number of solid titles in my anime collection at this point. I’m ranking these titles purely on the number of times I’ve rewatched them so I would love for you to share your favourite titles by J.C.Staff in the comments below and your reasons.

Please Note: There may be some spoilers for the anime below.

Honourable mentions this week go to Kaichou wa Maid Sama and Golden Time. I love both of these stories but they just haven’t had the same amount of rewatches as some of the other anime on the list.

Number 5: Bakuman

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The story of the two guys who think they are going to become famous mangaka and have an anime is actually really compelling. There are some issues that come up with how females are represented and the like, but mostly this is just a really interesting look at the industry as we follow the two main characters through a fairly gruelling journey. On paper this story shouldn’t work given how long we spend watching the characters brain storm and work in their studio. It should be boring, and yet it is fascinating and they give the entire thing a very shonen feel without going too far into the crazy and unbelievable. However, more than just being a story of trying to become the best, this is a story about the characters and they really sell the work as you become deeply fixated on whether they succeed or fail and their relationships with the other characters.

Number 4: A Certain Scientific Railgun

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The whole franchise with A Certain Magical Index seasons 1 and 2 and Railgun 1 and 2, really should hold this place together. I like these stories but they are riddled with problems so I tend to start a season and then get distracted and that stretches the watch time out. However, once I’m done I always remember the series fondly which is why I’ll rewatch it again in a few months time because I seem to forget about the pacing and character issues. That said, A Certain Scientific Railgun season 1 is my favourite so far and a lot of that comes down to the four main girls who manage to really charm without being overly cute and annoying.

Number 3: Heaven’s Memo Pad

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Apparently I’m yet to review this anime so I’ll definitely have to fix that. I love Heaven’s Memo Pad. That isn’t actually saying it is a good anime, but it just hits a certain spot when I’m in the right mood for it. Pretty much you know the feeling you used to get as a teenager where you want to just shut yourself away and right bad poetry for a day or two, that’s the mood you need to be in to truly appreciate Heaven’s Memo Pad. It is heavy dark melodrama that takes itself very seriously but it manages to bring about some really great character moments and force the audience to confront some fairly heavy issues. It is trying really hard to hit you with feels and when you aren’t in the right mood it just kind of comes off as trying too hard, but when you are in the right frame of mind it is kind of perfect. Be prepared for issues involving suicide, social isolation, betrayal, drug use, gang violence, and so on and so forth as well as an overly cutely designed detective at the centre of the story.

Number 2: Ghost Hunt

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Another anime I haven’t done a full series review of though I did review each of the cases individually soon after I started the blog. I love Ghost Hunt but I will admit the reason it does get rewatched so often is the episodic nature of the story. Each case only covers a handful of episodes so you can just pick a case to watch without watching the entire anime. Plus, the English dub works really well for most characters (John the apparent Australian priest is another story) so this is an anime I can watch when I’m really tired and don’t want to deal with subs or trying to pick up the Japanese. Its your basic introduce a mystery, send in the team and investigate, figure out the cause and solve kind of thing but the cases are quite diverse and they usually manage some genuinely tense moments along the way. I also really like the characters in the story, or at least I like watching them given I think most of them would be really annoying in real life.

Number 1: Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon

This is definitely a newer title for my collection but it is one I very quickly became addicted to. As in I watched it through, told my friend they had to watch it, and immediately binged the entire thing again over two or three days. It is a regular title for me to select when I need a pick me up. It is fun, energetic, has some awesome fight sequences, and it is really hard to feel bad about things when watching Bell run about so determined to reach his dreams. I absolutely love this silly little adventure story and will happily watch it over and over again, though I will point out it needs a second season. I’m also not even going to touch why the spin-off was an incredible waste of time.

Anyway, that’s my list this week. Feel free to tell me your favourite titles from J.C.Staff in the comments below.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Priests

Very likely this list was inspired by the fact that I’m currently trying to watch Vatican Miracle Examiner, but today I’m looking at my top 5 favourite anime priests. When I say priest, I’m using a broad brush so I’m not overly concerned what sort of priest, or what religion, or even if they are actually ordained. If they dress and kind of act or are treated like a priest, I’m going with that. What put these characters on my top 5? They are a priest and I found them interesting and sometimes even useful to the story they were in. It isn’t an overly deep list this week.

Please Note – Probably a few minor spoilers this week.

Honourable Mentions: None this week.

Number 5: John Brown from Ghost Hunt

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It may be unfair to have John Brown at number 5 given of all the priests on the list, he’s actually the one who acts most like a priest. However, he’s held back by two things. The first is he wasn’t the protagonist of his story and was clearly strictly back up. There were almost no occasions where he was actually useful other than one or two minor exorcisms throughout the story. The second being his horrendous Australian accent in the dubbed version of Ghost Hunt. Certainly if you are looking for comedy, that accent is going to hit the mark but otherwise all it will do is make most Australians cringe.

