Title: Ghost Hound (Literal Translation: The God Hunting Spirit: Ghost Hound)
Producer: Production I.G (Sentai Flimwork)
Genre: Sci-fi, Supernatural, Psychological,
Recommended/Similar Titles: Serial Experiments Lain, Kino no Tabi, Boogiepop
In an isolated region of Kyushu lies the town of Suiten. Though seeming small and modest, Suiten is not a picturesque place for a vacation, unless it is from the “Unseen World”. Taro, Makoto and Masayuki, three boys with traumatic pasts, learn to let their souls cross between the two parallel worlds. However, the Unseen World is no mere copy of the real Apparent World. The Unseen World is the home of ghosts, but changes are now allowing the souls of the dead to pass over into the Apparent World, with unpredictable effects. Follow the journey of Taro, Makoto and Masayuki, as they cross between the two worlds, trying to unravel a great mystery.
While Serial Experiments Lain might have been Ryutaro Nakamura and his teams finest debut it might as well be consider a primer to what Ghost Hound is. Despite the “Ghost” in the title, this series has nothing to do with the horror genre more than it is a methodological mesh of science fiction and supernatural (including ghost) that the three main characters: Taro, Makoto, and Masayuki come to face as well as their own personal phantasms as they discover the relation of the visible and hidden worlds. Initially, the story does start off on a rather slow note, but due to its fluid and unique execution, it does pick up quickly with many fascinating elements and ideas coming forthwith. It is a shame that the finale losses much of the excitement that has been building up with a simple and anticlimactic solution (in the case of the fourth main character, Miyako), but nonetheless, the leading events keeps the audience engaged with the follow-up offering a gentle and somewhat satisfying denouement. The writing is definitely a high point of the series, but the execution and its thematic borrowings from the realm of science and the supernatural are the winners.
While Taro deals with the memories of his sister and their kidnapping, Makoto confronting his family history, Masakyuki his own, and Miyako with her supernatural encounters – these seemingly unrelated lines meddle together well creating a diverse main cast of characters as well as interesting and large supporting cast. For the main cast, the story certainly does seem to take on a “coming-of-age” theme with Taro and Company trying to break the shackles of their parents failures and their own past demons; which it certainly does well. However, eventually, characters like: Dr. Hirata (Taro’s counselor), Komagusu (Miyako’s dad), Dr. Outori (Bio technician and doctor) as well as others finally have encounters and revelations of their own that come to align and clash with the quartet.
Ryutaro Nakamura is known for mastery with aesthetics, sound in particular. In Ghost Hound, he exemplifies this all to often. Manipulating and playing with various musical attributes (such as noise and signals), Nakamura gives his audience a taste of the tagged elements; again, not for the shock or horror – but more for a practically purpose to direct the mindset to what is actually said and unfolding in front of them rather than what it all means. Sounds like: buzzing, distorted voices, white noise, low frequency growls, and silence occur and reoccur throughout the series and even can be considered just part of the soundtrack just as the fresh, up-beat Opening or somber, tranquil ending is than plain sound effects.
Production I.G is the animation. With Sentai Filmworks licensing Ghost Hound for North America, it does contain a dubbed version, however, the dub itself is lackluster in comparison. This has nothing do with voice acting or performance itself rather than conveying and presenting the script as the series prompts. On the other hand, it does help clear up some confusion the Japanese track might present as the English transcript rewrite is 86% exact to the original. The Japanese track is recommended.
On a more personal note, Ghost Hound will forever remain in the top ten tier of my favorite anime series and still a gem as it ever was to revisit after all these years. Remembering other projects that Nakamura directed (I.E: Rec, Kino no Tabi, Lain, etc) Ghost Hound was the one that stayed memorable for different reasons, but also why I enjoy watching anime in the first place. It was not so much the twist and turns, the thematics, or even directing – but just the pure enjoyment of the ride to see where the cast is lead by their discovers of the hidden and visible worlds. In some ways where Lain fulfilled my philosophical senses of the wired and physical worlds, Ghost Hound did the same with the connection and disconnection between the otherworldly and scientific spectrums. If you are person that did like Nakamura’s past directorial work like: Kino no Tabi and Serial Experiments Lain or even unknown to these, I highly recommend Ghost Hound. It might not completely feels like it can measure up to its predecessors, but surely executes itself with the intent.
Pros: Excellent writing, execution, interesting cast of characters, unique examination of themes, soundtrack and use sounds.
Cons: Sluggish start, not many of the “mysteries” are adequately explained.