All things scary come to those who wait.
I’m glad I waited, and fought off those yawns that almost made me change discs. Ghost Hunt (Gōsuto Hanto), a 25-episode anime based on a manga and light novel series called Akuryou Series by Fyumi Ono, dished out the chills slowly—but surely, turning the mood darker and the ghosts more terrifying with each ghost hunt case.
Good thing I’ve watched enough anime before to be patient enough with the rather lackluster beginning. The series starts with Mai and two other first year high school girls telling ghost stories to each other. They are interrupted twice by a mysterious male student and a classmate who warns them how their ghost stories are attracting spirits to the school.
While out walking, she decides to check out the old school building. There is a camera inside; she checks it out—but before she touches it a man stops her and ends up injuring himself. That man, unfortunately, is the assistant of the mysterious male student, Kasuya Shibuya, a paranormal investigator. To pay for the camera, Mai is forced to stand in for the injured assistant.
Eventually, Mai becomes a regular assistant, working part-time after school and during weekends for the Shibuya Psychic Research Center. She calls Shibuya “Naru” because she thinks he is narcissistic. In their investigations, various exorcists and spirit mediums help out.
By episode 6 on the second case, involving malevolent child-spirits and a Sadako-like creature buried in a well under the house, “lackluster” was replaced by “creepy;” by episode 16 on case 6, about a death curse that compels spirits to devour each other until they become one giant monster waiting to be hatched, “creepy” turns “really scary.”
Besides the terrific ghost stories, I also liked the cast of characters—though we get precious little backstory until the eighth case involving the ghost of a mass murderer wandering in a topsy-turvy mansion… Mai is practical but very alone. Naru is aloof yet he seems to truly care for his friends. Then there’s the brotherly ex-monk, the haughty miko, the snooty medium, the gentle priest, and the stern assistant.
We also have “Naru” of Mai’s dreamworld, to which she finds herself in more and more frequently, a sign of Mai’s awakening clairvoyant powers. The dream Naru is very different from the real Naru—he smiles and is very open about his concern over the dreaming Mai….
As mangas go, the story of the Shibuya Psychic Research Center will be a long way from being finished. The next anime season may also take a while, if ever, to materialize. I’m hoping that if I wait long enough, other things scary that weren’t in the first season would make much stronger cases in the next season, shaking more secrets out from Mai, Naru, and the other tight-lipped characters.