August 12, 2010

Ghost Hound

Not to be confused with Ghost Hunt of last week, Ghost Hound is a psychological thriller/horror anime. It was written by Shirow Masamune, who's most famous for the Ghost in the Shell series. It's also been adapted into a manga by Kanata Asahi, but I don't know much about that.

Ghost Hound is a story about four children who become unlikely friends over one thing: they all have out-of-body experiences. It's set in a remote mountain village in Kyushu, an island located to the southwest of Japan's mainland. Taro is a 14-year-old boy who was kidnapped with his older sister when he was three. They were left for several days in an abandoned hospital before they were found; Taro was rescued, but his sister didn't survive. Makoto is Taro's cousin, and his father is the one accused of kidnapping Taro and his sister. But because the man died, no one knows if he was innocent or not. Masayuki recently transferred to Taro and Makoto's school from Tokyo, and he's suffered from a fear of heights ever since he saw another student fall off of the school roof. And Miyako is a miko who lives at her family's shrine in the village and who not only has the ability to see ghosts but also is sometimes possessed by them, leaving her ostracized from the majority of the villagers.

The story often varies between rationality and spirituality. Characters with a scientific grounding--like the researchers at a new plant in the village or the school psychologist who works with Taro--see the children's out-of-body experiences as psychologically based and medically explainable, while characters who come from spiritual backgrounds--like Miyoko's father and the wandering shaman who is attracted to the village--have religious explanations for events; and the show makes a case for both and never specifies which is true. Taro and his friends certainly believe that their out-of-body experiences are real and that the things they encounter in the "unseen world," another layer of reality not normally visible in our own, actually happen to them; but because each of them are either running from or towards something terrible in their past, it's clear that they are not impartial observers. The anime gets off to a slow start (I only watched beyond the first two episodes because a friend had recommended it to me as really good and chilling), but it soon picks up and turns downright creepy at times.

Ghost Hound was created by Production I.G. and has been translated by Sentai Filmworks, a Japan-based company that used to distribute anime through ADV. The manga has not currently been translated into English.


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