Anime to Watch on Netflix: “Ghost Hunt”

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Beard is back after a semester’s long hiatus and glad to present to you the first anime review by Snippet Studios!

Ghost Hunt is a Japanese anime based on a novella series written by Fuyumi Ono. The series ran from 1989 to 1992 but the anime adaptation wasn’t produced and released until 2006. And it’s available on Netflix right now.

If you’re a fan of fear like I am, then you have most likely seen the show Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel. Three friends search the most haunted places in America and try to prove the existence of ghosts through the use of advanced technology. I guess that you could say that Ghost Hunt was its fictional precursor. In the anime, the Shibuya Psychic Research Center team is commissioned to research a number of haunted places in order to prove whether or not ghosts are actually present there. There are a myriad of members on the team, each with unique skill sets that comes in handy when on certain “hunts.”

Now if you are new to anime or not sure if this one is for you then take a listen to the opening theme below. Better yet, hit play now and continue reading. It is creepy enough to give me the chills every time that I hear it. It really sets the tone for the series and if you enjoy that then you will probably enjoy the rest of the series.

The first episode sets the tone nicely: Kazuya Shibuya (the owner of Shibuya Psychic Research Center) is hired to investigate an abandoned building that has been rumored to be haunted for a number of years. Shibuya is a handsome 17-year-old with a very calculated and focused personality. He is there to do his job, not to mess around. After Mai, a high school freshman with an interest in the paranormal, ends up destroying a piece of Kazuya’s equipment, she is enlisted by Kazuya to help pay off her debts.

Shibuya Psychic Research Center (SPRC) uses massive amounts of technologically advanced equipment to collect data and rule out any other events that could be misinterpreted as  paranormal activity. However, the principle that hired SPRC apparently doesn’t believe in its young leader because on the first day of investigation, a number of other spiritualists arrive to do their assessment of the property. There is a Buddhist Monk named Takigawa (who has hair and is “taking a break” from his vows), a Shrine Maiden named Ayako who practices the ancient art of Shinto, a 19-year-old Catholic Priest from Australia named John Brown (for all you Rhode Island residents out there, I don’t think this has anything to do with John Brown of Brown University), and a spirit medium named Masako who is a TV personality and a true spirit medium. Each person has their own unique interpretation of the supposed paranormal activity occurring within the building. These interpretations usually involve spirits that can be banished through the use of their own particular skill set.

This group is what makes up SPRC for the rest of the series. Their unique personalities and abilities create a dynamic relationship between all of the characters. The team assembles for the first time to determine the cause of the paranormal activity in the abandoned building which ends up not being anything paranormal at all. So the first episode is kind of a bust when it comes to ghost hunting, but the rest of the series really delivers.

After the first episode, there are creepy possessed dolls, hexes, ouija boards, false shrines, and a lot of other legitimate cases of paranormal activity. One of the most interesting aspects about the series is the notable difference between Japanese and American perspectives on ghosts and spirits. In western culture it’s assumed that ghosts happen when they are unsettled in some way; some problem needs to be resolved in order for the spirit to move on to the afterlife. Even if the person was murdered, the ghost is usually haunting a place because it seeks some kind of closure. Western cultures place the blame on the object doing the haunting. Throughout Ghost Hunt, however, you learn that the Japanese believe that most hauntings are caused by the actions of someone that is still alive. The living person might have negative energy or be actively doing something in particularly to cause a haunt, so we’re dealing with shady characters as often as we are spirits.

There are also many naturalistic ways of removing ghosts in Japanese culture. The Shinto maiden – a character on the Ghost Hunting team – always uses nature to try and dispel ghosts. Shinto is what most of us might picture when we think about the standard religion and culture of Japan. Many of the public shrines in Japan are Shinto and their biggest purpose is to connect the people with nature around them. It sets up a comic contrast with the Catholic Priest, John Brown. Father Brown pretty much just sprays holy water everywhere and recites the “Our Father” every time there is a suspected spirit.  Father Brown’s Catholic methods never solve anything throughout the course of the entire series.  If anything, the Catholic exorcism only causes more problems than it offers solutions.  Each religion has its shortcomings throughout the series but Catholicism seems to be the only religion that never offers any solution. I’m not sure whether the writer is trying to say anything about Catholicism but I just think that its ineptness is evident. Regardless, the difference between cultures is showcased and adds an interesting dynamic to the series for someone who is not accustomed to Eastern sentiments.

My only gripe with the series is that most “Cases” are three to four episodes long. At about 24 minutes each it is a lot of time invested just to reveal what happens in one case. However, the cases are all pretty interesting and there are usually two or three suspects before the actual culprit is revealed. It is similar to a drawn out Scooby-Doo episode. Those meddling kids always find the source of the problem. Also, the series is only one season long. There are 25 episodes and 8 cases.  From what I could gather, the novella series didn’t really provide a lot more material to continue with subsequent seasons.

The good news is that according to various internet sources there is a live action film in the making. The film could make for some good viewing so I am looking forward to that. It may be released as early as the summer of 2014 so look for that in the future and happy ghost hunting!

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