Mai Taniyama is a high-school student recruited by a young man, Kazuya Shibuya, to work for Shibuya's psychic investigation business. Along with a group of exorcists and spiritualists, Mai and Shibuya encounter (and eliminate) a variety of hauntings.
Every once in a while it's my great pleasure to find a really terrific anime series that's somehow been largely overlooked. Ghost Hunt is exactly that sort of experience.
This show has an unusually strong cast. Mai is the principal character, and she is everything an anime heroine should be: kind-hearted, plucky, with a highly developed sense of right and wrong. Despite Shibuya's originally hiring her for such mundane tasks as setting up cameras, it turns out that she has some psychic ability, and her dreams/visions often provide critical information to her teammates. She also learns, from Housho Takigawa and Ayako Matsuzaki, some elementary defensive spells.
Housho Takigawa and Ayako Matsuzaki are, respectively, a monk and shrine maiden (though Shibuya declares that Ayako is a bit old for a "maiden".) The first time Ayako appears, she seems to draw wrong conclusions most of the time, and the other spiritualists in the group often disparage her for lack of talent, but in the end the audience does see her true capabilities. As for Housho, he becomes almost an uncle to Mai, and serves as surrogate leader when Shibuya is incapacitated.
There there's Masako Hara, a spirit medium. It turns out that she has a thing for Shibuya, realizes that Mai does too, and so a rivalry develops between the two girls. Some fans will find even more reason to hate Masako because she's voiced by the infamous Rie Kugimiya, but I thought that Rie did a credible job with the character.
Egos and rivalries between the above parties lead to frequent (and sometimes rather witty) verbal sniping between them. A couple of people who are above it all are Lin, Shibuya's taciturn longtime assistant, who is rather cold to Mai; and on the other hand, John Brown, a young Australian Catholic priest (and exorcist, of course) who is amiable with everybody.
Finally there's Kazuya Shibuya himself, who's everything male leads in romantic stories are supposed to be, I guess: handsome but distant, narcissistic (that's Mai's description of him), surly and sarcastic, and concealing his past as well as his true powers. Interestingly, he often appears as a guide in Mai's dreams and visions, in which he treats her with much more affection than the "real" Shibuya does. His main role is to tie all the pieces of each story together, and then when the whole thing is revealed, to implement a plan of action to correct the problem.
The hauntings in Ghost Hunt are seldom simple affairs. Sure, spirits are (usually) involved, but the primary causes of the problems can include living persons; or persons not quite living but not quite spirits either; or grudges; or even a god. It's sometimes a little frustrating for the viewer when many outer layers of complications have to be stripped away to get at the root cause of a problem; the core issue in the sixth story arc, "Forbidden Pastime", created an interesting dilemma for our little group (especially for Mai, again serving as the group's conscience), but it took nearly four whole episodes of working through what turns out to have been peripheral issues to get there. I have to also grant that it IS true that it's relatively easy to spot the source of the haunting in the first story arc, while the second arc borrows rather heavily from Poltergeist. (There are 8 story arcs in all, most running 3 to 4 episodes, but the one "comedy" one- where the group has to actually help a ghost haunt the guy who jilted her- thankfully only runs one episode.)
Action fans may also be a little disappointed; except in the final story arc, where all the stops are pulled out, the show goes for shocking visuals more than violent conflict. But I liked the fact that this group is hardly omnipotent: despite their best efforts, two innocent people die in one story; while in another story the group is unable to do anything about the evil inhabiting a house except to suggest arson. (!)
I really liked Mai's character design, which contributed to her charm. On the other hand, Shibuya is drawn as a typical "pretty boy" character. The ghosts and ghouls were also mostly rendered pretty conventionally, and the theme music was unexceptional as well.
Some more creativity in both the latter departments would have helped, but even so, the imagination shown in the characterization and story made this, on balance, a delightful series. If you get the chance, please take a look. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: No sex or sexuality here, but plenty of blood, corpses, violent deaths, and ghost-related injuries. A scene where Mai is reliving a victim's violent death is pretty intense. Older teens and up.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Netflix
Review Status: Full (25/25)
Ghost Hunt © 2006 J.C. Staff, Ghosthunt Partnership.
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