In an isolated region of Kyushu lies the town of Suiten. Taro, Makoto and Masayuki, three boys with traumatic pasts, learn to let their souls cross between two parallel worlds, the unseen world (a world populated by 'ghosts') and the real or apparent world. Soon though, lines start to blur.
Can I help but compare this to Lain, at least a little?
To be honest, the most striking thing about Ghost Hound is, having watched it in its entirety, how unlike Lain it is in many ways. It is true that it keeps to its heavy psychological bent that characterises the vast majority of series penned by Chiaki Konaka (Lain, Texhnolyze, Mononoke, etc - watch them all) but where Lain left a generation of animé fans scratching their heads like architects viewing the works of M.C. Escher as a portfolio, Ghost Hound is actually a pretty straightforward.
This is not to say that Konaka suddenly has become a clear and unequivocal writer in his old(er) age (his tell-you-nothing writing style still very evident) but it has less of an effect on the show as it did on shows such as Lain for one simple reason: focus. Ghost Hound's focus is consistently on its characters rather than on some overarching plot or theme and so even if there is a little bit of uncertainty on the latter two things (and there is) it is ultimately unimportant. This only works, of course, because the characters we have are actually quite good. Tarou (our nominal lead), Makoto and Masayuki are three well fleshed out characters with believable and relatable problems and they bring an interesting and often tense character dynamic that worked very well for me. Tarou's alienation, Makoto's anger and Masayuki's enthusiastic façade are both grating and endearing in how plausible they are considering the backgrounds of each character. Even the side characters succeed as relatable characters, despite limited screen time.
Sound plays an important part in another area where Ghost Hound succeeds: atmosphere. Rather than relying on traditional, ambient music, the series bombards us with (often unnerving) fractured sound - electronic but also organic, like the kind of ringing you get in your ears. In fact, I do not remember much of anything that I can describe as tuneful coming from my speakers; even the vocal performances are subdued, weary as if a brown, depressive filter lay between you and every word. While this does not sound particularly pleasant (and it isn't), it makes up for it by being shockingly effective. The show never loses its unsettling edge and maintains a cerebral and analytical tone that I am sure would make even Stanley Kubrick proud.
Of other factors, there is not much to say. The show could have done with some Yoshitoshi ABe character designs (what show couldn't?) but it is certainly not ugly by any means - merely fairly plain and functional though actually quite striking in the 'unseen world' parts of the show and often at least bordering on unsettling with use of disproportionate figures, often very indistinct. The animation is on the better side of average as well, as expected of Production I.G at all but the worst of times, and the plain, simple art is a boon to its stark atmosphere - accentuated beautifully by the aforementioned soundtrack.
However, the show's flaws are that, other than the good characters and strong atmosphere, sometimes we don't get much more than that. To say the plot is ponderous would certainly not be unfair. We are not talking Kaiji pacing here (that show's so slow that you expect their manly tears to flow like drops of treacle), but Ghost Hound does not rush around to get things done. The main problem is that sometimes the show focuses too much on talking about its characters abstractly to the exclusion of explaining the events around them, the plot often coming across as a little aimless and without purpose - something I find extremely surprising in a Chiaki Konaka show. Of course, the purpose of the show is the characters but it almost feels like there was a great concept devised but Konaka didn't really know what to with it ultimately - he just ran with it for twenty-two episodes and then just stopped, leaving a lot of raised points left standing and threads waving in the wind. In the end though, I felt that what constituted the main narrative was adequately resolved. It's fine as long as you do not expect an answer to everything.
Ultimately, Ghost Hound is a pretty good show. It often does not work purely as a narrative, its plot often feeling almost beside the point especially with some of the reveals near the end that you may make more of than me, but great characters and an effective atmosphere guarantee some form of entertainment for the accepting viewer, despite what else may be going on screen.
This was a hard show to rate. It really sits somewhere between three and four and it fluctuated according to how much the aimlessness of its plot bothered me, so consider this a VERY STRONG three star rating in any case. I suspect it would be a very rewarding show for those who come in with low expectations and perhaps you should add one star if you are looking for a show with great human characters and you are willing to sacrifice some other elements of story to get them. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: This should be fine for teenagers and older. The show's adult themes, particularly the back-stories of some of its characters, as well as some strong horror imagery make this one not for the kids.
Version(s) Viewed: Pre-release Fansub
Review Status: Full (22/22)
Ghost Hound © 2007 Production I.G ・Masamune Shirow / GHOST HOUND Production Committee
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