Ghost hound is a 22 episode psychological, supernatural mystery horror anime. Less emphasis on the horror, it has a significant amount of supernatural elements and actual science, particularly psychology and neurology. It may be off-putting to younger viewers, but only because of the sophisticated and slowish-paced plot. There’s a lot less actual action than other ‘horror’ anime. I’m still surprised at how educational this anime was capable of being, not necessarily on purpose. For people who like mind-f**k anime and confusing anime (like myself), this might be right up their alley. I didn’t find much to be scared about which is a tad disappointing, but the initially crazy plot was capable of making me doze off. That seems to be characteristic of such anime, especially when watched very late at night. I’m kind of grateful for this anime helping me get to sleep, though I had to rewatch the parts I was unconscious for. I can say with certainty that this is an interesting and unique anime, that won’t appeal to all audiences, but it one that is unique and serious enough that it's still suitable for people who don't like anime or who don't watch many.
The quality was a bit hit and miss for a 2007 anime. I watched it in 720p on a large 1080p screen and it seemed somewhat blurry, grainy at times, though that could be due to the large screen size and non-native resolution. Yet the actual character models themselves were mostly perfect, only at medium to long distances did they look a tad fuzzy. The 3D CGI looks iffy at times, but thankfully it doesn’t appear too much. This may have a lot to do with the slightly inventive animation style.
They went for a simplistic approach, the characters are single colours, with not much in the way of shading. Not very difficult to actually do, imagine using just the fill tool to colour in on an image editor program. Not a bad thing since it actually goes a long way and the stylised approach juxtaposes with the occasional supernatural elements which appear to be more detailed. The actual character models (i.e. the faces) themselves seem to be typical, but when one looks closer, the important characters don’t seem familiar and are distinctive of this anime. This anime also contains some potentially gruesome and disturbing imagery, not gore exactly, but off-putting nonetheless.
The intro music is an interesting jazzy soundtrack and the outro music is a bit better, a bit more peaceful but with the slightly eerie feel one gets when such music plays in a ‘horror’ anime. But I am still a bit confused as to the choice of intro music, it seems a bit too positive and not even in the creepy way. It reminded me of the upbeat jazzy intro to Baccano. The background soundtrack for the anime was much better utilised. In addition to well-placed musical cues, there’s also static sounds and strange radio chatter that help to unnerve the viewer. Sound design in the anime itself is good. But it’s not enough to add atmosphere to keep the viewer on edge. Perhaps that is intentional, but we’ll never know.
Ghost Hound is available in both English and Japanese, I watched it English. There were a few moments here and there where I thought the voice actor’s pronunciation of a Japanese name was close to authentic. There’s also quite a lot of names of actual people involved with psychology and neurology (I googled on and was surprised to see it was a real person), which makes me wonder how well the Japanese version pronounce these Western names.
Tarou is voiced by Clint Bickham, also the voice of Yuuya Mochizuki in Another and Renji Asou in Ef - a Tale of Memories (once again, happens to be the last anime I watched/reviewed). Josh Grelle voices Makoto Oogami, voicing such roles as Tomohiko Kazami in Another, Akihisa Yoshii in Baka to Test, Kenichi in History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi and Ren Kannagi in Kaze no Stigma. Miyako’s voice was instantly recognised as Brittney Karbowski who was Yuri in Angel Beats, Yukari Sakuragi in Another, Ryou Fujibayashi in Clannad, Kiko Kayanuma in Darker than Black, Kei Shindou in Ef - a tale of memories (…), Ayu Tsukimiya in Kanon (2006) and Black Star in Soul Eater (worst casting, just sounded wrong). Masayuki Nakajima is voiced by Corey Hartzog, an unfamiliar name to me but he voiced Ooyama in Angel Beats and Yuu in Clannad: After Story. I also recognised Chris Ayres as Takahito Komasu, who voiced Kei Kurono in Gantz among other roles.
