Monday, November 2, 2009

DVD Review: Ghost Hound, Part 1

Production I.G.’s latest project, Ghost Hound, was their 20th anniversary project and was a truly ambitious attempt. With Masamune Shirow, Ryoutarou Nakamura, Chiaki Konaka, Mariko Oka, and Hiromasa Ogura behind the scenes there was some notable creative talent to be sure. The 2007 series garnered 22 episodes and Sentai Filmworks has put together a two-disc collection with the first half of the show.

The show focuses on three young boys who have all experienced one tragedy or another in their past. Standing in the spotlight is 14 year old Tarou, whose family funs a saki plant. Eleven years ago Tarou and his sister, Mizuka, were kidnapped. It was quite an ordeal and made national headlines, especially when Tarou was rescued and his sister’s body was discovered. It was a tragic event that shaped Tarou’s life forever. Now he’s a narcoleptic and has begun having out of body experiences (O.B.E.s). Then again, you’d probably be messed up too if you visited a psychologist and neurologist on a regular basis.

Joining Tarou is Makoto who also had a tragic past linked to Tarou’s kidnapping. Back in the day when Tarou was discovered Makoto’s father killed himself. Never quite understanding why, Makoto blamed Tarou and ever since then he has hated his fellow student. Aside from the two of them there is Masayuki who is a transfer student interested in investigating the kidnapping event. Masayuki also shares a tragedy in the sense that he watched a student at his old school commit suicide at his behest. The three of them share some experiences through their tragedy and become friends in an interesting sense. They each continue to have O.B.E.s and go on journeys together.

In the Unseen World they are able to speak with the dead and spirits of animals, or other people. It’s fascinating and reminiscent of Spirited Away in a sense, though a little more direct since the kids become spirits themselves as they leave their bodies behind. Along the way they meet up with a young girl who has the ability to see them, and they also learn more about themselves including their tragedies that allowed them to enter this state. It’s these narcoleptic flashbacks that really flesh out Tarou’s character and in this installment the other two receive some development, but Tarou definitely has the most focus.

One thing that really gets the tone of the series going is not only the exploration of the Unseen World, but that of the psychological one. Tarou continuously visits a psychiatrist and recounts his spiritual adventures to him. Naturally the psychiatrist sees nothing supernatural in this and views it as Tarou’s way of sorting through the kidnapping tragedy. Something seems to pique his interest though and the psychiatrist brings in a neurologist to examine Tarou as well. The line between the supernatural and psychological really blurs in this one and the show kept me hooked to the end of this volume.

With all of that being said Ghost Hound is definitely not a show that’s for everyone. The pacing is much slower than you’d expect and the mystery takes quite a while to build. Towards the end some things become really interesting and if you stick with it through a few episodes you’ll be rewarded with some nice plot twists and development.

The show looks excellent as well and it’s a psychedelic dream come to fruition. This is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant series I’ve seen in quite some time and the artistic direction is quite solid all around (though the spirit forms of the kids look far too childish). The DVD looks great as well and the picture quality is sharp all around. The sound quality is good too and comes with Japanese 5.1 surround and English subtitles. The lack of an English track was kind of surprise, though not off-putting. I do have to say the subtitle translations could have been better, but it doesn’t ruin the experience.

Ghost Hound was a series I had a lot of hopes for when I first heard about the project. For over two years I waited in anticipation for the show to hit the States and I have to say that the wait was worth it, and I can’t wait for the second set to arrive. If you’re looking for something that is off the beaten path this is definitely something to look out for.

Maki Rating:

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