The 2nd Dimension

Monday, June 20, 2011

Viewing Journal: Ghost Hound (complete)

Series Overview
DVD Info

Overall= D
Story = D
Video = C
Audio = B


Production IG's 20th Anniversary Project, Ghost Hound is set in the modest town of Suiten, located in a desolate region in the island of Kyūshū. The story follows the experiences of three boys who have had traumatic experiences in childhood from which they have learned to transfer their souls to a parallel world known as the "Unseen World". The Unseen World is however undergoing a change, with its ghosts starting to appear in the real world, altering it in unpredictable ways. (Source: ANN)
And here we have the second show in a trifecta of mediocrity from otherwise phenomenal animation studios. It began with my previous review of Studio BONE's Skull Man, and now continues with this review of Production IG and Masamune Shiro's collaborative failure Ghost Hound.

Masamune Shirow is the original creator of well-known titles such as Appleseed, Dominion Tank Police, and of course Ghost in the Shell. He is great at two things: creating highly detailed and intricate art/porn and creating even more highly intricate and detailed story concepts. When applied with relative moderation—as in the case with the original Ghost in the Shell and Dominion Tank Police—his work can be intellectually challenging and/or amusing as well as visually attractive. But when his full power is unleashed unhindered—as in the case with Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface and Orion—the work is so caught up in its own internal logic, lingo and barrage of footnotes that whatever plot may exist gets lost amidst the jungle of information, exposition, and analysis. In other words, Shirow is a great idea man, but does not have the skill or restraint to lay them out in a well-structured plot with empathetic characters. That's where the animation studio Production IG steps in. Coming off of the success of the phenomenal Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, they bring Shirow back to create a brand new concept for a brand new series. The result is Ghost Hound.

To varying degrees, I've enjoyed the work of both Shirow and Production IG, so I was excited to see if their combined powers would create the same kind of magic they made with Stand Alone Complex. And when Ghost Hound started out, it did spark my curiosity. I could see Shirow's ingenuity in the story's basic concept. And more importantly, Production IG was able to subtly weave those ideas into a story that focuses on the characters and their attempt to unravel the meaning behind a series of odd events. In my previous review of Skull Man, I talked about how it attempted to be subtly cerebral and mysterious, but failed to do so effectively. In the case of Ghost Hound, however, it pulls that off with greater success. The difference is that in Skull Man the quiet interludes seemed like dead space, whereas in Ghost Hound those moments include either strange, seemingly random visuals or odd camera angles of a scene that add a sense of eeriness. As a result, the mood of the show is kind of like listening to someone rattle off vague but fascinating information in a monotonous tone of voice—flat but interesting. It's that combination of interesting concepts, weird events, and subtle visual oddities that kept me curious as to how everything related and how the story would unfold.

However, the effectiveness of the tone and plot development waver—and ultimately crash—throughout the 22 episodes. The first few episodes start out quiet and confusing and then get more interesting as the concepts of the spirit world and out-of-body experiences are introduced. Then the show gets bland because the characters do little more than wander around in spirit form talking either to each other or to themselves, and repeating the same information over and over. At that point it's hard to tell where the story is going since there are no significant revelations and there is no build up or tension, making it tedious to get through. Then around episode 14 it gets slightly more intense and dramatic as characters' backgrounds are explored and the plot's direction becomes clearer. But by the end everything that made the show worthwhile falls apart. Random things happen out of nowhere in order to force the plot toward a conclusion, and it ultimately ends in a nice neat little package where the sky is clear and everyone is completely happy. That may not be so horrible if it wasn't for the fact that it is completely contradictory to the tone of the rest of the series. It is a rushed, jarring, downright crappy ending after an arduously slow but occasionally promising beginning and middle. I was completely annoyed with the show for stringing me along only to let me down like it did, making it a horribly disappointing series.

The animation itself is nothing special. Production IG is capable of creating beautifully detailed and creative visuals, but that was not the case in this show. Everything from the character designs to the spirit-creatures to the setting is simply average.

The music is one of the high points of the show, though I wouldn't rush out and buy the soundtrack. It adds a good deal to the subtle, eerie tone. The opening music is pretty awesome. It's fun and fast but still has a smooth weirdness to the pace of the singing, and smooth jazzy beats.

Despite the music though, the show is a disappointment on many levels. I was hoping that it would be like Stand Alone Complex where Production IG would take Shirow's ideas and explore their different moral and practical implications while weaving them into a over-arching plot; but the potential of the team-up never pans out. That along with the lack of planning, pacing, and consistency in the story leads to it's ultimate downfall. I can only hope that Shirow and IG's follow up collaborations—Real Drive and Appleseed XIII—pan out better. Here's to hopeless optimism...

[ For a full list of reviews see the Viewing Journal Archive ]

No comments: