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Ghost Hunt Complete Series PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 00:00
Ghost HuntWhen there's something strange in your neighbourhood, who're ya gonna call? No, not the Ghostbusters - they went bust years ago. Instead you want the Shibuya Psychic Research Centre, who will send the young and very good-looking Kazuya Shibuya to solve all your paranormal problems. High-school student Mai Taniyama finds herself getting drawn into Kazuya's work when she interrupts an investigation he's carrying out at her school...

There's nothing Mai Taniyama and her friends enjoy more than a good ghost story - and their school seems to have more than its fair share based around it. One day, 17-year-old Kazuya "Naru" Shibuya crashes a story-telling session, and immediately rouses Mai's suspicions - she's convinced he's more than he appears, and she's right: Naru has been sent to the school by the Shibuya Psychic Research Centre to investigate paranormal activity at the school, which some say was built on the site of a World War II military hospital. When Mai's own investigations of one of the school's supposedly haunted buildings leads to one of Naru's assistants being injured, Mai's drafted in to replace him - and after learning that Naru's a real-life Ghost Hunter, she's got no objections. The school principal seems to be a firm believer in keeping his options open, though, and Naru's not the only expert on the unusual he's brought in...

Meet the gangSeized

That's a good summary of the first of Ghost Hunt's story arcs, which most of the series is split into. The basic idea of each arc is the same – introduce a mystery, persuade the eternally-sceptical Naru to investigate it, then follow the exploits of him and his team in unravelling what's really going on. It's a whodunit it, wrapped in occult clothing, and how much you get out of it will depend on how you react to smug investigators who claim to know it all.

Of course, there are no cases that Kazuya hasn't solved - he's quite the little Mr Perfect (or Narcissistic Naru-chan, as Mai calls him) – but even so he does rely on his array of occult experts from time to time. They are Ayako Matsuzaki, a Shinto shrine maiden (although looking a bit old to be one); Buddhist monk Houshou Takigawa, unbelievably young Catholic priest and exorcist John Brown, and TV spiritualist Masako Hara. They're officially joined by Mai at the end of the first arc, after she proves to Naru that she possesses an uncannily accurate sense of intuition that he finds useful. This motley crew are all intended to work together, but they often all end up trying to do things their own way, with plenty of bickering and arguing as a result. Add in that Mai, Ayaka and Masako all have a romantic interest in Naru, and there's plenty of opportunities to be sidetracked, often in ways that aren't all that entertaining to watch.

OtherworldCaptive

The stories don't manage to get it quite right, either. The key to a good mystery is to pitch the solution just right - you want your audience to be able to figure it out before the hero, but not so soon that they lose interest. You also don't want it to be so convoluted or illogical that the viewer ends up scratching their head and wondering "wtf!?". Ghost Hunt somehow conspires to do both... I had the opening arc figured from around the 10-minute mark of episode one, thanks to one fairly obvious line, but come the end of episode three when Kazuya explained his reasoning behind the strange events at the school, his explanation made absolutely no sense whatsoever – he and I had come to the same conclusion, but for different reasons, and I made more sense. That surely can't be right. While the later arcs are structured a little better, it's still often too easy to pick out the real "villain" of the piece, and once you've settled in your own mind what's really going on in an arc and who's behind it, the rest of the arc becomes something of a chore to watch.

It's worth pointing out that the story arcs in the second half of the series are noticeably darker than the first half – people do die, there are times when you do wonder if Naru is going to be able to solve the mystery, and there are some decidedly creepy scenes. It's just a shame that, for all the good aspects that Ghost Hunt has, there's nothing in the series that really reaches out and grabs you, or leads to you keep watching to see an arc through.

It's the characters that save the show from becoming too tedious, thankfully. They may have issues, but they're a varied bunch who are interesting in their own rights. While they each start off as freshly-minted archetypes, they're developed as the series progresses and by the end each has their own personality, their own strengths and weaknesses, that keeps the show's focus from being too much centred on Narcissistic Naru (and the nickname is well-earned). As the show goes on, though, certain characters do get favoured more than others, which does take the gloss off the characters a little - especially those (like Naru) that are generally unlikeable to start with. The show seems to know this – when the stories take a turn towards the deadly, any truly life-threatening events happen only to Naru, Mai or Masako, with the regular characters that you're not likely to care about being left more-or-less alone.

The whole of Ghost Hunt somehow manages to be less than the sum of its parts, and while the individual stories each have some good aspects the show's flaws combine to make the overall experience somewhat underwhelming. Just goes to show the importance of having a cast you can care about, I guess. The show's not without its charm, and the paranormal goings-on do have their appeal, but it's one to try before you buy.

For full episode summaries and screenshots, check the reviews of the individual releases:
» Volume 1
» Volume 2

Rating - ***

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