The most central of the main characters here is Tarou Komori (pronounced ta-row). This 14 year old middle school boy had a traumatic experience 11 years ago, where both he and his older sister were victims of a kidnapping. His sister, who was an elementary schooler at the time, died during the event. Since he was so young when it happened, it left a somewhat lasting impression on him and he relives the events in his dreams. He never saw the face of the kidnapper, who instead appears as some ghostly giant and most of all, he cannot remember what his sister said that day. At school, he has fortnightly sessions with a psychological counsellor, Atsushi Hirata. His family owns a brewery and he’s somewhat expected to inherit it, even though he doesn’t like Sake. Tarou seems to have some sort of affinity towards Miyako and Masayuki ribs him on this.
Tarou’s father is normal and likes listening to old music on records. His mother on the other hand, has mental health issues due to the event 11 years ago, simply mentioning it in front of her is a no-no. The master brewer is a young freckled woman, Kei Yakushi, who learned the ropes from the previous master brewer, her grandfather.
Makoto Oogami (pronounced ‘oh-gah-mi’) is a moody boy in the same year as Tarou at school. He is a delinquent of sorts as he often doesn’t attend school, he enjoys rocking out and playing his guitar in his room. He lives alone with his grandmother Himeko. He hates his grandmother and the Oogami sect and his mother, especially since nobody will tell him exactly how why his father died 11 years ago, which he had the misfortune of being the first to discover the body. He was dropped by his mother as a baby, which required an operation. As such he claims he has mental issues and can’t think straight, in particular he claims to have no remorse if he were to kill a person. His grandmother wants him to inherit the long standing cult-like Oogami sect ‘religion,’ which he wants nothing to do with of course. He gets roped into making friends by Masayuki
Makoto’s father, original heir to the Oogami sect, was found dead 11 years ago, shortly after the Komori kidnapping and it was thought he committed suicide due to alleged involvement in the kidnapping. Makoto’s mother Sanae Oogami, left the Oogami household after his father’s death, effectively abandoning him. She moved to the neighbouring town of Kumada. She is a gentle, quiet woman, who always has a melancholic look on her face and is capable of giving off a creepy ambiance. Makoto’s sickly grandmother on the other hand, seems to be hiding a lot and appears to be some crazy cult leader mastermind. What’s more uncanny is her follower Noriko Kabata, who lives with them. This strange woman seems harmless, but I couldn’t help feeling there’s something about her.
Masayuki Nakajima is an outgoing transfer student in Makoto’s class. He is the sole son of a rich, successful scientist and moved to Suiten due to his father’s job at Dai-Nippon Bio. He also experienced trauma, a kid he was involved in bullying committed suicide by jumping off the school roof after manically scribbling that he curses his bullies on the class blackboard. As a result, Masayuki is scared of heights and feels as if he’s a murderer, rethinking his thoughts about bullying. Being the son of a rich man, he has a lot of cool stuff, like a computer, games consoles and even a VR headset (HMD) which he uses for therapy to treat his fear of heights as well as to play games on. He rarely communicates with his parents and has no clue as to what his father’s job involves. He’s curious about occult stuff and about the events 11 years ago, concerning both Tarou and Makoto and makes friends with them. He takes an interest in Michio Hoshino, a kid in his class who is bullied but also helps provide him with info about the events and such in Suiten.
Masayuki’s father Yasuhiro Nakajima works at Dai-Nippon Bio, a research facility in the mountains near Suiten. A successful man, who seems to have everything, he takes more interest in his work, rather than his family. He is seen rarely talking to his son and even less to his wife, Chika Nakajima. Chika, Masayuki’s young and still somewhat attractive mother seems to have some form of depression or psychological problem, she’s rarely seen interacting with her family, mostly just playing games (looks like Tetris) and drinking a lot of alcohol with a deadpan look on her face, similar to how Makoto’s mother looks. Masayuki’s father takes an interest in his colleague, the big breasted Reika Otori whose work at Dai-Nippon Bio, appears to hold some ulterior motive. She is also an expert in neuroscience and psychology.
