High school girl Hibiki Amami's sixth sense lets her see and interact with ghosts as easily as ordinary mortals can see and interact with other humans; in fact, it's other humans that Hibiki has some trouble relating to, due to the presence of her spirit companions. She's found a group of classmates that accept her ghostly "groupies" (with one important exception.) Hibiki's kind heart, toward the dead AND the living, is at the center of the stories here.
You know, I'll bet that if there are ghosts around us, they're NOT obsessed with wreaking horrible revenge upon the umpty-umph descendants of persons who've wronged them, as they are in so many horror films, both Japanese and American. I don't even think they'd be overly concerned with their personal issues at all. No, I think Re-Kan! has it right; the dead probably want to help those they've left behind, or maybe apologize for wounds they inflicted that they didn't have a chance to atone for before their demise. The two very best episodes of this show have just those themes. In one, Hibiki helps one of her new friends, named Narumi Inoue, reach Inoue's young cousin by relaying a cooking lesson from Inoue's grandmothers' spirit. In the other episode, a "punk" girl's spirit possesses Hibiki so the spirit can finally say the words she needed to say to her mother. (The "punk" girl spirit continues hanging around, along with that of a samurai, as Hibiki's principal retainers, you might say.)
But the rest of the show's a mess. A very large part of the problem is the supporting cast. Hibiki's an ingénue, and that kind of innocent character really needs a colorful supporting cast to help create interest, humor, and maybe some of the plots. But alas, the classmates who accept Hibiki's ghostly retinue are themselves one-trick ponies, each defined by a single character trait, and not always a particularly pleasant one.
First let's consider the Transparent Hair Duo. These are two girls whose hair on one side of each of their faces hangs down over one eye, and yet we can see the eye clearly through the veil of hair. This is such a weird artistic choice that I'm frankly perplexed about the reasoning behind it. Maybe the creator wanted something distinctive, but thought actually covering an eye might make the characters TOO distinctive, upstaging Hibiki (who's drawn in a rather boringly conventional manner), so thought this might be a plausible compromise. One of the two is Kyoko Esumi, whose red hair of course means that she's a violent girl, in the tradition of anime clichés. The other is Kana Uehara, a blonde; about all we find out about her is that her parents are journalists, and she likes taking pictures of Hibiki's ghosts for her blog. (Ghosts here are kind of reverse vampires: they aren't normally visible to the eye- except for Hibiki's eyes of course- but they DO show up in mirrors, pictures, and video.)
Next we have Makoto Ogawa, a short-haired girl whose trait is an obsession with some zombie character- she seems to have made hundreds of dolls of him, she has a cosplay costume of him, and so on. We do have an episode where we're shown the backstory of this character and her obsession with it, and while these kinds of episodes usually try hard to stir up the audience's empathy for the character, I didn't feel one bit more kindly disposed toward Ogawa- or her zombie- after seeing it.
Then we have Kenta Yamada. If there were a picture in the dictionary next to the entry for "dork", it would be his. The one male character among Hibiki's gang, he's constantly running his mouth, and EVERYTHING that comes out of it is ALWAYS both inane and inappropriate. He couldn't sense the mood in a room if it fell on him like an anvil in an old Warner Brothers cartoon. You CAN make a sympathetic character out of this personality type by giving him some nuance (see Chizuru in You and Me), but this show for the most part can't seem to do nuance. (Yes, I know, it's a comedy, but so was You and Me.) Since he hangs out with a bunch of girls, Yamada concludes with unassailable logic (to him at least) that they all must be in love with him, and frequently refers to them as his "harem". He has an older brother who's just like him, but a cop, and if you think an ultra-dork is an unappealing character, trust me, an ultra-dork with POWER is even worse.
And then there's Inoue. The opening credits would seem to indicate that she and Hibiki are especially close, but you only really see that in a couple of episodes near the end; mostly she's only distinguishable from the rest of Hibiki's human pals by her continual (DESPITE Grandma's help) fear of ghosts, so I guess we're supposed to admire her for enduring the spiritual presences for Hibiki's sake. She's also quick to scold/lecture Hibiki, which I suppose makes her a close friend of the Rei Hino sort. Still, I did like her character design better than the others, including her "octopus head" hairstyle (as her cousin calls it.)
There's also a perverted cat who craves to look at panties (why a CAT would want to look up a human's skirt is beyond me; perhaps he's a reincarnation of a molester?); and we have Hibiki's dad (a coward toward ghosts, like Inoue, despite living with Hibiki); and Hibiki's deceased mom, who first appears in the show in one of her dad's flashbacks. Mom was the one Hibiki inherited her spiritual power from, and was/is also a flake, of course, and I DO wish that writers of anime would realize that just being a flake is NOT sufficient to make a person actually funny.
It's not just the supporting cast and the jokes that frequently fall flat, however. While the show's sentimentality worked OK in the two examples I gave earlier, that's hardly always true, and we too often have mawkish, featherweight drama in unholy synergy with clichéd characters and misfiring comedy. The show's premise is SUCH a neat idea, I wish I knew exactly why it isn't better than it is. The Wiki article says that the manga it's based on is of the "four panel" type, which is usually used for blackout gags, so maybe it had some trouble transitioning to full-length episodes; I haven't seen the original manga, so I've no idea. Maybe another clue is in the character of Yoshida Yoshiki, who appears maybe two or three times in the show, is the president of the "Manga Club", and may be a stand-in for the show's writers; in the last episode, he declares that he's out of ideas. I think he largely might have been faking it through the whole show.
Other Bad: the artists are often just lazy with the ghosts- frequently they're just drawn as shapeless blobs, as a child might render them. The "punk" girl, the samurai, and a few others are actually rendered in detail, though usually without feet.
Other Good: my favorite character in this series is never seen at all, even by Hibiki. He's a "slasher victim", according to his monument. (Do the Japanese really put up monuments at murder sites, like Americans sometimes put up little roadside memorials for crash victims?) He seems reserved, thoughtful, and a bit melancholy (given the circumstances of his demise, I think he's entitled to be the latter), and runs quiet interference for Hibiki against the cat-pervert through the entire show. Sometimes the folks with the most dignity are- well, invisible.
Good and Bad: The music. Both the peppy opening and closing songs are by the same group, but while the opener has an infectious quality (it reminded me of "Motto", the opener in Magikano, but I found this one more pleasant to my ear), Re-Kan!'s closing song struck me as way too gimmicky and "cutesy".
I had to decide whether to regard this as a high 2 stars or a low 3. I gave it due consideration for the two good episodes and the slasher victim, as well as the fact that the show is pretty inoffensive, and MEANS well- I THINK. So I went 3. If the show actually HAD dropped an anvil on Yamada, I would have given it 5. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: I think there's a swimsuit episode in here somewhere. And there's that cat of course, but he's notoriously unsuccessful in actually SEEING any panties. 13+ OK.
Version(s) Viewed: Stream courtesy of crunchyroll.com (Japanese with English Subtitles)
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Re-Kan! © 2015 Hinako Seta/Houbunsha; Studio Pierrot/TBS
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