Ghost Hound Anime Review
US Release By
22 25-minute episodes
2007-10-18 - 2008-04-02
What's In It
- Out of Body Experiences
- Brain Talk
- Supernatural Events
- Hidden Realms
- Unexplained Kidnappings
- Hopeful Monsters
- Violence: 2 (moderate)
- Nudity: 0 (none)
- Sex: 2 (moderate)
- Language: 2 (moderate)
One is a former kidnapping victim, another comes from the founding family of a once highly influential cult and the third is a transfer student from Tokyo. Taro, Makoto and Masayuki are very different people who discover they have one thing in common: the ability to have out of body experiences. It is through these experiences that Taro hopes to move past the trauma he experienced 11 years ago and perhaps even find his sister and ask what her final words to him were. However, mysterious events are happening that all three share a connection to. While attempting to uncover the truth the trio also begin to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and each other.
Quick ReviewSwitch to Full Review
Ghost Hound is a creepy psychological thriller/mystery that explores cerebral phenomenon such as out of body experiences, progressing as a slow-burn, revealing very little but enrapturing the viewer nonetheless. When the series passes the halfway point it starts revealing not only the answers to its mysteries but the show's true nature: that it is a serious character driven story told in a very unconventional way. Chiaki J. Konaka's script is punctuated with understated detail, bringing a layer of believability to the torment the series' main trio feels over their respective past experiences, and the supporting cast take the story in interesting and unexpected directions. The cute character designs may take some getting used to, but the visuals are otherwise impressive, and the abstract soundscape is absolutely spectacular. The only big potential disappointment is that once it does start to reveal the truth behind its mysteries, the explanations are somewhat conventional and the end is wrapped up rather too cleanly.
When dealing with a show like Ghost Hound, it's unlikely the viewer will ever be 100% satisfied with the conclusions that are reached, and I'm no exception. But if you think of it in terms of journey rather than destination, Ghost Hound is a helluva ride, one I know I'll be taking again in the future. Even if the conclusions stay within convention, the execution rarely does, and that makes it worth a high recommendation.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Ghost Hound got its hooks in me pretty much at the onset. A creepy psychological thriller/mystery that explores cerebral phenomenon such as out of body experiences, and the first episode is titled "Lucid Dream" to boot? Sign me up! For the first half of the 22 episode series, the story progresses as a slow-burn, revealing very little but enrapturing the viewer nonetheless. When the series passes the halfway point it starts revealing not only the answers to its mysteries but the show's true nature: that it is a serious character-driven story told in a very unconventional way.
Ghost Hound is not a light series. Kidnaping victim Taro Komori and his family do the best they can, but the trauma they endured years ago has had long-lasting effects. His mother Miki clearly has not managed to deal with the situation and it continues to take its toll on her. I sincerely believed Taro when he told his psychologist, while barely keeping himself together, that he fears his Mom is going to break down. Taro himself is haunted by the memory of being taken along with his sister. Not only does he struggle with his fear of the man who abducted him but also with his inability to remember his sister's last words to him. Taro even has trouble recalling her face. Yet the fly that buzzed around her lifeless body is remembered in vivid detail.
Chiaki J. Konaka's script is punctuated with these sort of understated details, bringing a layer of believability to the torment the series main trio feel over their respective past experiences. When steel-eyed Makoto explains why he would have no problem taking a life, it is chilling. When Masayuki counters that he knows what it's like to have taken a life, you soon realize how little he's exaggerating. The trio's paths begin to intersect in interesting ways, tying together more and more as they get to know each other, and themselves, under the most unusual circumstances. Konaka's script contains a lot of 101 discussion of various psychological and neurological studies and theories. Thankfully the information is laid out and presented well. I felt inspired to learn more about the concepts discussed in the show instead of feeling like I was attending an animated lecture.
The town of Suiten is populated with supporting characters that flesh out the story in interesting ways. Many of these characters grow and change significantly in their own right, which can be as interesting to watch as the main trio's growth. I particularly enjoyed the show's red herring and how his character progressed throughout the show. Even an employee of Taro's family's business does more than you might expect. Much like Taro, Masayuki, and Makoto, many of the supporting characters are connected in various ways as well. The only character I didn't care for so much was Michio. I felt his character overstayed his welcome and ended up wedged into the main mystery.
The last time director Ryutaro Nakamura and writer Chiaki J. Konaka teamed up, the result was Serial Experiments Lain. Lain stuck to its surreal atmosphere until the very end, resulting in a series that was very hard to pin down, yet felt complete. Ghost Hound goes a different route. The more the mysteries are revealed, the more the audience is advised that reality is dictating the surreal and not the other way around. More conventional storytelling and science fiction elements are incorporated as the show progresses to its conclusion. In many ways I'm actually inclined to tip my hat to Nakamura and Konaka for not ending the show in a vague way. What worked for Lain probably wouldn't have worked for Ghost Hound.
Unfortunately the revelation regarding the town of Suiten and the phenomenon its residents experience is something I can't quite tip my hat to as the explanation is too convenient. The last episode also loses some of the goodwill it built up with a hokey joke that is all too played out in anime. None of this should be taken to mean Ghost Hound does not feel worthwhile after it's finished. It's just that at some point the show becomes very good, whereas before it was amazing.
The audio production of Ghost Hound is where the show most resembles Lain and also where the production itself excels. Outside of the opening and closing animations the show forgoes a traditional soundtrack in favor of ambient noises layered together to create sequences that helps the character's psychological trauma get even further under your skin. Watching Ghost Hound on anything less than a home theater surround system almost feels like a waste. The use of positional audio is enveloping and makes me wish more anime series utilized five-channel audio.
