Friday, August 30, 2013
Day Two Hundred and Forty-two - Ghost Hunt: Episode 1, "It's like Ghost Hunters/Adventurers... but as an Anime."
The problem is, there are absolutely NO ghosts in the opener.
That's kind of a dealbreaker if your show is a fictional fantasy piece about ghosthunters, I think.
Sure, there are dimly lit, creepy rooms complete with creaky floorboards and ceiling joists, and several moments where characters claim to be sensing spirits (or the opposite), but there are no actual events outside of the imaginations of the trio of young high schoolers telling ghost stories during the intro.
If the cover art and series description have any merit, it looks like the plot will revolve around the skeptical, but easily spooked Mai and the aloof Naru, who is manager of the Shibuya Psychic Research Team. They definitely look the part of your typical Seinen teen adventure, a bishy boy and moe girl.
Naru is called to Mai's school in this episode to investigate a condemned schoolhouse that is supposedly haunted. The two team up after Mai causes an accident that sidelines Naru's assistant, but find out that the school's principal has hired not one or two, but five separate exorcists/spiritual types to try and cleanse the schoolhouse of whatever curse might be hovering over it. Needless to say, not all of the paranormal investigators are thrilled to have been quintuply booked as the second half of the episode mostly consists of their bickering.
I like the concept of Ghost Hunt, even if it's lacking in actual ghosts, real or Scooby Doo-fake. I have friends and family on both sides of the fence when it comes to the IRL Ghost Hunters/Adventurers television phenom... enough that no matter who I'm watching them with, I get entertained (either by cynicism or true belief). Seeing the formula taken on in Anime with Japanese folklore constructs and practitioners tickles me on many levels, increasing my desire to see it through.
It's just, with the lack of spirits, the only promise in the episode is in the interpersonal drama that is invented by the conflicting personalities. I want to say that could be enough, but the spooky girl is more than a bit annoying in her occult zealotry... and we're barely introduced to the other exorcists and mediums before the episode is over. Too much in the way of characters and not enough development or action.
Production value-wise, Ghost Hunt is very high quality when it comes to background art and color design. In that it is a lot like Moonphase, which we took a look at here on Couchbound a little over a week ago. While it's true that the character animation sometimes leaves a bit to be desired, particularly during punchlines when the people become more stylized and simplified, it only distracts a little bit... though, I have to admit, it's not as smooth as it should be. If you want better examples of fantasy abstraction, look to series like Hyouka and xxxHolic.
Overall, I'd judge the first episode (I call it that as it's not quite a pilot) to be borderline. It has quite a number of positive points in its favor (design, mood, etc.), but only having squeeking wood panels and off-screen door pranks as its supernatural gimmicks is almost overwhelmingly annoying.
I definitely don't feel as guilty about watching Ghost Hunt as I do Moonphase (with all its pervy lolicon sensibilities), but it better improve next episode or I think I'll drop it. At least Moonphase establishes its concepts early and runs with them.
Until tomorrow, Potatoes~