I’m not good with horror – be it movies, books, video games, or anime. It’s just not something I really like and I have a problem with the helplessness most of them project onto you (as a player/reader/viewer/etc) because I just really don’t like feeling like I can do nothing to protect myself. I don’t get scared in some screaming or crying or hiding my face way, just in the way that I make myself feel incredibly uncomfortable and paranoid. Horror anime is pretty much the least scary thing possible though and the vast majority of it is entirely just gore and lots of literal darkness obscuring your view.
Ghost Hunt does do some of the latter, but there’s not really any gore and it’s essentially only ‘horror’ in terms of the atmosphere, this is much more like a Twin Peaks or Deadly Premonition (though that’s not to say it’s as good as those classic masterpieces). I would not classify this series as horror by any means outside of that with the exception of one singular arc that is just a tiny bit creepy. There are elements meant to be scary but the actual unsettling thing is typically the atmosphere and especially this purposefully awkward yet really smart mix of lighthearted fun stuff thrown in very often that helps create a much more tense feeling during the actually serious parts. The characters, their chemistry, and the mysteries behind paranormal events are the three core things this series focuses on rather than attempting to create anything “scary”. The atmosphere just serves as a way to get you more engrossed in finding out the solution to the mystery of each arc.
Mystery wise, I found it pretty interesting myself. They aren’t the type of mysteries you can sit there trying to sleuth out on your own given the nature of most of them, but they’re well set up and feel just as good in terms of being concluded as well. It also helped that I liked the cast enough to just enjoy watching them try and figure out the paranormal shit going on and the interactions between them on their way to the answer.
That being said, I expected a pretty shitty show and only tried watching it because it was on Netflix. I had never even heard of it and thought it was Ghost Hound, but when I tried an episode out it was set to the English audio track and that lead me to two discoveries that kept me watching. First there was Cherami Leigh as the cute lead girl and second was a boy who showed up near the end of the first episode who has quite the voice. He’s an Australian character and so he has an “Australian” accent, and by that I mean he sounds like a 10 year old American kid who just marathoned a bunch of episodes of Crocodile Hunter and really wants to pretend like he’s Steve Irwin. It’s hilarious and I couldn’t resist watching more which luckily lead me to realize I was enjoying the show as a whole.
As for the characters themselves, they are all pretty likable and the way they interact is always fun and persistent throughout the various arcs of the show. One of my favorite things in that regard was how the priestess was never able to do a single useful thing the vast majority of the show yet always talked big, eventually the other characters start poking fun at her for it and also making sure not to ever bother asking her to help out with her abilities (as it’d just waste time). The stand outs in the cast would be the lead girl (Mai) and “Monk” (who was aptly nicknamed this because of being a monk). That brings up something I did really like about this show; how everyone is just referred to entirely by nicknames for the most part even by the rest of the cast, with Mai being the only consistent exception as everyone just calls her by her name. It gave a real cute sense of comradery and friendship between this strange group of “coworkers”.
Back to the show though – I did expect it to be bad (possibly “so bad it’s good”) however it turns out it’s actually pretty alright. It feels mostly like the quintessential “average but enjoyable” show that provides good quality on all the basics (art, animation, voice acting, writing, and so on) without going beyond that, but some arcs do stand out as actually being pretty great and very gripping. Speaking of arcs, this show has a nice system for one that’s only 25 episodes – it feels like something that could go on forever really. Those 25 episodes are broken up into 7 arcs that are usually 3 to 4 episodes long, and in the show’s title cards it actually treats each arc as the “case” or the equivalent of an episode number – which I thought was a much better way of doing things than most shows. For example the first arc is 3 episodes long but even on episode 3 it still simply says “Case 1 part 3” and the name of the arc, while episodes 18-21 will also just say “Case 7 Part (x)” and the name of the arc, rather than mentioning what episode it is at all. That’s all really irrelevant I guess, but I just liked the system. It seems like a format designed for a show with hundreds of episodes and the show itself also feels like something that – while I wouldn’t recommend it – you could jump in at any arc and enjoy because aside the character relationships and a few small references to prior cases, they are all self contained.
My biggest complaint really would be the audio balance in the dub. I know that’s kind of a strange thing to focus on, but it creates a huge problem when actually watching it. Everything is as loud as it should be except the voices, which you can barely hear – meaning you have to turn your volume way up which results in absolutely everything else just being way too fucking loud and the characters sounding normal, which really doesn’t help because now everything else is so loud it’s washing out their voices. The localization is also much better in the dub than in the subtitles, which is pretty common for Funimation as their dubs use real actually worked on scripts (not always, admittedly) while the subtitles usually resemble shit on par with Commie. This becomes a problem because it makes the option of simply having subs on for spoken audio that’s too quiet not really a viable one, as you’d be reading totally retarded shit instead.
The only other outright “bad” thing would be the opening. The song is fine, but it’s the most boring fucking thing imaginable to sit through. It’s nothing. I mean literally absolutely fucking nothing just mostly black with some glowy blue things sometimes that I think are just a reference to the final arc and not much else. That’s it. It just plays a fucking vocalless song and shows you nothing for a minute and a half.
I can’t really go into detail about specifics or I’d just be spoiling the mysteries, but overall I felt the show had a really good mix of silly shit with characters that play off each other well, a little bit of spooky thrown in, and some interesting and gripping mysteries. The constant jumping between completely opposite things like Mai being picked on for her crush on Naru then directly to “So, about those children that got brutally murdered here,” WITHOUT feeling retarded about it makes the show feel like a success to me. It’s still essentially mostly average, but it was definitely something I liked watching and would recommend to fans of more lighthearted and somewhat charming mystery stuff. If you want a serious, dark, or spooky horror though this probably is not something worth picking up, the same goes for if you want mysteries that you have a fair chance at solving on your own while watching.