Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ghost Hound

How in the heck am I supposed to describe this show?  (Sigh) This is not going to be an easy post to write...

"Ghost Hound" is not an anime that sticks to the regular cliches and tropes of most anime.  For 99% of anime shows, it sticks to one particular genre and storyline formula.  "Girl finds love in high school", "main character gains magic powers from some unseen extra universe and saves the world", "giant robot war", etc.  "Ghost Hound doesn't fit into any of those.  It isn't even a weird parody of the genre like "FLCL", or something intentionally or some kind of freak-out "weird for weirdness's sake" type of show.  Its pretty much like nothing else you've ever seen.  But despite that, it never breaks out of the expectations of fiction.

For most of this show's running time, I was frightened beyond words that it would turn out to be one of those shows that constantly adds all sorts of weird twists only to end in a completely random and unfulfilling fashion.  By the end of those shows, you're left wondering what in the world you just watched.  Was that a dream?  Was anything that happened in the show itself real*?  Typically you're left completely pissed and wanting to punch the creators in the face for wasting your time in the first place.  For a good example of western shows, see "Twin Peaks".  Anime has a few examples itself, like the infamous ending(s) to "Neon Genesis Evangelion".  You should always avoid shows like this, because the endings will always be terrible and there is no pay-off to be found.  "Lost" will, in all likelihood, end up exactly in this fashion.  But "Ghost Hound", in its own independent way, did not follow even this trend, and instead had a very logical, clear, and definitive (if not a bit rushed) ending.

(I'm doing a terrible job of describing this, aren't I?)

Okay, maybe I should try to describe the plot, which is also nearly impossible.  The story is very complicated, having all sorts of threads that may or may not be interconnected:  The story begins with Taro (picture above), a high school freshmen who was kidnapped when he was a little kid, and now is undergoing some pretty weird stuff.  For example, he's starting to fall right out of his body and has learned to astral project himself to any place in town that he wants to go.  Its basically the same as here, only that you can play with the souls of every living thing that ever existed.  Taro also has a bit of thing with Miyako (also above), a grade-schooler who keeps on getting possessed by Shinto gods and who may or may not be the resurrection of Taro's dead sister.  Meanwhile, Taro's friend Makoto is the heir to an evil sinister cult that is trying to take over Japan's government, and his other friend Masayuki is the son of a scientist creating artificial lifeforms.  And is that the ghost of Taro's kidnapper running around there?  Eventually Taro and his friends learn how to use their powers of astral projection** to find to uncover all the mysteries here.  (Though only one of them thinks to use such powers for "more naughty purposes", which is incredibly strange for high schoolers.)

Nothing you haven't seen before, right?  Oddly enough, this isn't half as far-fetched as most animes, I must say.

The story doesn't actually move very quickly.  That's not to say that this show is boring or is too long, only that it takes the show a really long time to slow reveal each one of the hidden things going on behind the face of what looks like just another Japanese mountain town.  There is a lot going here, and things move at a brisk pace, but the overall plot is so gargantuan that you begin to wonder if there's any way they could possibly tie all this up together. They do, surprisingly, and even more surprisingly at that point things move quite a bit too fast.  The climax comes by so quickly that I was left wishing for a bit more.   Up until the end, its hard to actually describe what the real plot of the show is.  If I were to go ahead and say with certainty what the ultimate problem to be solved is, I would be spoiling far too much.  In all these ways, "Ghost Hound" is actually a lot like a second ".hack//SIGN", only with that 90% of the show isn't just the characters sitting around talking.  So on that level, its definitely an improvement***.

"Ghost Hound" combines scholarly concepts from the fields of psychiatry, traditional Japanese mysticism, and bioethics with a bit of literature thrown in to make a largely confusing soup of various ideas floating around the main narrative.  Its probably best to watch the show with an Internet connection close at hand to Wikipedia all the words you don't understand.  In some episodes you might come away with an interesting new concept learned.

Or perhaps you'll discover that the Snark was a Boojum and go completely insane.

One thing that makes "Ghost Hound" quite a bit different from most anime is its absolute refusal to have any "cartoony" moments.  For example, in pretty much any other show, characters grow super-deformed when in comic conversations or what-not.  There is no giant beads of sweat, no huge throbbing veins that inexplicably throb above the person's head, nobody straight-up collapses out of exacerbation, or anything else.  In fact, there aren't even moments that even fit this sort of hyperactivity at all.  That's not to say the show is morbidly serious (it is funny... one time) just that it tries its very best to depict real modern life.  Of course that real modern life is interrupted by sudden bouts of demonic possession and an oddly large number of insane housewives, but you get the idea.

