Archive for the 'ghost hound' Category

Ghost Hound: Miyako Counseling Peep Show

I can only imagine the sorts of saucy introspective conversation that’s going on at this moment.

Ghost Hound continues to impress. What it may lack in terms of being a crazy screw-you-up-in-the-head series (while I, personally, don’t think it lacks this, some do), it more than makes up for in terms of characterization. I’ve heard it bandied about that Tarou is a bland character, which isn’t really true. He is a rather bland sort, but I think, more than anything else, it’s because of his status as a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder. What’s worse, his traumatic stress came at a very early age for him, and I can only imagine the shock of being kidnapped and watching your sister die in front of you (or be eaten by a giant black blob-man, whatever actually happened) at such an early age would leave lasting shockwaves throughout your entire personality. It’s entirely possible, then, that what is perceived as Tarou’s blandness is actually how his mind managed to cope with the traumatic event of kidnapping. PTSD affects different people in different ways, and it’s possible that, in order to avoid dealing with the horrors that he’d experienced, he generated a bland, lifeless, apathetic personality to evade having to deal with further trauma. He doesn’t show much emotion in the series, either positive or negative, which, to me, speaks of shock more than poor designing on the behalf of the writers.

Masayuki is a much more colorful personality than Tarou, yet even he still has his own issues. Here, rather than confront his own trauma of leading to the death of a classmate, he instead immerses himself in virtual reality. Similar to Tarou, he’s escaping his past, although unlike Tarou he puts on a good front of being completely calm and at ease with his past. Except, of course, for the early episodes, where he was still terrified of heights, the curing of which being the  original purpose the virtual reality games were to serve. There, even the normally calm, suave Masayuki betrays his own inner doubts and fears. He claims to have moved past them, but is that truly the case?

Makoto is still something of an engima at this point, yet episode 14 gave us tantalizing glimpses into his personality. We see him recalling his youth, where he stabs an innocent frog to death, evidently for the sheer fun of it.  His fate is locked in to being the successor to his grandmother, and, resentful of this predetermination of his life, turns to a typical rebellious teenager form of rebellion: rock. I think, however, that the end of episode 14 served to explore further his character, seeing his reactions to the proclamation of Miyako as the successor to his grandmother, his subsequent command to the god resident in Miyako (I can’t remember its name at the moment) for his grandmother to die, and then running home to find his grandmother dead. We don’t know that much about him yet, but obviously there’s something unspoken under the surface here.

Despite the merits I see in Ghost Hound’s story and overall mood, without the characters, I don’t think this would be nearly as good a series as it could have been. I’m not a fan of Ghost in the Shell, as I mentioned before, but Ghost Hound is making me reconsider the abilities of Shirow Masamune in the writing department (but not in the artistry department; I’m glad they hired someone different to do the designs for the series). I still don’t know whether or not I’d like other series in this sort of genre, though, but there’s nothing left to do but try them!

Tarou and Miyako’s Secret Love Tryst in the Woods

They seem to have lots of these. Eagerly awaiting romance subplot.

Ghost Hound continues to please me; I think in some ways it’s a kind of more sinister Zettai Shounen: you’ve got the same glacial, relaxed pacing, mysterious events surrounding the main characters, and oddball background music (or, in Ghost Hound’s case, no music at all but sound effects). The two invoke similar moods at times, but Ghost Hound is laced with that edge of creepiness that Zettai Shounen didn’t have. Not that it needed it, because it was still a good series, but there you go.

I was talking with a friend of mine who accused the series of being “over-produced”, a term which I hadn’t heard before, but which he explained meant that the series was trying to appeal to as broad an audience as it possibly could, sapping the soul of the creator out of it. I don’t think he’s right; checking online, the term “over-produced” gets applied to films like Memoirs of a Geisha and Alexander and other kinds of movies I’ve never seen that had enormous pre-release studio-generated hype and were an attempt to snipe the Academy Awards, at which they failed horribly. Call me crazy, but I don’t get this feeling from Ghost Hound. It is the 10th anniversary series of Production I.G., after all, so yes, it has a high production budget, and it certainly looks very good, but I think the series has only improved over time. The first few episodes weren’t especially enthralling, I will grant everyone that, but I felt somehow oddly compelled to watch more, and the series has opened itself up since then. I think my friend was going by the first several lacklustre episodes, for which I can’t fault him much, but he’s still wrong. The series clearly isn’t trying to grab as many demographics as it possibly can–it’s far too unlike Higurashi no Naku Koro ni to really be effective at that. The only “cute girl” character we’ve got is Miyako, who is suitably cute, but there’s no obvious otaku-bait moments, which I would take as a sign of “over-production” in the “grab every demographic” sense. Plus, no-one is watching it. Another reason it’s like Zettai Shounen! So watch it already! But you probably are! Exclamation points!

Miyako Smiles More, Sure Sign of Imminent Earthly Peril

I swear, Miyako manages to be both cute and creepy at the same time. How does she do it?

Ghost Hound has remarkably improved since it started, when it was on the list of “intriguing yet somewhat uninteresting shows” from the fall season. It apparently just needed some leg room to set things up, as the plot (which we still don’t know much about, or what relation Kakuriko has to the real world, the plot, or anything else in existence) is moving right along towards the ineffable conclusion. I like the atmosphere it’s got–slightly creepy in spots, albeit nothing to have nightmares over; general “slice of life” feel, if a very weird life; and a touch of levity to counteract all the seriousness that’s going on. Throw in some subtle touches of character development that come close to Zettai Shounen levels (I’m not exactly sure what Zettai Shounen levels are, but anyone who’s seen both that and Ghost Hound probably know what I’m talking about, and hopefully have more vocabulary than I do on the matter) and you’ve got yourself a mix for a good show. I think I’ll wait until the whole thing’s over before I start judging it any more than I already have.