The fourth main character and the female lead is the 11 year old elementary school girl Miyako Komagasu. She lives with her single father at a shrine on top of a hill, where she is also the shrine maiden. Tarou takes an interest in her, both because she was born shortly after the kidnapping 11 years ago, but also because she reminds him of his dead sister. While Miyako seems an odd girl, her school life is actually much better than the boys, she seems to be a normal kid who has friends. She gets in a bad mood when her father drinks alcohol or when he is talking to certain women. She hates her mother even more though, which is why she chose to live with her father after their divorce. Miyako seems in tune with the supernatural, being able to sometimes see the boys when they go soul-travelling and also being some sort of medium, due to no control of her own she is capable of being possessed by spirits. Other than that, she is a well-behaved child, even if she’s a bit cynical with it sometimes, acting a bit more mature than her age. Often accusing the older boys of acting like kids and playing around, doing things they shouldn’t do.
Takahito Komagasu, Miyako’s father, is a priest at the Suiten shrine and used to be a professor at a University in Tokyo, where he was married to Ayu Iwami. Their flawed marriage only lasted a measly four years, during which they had Miyako as their only child. After the divorce, Ayu took little interest in her daughter, instead focusing on her busy city job. Takahito is well versed in Japanese folklore, especially that which is relevant. He’s fairly outgoing and likes to drink, much to his daughter’s disgust. Despite all that, he is still a concerned father, struggling to raise his daughter on his own and feeling that she grows more distant from him as time goes on. It also turns out that he was friends with Makoto’s parents and the mayor. The four spent quite a lot of time together during their high-school days and even visited the abandoned hospital.
Atsushi Hirata is the psychiatrist who gives Tarou therapy. He commutes from his home and main place of work, Tokyo just for these sessions so there must be more to it. He’s a researcher/professor in neuroscience/psychology and divulges much info on how supernatural elements are related to actual science, or how they can be explained by them. I.e. by stimulating certain parts of the brain, one can induce an experience meeting aliens and such.
Other characters include the aforementioned mayor friend of Makoto’s parents and Takahito, Motoi Yazaki. This fat-cat politician supported various projects in Suiten over the last few decades, including Dai-Nippon Bio.
11 years ago in the town of Suiten, two children were kidnapped. 3 year old Tarou and his elementary school sister Mizuka were found at the ruins of an abandoned hospital, the sole standing building of a ghost town, downstream of a dam, thus being often flooded. Only Tarou lived and shortly after the police tracked a suspect for the kidnaping to a Pachinko parlour. The suspect ran out and got hit by a truck, thus the truth couldn’t be obtained. Around about the same time, a man called Hideo Oogami commited suicide by slashing out his eyeballs and throat. His 3 year old son found the body. Thus, he was also suspected to be involved with the kidnapping as his suicide occurred after the children were rescued. Now in modern day Suiten, the truth might finally be uncovered? In recent years a research plant called Dai-Nippon Bio was built on the mountains nearby and the aged leader of the Oogami sect (religious cult) is sick with age. That is the background, something laid out in the first episode.
If you wanted a horror story, expect to be disappointed. Earlier episodes seem to be creepy, but this anime is more of a mystery, to solve what really happened all those years ago and what might happen now. And it’s a good one at that. There are a good many clues and a tad of fore-shadowing to reinforce the story. Initiaklly the plot seems a bit crazy and psychedelic at times, but this wears off over time. There’s a lot of supernatural and scientific subjects explored, often linking the two together. The science is actually real science, the outros seem to quote and reference real life people. There’s a lot to do with spirits, soul travelling, ghosts and hallucinations/visions. Quite the creepy stuff, though the whole soul travelling thing alone departs this anime from being realistic, which it initially seemed to be. The story does rely heavily on the characters, a good thing. Being a mystery, the story doesn’t come too close predictable, I honestly never saw the climax and end coming. Speaking of which, the conclusion is satisfactory, nothing annoying about it.
There’s a lot of powerful themes depicted here, including the kidnapping and killing, there’s also the value of life, scientific ethics, experimentation, depression and a few other things that either can’t be easily put into words or easily be mentioned without spoilers. Not bad.