Notably the version I watched was entirely the original Japanese dub.  I personally don't really have all that much trouble with reading subtitles, though I do prefer dubs when it comes to Godzilla and anime.  I guess since this show takes place in real world Japan without any magical girls or aliens coming down, the Japanese fits.  The Japanese cast did an all around excellent job, I much say.  However, it really hard to judge a voice actor in another language.  All I can do is question whether or not the voice is pleasing to the ear.  I hear an English dub is in the works for some time this year.  Will it be better?  I have no idea.  Will I get severely pissed-off when I hear Taro's English voice?  Just maybe.  I doubt it, but maybe.  I've never watched a Japanese dub before the English one comes out.

Though if I must be truly honest, the only reason why I really stuck with "Ghost Hound" was the art style.  If I must say so, this show definitely has one of the best styles out there.  In the very first episode, I was so struck by Taro's appearance that I immediately had to break out the pencil and paper and sketch him (this was at midnight by the way, and I was in bed at the time).  I know the philosophy and scientific thought might have something to offer in terms of more tangible benefits for watching this show, but above all else, Taro is adorable.  Way too adorable for a young high schooler, anyway.

I guess ultimately I have to say this show is more of a "watch it if you have the time".  I can sum up quite a bit of it with a single sound:  "ehhh".  I mean, yeah, its weird, its original, and its got a nice art style, but is it really all that interesting?  No.  Not really.  By the time I finish this sentence, I'll probably have forgotten all about it.  Except for the art style, though.  That I have to keep.

---------------------------------------
* Nothing about fiction is real, by the way. 'None of that happened' is the only answer for that question.  Still you're emotional reaction is about the same as the real thing anyway, so does it matter?

** Spoiler:  when you finally find out what Taro and his friends' souls look like, you will burst a gut laughing your head off.  This is entirely unintentional from the creators, by the way.

*** However, in exchange "Ghost Hound" doesn't have anything near to as good as a soundtrack to ".hack//SIGN".  Trust me, ".hack//SIGN" might be worth a watch for its soundtrack alone.

10 comments:

  1. I'll check it out when the English dub is released.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @BH Forgotten about it yet?

    @Drake Watch it with Subtitles on Animeseason.com instead, like a normal Anime-fan. Most anime(Mayoi Neko Overrun, Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu, etc.) never gets released in english dubs, and this could very well be one of them...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Forgot about what? I haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "The climax comes by so quickly that I was left almost But until then, its hard to actually describe what the real plot of the show is."

    Epic error. You should fix that, it's around the 6th or 7th paragraph.

    Overall, I think the show sounds interesting. Last anime I watched was...Jesus...Naruto or something a couple of years ago. And that sucked real hard. This looks interesting though...something different.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sorry, the comment system is weird. In the paragraph theirs a strange space between almost and But.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Uppfinnarn: When you say normal anime fan, do you mean normal in the sense that most anime fans are Japanese and so watch it in said language. I'll watch film with subtitles but I will not watch cartoons with them. If I really want to read, I'll read a book (right now I'm reading a good one, Phantom by Terry Goodkind), but cartoons are supposed to be fun to watch, I shouldn't have to use any energy watching a cartoon or television program. I love reading, but how am I supposed to enjoy visuals while I have to read as well?

    Most anime fans I've spoken to at the New York anime cons I've been to have also preferred watching anime in English, with few exceptions.

    Sorry if this sounds a little defensive, I just can't stand when people refer to certain groups as "normal" when there are just as many people who don't fit in to said groups.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sorry about that term, then. Just that about 70% of all Anime doesn't get English Dubs at all, or gets bad dubs. It's not that much energy anyways, but that I think so may be just because I'm native to Swedish thus I have to either watch it in English or with Subtitles in English, so I have to use energy reading a foreign language anyways... Have you ever tried watching an Anime in Swedish Dub?

    ReplyDelete
  8. No, never in Swedish. I have seen the spanish dub of Dragon Ball Z, though, which was hilarious.

    ReplyDelete
  9. LMAO, I'd love to see that Drake.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I need to check this anime out... Also, have you ever watched "Higurashi no Naku Koro ni" (or "When the Cicada Cry")? It is a horror anime, and its plot is just amazing.

    Just in case you want to see it, you can watch it here:
    http://www.animefreak.tv/watch/higurashi-no-naku-koro-ni-english-dubbed-online-free

    ReplyDelete