Inkling Anime Review: Ghost Stories

If you have ever perused any anime-related forums such as, Crunchyroll, Hummingbird, or MyAnimeList, you’ve probably come across users questioning on whether anime is better with English subtitles or with an English dub. And to be honest with you, I can see both sides to the argument. In some cases, the voice actors for an English dub doesn’t quite fit the characters that they’re trying to emulate, or some lines altogether might be significantly altered beyond repair despite the staff’s best efforts to stay true to the original director’s intent and vision. But every now and then, I do find some anime shows with English dubs that are handled with care and exceptionally done. Some that immediately came to my mind were, Baccano, Cowboy Bebop, FLCL, Samurai Champloo, Space Dandy, and Trigun. The English voice actors for these particular anime breathe their own life into their interpretations, while still capturing the original essence of the show. But, there is one anime show where the English dub is so good that it’s able to make a pretty forgettable anime worth watching by altering the dialogue drastically. To set the mood for Halloween, I’ll be talking about Ghost Stories.

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Revolutionaryghoul. Review: Ghost Stories. Digital image. Anime Amino. Amino, 18 Mar. 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.  

To anyone that plans on watching this series, the difference between the dub and sub is night and day. The Japanese dialogue carries itself with a more serious tone, while the English dub runs and thrives on zany humor. To provide a very brief background, Ghost Stories had poor ratings and a very tepid reception in Japan, so the director of this show basically gave ADV (a now defunct anime distributor) his blessing to have full control to do whatever they wanted with the English dub. The rest was history.

After the characters and overall exposition are introduced to the audience early on, this anime follows a very predictable and episodic structure. In the first episode, we meet Satsuki, her younger brother Keiichirou, their companions, and the “ghost diary” of Satsuki’s deceased mother. You pretty much have an idea of how every episode plays out before it’s even finished. Something peculiar is happening in their locale or in the abandoned school building, Satsuki and her pals probe around and investigate, they get chased around by an otherworldly threat, and then eventually extinguish the ghostly demons by doing rituals with the ghost diary. This rinse and repeat cycle basically goes on and on until the very last episode. If this all sounds like an apparitional-inspired version of The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew to you, your gut instincts are probably right since that’s basically it.

Ghost Stories Funny Clips Part 1 of 3. Dir. Lilrio2. Youtube. Youtube, 26 June 2010. Web. 26 Oct. 2016. 

Now moving on to the overall aesthetic. Considering that this anime came out in 2000, I was expecting the animation to look a bit rough around the edges or just straight up bad. While I wouldn’t say it’s particularly great, I think it’s mildly adequate. Ghost Stories utilizes both traditionally hand-drawn art and some CG rendered hallway sequences, ghosts and supernatural effects. This art style felt weird at first, but for the most part, the implementation felt seamless and never came off as visually distracting *cough*(Berserk 2016) *cough*. But some aspects of the animation leave a lot to be desired. The character designs appear very barebones and generic, the details of the backgrounds are constantly reused for most of the episodes, and characters would be running but not even move an inch during some chase scenes. Overall, the animation isn’t its strength, but it won’t detract much from your enjoyment of this anime.

Just like I mentioned earlier in the review, the English dub for Ghost Stories is an entirely different experience than watching it in English subtitles, and all for the better. The voice actors were basically encouraged to ad-lib the vast majority of the dialogue since the original was pretty bad. What you get is a dub that’s hilarious, more nuanced, and more engaging than the Japanese audio. If you went into this show blind, you might come away with the impression that this is a fansub or an abridged series. One way I’d describe the reworked script is “westernized” – this anime is teeming with obscure references and disparaging commentary towards films, TV Shows, actors (mainly Christian Slater), political figures, and events in the past. Ghost Stories is essentially an anime aimed towards kids in Japanese, while the English dub is chock full of brazen, derisive, and morally repugnant humor. As well as quite a bit of profanity and sexual undertones being said by elementary school kids. Not the kind of show you’d want to watch with your parents around.

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HPersona. Ghost Stories. Digital image. Anime Amino. Amino, 15 Aug. 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

All in all, if you plan to watch Ghost Stories, I highly recommend that you watch the English dub. Don’t let subtitle purists dissuade you, this dub doesn’t detract from the overall experience at all. Even though it does make a lot of creative liberties with the original script, the end result is one of the best comedy shows in the anime genre. The Japanese audio is permeating with all too familiar tropes and clichés which will come much to the annoyance for those who have seen plenty of anime. While the English dub, will have you constantly laughing due to the eccentric nature of the witty and self-aware dialogue that goes on throughout the show.

Thanks for stopping by! What are you guys dressing up as for Halloween? I’ll be cosplaying as my favorite anime character, Filthy Frank. I hope you guys have a spooky and candy-filled Halloween! Stay fresh!

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Asphyxia. Filthy Frank. Digital image. Twitter. Twitter, 25 July 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2016. <https://mobile.twitter.com/Asphyxional/status/757799404808003586&gt;.

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