Haunted Junction Anime Review
Haunted (ホーンテッド) じゃんくしょん
US Release By
Supernatural Schoolyard Comedy
12 25-minute episodes
1997-04-02 - 1997-06-25
And you thought the poor fools at Tomobiki High had it bad; their schoolmates might not be from this planet, but at least they're of this world. The happy campus of Saito High features seven spiritual wonders, among them a girl in a mirror, an animated anatomical dummy, and the giant in the gym. Heck, even the principal has a tenuous grip on corporeality, and his hobby is collecting occult related memorabilia. "School Spirit" indeed.
But fear not! The members of the Holy Student Council, chosen by prophecy, are there to keep everyone in line.
Well, actually, they pretty much have their hands full keeping themselves in line. Haruto Houjo, the president and son of a Christian minister, wishes he'd never even heard of the school. He's got to deal with Kazumi Ryudo, son of a Buddhist monk, specialist in possession (getting possessed, that is)... and fan of the sexy "Hanako-san" toilet-haunting ghosts of the world. He's not even that bad in comparison to Mutsuki Asahina, daughter of a Shinto priest, master of exorcism... and the female version of a Lolita complex.
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Haunted Junction is a classically-styled wacky comedy series. It's more off-the-wall than most, and features a few character quirks that toe the line between extreme and offensive, but while the simple, stupid, and slightly dirty sense of humor may not appeal to everybody, I certainly ended up laughing a lot. The cast is mostly capable, the artwork old-school but decent, and the background music memorable for its wide variety of styles, but the series seems to end just as it's getting into its groove, and the last couple of episodes are something of a downer, trying and, unfortunately, succeeding at getting more serious.
Even with the disappointing end, Haunted Junction is very weird, very silly, and if hard-core bizarrity and constant funny-making is your cup of tea, very worth a look.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Haunted Junction is another wacky comedy series in the vein of classics like Urusei Yatsura and Ghost Sweeper Mikami. It's more off-the-wall than most, and while the sense of humor may not appeal to everybody, I thought it was pretty darned funny.
Don't expect to see much in the way of touching moments or sweet romance, and be prepared for some hard-core bizarrity, serious personality quirks (borderline pedophilia high on the list), totally ridiculous school ghosts, and good old-fashioned toilet humor (of many sorts), as well as the occasional moderately dirty joke. Also be prepared for largely cartoony comedy--serious moments of any sort are rare, so if you prefer your funny with a more firm reality and characters that you can do more than just laugh at, then you'll probably do better to look elsewhere.
The writing and style of the series, as with others of its ilk, is pretty jumpy. A la classic American cartoons, the continuity is tenuous and it bounces from one gag to the next sans-segue. The series does acknowledge that mass strangeness isn't nearly as funny without something grounded to contrast it with, a burden that falls on straight-man Haruto, who bears it well enough. On the positive side, the stories aren't completely random, and the characters have at least enough personality to make their actions make sense.
In its few semi-serious moments (about one every two or three episodes), Haunted Junction takes a crack at being either mildly scary or touching (as in episode 3, which isn't nearly as weird or silly as it could have been). Even in these the humor level is high, so with one exception they don't feel out of synch with the rest of the series.
That exception, however, is a big one: The last episode and the second half of the one prior are so serious that they don't seem to belong in this series. They don't exactly feel out of place, and I must admit they work from a dramatic standpoint, but for a series as upbeat and silly as Haunted Junction, it seemed a waste to have it end on something unnervingly close to a sober note, particularly with only 12 episodes to play with. The wet-blanket end doesn't ruin it, and it was nice to see the characters... well, actually develop a bit as characters, but it wasn't the best choice of moods given the circumstances.
On a related note, my only other disappointment is that the end comes so quickly--I wouldn't usually call a 12-episode comedy short, but with these one-trick comedy ponies the familiarity becomes a sort of advantage, and Haunted Junction seems to be just getting its footing when it ends.
Despite the unfortunate end, I did enjoy Haunted Junction, mostly as a result of the high weirdness factor. It's not the strangest anime I've seen, but it is on the list. There are a lot of bad Japanese puns that get lost in the English translation (which can't really be helped, though Bandai did try very hard to salvage what they could), and most of the actual gags are basic and rather stupid. The outrageous situations and characters, however, are where the real humor is to be found.