Number 4: Shiro Fujimoto from Blue Exorcist

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Already I can hear people wondering why he isn’t higher up the list and the answer is simple: he’s dead after the introduction to the series. Yes, we get flash backs to him being awesome and to be honest, he’s probably the best character in Blue Exorcist, but none of that gets us past the fact that he’s already dead. The doting father and incredibly strong exorcist literally steals every scene he gets to appear in.

Number 3: Frau from 07 Ghost

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This guy’s a priest? You actually do know that about him but sometimes it is very hard to remember given his flamboyant ways as well as his taste in… literature. Yet, he does his job and still manages to look pretty cool while doing it which has earned him a solid third place on my list.

Number 2: Seishin from Shiki

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I really like Seishin’s character for a couple of reasons. The main one is that he provides a different perspective on the vampires and their invasion to his friend’s. Whereas the doctor chooses to rally people to fight the vampires, Seishin chooses to seek coexistence even when it clearly becomes impossible. It’s another valuable perspective that the story kind of needed particularly during the gory conclusion.

Number 1: Nicholas D Wolfwood from Trigun

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Seriously, what is not to like about this awesome character. He and Vash are perfect as a team and Wolfwood very clearly highlights the path Vash might have taken rather than the one he chooses. Wolfwood, you will be missed.

That’s all from me so I will ask you who your favourite anime priest is and why?


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Characters with Completely Inappropriate Occupations

Last week we looked at the narcissists of the anime world. Shifting gears a bit, this week I want to look at characters who are just completely ill suited to their job. I’m going to be honest, keeping the list to 5 was challenging so I really look forward to seeing who you guys would have added to the list.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions this week go to Kuroko Shirai as a Judgement Officer in A Certain Magical Index, Naoya Touhara as a Toy is Astarotte No Omocha and Mephisto as a Principal in Ao No Exorcist. But as I said before, I had a really long list to start with, so there are plenty of other characters that probably should have been mentioned.

How did I make my selection? I really thought about which character’s job bugged me the whole time I watched their show. If it was intruding into my thoughts regularly and I was questioning why they were doing what they were doing, they probably ended up on my final list.

Number 5: Ayako Matsuzaki as a Shrine Maiden in Ghost Hunt

Even the other characters laugh when Ayako introduces herself as a Shrine Maiden and it becomes obvious throughout the series that even though she knows a lot about being a Shrine Maiden she isn’t one. Even the monk (the rock band member monk who also should be mentioned in this list for inappropriate occupations) explains to Mai (and the audience) that Ayako just doesn’t operate the way Shrine Maiden’s should. That and her attitude toward anything that seems like work earned her a place on the list.

Number 4: Kisuke Urahara as a Shopkeeper in Bleach

This one is more just because it seems like there is no reason why Urahara’s shop hasn’t just gone bankrupt. He is a lousy shop keeper and his pretense that that is all he is is blatantly ridiculous, particularly when you see what is underneath the shop. Now, admittedly, he is kind of in retirement after a fairly eventful life so he can do whatever he wants, but if he wanted to run a shop surely he should show just a little more interest in doing it well.

Number 3: Sanae Furukawa as a Baker in Clannad

I’ll admit that this was probably a cheap shot but if you can’t bake, don’t be a baker. That kind of makes sense to the rest of us but Sanae Furukawa is persistent if nothing else. What bugs me is that she still bursts into tears at the slightest criticism when you would think she would either get over it or learn to bake. And how does she manage to not get any better if she is doing it every single day?

Number 2: Teletha Testarossa as a Captain in Full Metal Panic

While there is nothing wrong with Tessa’s intelligence and her dedication to her crew, temperamentally she is not suited to command. This comes across so often in the series. She struggles making the tough calls when her crew are in danger, she is a teenage girl and at times feels the need to act that way, and she is also unreasonably stubborn on certain issues. None of these would make her a very effective captain and assuming that an entire crew would just loyally fall behind her because she’s cute is just a little insane.

Number 1: Sadao Maou as a MgRonalds Employee in The Devil is a Part Timer

Kind of an obvious choice given the occupation is the entire joke. It isn’t right that Satan would be flipping hamburgers in a fast food shop and yet here he is, planning his world conquest as he works his way up the managerial ranks. I love that he’s ambitious and hard working but it is still a totally inappropriate profession for his character (even if he is apparently amazing at it).

What are your thoughts? Which other characters are completing jobs they probably shouldn’t be?

 

Tuesday’s Top 5: Totally Narcissistic Characters

Having covered red heads both male and female, I am now turning my attention to the narcissists of the anime world. I’m going to clarify, this is not just a list of narcissists though. It’s pretty easy to make a character narcissistic. What is difficult is to make the audience actually like the self-loving individual.

