I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with Ghost Hound. It is the kind of show that is only going to appeal to the most niche of niche audiences, and no one else. This is not surprising – the show was largely created by a veritable tour-de-force of cult favorite names, having been directed and storyboarded by Ryutaro Nakamura (REC, Serial Experiments Lain, Kino’s Journey) and written by the inimitable Chiaki J. Konaka (The Big O, Serial Experiments Lain, Mononoke, Texhnolyze, and some less weird stuff). But don’t get confused. I personally love every single show I just mentioned (half of them are favorites), but that does not necessarily mean that I fall into the same niche as people who like Ghost Hound. It’s a niche all it’s own.
Actually, let me be more clear, because there is one thing that I do blame Ghost Hound for, which is the godawful bait-and-switch that the show pulls on the viewer. For the first couple of episodes, the show seems to be a very down-to-earth psychological story with an interest in unique explorations of the psyche. Then, it jarringly and very suddenly launches into more spiritual types of psychological exploration, which is cool and all, but comes out of absolutely nowhere and is played like it should have been obvious that this was going to happen. Well, I made it through 8 episodes, and then I read spoilers for the rest of the series, and let’s just say that it proceeds to get as far from ‘down-to-earth’ as imaginable. The plot can best be described as ‘downright wacky’ and I feel like I probably could accept that if I hadn’t thought that this was supposed to be a more serious show (doesn’t help I’ve been thinking that since I started the show 2 years ago, but still.)
Now, the rest of the things I don’t like about the show are more my own beefs (and I imagine many others’ as well.) For one, the characters are not interesting at all. The three leads are basically wood blocks with personality disorders – the show is way more interested in the psychological problems of the characters than the prospect of them actually being people. This is another thing where I wouldn’t have a problem with this if the psychological exploration of these characters was interesting, but when you couple the boring characters with the other issues, it makes the whole thing that much harder to watch.
The ‘plot’ of Ghost Hound is all over the place. In the eight episodes I watched, I couldn’t tell if the point of the show was the mystery aspect, the psychological aspect, or the ‘woah trippy colors’ aspect, and as a result, I couldn’t find myself getting invested in the plot. I feel like I spent 8 episodes going ‘where is this all going?’ which is something I can accept asking for 3 or 4 episodes, but seriously weighs on me after 8. And once again, after reading the spoilers, I can safely say that the rest of the plot probably wouldn’t have been worth the effort spent getting to it.
Now, wait. I can watch a show with no plot and no characters. Texhnolyze is one of my alltime favorite anime, after all. Texhnolyze pretty much never had a real plot (though at least you could get a grip of what was going on by episode 7) and didn’t emotionally invest in any of it’s characters, but it got by on other strong elements. It had amazing art, was brilliantly directed and paced, had a great soundtrack, an excellent sense of mystery, and a world that was just strange and captivating enough to be worth watching to see it alone.
Ghost hound has almost none of that. Like Texhnolyze, the pacing is unbearably slow, but in Texhnolyze this served to enhance the atmosphere and the constantly eerie and claustrophobic tone of the series. Ghost Hound feels like it’s only slow because that’s the way it wants to be, without any rhyme or reason. The only sense of mystery is a sense of ‘what he fuck is going on.’ Even though the show is animated by Production I.G., the artwork is pretty boring. I liked the way they made everything look distinctly hazy and gray, but the town had no personality, and the designs were so inconsistent that they were hard to reconcile with one another.
The only truly strong element Ghost Hound has going for it is sound. I would go so far as to say that it’s worth watching a few episodes of it for the sound alone, and I DEMAND it be watched with headphones on. I can tell that a lot of work went into sound production, which is important to the portrayal of the themes (though the artwork falling flat really takes away from the experience.) The soundtrack is also interesting and full of crazy jazz tunes that are worth checking out.
Overall, I think that there is a crowd who can appreciate Ghost Hound (as evidenced by the many good reviews out there) depending on what does or doesn’t excite them in a show. I feel as though Ghost Hound was Chiaki J. Konaka’s excuse to write about his experiences as a psychonaut (I’m convinced he was one) and that he didn’t really give a damn about the plot that was probably come up with by Masamune Shirow (credited as creator, and nothing else) before Konaka said ‘yeah, let’s do this my way.’ Is that a bad thing? No. I even wanted to like Ghost Hound, because I am into the whole psychonaut thing myself, but in the end, it just wasn’t what I look for in an anime, and I don’t feel like spending time on it. I’d rather just do the research on my own.
Ghost Hound – Failed (8 eps.)
I’ll certainly remember the good parts about the show, but I can’t bear to keep sitting through it without being entertained.