Ghost Sweeper Mikami Anime Review
GS Mikami Gokuraku Daisakusen!!
Ghost Sweeper Mikami - The Great Paradise Mission!!
US Release By
45 25-minute episodes
1993-04-11 - 1994-03-06
What's In It
- Uber-Greedy Redheads
- Borderline Sex Offenders
- Friendly Blue-Haired Ghosts
- VooDoo-Practicing Rivals
- Rampaging Shikigami
- Forgetful Alchemists
- New Years Power-Ups
- Agreeable Robots
- Violence: 2 (moderate)
- Nudity: 2 (moderate)
- Sex: 3 (significant)
- Language: 2 (moderate)
In a world where ghosts and spirits run rampant, the Ghost Sweeper profession was born to help mitigate supernatural phenomenon. After Japan's bubble economy burst, most Ghost Sweepers live in near-poverty. One exception is Reiko Mikami, a beyond-shrewd businesswoman who is the head of the Mikami GS Agency. She has obtained and maintained her wealth by heinously price gouging her desperate clients and barely giving her one paid employee, Tadao Yokoshima, two coins to rub together. Mikami and Yokoshima encounter the ghost of a young shrine maiden named Okinu who joins the company because she doesn't know how to ascend to heaven. The trio take on a variety of supernatural cases and encounter a bevy of eccentric characters, including but not limited to: A voodoo exorcist, a Catholic priest and his half-vampire assistant, a Dragon Priestess and a most-likely-senile alchemist.
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The classic Toei anime series Ghost Sweeper Mikami is finally available in North America, and there's some old-school fun to be had. It's simultaneously repetitive and creative; the series hits the same jokes every episode, but invents a wide variety of scenarios to put them in, and isn't afraid to break the fourth wall. Notably, the main characters are not good people; Mikami is remorselessly greedy and Yokoshima endlessly pervy, with the two feeding off each other in a twisted circle. The show is also entirely episodic, and never sentimental; following the Seinfeld formula, from the first episode to the last, the characters do not grow or change. The storylines go a long way to keep the pattern from getting too stale, and the colorful, amusing supporting cast helps progress some of the show's more interesting storylines. The voice acting is what really helps the show rise above mediocrity--a veritable who's who of veteran Japanese voice actors, and they are clearly having a great time with the material. The animation hasn't aged as well, but does a brilliant job with the comedic physical violence and facial contortions.
Ghost Sweeper Mikami is as much a one-trick pony as they come, but thankfully the inventive storylines help make the trick funny more often than not. Some people consider Ghost Sweeper Mikami a definitive supernatural anime comedy; while I wouldn't go that far, it's a decent choice if you're looking for a funny old-school series.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
It sure did take awhile, but the classic Toei anime series Ghost Sweeper Mikami is finally available in North America. I had been curious about the show for a while, and, though I can't say I'm head-over-heels for it, as broad and low-brow comedies go there's some fun to be had with this one. It's simultaneously repetitive and creative; the series hits the same kind of jokes every episode but invents a wide variety of scenarios for those jokes to take place in.
A typical day at the Mikami GS Agency office involves Yokoshima spying on his boss, even going so far as to take a run at her, only to be greeted with a violent, almighty smackdown. Reiko gets an assignment, which might require her to wear another sexy outfit besides her usual small, form-fitting dress, which causes Yokoshima's libido to go haywire and the cycle repeats itself. However, the way Yokoshima is expected to help with assignments as payback highlights the show's creativity. In one episode, his soul is ripped from his body and thrown into space. In another three-episode arc, Tadao finds himself slipping backwards through time towards non-existence. Folk religion themes such as possession are also used to torture Yokoshima, such as an evil sword that takes control of his body.
It wasn't until I sat down to write about Ghost Sweeper Mikami that I realized how terrible its two leads come across when described. Yokoshima sees Mikami as an object of lust which is why he puts up with constant abuse and a wage of 250 yen/hour (roughly a couple bucks). Mikami sees Yokoshima as cheap labor, which is why she puts up with his persistent groping and spying. It's a twisted circle that continues throughout the entire show's run. In a certain way Ghost Sweeper evokes the "no hugging, no learning" philosophy of Seinfeld: from the first episode to the 45th and final one, the characters do not grow or change. Mikami never feels any remorse for her greed; she effectively steals a large sum of money from Yokoshima at one point without batting an eye. And, despite all the bad karma that comes back to bite Yokoshima, he never learns to see Mikami--or women in general--as more than sex symbols. He never realizes it's his own fault bad things happen to him, to the point that even the series narrator calls him out on it to the audience.
Though the storylines go a long way to keep the series from getting stale, the show does spin its wheels at times. I appreciate that GSM has its comfort zone, I just found myself wishing the two leads would step outside of that zone a little more often. Thankfully, a decent supporting cast is developed before too long. Their antics can also be repetitive (Emi professes her love to Pete in every episode they are in, Meiko can't control her 12 Shikigami, etc) but they are amusing and help progress some of the show's more interesting storylines. My favorite would have to be the man-of-questionable-sanity, Dr. Chaos, though I also enjoyed the aforementioned Emi and her cutthroat business rivalry with Mikami.
I mentioned that the series narrator addresses the audience, but the fact is the entire cast is prone to breaking the fourth wall, which I enjoy from time to time. In the final episode (no real spoilers here) GSM essentially tears the fourth wall down and tap dances all over it. What I really liked was how the end of the last episode segued to a nice little farewell from the show's cast to the audience. It was a genuinely charming way to cap off a purely episodic series like this.