So who would you have put on a list of anime narcissists? I look forward to finding out below.

Please Note – There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

Honourable mentions this week go to Claire Stanfield from Baccano (featured last week so left off the list this time) and Kurama from Kamisama Kiss. Kurama kind of failed to make the list because even though he seems self-absorbed he just doesn’t have the confidence of a true narcissist. Not like those who made the list below.

One more honourable mention. Aiko Iwase from Bakuman. I realised my final list kind of ruled out all the females and I didn’t want it to look like I hadn’t considered that females could be narcissistic. I think this goes more to show my tastes. I can stand narcissism in male characters but find it fairly repugnant in female ones.

Number 5: Kazuya Shibuya from Ghost Hunt

The guy is nick-named Naru the Narcissist within a day of Mai meeting him. He is completely convinced he is brilliant (not helped by the fact that compared to the company he keeps, he is). Kazuya is 17 years old and running his own company. He hunts ghosts for a living. Not to mention, while the other spiritualists may not approve of his methods they have to approve of his results and track record. However, just when you start really hating they guy, you get some more insight into his life and his personality. Honestly, the show just wants you to like him (given it is mostly narrated by Mai and she clearly does like him) and it does a good job of helping you see past his narcissistic exterior. At times.

Number 4: Loki from Fairy Tail

I know that there’s a whole other side to this character, but focussing on how he is when Lucy first meets him, he is a womanizing narcissist. The later character arcs for Loki do a lot to make you empathise with him and understand him, and he also just develops beyond the shallow existence he was living, but he is still definitely a narcissist.

Number 3: Seiya Kanie from Amagi Brilliant Park

This one is too easy. The guy loves himself. A grown up child star who completely believes he is amazing. I really wouldn’t want to meet him after the events in the series because I am certain that while he has grown emotionally in some ways, his success will just make him more of an unbearable narcissist. But that is why he is on my list. Because he does grow and develop throughout the series so even though you still don’t much like him, you want him to succeed. I found that was some very affective writing that made me actually want him to win.

Number 2: Yumichika Ayasegawa from Bleach

We could just look at his picture and realise, yep, this guy is definitely a narcissist. Even his seat number (fifth seat) was chosen because he didn’t want to take the third seat from his friend and he liked the number 5 more than 4. Really? And this guy won’t even fight against ugly people unless they really annoy him. He is so incredibly vain. You have to laugh when his hair, outfit or face get messed up. It’s just too perfect.

Number 1: Alex Louis Armstrong from Full Metal Alchemist

I couldn’t resist this one. Yes, there are greater narcissists in the world, but none of them as lovable. And that is why Alex Louis Armstrong tops out my list. True, it is only his physical appearance and alchemy that he is self-absorbed with and he is well aware of his limitations in other areas (hard not to be with so many people willing to point that out). There’s just something completely charming about him even as he is completely crazy. While I think more of him in the series would have been a bit hard to swallow, his appearances were regularly marked by humour or sweet and touching moments that made his character all the more memorable.

So, who did I miss? Share your thoughts on the narcissists of the anime world below.

 

 

 

 

Ghost Hunt Episodes 22 – 25

All of the other arcs have now been reviewed. Check out the last post for the links to all other arcs.

Review: 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.

Positives:

  • 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.

Negatives:

  • 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.

If you’ve watched it before, let me know your thoughts on this series.

Ghost Hunt Episodes 18 – 21

Previous Ghost Hunt reviews:

Review: 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 victor this time around. This story is dark and highly affective.

Positives:

  • 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’s continues to grow as a person and psychic.
  • Kazuya get’s put in his place a couple of times by a former mentor.

Negatives:

  • 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.

 

Ghost Hunt Episodes 14 – 17

If you missed them check out my reviews of the previous arcs:

Review: Forbidden Pastime

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 alright at the end.

Positives:

  • 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.

Negatives:

  • 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.

Ghost Hunt Episodes 11 – 13

Two arcs reviewed together this time because they are both pretty short.

If you want to catch up you can check out my previous reviews of Evil Spirits all Over, The Doll House and The Afterschool Hexer.

Review: 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.

Review: 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.

Positives:

  • Lin actually speaks in whole sentences during these episodes.
  • Because the cases are smaller there is more focus on the characters in these episodes.

Negatives:

  • The storylines are 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 these two stories.

I must admit, I regularly skip right past these two stories when I’m rewatching Ghost Hunt. They don’t add a great deal to the series and don’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.

Ghost Hunt Episodes 7 – 10

Moving on to the third story arc of Ghost Hunt today. If you missed it, I’ve already reviewed Evil Spirits All Over and The Doll House arcs.

Review: 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.

Positives:

  • 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.

Negatives:

  • 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.