So it isn’t the horror story one would expect and it has a ton of science and Japanese history/folklore to the point where folks might feel this aimer is teaching them something. Not everybody is going to like that, I was also a tad upset at the lack of scare beyond a few slightly creepy images and moments. As interesting as the plot was though, it didn’t blow me away as being so very amazing. It does have funny moments and heart-warming moments. But these aren’t the focus. Despite the potential to upset people with the disturbing themes, I’d recommend this anime to almost everyone. Especially those who don’t watch much anime, this is something a bit unique and shows the potential of this media. It’s far from generic, even the number of episodes breaks the mould. Maybe younger viewers of fans of less serious, more light-hearted anime could dislike this. But give it a try and see what you think.
Family-friendliness Rating: 4/5 Contains scenes of a disturbing nature (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 8/10 (higher is better)
Only on the penultimate episode did I discover that the original suppose for this series was penned by Masamune Shirow. It doesn't really show, although as that was in 1987 it isn't so surprising. Why it took 20 years to make it to screen is anyone's guess.
Anyway, the story is very good. A dark and moody tale at heart, this anime mulls through the lives of its protagonists and a semi-real world of astral projection and spirits. It does so in a way immediately attributable to Nakamura Ryuutarou's (Serial Experiments Lain) direction. I enjoyed SEL's rasping static sensory deprivation, and I love it here too. The bassy atmosphere death rattles the viewer through several inter-connected disturbing backstories, and drapes the leads characters in harsh, heavy shadows.
The story revolves in the "unseen world" of disconnected spirits, and is played out as part mystery, part science. The exposition and investigation is mainly from the perspective of juniour high school students, connected by those dark backstories; and this is perhaps one of the small blemishes on the series. While the "difficult past and large responsibilty on young shoulders" plot element is powerful despite its regular use in anime, I think the children retained a little too much of their childish appearance during the progression of this series. Indeed it was not Shirow's intention to have such young protagonists.
Simulteneously beautiful and slightly wrong.
The quality is very high, as you would expect from Production I.G. But perhaps the tones and designs of the children, again, bring the show down slightly. The atmosphere created by the backdrops, creatures and settings throughout was exceptional, but the flat-coloured characters distracted slightly from that and just felt a little out of place. A few bad choices were also made during astral projection. The initial "baby" characters look a little too silly, as do some of the later apparitions.
Overall, though, the designs and smoothness need some applause for their left-of-mainstream quality. Very well put together; sometimes even creepy.
Like SEL, one of the things that brings the atmosphere and animation and script together is the sound used to bind them. The fuzz, the buzz, the scrapes, the dinks - all work fantastically with the mood and direction. Although you could argue that the general impression is almost too similar to SEL, it works very well regardless. OP is also well suited. Japanese VAs are good, and mild-mannered enough to pull off the roles very professionally and convincingly.
The very believable story within what is something of a fantastical show is exposed beautifully through the main cast. Common personality types crop up but remain under-done to perfection, easily escaping the horrible tendency in asian media to ham-up emotions. The leads are well defined and maturely designed. There could be a little more conflict in there, and some things perhaps shouldn't go quite as smoothly as they tend to do for those characters, but I was very satisfied with the way things turned out. All but one or two characters are important in their own way, and most hold themselves together well and deserve their screen time.
With such good all round scores it's tempting to go even higher with the overall mark, but all I'll do is recommend this to anyone who enjoys a mature anime. Though the series runs for 22 episodes there were no points when I felt cheated because of that. There's no filler in here. The fascinating story unfolds generously, without recourse to distraction. Although I felt a couple of things could have been explained a little more, the ending was a satisfactory finish for what is literally a one-in-a-thousand anime.
Now to hunt out the next classic hidden within swathes of soggy cardboard and freaky pillows.
Ghost Hound is one of the shows that is mildly entertaining, but never really captivates you. The story is semi-interesting, but really leaves something to be desired. Essentially, the story was never fully explained and it takes away from the quality of the story as a whole. I can say there was real potential here, it just never follows through. As the story progresses it also kinda casts aside the horror elements and it turns into more of a drama/mystery. The plot for the show is definantely watchable though. On another note, this shows deals a lot with psychology, and how the brain works. In general I find this subject very interesting. So brownie points to the story for that.
