This review covers Part 1 of the FUNimation DVD set, which includes episodes 1 through 13 of the 25-episode series. (Part 2 is scheduled for release next month.)
The following blurb appears on the back of the slipcase:
The appeal of the unknown is undeniable and freshman Mai Taniyama is hooked. This fact, coupled with her burgeoning psychic powers, leads Mai to join the ranks of the Shibuya Psychic Research team. Led by enigmatic Kazuya “Naru” Shibuya, she works alongside a spirit medium and a shrine maiden, an exorcist and a monk to uncover the darkest mysteries of the unseen. Using state of the art technology and their respective spiritual gifts, evil is confronted and vanquished time and again.
Death is temporary and far worse fates await those which meet a harsh end. From the trembling walls of a haunted school to the bottom of a well that beckons to dead children, the horrors of reality unfold.
The two discs in Part 1 are packaged in thinpak cases with jackets depicting some of Ghost Hunt‘s main characters (above). Disc 1 features Shibuya Kazuya (a.k.a. “Naru”) on the front and Taniyama Mai inside, while Disc 2 has the monk Takigawa Houshou on the front and the exorcist priest John Brown inside.
The set doesn’t come with an artbox, although it does have a great-looking slipcase for the two discs (above) with Naru and Mai on the front panel and Mai alone on the back.
Part 1’s two discs contain a total of thirteen episodes, divided into five “files” or story arcs with each file representing a separate case. The remaining twelve episodes will be released next month.
The extras (on Disc 2) include the following:
The usual language options are provided: English or Japanese, with optional English subtitles.
I don’t see Ghost Hunt ever winning accolades in the technical department. The animation quality is solid, but unremarkable; the voice acting is competent, but not outstanding; the score, while effective at creating a suspenseful atmosphere, isn’t particularly impressive. It just goes to show that one’s judgement shouldn’t be based on isolated technical merits alone, because this series really does exceed the sum of its parts.
For one thing, it’s scary. Reactions will of course vary greatly, and I admit to having a somewhat jittery nature to begin with; nevertheless I think it’s fair to say that not many animated series can generate the sort of trembling that this one induced when I first saw it a year ago. Having each arc start on a light, even cheerful slice-of-life note only serves to ramp up the terror when the plot inevitably takes a much darker turn along the way.
In addition to the effective writing, the likeable characters add to Ghost Hunt‘s appeal. Some were more annoying than the rest, but I eventually warmed to all of them (even Ayako, who pretty much grated on my nerves during most of the series).
Of course, even nightstalkers need the odd break, and we are given ample respite from the horrors of the unknown through a rather funny park haunting-and-possession case. Far from seeming contrived or out of place, this single-episode file fits in nicely with the rest of the series, serving to illustrate how well-rounded the characters were made that they would work just as well within the context of a light-hearted story like this one.
Part 1 ends with a touching two-episode story involving children possessed by a troubled ghost, which takes place at a church during the Christmas holidays. As well as being one of my best-loved files, this last arc features my favourite score in the entire series (it plays out in full at the end of the second episode).
I’m also very pleased to see that Part 1 ends with a complete case file (Silent Christmas), instead of shutting down in the middle of an arc. Few things would annoy viewers more than having to wait a month just to know what happens next.
As far as bells and whistles go, this is a pretty bare-bones release: no artbox, no substantial DVD extras, no bonus items. Nonetheless, I approve. Extras would have only given the manufacturers more wiggle room to inflate the price tag, and there’s really nothing you can hold out to the fanbase for this particular series anyway. For one thing, no character CDs were ever produced (and I’d be laughing my socks off if they tried that, especially with Lin). At US$49.98 list for thirteen episodes – and with actual shelf prices even lower, such as US$39.99 on Amazon – Ghost Hunt Part 1 offers excellent value for money.
Final verdict: solid, effective mystery/suspense story; appealing cast of characters; good fundamentals (animation, voice acting, character design and music); very reasonable price.
LINKS (beware of spoilers!)
Amazon – selected customer review (with some good remarks on the plot and the English dub) / product page
Anime News Network – encyclopedia article / review / links to retailers
Wikipedia – encyclopedia article