Anybody remember the name of Sho Aikawa? Well, people who follow anime and especially manga knows him from doing scripts for Fullmetal Alchemist, Martian Successor Nadesico, Gad Guard & Violence Jack to name a few but with this wholly original idea from him, it actually has a peak of interest in one anime connoisseur to another but once going in, should we be quick to call this a classic in the making?
Anyway, in the 14th year of the Tenpo era, there was a secret shrine for “Bansha Aratamesho” (a research institution for foreign literature and learners)...more under the city of Edo. To the public, this organization was punishing the scholars who studied the Western Culture. However, this organization's true mission was far more significant. Bansha Aratamesho was responsible to slay the “Yoh-is”, the evil spirits with flesh and blood from another world, that were expanding into Edo. Bansha Aratamesho is not an official organization. Members do not have the typical credentials to be the vassal of Shogun. It consists of a man who lost his memory, a man who was raised in a mountain and a girl who dresses up in a man’s outfit. Their special powers are yet to be known, but they all have special abilities that help slay the Yoh-is. The code name given to them is – “Ayashi”. Ayashis collect all types of information that seems bizarre. With thorough investigation, they locate the Yoh-is and hunt them down.
Now this is where I got to share my problems with the series…..and the main problem is either the pacing issues in the plot, as in it is very slow and it will feel like you’ve been watching the show for half a day. The series does highlight Japanese calligraphy and word study if you interested in learning the language itself and some historic facts often show up in the show, much like Hetalia does sometimes and while it is informative and I will give them merit for that, this series sells itself as an action series and yet the action isn’t up to par to being exciting, it’s just there and it does the pattern of an “monster of the week” plot and for the main storyline does suffers of you trying to keep up and not drift asleep to it. I can see why the series was originally supposed to be 50 episodes, but due to low ratings in Japan, they decided to can the series with only 25 episodes and 5 OVA episodes entitled “Ghost Slayers Ayashi: Inferno”, which I don’t think concluded the series to a satisfying finish.
The characters are honestly very unenthusiastic and dull, and you couldn’t care less about what happens to them. You got Yukiatsu Rydou, the main character who’s a vagrant and has the power of the Ayagami and he was a relatively okay character but I was never completely invested in any of the characters, not even the cross-dressing member of the group Genbatsu Edo or Saizo, the female warrior of the group who dresses like a man and possibly Atl and she is summed up to be the damsel in the group. The other characters are too forgetful or unimportant to mention.
The animation and production values from BONES are remarkably well. Even though I thought the action scenes just felt like it’s just there so you’ll be awake, it was well-animated and the art style of the characters, minus the Yoh-is (they were more “meh” rather than threatening), was acceptable and feel smooth overall. The music of the series was the standard feudal-Japan era BGM and it was done fine but the opening and ending songs are just generic J-Pop tracks that I’ve heard too much in anime and I would just skip them every time I watched an episode, to be honest.
And then there’s the dub by Bandai/Bang Zoom and like the series, it was lacking in the writing department but the dub isn’t bad, it’s just dull and yet the dub has some of my favorite LA-based anime voice actors (Steve Blum, Crispin Freeman & Stephanie Sheh) and even they can’t save this show and that’s the hard thing about it. Maybe Crispin Freeman voicing a cross-dresser help a little bit but the script was written to be straight-laced, no intentionally funny wits and not bullshitting around; and I thought that the script should’ve used a little bit more humor to even it out.
FINAL VERDICT: I’m going to be straightforward about this show…..AND THE FACT THAT IT IS BORING!!! It’s one of the shows that had some potential but it kept on stubbing some toes along the way. I’m very sad and disappointed for this and I wouldn’t recommend this show to action/samurai fans but I’m not going to fully discredit this series and if you like some of the history facts about feudal Japan and calligraphy, then it’s your cup of tea.