I may be judging the animation a bit rough due to the fact I recently began watching Attack on Titan, but regardless the animation doesnt seem like anything special at all. Once again, its just enough to keep you mildly interested in the story. Think of eating a SubWay sandwhich with no condiments. Sure, it still tastes good, but you know it could be so much better.
The intro/Outro are nice additions to the show. But aside from that its pretty much garbage. The dubs are completly mediocre. And furthermore the the rest of the soundtrack blows more than a Thai hooker on a busy weekend.
I'll be completly blunt... Characters in this show are about as entertaining as counting calories. There is a complete lack of substance to every character in the show. I wont go into details, but really there isnt much character development at all. Overall the characters were by far the shows weak point, and thats a very note worthy downside.
Ghost Hound was about as average as it gets, honestly. Nothing special at all. Though it could be a lot worse. Would I recommend Ghost Hound? No, I would not. But to be fair, I wouldn't tell anyone not to watch it either. As I've mentioned before, its just simply mediocre.
If you want to give Ghost Hound credit for anything, then this: it managed to present a promising premise in an incredibly tedious manner. Seriously, there is so much to like about it, so many topics that are truly interesting, like ghostly apparations, psychology, neurology... only to be potrayed in way that bores you until you just don't care anymore.
The main problem certainly is, that Ghost Hound just doesn't know what its main focus is. There are so many differnet story parts, which are either explored too little or tossed aside along the way. One moment it's about psycholgical problems, then ghosts and posession, then illegal organ donations, then artifical life...in short: there is enough material for five shows. True, most of it is somewhat connected, but really sluggishly, since there is just not enough time to focus on any of the subjects long enough.
Which is problematic, since that means a big part of the show has people explaining you what the current sphere of interest is and you, as a viewer, are expected to swallow all the facts without asking any further. The same goes for the characters, who have too little developement, since, again, there isn't enough time to focus on all of them. Worse, I couldn't even remember the names of half of the cast and also didn't really care, because they were just so plain and underdeveloped. Like the strange programmer with the turquoise hair: he's set up as a psychopath/villian, and you know nothing, really absolutely nothing about him or his fate.
Animation-wise Ghost Hound presents itself in a minimalistic way, sometimes appealing, sometimes just too undetailed. There are ghosts who really deliver a creepy, eerie feeling, which can be considered the higlight of the show, making you whish there was more of it. At the same time there are also ghosts that look just silly and are more laughable than scary. Inbetween are a few CG-parts, which unfortunately look pretty ugly, but luckily they are a minority.
The soundtrack is pretty solid, especially the opening which is quite catchy; at the same time the voice acting seemed a little unmotivated at times. (Japanese version)
To sum it up, Ghost Hound is a show with a lot of potential; sadly it uses little of it, making it too overloaded and inconsistend. You may want to give it a try, if you are intersted in any of the topics mentioned above or if you just want to watch something different from the usual.
It's a shame that different doesn't necessarily equal good.
Ghost Hound is a show you feel like you should be in awe of, but kinda sucks, but is kinda awesome, but kinda sucks too. It's like the Christian Slater of anime, somewhat famous and somewhat obscure, and is equal measures of great and mediocre. On one side, it has some of the strongest features of all times, and on the other it fails to give a coherent vision that amounts to much. It has plenty of atmosphere, but little depth despite that huge potential.
All problems aside, Ghost Hound is interesting and has a quality to it that just makes you want to see more. People say it is a horror show, and while it has some rather dark themes, it isn't that exactly. There is a psychological aspect to it, but it is not the central theme either. It is both character and plot driven. There are the obligatory creepy organizations, weird relationships, dark backstories, and plot holes disguised as unanswered mystery. Still, these things are effective at capturing the imagination.
Philosophical and scientific ramblings are the main problem I have with the series. As someone that knows a bit of science and some about psychology, the amount of BS tossed around is really annoying. The philosophy isn't deep, the science is between iffy to plain disingormation, and the psychology is at times flat out incorrect. That shouldn't matter to most viewers as it is nothing more than a handwaved explanation as to why things happen the way they do in Ghost Hound, but I found it incredibly grating.
