Monday, July 27, 2009

Review | Anime | Ghost Hound

GHOST HOUND : Three junior high school boys, Tarou, Masayuki, and Makoto, have each suffered a terrible tragedy in their life that traumatized their
well-being. After meeting each other and learning of what they have in common,
they finally harness the ability to have Out-Of-Body experiences and slip into
the Unseen World - the world where ghosts roam. Eventually, they begin to notice
elements of the Unseen World seeping into their own world, and, with the help of
the local priest's daughter Miyako, the boys have to find a way to stop these
changes from overtaking the town.
I read the word "ghost" in the title, and it captured me. All I can say upon finishing this anime is, "Wow. I can't believe what I've seen."

The anime begins in a small Japanese town called Suiten, a town that has it heroes, its kooks, and its dark pasts. The story begins centered around 14-year-old Tarou Komori, who was kidnapped 11 years prior to the story, along with his older sister Mizuka, who did not survive the event. Because of this, Tarou has night terrors about his sister and lives a somewhat awkward life with his parents, who have taken bad turns for themselves thanks to the death of Mizuka. Every day after school, Tarou meets with a psychiatrist to help pinpoint the source of his nightmares, and help him rediscover the memories he lost through the trauma of his kidnapping.

Along the way, he meets Tokyo transfer student Masayuki Nakajima, who transferred as a way of escaping his own cataclysm: Masayuki bullied another student to the point where he committed suicide by jumping off the roof of his school in Tokyo, but not before he varnished the classroom chalkboard with curses at Masayuki. Masayuki's intentions were not to drive the student to suicide, however, he refers to himself as a murderer. This event made Masayuki fearful of heights.

In opposition to Masayuki's annoyingly sunny personality is Tarou's silent yet cynical cousin, Makoto Oogami. Because of his relation to Taro amd Mizuka, his family took a great part in solving the kidnapping case. Shortly afterwards, Makoto's father mysteriously committed suicide, leading toddler Makoto to discover his bloody corpse. This event became Makoto's trauma, in addition to his constant attempts to uncover the meaning behind the death of his father, only to have his family hide the details from him. Makoto lives with his grandmother, the founder of a local religion, whom he detests. This is partly because of his grandmother's constant attempts to make him the successor of the religion, which Makoto couldn't care less about.

Masayuki's interest in the kidnapping case (which is a famous case around the town) and how Makoto and Tarou are somehow both connected is ultimately what brought the group together, albeit hesitantly. Masayuki uses this knowledge to convince Tarou and Makoto to journey into an abandoned hospital with him, which is the same location where Taro and his sister were held captive - the same location where Tarou watched his sister die. While inside, the three lose consciousness following an accident, and suddenly find themselves able to project their souls out of their bodies, and through the series, they become able to do this at will. They enter the Unseen World, a world parallel to the "Apparent World", where spirits travel. The variety of spirits is a list that goes on: prehistoric animals and insects, strange surreal birds, and, to Tarou's terror, towering blackened figures that wander wherever Tarou happens to be. One of these figures plays the role of the kidnapper in Tarou's night terrors about his kidnapping, as Tarou does not remember what the man looked like as the time of his kidnapping.

No one can see the boys as they roam the town in their out-Of-Body experiences, except one girl named Miyako, the daughter of a priest, who, curiously enough, can see spirits, and even become possessed by them. Intrigued by this girl, and by their "OBEs", the boys begin to use their ability to spirit travel to unearth the mysteries behind Tarou's kidnapping and the death of Makoto's father.

I was a little unimpressed upon watching the first few episodes, as the series is very slowly paced. That'll be my first warning - if you intend to watch this anime, you have to be very patient with it, as it likes to wander off-course a lot. On top of that, it was unlike anything I'd ever seen. This intimidated me a bit, and I took a long break from it.

In the end, I'm glad I gave it another chance. This anime is genuinely unlike anything I've ever seen. I can hardly describe it in a way that will give it justice. The whole arrangement of the anime is extremely bizarre; you feel like you're in a nightmare. In many ways, the anime narrates the actual traumatic events that befell the three protagonists in the style of a nightmare. As you watch, you realize your nightmares - and your dreams - are composed in a very similar manner as the anime makes it appear; it really makes you go, "Hey! My dreams are like that too!" This includes, but is not limited to, blurred-out faces of the individuals in the dreams, jet blackened figures that play the roles of unfamiliar characters - usually villainous ones - that appear threatening, and the constant skipping between scenes like a movie instead of playing out gradually, like in reality.

As a horror fan - and critic - that is not easily scared, I can certainly commend this anime for its fear factor. I have never felt fearful or become startled at any frightening scenes in a horror movie, and I didn't expect anything different from Ghost Hound (after all, as I've stated before, how scary can an anime be?). However, to my surprise, Ghost Hound became the first horror, in my long history of watching and judging horror, to cause me to feel the need to scream. Eventually, I would not watch Ghost Hound at night or in a poorly-lit atmosphere. There were two instances I especially remember that I had to hold my mouth and curse myself to keep from screaming. This is what earned Ghost Hound an extra star from me.

If a child were to express interest in watching this anime, as you can probably guess already, I would probably keep them away from this one. Even if a child can take the fear of Ghost Hound, it's also a very slowly-paced series that probably would not hold their attention very long (it didn't hold mine in the beginning). There are several frightening and violent scenes throughout the anime, and threats are constantly made towards family members. There are frequent scenes of dead bodies and distorted bodies, and a few scenes with excessive blood. A female character has a very exaggerated bust size which attracts obvious attention from many male characters. It is implied that one teenage boy takes a liking to this woman as well; we later hear he has used his OBE ability several times to spy on her undressing. It is unclear whether the woman develops an attraction for the boy, but it is loosely implied.

My only complaint about this anime, besides the awful pacing, is the way the series ended. We begin the series with ghosts but we end the series with mutants and gods. It's an incredibly strange transition that didn't serve the overall story as well as it could have. Actually, from what I saw, the conclusion really didn't play a part in solving the mysteries at all. The mysteries becoming solved were not climactic at all, they were turned into back-burner conclusions. Instead, the climactic moment was the one that made no sense. The series' ending was basically an add-on to the story rather than the conclusion of the entire story we've been clutching to. As we near the end, we start talking about, "embryos", and "biooids", and "man-made mutants", and "dragon gods", and earfuls more of incomprehensible babble that doesn't, and never did, serve the story in the slightest. That remains my only major complaint.

While you probably have to be a horror fan, and a very patient person, to check this anime out, I think if you're at least the latter, you'll be a big fan of Ghost Hound.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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