So, what happens when a Buddhist Monk, Chinese Taoist, Shinto Priestess, Celebrity Medium, Catholic Priest, Nascent Psychic, and Narcissistic Investigator walk into a school? This isn’t the opening of a joke, it’s the main characters of Ghost Hunt, a 25-episode anime released in Fall of 2007 that I’ll be reviewing for Halloween month.
The premise of the story is pretty on point. A young girl, Mai Taniyama, ends up breaking the expensive camera of a paranormal investigator known as Kazuya Shibuya during an investigation at her school. She ends up working part-time as a member of his research team in order to pay off the debt, while slowly becoming more ingrained in the supernatural side of the world.
The cases that make up each arcs are actually one of the strongest parts of the anime, as it delves into a diverse mixture of supernatural elements, such as ESP, Magic, and Ghosts, while taking a scientific approach to them as well. However, one thing you have to understand going in, the plot has a slow start.
The setting is a Contemporary story set within the Supernatural and Horror genres. It starts in the shallow end of the Supernatural genre, with minor stakes, and then slowly ends up firmly in the Horror genre, with the characters lives being on the line.
The first case, for example, involves the building shaking and stuff moving around in a school. In this case, it’s a simple matter of a latent psychic and the school being built on a crappy foundation, but nothing special. There’s no real risk of harm to the people involved and it settles itself.
The next case is an actual case of a haunting in a home, where they have to try numerous exorcism and a little Tao magic to help the spirit find peace. From there it escalates, with the second-half dipping firmly into the horror elements, such as the manor haunted by a guy who murdered people and bathed in their blood enough that his soul continues to do so to this day, and a full-on invasion of the living dead by the end.
Onto the main characters, the members of the Shibuya Psychic Research Company : Kazuya Shibuya (or Naru), Mai Taniyama, John Brown, Lin Koujou, Houshou Takigawa, Ayako Matsuzaki, and Masako Hara.
Mai is the everyday girl who winds up involved with the supernatural because she broke a camera. However, it is revealed that she is a powerful latent psychic as the series progresses. While this does come off as both expected and somewhat interesting, it also turns her into a plot-device since she seems to develop just the powers needed to further the story and play an integral role in each case.
Kazuya is… well, unlikable. He’s a mostly stoic and knowledgeable badass that keeps to himself and goes behind his partners back in order to solve the case. He’s not a team-player and he’s the type who’s perfectly willing to use others as bait if he needs to. While he gets slightly better near the end, I’m still not a fan. And that’s before we get into the fact that he’s a powerful psychic as well, though to the show’s credit they explain that the strain of his powers actually puts his life in danger so he can’t use them and hint at it earlier.
Lin is Kazuya’s quiet and dedicated assistant, and a practitioner of Taoist arts. Later on in the series, it’s revealed that he actually despises Japanese people because of how they laid siege to his home country… but honestly, it feels a little tacked on given how young he looks and the fact that he never displays any real hostility towards them, beyond general apathy, and we don’t see him being discriminated against. Ultimately it adds nothing to his character, so he’s just an ace-in-the-hole character.
Masako is a famous medium despite her age. The issue with her is that she’s mostly made irrelevant by Mai’s growing powers later on in the series, so she’s usually made a victim or instead they play up the fact that she has a crush on Naru and is jealous of Mai because he seems fixated on her. Given how Naru has shown no interest in either of them that way, it’s just pointless and a waste.
John is an Australian priest who has ties to an orphanage in the story. He’s mostly around for when they need to exorcise someone with holy water or without causing harm. Other than that, he’s nice and friendly and has few faults, which is a fault in itself.
Houshou is a Buddhist Monk and the most badass character in the series. He’s the cool older brother figure to Mai, a monk that plays guitar and fends off supernatural threats left and right. More than the others, he stands out as being reliable and firm in his actions and someone you can always count on.
Ayako is a Shinto Priestess and basically the cool older sister figure to Mai, but in terms of plot relevance she’s mostly useless. I’m not being biased, the final arc even brings this up and we get the reveal that this is because her particular abilities are aligned with nature and in a city she’s basically helpless. Would have been nicer to know early on, but… why bring her along and make her seem like a fraud before the final arc?
If I had to say there was one issue that the anime has is namely that there really isn’t a need for most of the characters to show up as often as they do. Usually Naru, Mai, Lin, and Houshou are the ones needed to handle the case, though one could argue that they all act together because they never know what the situation will warrant. I just think it would have worked just as well if they only brought in the character relevant to the case in particular, like Ayako during the final case where she does something useful for once.
Animation & Sound
There’s no getting around it, the anime is a bit dated compared to the more modern anime out today. It’s not terrible by any stretch, but if you put it into a comparison with some of today’s anime in terms of art and sound, it doesn’t having anything special going for it.
Overall, the anime is okay if you like Supernatural and Paranormal investigation stories. It has surprising depth as it looks into different types of supernatural phenomena, how they function and so on, which was a draw for me since this is my sort of thing. Mai herself isn’t all that intriguing as a character and I do think that they could have trimmed down the number of main characters to develop them better, but I do like how they handled the various supernatural cases and wouldn’t be opposed to seeing more in the future.