The voice acting is what really helps the show rise above mediocrity. While there are occasional weak incidental voices in some episodes, the main cast is a veritable who's who of veteran Japanese voice actors, and they are clearly having a great time with the material. Hiromi Tsuru is in fine form as the not-to-be-messed with Mikami, but it's Ryo Horikawa who steals the show as Yokoshima. He is just hilarious, with very expressive mannerisms and over-the-top yelling. Horikawa really sells his character throughout, and brings a lot of humor to the show. Although I'm not sure he has the best voice for a 1000-year-old alchemist, Shigeru Chiba's shtick is always fun to listen to, and Takeshi Aono is surprisingly adorable as Kenki, something I never thought I'd say.1
There's no way hastily-produced early-'90s televised anime is going to look stellar, but Ghost Sweeper is hardly crude, either. The character designs are fine, though inconsistent at times, and the animation, despite having some choppy sequences, is decent for an older TV series. Overall, the technical details are unremarkable until it's time for the show to do what it does best: kick the snot out of Yokoshima. That's when you see flashes of brilliance in how some of the comedic physical violence is timed, or the way Tadao reacts when he's told what's expected of him. I can't even begin to describe his facial expressions aside from saying they are impressive due to the sheer number of ways Yokoshima's face contorts itself. GSM might be too old-looking for some, but fans of older anime should be just fine with it. The background music is passable, albeit a bit cheap. It's not bad, just cheesy, as is the opening theme which I admit I kind of liked. The ending theme is forgettable, however.
Ghost Sweeper Mikami is a one-trick pony--oh God is it ever--but thankfully the inventive storylines help make the trick funny more often than not. The two leads are not good people, but they are still likable, or at least funny to watch. Some people consider Ghost Sweeper Mikami a definitive supernatural anime comedy; while I wouldn't go that far, it's a decent choice if you're looking for a funny old-school series.
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Haunted Junction is another supernatural comedy from the 90's with a different kind of lecherous character (she's female, but the differences don't stop there) and similarly wacky humor. The long-running City Hunter series from Sunrise features a non-ghost Sweeper named Ryo Saeba who's even more lecherous than Yokoshima. I'm sure the two would get along famously. Phantom Quest Corp operates under a similar premise (a little too similar for Toei as rumor has it) except the company in that show is hardly prosperous. Ushio & Tora is an enjoyable supernatural action/comedy, especially if you like bickering lead characters, though it's considerably more violent. Requiem from the Darkness is an interesting period-piece series that deals with Japanese mythology yet manages to incorporate bits of humor with the chills, and if you want to hear more silliness from Ryo Horikawa, try Elf Princess Rane where he speaks complete gibberish 80% of the time.
Notes and Trivia
Ghost Sweeper Mikami started out as a manga by Takashi Shiina that ran from 1991 all the way to 1999. The stories in the manga are also largely standalone but the characters do eventually start to change and grow. As examples, Yokoshima develops some latent spiritual abilities and becomes more mature due to a romantic relationship with a character named Luciola, and Okinu's spirit is eventually reunited with her body.
While it took darn near 20 years for the TV series to come to North America, Manga Entertainment released the hour-long Ghost Sweeper Mikami movie in the early 2000s, which was originally produced after the series concluded. Ironically, Manga's DVD was long out of print by the time Sentai brought the series out. However, as of this writing the company has said it is looking into releasing the movie as well.
Ghost Sweeper Mikami has enjoyed international popularity in other parts of the world, such as Latin American, Mexico, India and Chile. Rumor has it that Yokoshima is such a popular character with Chilean anime fans his name is used as a catch-all term for perverted actions.
Footnote 1: Part of the reason the voice cast amuses me so much is because the role I immediately associate with Ryo Horikawa is Dragon Ball Z's iconic Vegeta. If you look at his resume, however, Horikawa has voiced more comedic roles than serious characters like the Prince of Saiyans. Even more amusingly, Hiromi Tsuru is also in the show as Bulma, and she and Horikawa's characters are paired together in a very different dynamic.
US DVD Review
Sentai Filmworks' four DVD sets are decent little productions. The Japanese-only audio is a basic mix that sounds fine and the picture appears to be a pretty decent encode of the remastered video Toei used for the Japaenese DVD release some years ago. It's a fairly typical Toei restoration for the time: grain levels fluctuate and they weren't exactly fastidious about removing print damage, however the color correction is well done and the component mastering allows the lines in the show's artwork to come across clean and sharp. The subtitles seem solid; I'm not really qualified to speak to the accuracy but the subs are not typo-ridden like other Sentai titles. Of note is the currency conversion notes featured throughout: every time a sum of money is quoted a note pops up informing the viewer what the amount in yen converts to in present U.S. dollars. While this gives context to Reiko's price-gouging, I found there were instances of visual jokes or bits of dialog that went over my head, but unlike other Sentai releases, no effort was made to explain those references. As usual for an older series there are next to no extras, just credit-free opening and closings.
Sentai Filmworks rates the series TV-PG, which is an equivalent of 13+. I think the show might skirt a higher rating at times, so if you're a parent you may want to give some episodes a watch beforehand.
Violence: 2 - If it weren't for all the shots of his bloodied, half-dead corpse, the show would have next to no violence.
Nudity: 2 - GSM is a little bawdier in terms of how much skin it's willing to show when Mikami is taking a shower or bath.
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - Yokoshima should probably be locked up for sexual harassment.
Language: 2 - The subtitles are a little coarse at times, but not uncalled for. Yokoshima even swears in English at one point!