Mutsuki and her boy-fetish, for example, is close enough to disturbing that I'm sure it'll bother some, but for others it's liable to be hilarious (besides, it's nice to see a female character with her mind in the gutter for a change). Elsewhere are anime parodies in abundance for those who appreciate that sort of thing (Red Mantle as an over-the-top version of a certain masked fellow from Sailor Moon with a few added personality quirks, for example). Best of all, not a single character is immune to having the most embarrassing (and usually hilarious) things happen to them. There are even a few bits of cleverness worth noting, foremost being a little rant by Red Mantle about why a certain name reminded him of darkness... via hot cookware, trivets, and carpet. Good stuff. On the opposite end of the clever spectrum, the last episode contains a seriously cool interpretation of the contents of Pandora's Box.
Visually, Haunted Junction owes a lot to classic series in the same vein, with slightly rough, older-style art (it looks almost like an '80s series despite being a product of the late '90s), bright colors, and cute but unoriginal character designs. The cast has a bit of a shoujo look, and are varied enough to keep straight (they're also faithful to the comic original). As cheerfully colorful as it is, a few dark scenes fitting for the more menacing spirits actually border on scary (for a few seconds, anyway). The animation tends toward choppy, around the median mark for a TV series of the vintage. On the plus side, it doesn't fall back on re-used animation (with the exception of the summoning sequence, which I'll forgive for its classic appeal), and the occasional chunks of action aren't half bad, as silly as they are.
The visuals may not stand out, but the music does. The intro and end songs are forgettable, but Hayato Matsuo's instrumental background score toys with a wide variety of styles, from appealingly overblown orchestral action fare, to tribal-style drums, to really abstract stuff, all of it distinctive and well composed. It gets less creative as the show goes on, but if you pay attention (it's surprisingly easy to miss) you might be surprised.
The Japanese voice acting (there is no English dub) is about what you'd expect for a wild comedy series: Over the top and funny, although most characters are stamped from a standard set of molds. Veteran Aono Takeshi leads the capable cast of secondary characters with a great turn as the Principal, but the three leads are all voiced by relative unknowns. Of the two male leads I'm particularly fond of Haruto's mix of would-be schoolyard heartthrob and complete exasperation, but the most memorable member is Mutsuki, voiced by newcomer Yukie Nakama (who also sings the show's theme songs, and has since become a popular singer/photo idol/live-action actress). Her distinctively dry, aloof tone works with the character, but she doesn't seem to get comfortable until well into the series, and her so-so performance sounds particularly weak in competition with the rest of the over-the-top production.
In all, Haunted Junction is another classically-styled, off-the-wall comedy, but it's a decent one. The animation, acting, and stories aren't much to write home about, it's a bit short on the whole, and the end is too serious, but the weird-factor is high, the wacky spirits are creative, and the jokes and parodies are rapid-fire and plentiful. Very weird, mostly very silly, and if hard-core bizarrity and constant funny-making is your cup of tea, very worth a look.
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Has a similar feel to Urusei Yatsura, without the romance element. Very similar to Ghost Sweeper Mikami, too. It also bears some resemblance to the American cartoon Beetlejuice.
Notes and Trivia
Based on a fairly long-running (1996 - 2001) manga series by Nemu Mukudori. It's not available in English as of this writing.
Yukie Nakama, the voice behind Mutsuki, is unusual as a voice actress; although Haunted Junction was her first significant project (and the theme songs her third single), it was the only time she did anime (unless you count singing the theme song to Megaman X4). After this project, she established herself in the multi-talent pretty girl mold with a variety of non-nude photobooks, singles, and a number of live action roles in both film and Japanese TV dramas. Her best-known role outside Japan would probably be early in her acting career starring as Sadako in Ring 0.
I'll mention here that Bandai's translation is quite well done; the songs include both English and sing-along Japanese subtitles, and the subtitles during the production have a fan-friendly air to them, with bits of Japanese scattered around and a properly literal translation, even when it's awkward. They even added some of the original Japanese words in parentheses to explain some of the more obscure puns, which I was very impressed with--that sort of thing was rare back in 2000.
Here's one thing that didn't get explained: The "simple" riddle that Yamiko couldn't answer ("What drink does a turtle always carry with him?"). The answer is "cola," because the Japanese word for a turtle's shell is "koura," and the soft drink is the very similar sounding "koora."