Halfway through, I still don’t know whether this and similar shows are quite for me, but I’m enjoying Ghost Hound well enough. I’m guessing I just don’t like atmospheric/mood pieces without some plot- or character-driven underpinnings to carry me through, but Ghost Hound has got some interesting things going on in the character side of things. I’m glad Production I.G. kind of forgot about making very pretty but very boring action-heavy material like Ghost in the Shell–they’ve somehow been on a roll with me since Seirei no Moribito premiered, jumping from that to Ghost Hound to Tokyo Marble Chocolate, for chrissakes. I dunno what came over them, but hitherto this point in history the only thing I’ve ever actually liked by them had been the first half of Otogizoshi, and even that wasn’t worth writing home about more than a brief mention in a long letter.

Also, I can’t be the only one thinking Higurashi no Naku Koro ni with all this talk about dams and corpses and so on. Maybe Ghost Hound is a prequel and we’re all about to be invaded by extraterrestrial beings.

The world of Ghost Hound has been completely upended

Miyako smiled. Best episode ever.

Ghost Hound is still getting better. It’s kind of unfortunate that it takes so much time to warm up (at least for me) but I think it’s starting to pay off. Not too much weirdness in this episode, but we did see Mr. Psychologist freak out (complete with a new rendition of my beloved background tocking sound effect). I still don’t know what general purpose overall some of the plot threads hold with the main storyline (such as the sake brewery bits), but unless Shirow doesn’t know what he’s doing, things will all come together in the end.

The plot, such as it is, is progressing nicely, if slow. We’ve established that I don’t really mind slow paces very much. Ghost Hound uses its slow pace to focus on the characters a lot more (rather than just barreling through a 22-episode plot-twist-laden series) but that seems to be the focus of recent I.G. shows (see previous post). All three of the main cast (Tarou, Masayuki, and Makoto) are fairly complex at this almost-halfway point. I think the group of high schoolers who ended up getting cursed near the pachinko parlor are in the show entirely for comic relief and/or for the main cast to pick on while in out-of-body form. Nothing like exploiting supernatural powers for some cheap laughs! Next they’ll go cow-tipping in Kakurikyo.

This has got to be the creepiest thing ever

Every time this…thing….comes on screen, I want to crawl out of my skin.

I genuinely think that Ghost Hound is significantly improving. We’ve gone about nine episodes now, which is a long run for a show to go from “this is interesting” to “this is actually quite neat” but I think they’ve finally set all the pieces in place and the rest of the series can just chug along by its own devices.

Or maybe I’m just really creeped out by that…thing…up there. But that…thing…was not the only creepy moment of this episode. The mandatory TOCK….TOCK…TOCK… part with the psychologist character (I will never get tired of that sound effect ever, it’s STILL menacing) was excellent, and it’s nice to see him, with his scientific mindset, get actually involved in the weird going-ons. And I think further evidence that Kakuriko is leaking–Makoto’s father saw worm-things surrounding his daughter (wife?) while she played Tetris or Puyopuyo or something like that.

I think this show is finally hitting its stride. Let’s all hope it doesn’t trip and fall over its own shoes on the way.

Psychology has never been so creepy

Episode 7 was, for some bizarre reason, incredibly creepy. The whole psychology talk with the CT scans was like my psychology 101 class, except anime and with really creepy background music. I wasn’t terribly interested outside of seeing where everything was going, but if subsequent episodes have sequences like those last 3 minutes then I will have to sleep with the lights on for the rest of the run.

I still absolutely adore the “soundtrack” to the series, though. I hope they release a “soundtrack” so I can shove the “songs” into my playlist for random and unexpected bits of really creepy sound effects during my shuffle sessions. I especially like the clock effect; ticking clocks are always ominous, but in Ghost Hound, we’re treated to a really deep, really loud, really creepy TOCK…TOCK…TOCK which is the primary reason I want the soundtrack. It never fails to unsettle me. I’m a pretty rhythm-and-melody guy (talking as background noise just drives me nuts) so it’s kind of weirding me out to like this method of mood-generating, but I guess I’m just getting to be more of a “film nerd” (in quotes because I’ll never be able to talk about things and sound like I know what I’m talking about) and those instincts are kicking in.

Or maybe I’m just crazy. I’d believe that.

Ghost Hound: I have no idea

Okay, so I’ve seen six episodes of Ghost Hound so far. I still have no idea what’s going on.

Since the Serial Experiments Lain director is directing, I should probably have expected that. But I haven’t seen Lain, or Texhnolyze, or any of those other bizarre “no one knows what’s going on” anime, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I expected something more spine-tingling creepy, and I got…Ghost Hound.

That said, it’s not a bad anime. The use of sound effects and non-musically played instruments is pretty cool, as many other bloggers have noted. The plot (what little we have of it) is interesting enough, but unfortunately I think the anime is more about the atmospherics than the actual plot. And the atmospherics are fine, but I don’t think they’re my kind of atmospherics. I think maybe the main cause of this is that, again, I was expecting something more like a good ghost story (I adored Ghost Hunt, for example, for this reason).

I’ll probably continue to watch it–I need to give more Production I.G. shows a fair shot, but they always seem to end up being something that just doesn’t grip me the way other studios’ anime tends to. Possibly my “good anime detection” sense is miscalibrated.

I am, however, totally baselessly looking forward to Toshokan Sensou, and I hope they don’t mess it up. Libraries fielding private armies to take back the right of free speech–how is that NOT awesome?


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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June 2023