That being said, Ghost Hound is overall a good series. It isn't awesome unless you are willing to accept bad science as fact, have plenty of plots which don't really go anywhere, and character designs that are somewhat subpar. It is a great atmospheric view, and definitely has a unifying vision which molds the art and writing together nicely. There is plenty of upside to the series if you aren't a natural born nitpicker.
Writing (Story and Characters):
What a weird combination of horror atmosphere, slice of life structure, supernatural mystery plots, and character driven story Ghost Hound is. Say what you will about it, there is definitely some unique work done by the writing staff. There are heavy influences from Serial Experiments Lain and Texhnolyze in the show, but it is more grounded than the first and more interesting than the second. That being said, it has less depth than the first and less grit than the second.
I've already touched on some of the weaknesses of the show, such as the semi-episodic structure failing to give depth to the smaller arcs or making the overall story a completion of the small ones. There is a strong character driven element to the story, but it isn't too deep and at times is badly executed. A lot of the smaller arcs are left incomplete, which on one hand helps give a deeper feeling to the story, but on the other just makes things feel like a waste of time. Chekov's Gun is a classic literary technique that gives a story strength, which is that things mentioned should be used. It's basic writing technique, and the writing staff ignores it.
Characters in a semi-character driven show are critical, as they are supposed not only to be the guides through the story but also give depth to the plot. But here we get everything from inconsistencies in the personalities to lacking character development in some cases. That being said, some of the characters are interesting and have some depth, and manage to hold up certain parts of the plot. There is a definite balance to the cast, and no morality is forced through them down the throats of the viewers, and sometimes you actually want to either cheer for them or slap them silly.
When the writing combines the character and story elements, it ends up being a lot better than the sum of its parts, but still not quite deserving of unreservered praise. As a whole, the writing is more than adequate and definitely special. There are too many loose threads and holes in the script for it to be truly great, but it manages to be evocative without being needlessly provocative. It is a missed opportunity to take the extra step in which both philosophical discussion and psychological aspects unite into coherent questions for the viewers to ponder, but is still interesting enough.
Art (Animation and Sound):
Ghost Hound has a mixed bag when it comes to artwork. There is a definite vision behind it all, and it manages to give a creepy atmosphere that makes the show far more titilating than it has any right to be. From an artistic perspective, it isn't just a product but also has some creativity to the execution. While there are some problems with it, overall the art takes a show that would be incoherent and makes it work somehow. In short, the creative execution of the writing takes it a few levels beyond what you'd expect.
Perhaps the weakest point of the art is the animation. The backgrounds are interesting, the color palette is a perfect choice, and more than that, there is some real exceptional artistic ideas that are incorporated well. Now to the bad side, the character designs are nothing special and overly simplistic, and do some things that are annoyingly stereotypical. There is an occasional lack of fluidity to the movement (an overview of a scene which is just scrolling through a picture where no one is moving, stuff like that). Overall, the animation is well above average and fits the writing like a glove, but has some technical issues that don't allow it to be spectacular.
Getting it out of the way: the opening theme is seriously awesome (big band for the win). I'm not sure it is a great fit for the series, but has both style and class without being pretentious. Actually, the sound of Ghost Hound is incredibly all the way, except a couple of characters whose voice acting isn't particularly good. The aggressive use of ambient sounds and effects makes the atmosphere so much more powerful than it should be. While those take the forefront, the soundtrack gets pushed into the background to set moods when it feels right. The creative people were allowed to run rampant with creativity and boy does the risk pay off in spades.
Usually the artwork brings a world to life, here the artwork is a world in itself. The sound is daring and creative, the animation effective and uses clever tricks to make everything work together, and both of them are in perfect sync, and not only that, are a perfect match for the writing. Where the writing has major issues and the animation minor ones, overall, the art manages to make the issues far less significant for the larger part.
Ghost Hound is a pretty good show. It is well above average in many things it does and spectacular from an audio perspective, but the story has too many issues to even be considered mediocre. What can be said is that the show is stronger than the sum of its parts, and has a rather unique feel in a field of bland anime. Well worth a view for people who want something a little creepy, a little dark, a little artistic, and don't mind scientific mumbo-jumbo to give supposed depth.