Final bonus: For a subtle (and rather randy) little visual joke, take a good look at the "victims" of Red Mantle when he first appears, after they've collapsed on the floor. It's easy to miss, but I'm rather surprised that one made it to Japanese TV.
US DVD Review
The DVD set, one of Bandai's earliest, was very good, particularly considering the source material. To start with, the video is a good transfer given the slightly soft-looking source material, and shows no signs of compression or color bleed despite the rather rough-looking art style. The audio (Japanese only) is also very clean, in three-channel Dolby sound. The subtitles are, as mentioned in the notes, well done, and (despite the lack of an English soundtrack) aren't hard coded--turn 'em off if you want. The menus are also nice, with some fun background music from the series, plus some art galleries as a bonus. Best of all, the whole series came on one reasonably priced two-disc set, packaged in a fat clamshell case, a style that set the stage for the affordable TV box sets that have since become more common.
There are some gross jokes, a few sexy ghosts, and occasional mature humor (some people will definitely find the whole near-pedophilia thing offensive), so it is definitely deserving of the 13-up rating Bandai gave it, possibly more for sensitive parents.
Violence: 1 - A lot of fighting, but it's very cartoony.
Nudity: 2 - Some very skimpy outfits, and occasional flashes of skin.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Some gross and/or mature-themed jokes.
Language: 1 - Not bad.
Staff & Cast
Original Japanese Cast
Haruto Houjo: Katsuaki Arima
Mutsuki Asahina: Yukie Nakama (only anime role)
Kazumi Ryudo: Shinnosuke Furumoto
Chairman: Takeshi Aono
Toilet Hanako: Mariko Kouda
Nino: Yuri Shiratori
Red Mantle: Ryutaro Okiayu
Haruo Sato: Yutaka Shimaka
Bones Suzuki: Hisayoshi Izaki
Narration: Fumihiko Tachiki
Mirror Girl: Mayumi Iizuka
Teacher: Tesshou Genda
Haruto's Father: Toshihiko Seki
Haruto's Mother: Kotono Mitsuishi
Telephone Voice: Natsumi Sasaki
Mirror Girl: Mayumi Iizuka
Hanako: Haruna Ikezawa
Toshi: Hirosuke Okanao
Tsuyoshi: Motoko Kumai
Woman A: Natsumi Sasaki
Woman B: Masami Toyoshima
Woman C: Orine Fukushima
Shimokita Bunko: Yasuhiro Takato
Mother: Natsumi Sasaki
Child: Takehiro Matsuda
Episode 5: Mirror Girl: Mayumi Iizuka
Ichiro Takeda: Tomohiro Nishimura
Sailors XO Leader: Marina Ohno
Sailors XO: Natsumi Sasaki
Yoshimuna Tokugawa: Kazuo Oka
Yamiko: Akiko Hiramatsu
Reiko: Junko Iwao
Michiko: Tomoko Kobayashi
Master of Ceremony: Koichi Hashimoto
Assistant: Natsumi Sasaki
Reporter Sakusaka: Junichi Sugawara
Voice from TV: Tomohisa Asoh
Director: Yuji Mutoh
Episode Director: Shunji Yoshida (1), Susumu Ishizaki (3), Shigeru Ueda (4), Naoki Hishikawa (5), Tsuyoshi Yoshimoto (6)
Original Story: Nemu Mukudori (from "Monthly Dengeki Comic Gao!")
Screenplay: Kazuhisa Sakaguchi (1, 4), Satoru Nishizono (3, 5, 6)
Character Design: Atsuko Nakajima
Art Director: Yoshio Itoh
Episode Art Director: Miu Miyamoto (5, 6)
Producer: Yasuo Miyakawa
Music: Hayato Matsuo
Opening Theme: "Kokoro ni Watashi ga Futari Iru" (There are two of me here in my heart)
Ending Theme: "Toremoro" (Tremolo)
Singing: Yukie Nakama (Anintos Records)
Lyrics: Goro Matsui
Composer: Tetsuji Hayashi
Arrangement: Takahiro Tashiro
Animation By: Studio Deen
Produced By: Nemu Mukudori Mediaworks/Project HJ
Was available on a 2-disc subtitled DVD set from Bandai, now out of print. Was also available on six subtitled VHS volumes, also out of print. At last check there were plenty of cheap used copies available through Amazon: Haunted Junction DVD Set.