Some people may find the audio production doesn't quite mesh with the visual production. Unlike Lain, which had dark and claustrophobic visuals consistently accompanying the oppressive audio, Ghost Hound has a more open feel to its design. I found the visuals and audio worked in conjunction more often than not, however. One sequence in which the trio discover a ghost that continually repeats the final actions that lead to its death made my skin crawl a little thanks to the audio.
The show itself is an attractive offering from Production I.G, though the cuter look of the characters, especially Taro, may take some getting used to. Ghost Hound is a 20th anniversary production and while the show is largely well animated, it's not the studio's best. The budget feels a tad stressed at the end, resulting in a couple episodes with sequences that feel rushed and awkward. The temporary drops in animation quality couldn't have come at a worse time, as they distract from some very important information that is being revealed. The O.B.E. sequences, especially from the first-person POV, are captured very well, and the creatures and places that are discovered in the hidden realm are varied and at times fascinating to look at.
The bubble-head forms the characters initially take for the soul-traveling sequences was certainly unexpected. I kind of dug the unconventional approach, though I think the artist made one revision too many when he included the baboon ass. Later on the character's forms change to represent how they normally appear. I can't help but wonder if that was the original plan or if a change was ordered for some reason. The script seems to make an effort to distance itself from the original design.
Sentai Filmworks originally started off as a subtitle-only label, but the company has started producing dubs for select new licenses and catalog titles, such as this one. The new dub for Ghost Hound is rather solid. Unsurprisingly, it forgoes the accents Makosuke mentioned on the blog, but it does throw in a lot of good acting. Taro's voice is particularly convincing and genuine-sounding, and Makoto is suitably dark. I also liked newcomer Corey Hartzog as Masayuki. Ghost Hound's supporting characters also come out well, so much so that I hesitate to start naming examples. The well-written script hits the balance of sounding natural while effectively communicating the same information from the original dialog, including all the psychiatric discussions. The sound engineer also deserves props as the distorted audio effects and surround mix sounded very comparable to the original. It was nice to hear such a solid dub from "Neo-ADV."
When dealing with a show like Ghost Hound, it's unlikely the viewer will ever be 100% satisfied with the conclusions that are reached, and I'm no exception. There is an understandable and inevitable amount of disappointment that occurs when a mystery's questions give way to answers. Some may see the way the supernatural events are explained as the show grounds itself further in reality as a betrayal of the surreal and creepy tone presented at the beginning. Even I was a little surprised at how neatly Ghost Hound wanted to tie itself up. But I'm also reminded of a saying: it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. When I look at it that way, Ghost Hound was a helluva journey, one I know I'll be taking again in the future. Even if the conclusions stay within convention, the execution rarely does, and that makes it worth a high recommendation.
Have something to say about this anime? Join our newly-resurrected forums and speak your mind.
Two similarly executed series are the aforementioned Serial Experiments Lain and Boogiepop Phantom. Both use ambient audio and distorted noise to establish an off-putting mood. Neon Genesis Evangelion gets into its characters heads in more ways than one, though the multiple conclusions to that show continue to spark debate.
Notes and Trivia
The concept of Ghost Hound was originally developed in 1987 by Ghost in the Shell creator Shirow Masamune. Twenty years later it premiered in Japan on WOWOW as Production I.G's 20th anniversary project in 2007.
A two-volume manga adaptation was published by Mag Garden but is not available in North America as of this writing.
While Sentai Filmworks released a number of dubs that they procured along with the licenses of the accompanying anime from other US companies, this represents one of their first original dubs.
US DVD Review
Sentai Filmwork's Blu-ray is an enjoyable package but it should be noted that while the back cover states the video is 1080p, it is actually encoded in 1080i. This is the result of a packaging error as opposed to an inept encode on Sentai's part. The 1080i encode is likely due to the show having sequences animated in 30fps (probably the opening). If Sentai were to convert the video to 1080p@24fps, every fifth frame would be dropped during the sequences animated in 30fps. This happened in Fullmetal Panic: The Second Raid and the motion during the opening sequence was clearly unnatural. Basically, even when Japan gets around to releasing its Blu-ray version, the video will likely be 1080i as well.
With that out of the way, the picture on the BD is super-sharp. There is some color banding to contend with (as is the case with most animated series) and a bit of artifacting occasionally makes its way into darker interior scenes. However by and large it's a very impressive image. Just as impressive, if not moreso, is the audio. Encoded in 5.1 DTS-HD MA format for both Japanese and English tracks, the mix is enveloping with fantastic fidelity. My receiver can only handle the core DTS track, but based on that the lossless presentation should be a real treat. Extras only consist of creditless opening and closing animations in standard-def. I'm not sure why they're not encoded in HD, but at least it gives you the chance to compare and appreciate the quality you gain from Blu-ray.
Sentai Filmworks appropriately calls it TV-14, on account of relatively strong mature themes, some violence, and a modest amount of sexuality.
Violence: 2 - Not much in the blood/gore department but there is some imagery that some may find disturbing.
Nudity: 0 - One character is clearly designed to be sexy but she keeps her clothes on.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Infidelity is touched upon and the show's themes can get pretty dark.
Language: 2 - A bit of language in the dub, with a strong expletive from Makoto at one point.
Available in North America from Sentai Filmworks as a bilingual DVD or Blu-ray set of the whole series; was originally released on two separate subtitled-only DVD sets.
At last check RightStuf had all of the above in stock; the newer box sets are relatively expensive if they're not on sale, while the two individual sets were on clearance pricing: Blu-ray complete set, DVD complete set, DVD season 1, DVD season 2. Amazon has all of the above in stock as well; at last check the blu-ray set is a little cheaper while the DVD set is more expensive, and the individual sets were way overpriced--about the same as the whole series: Ghost Hound: The Complete Collection [Blu-Ray], Ghost Hound: Complete Collection [DVD].