Ghost Hound

Production IG’s currently running anime, Ghost Hound, may start out slow but it more than makes up for this in its well-timed plot and cerebral story line. Interestingly, this story takes place in the present, more precisely the date in the episodes are congruent to the date they are currently being aired on Japanese television station Wowow.

The idea for this story came from Shirow Masamune, of Ghost in the Shell fame, over 20 years ago. Production IG announced the show to the public only last year, and it went to air this past October. You won’t find any cyberpunk in this story, although it’s still going to throw some science at you in the form of psychology and psychological terms, as well as a dose of Japanese folklore.

The story centers around three teenage boys – Taro, Makoto and Masayuki – with troubled pasts that allow them to leave their bodies and travel the Unseen World, and a girl – Miyako – who can see the creatures that reside in the Unseen World.

Taro Komori was kidnapped along with his sister, Mizuka, when he was 3. They were both found, but he alone survived. Due to this trauma, Taro’s school has brought in a specialist psychiatrist to counsel him. Dr. Hirata is the one who can be counted on to launch into a deep psychological explanation of the characters, often at the expense of doctor/patient confidentiality.

Makoto Ogami and Miyako Komagusu are the two most connected to the spiritual side of the story, in contrast to Taro and Masayuki Nakajima, who are caught up in the psychological aspects. Makoto’s father committed suicide when he was 3 and his grandmother is the priestess of an ominous local religion. Miyako, on the other hand, is the daughter of the priest of a local shrine who once taught Folklore at Tokyo University. He’s the one who tends to offer the anthropological explanations for the strange experiences of the teenagers.

Unlike the three boys, Miyako cannot enter the Unseen World despite her ability to see its denizens. Her strange gift unfortunately seems to make her prone to possession by spirits or even the recently dead.

The thing that makes this show so refreshing is how it’s not trying to be overly dramatic by having them solve crimes or fight evil. At its core, Ghost Hound is a story of young teenagers struggling through adolescence trying to rectify their troubled pasts with teenage present and their ambiguous hopes for the future.

The different worlds that they perceive and travel to are symbolic of the new perspectives and foresight they gain as they mature. This motif is most fully realized in the shapes Taro, Makoto and Masayuki take when they first enter the Unseen World, and how those forms begin to change as they adapt to their new surroundings.

The art and animation live up to the high standards Production IG has set in all their work, and the character designs done by Hell Girl designer Mariko Oka are well drawn and highly evocative of the character’s personalities.

Although I know next to nothing of the Japanese language, the voice acting is done well and helps to give more tone and meaning to the English subtitles. Sound is also well above par in Ghost Hound. Throughout the show gagaku, or traditional Japanese court music, is used frequently to heighten the mood to great effect.

The series takes a few episodes before any of the major details of the story begin to reveal themselves, and at times things can get overwhelmingly cerebral – especially when you’re trying to read dialogue subtitles and explanatory subtitles at the same time. With the proper investment, however, this is a highly entertaining anime that is set to run through April 3 on Wowow in Japan. Expect it to be licensed soon as there’s a lot of English language information already out there. Check out Production IG for more information.