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[Haunted Junction box art]
AKA: HAUNTED じゃんくしょん
Genre: High school occult comedy
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from Bandai
Content Rating: 16+ (bathroom humor, adult themes, mild violence, occult imagery)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Asagiri no Miko, Hell Teacher Nube, Inu Yasha, Phantom Quest Corp, Ushio & Tora
Notes: Based on the manga of the same name, by Mukudori Nemu, which ran in Dengeki Comic Gao.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars
 

Haunted Junction

Synopsis

Hokujo Haruto is the president of the Holy Student Council at Saitou High. Why "Holy"? Because Haruto is the son of a Catholic priest (!), and the other members, Mutsuki and Harumi, are children of Buddhist and Shinto clergy. Why would a high school have such a student council, anyway? Well, Saito High has this little problem - it's the sealed gate to the Demon World, and the Student Council is charged with keeping the status quo ... by their principal, who happens to be a ghost. It's kinda like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, without the vampires, or Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Haruto, of course, wants nothing more than to live a normal life ... but we all know that's never going to happen.


Review

Yeah, Haruto's the openly acknowledged son of a Catholic priest. Mmm-hmm. Riiiight.

Haunted Junction is a fundamentally decent show, with some obvious, serious holes in its fabric. For starters, true parodies imply some deep, intimate knowledge of the subject. This is why Daichi Akitarou is so successful parodying animation production in Animation Runner Kuromi, or Dave Chappelle parodying race relations in The Chappelle Show.

Unfortunately, Haunted Junction's creators chose to parody, of all things, Christianity, and it's obvious from the get-go that they know absolutely nothing about the religion. Christianity is reduced to the image of a cross-waving, effete blonde in white pseudo-vestments, who exclaims "Oh My God" loudly at the end of each episode . Ironically, this is something every practicing Christian understands to be sacrilege). Not to mention that Catholic priests have been under a Papal order to be celibate for the last seven centuries, but hey, that's a minor nitpick, isn't it.

Frankly, I don't find it offensive, so much as lazy and ignorant, but I imagine other Western viewers are going to be less forgiving. In any case, even if we gloss over the usage of Christianity as window-dressing to denote something weird, foreign, and mysterious (because, you know, that sort of thing never happens in anime), we've got the characterizations to deal with, in two yummy flavors: weak and asinine.

In addition to Haruto, we have (in our Holy Trinity of characters) Asahina Mutsuki, a miko, or Shinto shrine maiden, like Hino Rei from Sailor Moon and every bit as bitchy. She has an obsession with little boys (called a Shouta complex), which is brushed off as a harmless little trait that's supposed to be cute and funny. By obsession, I don't mean she wants to adopt little boys and dress them in funny clothes. (If it were only that.) Yes, the "eww" factor is quite strong with this one. As for the third wheel in the Holy Trinity, Kazuki, the son of the Buddhist monk ... well, he pretty much is stuck channeling the spirits of chickens and bunnies, and generally is about as interesting as either, maybe less. If anything, Haruto, despite his faux-Christian persona, comes off as the strongest and most likable character of the lot. Even then, he is prone to fantasies of his "normal life" that are so saccharine as to make me cringe in pain. That the creators of this show actually address this issue in the final episode is actually a credit to them.

Still, I guess they didn't want strong characters to get in the way of the rather constant barrage of off-color humor that permeates the show. We can start with the cutesy, seductive version of the Toire no Hanako myth (a female ghost who occupies the toilet, an actual folktale in Japan) who is a regular character and serves as a surprisingly appealing love interest to one of the leads. That's gentle, compared to the many, many jokes regarding flatulence and the accidental fondling of rear ends. Often, the jokes are fast and furious, but simply aren't funny.

Thankfully, there's enough material in here that actually works for it to be salvageable, especially when the series turns self-referential. Even something as simple as a screenwipe can be turned into something humorous, and eventually there are a lot of hits piled up right alongside the misses. You get the feeling that the scriptwriters simply threw as many jokes into this series as possible, in hopes of getting something to fly -- a little quality control could have gone a long way into making this a much better show.

Animation-wise, it's fairly appealing, with interesting character design work from Nakajima Atsuko (who manages not to make them look like refugees from Ranma 1/2), though the dark nature of the material often offsets the quality of the film, which is about on par with TV budgets of the mid-90s. The music is nice, but not something you'll hear on an anime greatest hits compilation.

Haruto's "Oh My God!" and Mutsuki's shoutacon antics notwithstanding, Haunted Junction is a comedy that doesn't quite fire on all cylinders. It's not a bad show, and certainly not something I regret having seen -- if anything, Akamanto (Red Mantle) is worth the price of rental alone. However, I don't have any overwhelming desire to watch this again any time soon, and this series hasn't really raised my confidence in the "occult humor" genre producing any sort of true classic (or even repeating the success of Phantom Quest Corp. Until a series is created to prove me wrong ... better luck next time!

While a few of the jokes are very funny, Haunted Junction's incessant reliance on pedestrian toilet humor and ignorance of its own religious subject matter, not to mean the rather weak trio of leads, hold it back from being a truly excellent show. Carlos Ross

Recommended Audience: While the usage of Christianity as superficial plot point is fairly common in Japanese animation, it deserves special attention here. The reviewer recognizes it as evidence of the general lack of knowledge of Christianity in Japanese culture, rather than any sort of pejorative or prejudiced message -- we don't take it seriously. However, some serious-minded conservative Christians may see the treatment of Haruto as a slight of their faith, and THEM hesitates to recommend this to any audience that identifies itself in this way.

Even leaving that out, there's Mutsuki's Shouta complex (sexual attraction to prepubescent boys), plus a lot of sexually and physically crude jokery that would never cut it on Cartoon Network. This is most definitely a show for older teens and above.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Haunted Junction © 1997 Nemu Mukudori - Media Works / Haunted Junction Production Committee
 
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