I decided to review the mystery/supernatural manga Ghost Hunt (1998-2010) for this review. Originally published as light novels, written by Fuyumi Ono, the stories were adapted into a manga of 12 volumes by Shiho Inada.
What’s it about?
Mai Taniyama and her friends enjoy telling ghost stories, many of them stemming from the old, abandoned building at their high school. One night they are interrupted by Kazuya Shibuya, a handsome, 17 year old paranormal investigator who has been called in by the school principal to investigate the building. The next day, Mai curiously wanders into the building, accidentally interfering with Kazuya’s investigation, and inadvertently breaking a video camera and injuring Kazuya’s assistant, Lin Koujo. Kazuya demands that Mai work in Lin’s place to pay back the cost of the video camera. In the process, he is nicknamed ‘Naru’ (from ‘narcissist’) by Mai, which ends up sticking. With the school building proving to be more trouble than first thought, Naru calls in help from a number of others, including the Buddhist monk Houshou Takigawa, the Shinto miko (priestess) Ayako Matsuzaki, the Catholic priest John Brown, and the spirit medium Masako Hara. Little does Mai know that this case marks the beginning of her involvement with the Shibuya Psychic Research Centre…
The manga is composed of seven cases that the team works on, with at least one volume dedicated to each case. These cases are what drive the plot. They are varied in both the settings, and with what the underlying paranormal phenomena is that is causing problems. I found each case to be well-written and very interesting; my personal favourites were Doll House (volume two), The Bloodstained Labyrinth (volumes six and seven) and Forgotten Children (volumes ten and eleven). There are plenty of laughs in each case, and also a number of quite intense moments, a number of horrifying ideas, and a few little scares along the way (although this is dependent on how scared you get… if, like me, you can’t stand creepy ghost children, than prepare yourself before reading).
The majority of the characters are likeable, particularly Bou-san (Houshou), and later character Osamu Yasuhara, who provides most of the laughs. The girls aren’t initially as likeable, but do improve. All of the characters have good chemistry with each other. Mai is a good protagonist, and plays the important role of bringing the ‘humanity’ back to the ghosts that the team are dealing with.
One thing I really liked about this manga is that it involves an interesting mixture of Buddhist, Shinto and Christian beliefs as well as Japanese and Chinese mythology and folklore. There is also some (limited) exploration of the difference between Eastern and Western treatment of paranormal events. However, you don’t have to know anything about ghosts/demons/psychic abilities going into the manga because everything is explained very well (sometimes repetitively). I really liked learning about the phenomena and I found all of the information provided really interesting.
The art starts of very basic and not particularly appealing, but it does improve greatly throughout the manga. The mangaka gets particularly good at drawing the creepy scenes and expressing emotion through the characters’ facial expressions.
Ghost Hunt, as I’ve already mentioned, focuses on the cases that the team is working on for the plot. In the last volume it is revealed that there is an over-all plot, but I thought this was a poor effort because it doesn’t get much attention in the earlier volumes, only being hinted at. Furthermore, I thought the twist in the last volume was unnecessary and, well, not particularly believable or interesting. To be fair, though, if I was reading this at the age of 13-14 (i.e. the target audience), I would have had my mind blown.
Secondly, I can’t help but fundamentally dislike Naru. He’s the typical, arrogant shoujo male that you see in so many manga and anime. There were a few moments where I found his personality to be quite funny, but without him softening up or even loosening up throughout the series, I just found myself disliking him more and more.
Finally, I finished the manga wanting to know more about the characters. Mai points out in one of the later chapters that all of the members of the research team seem to have something strange about them; for example, John is too young to be a Catholic exorcist, Bou-san leaving his temple, even if he had one, is not satisfactorily explained, and so on. However, this isn’t elaborated on, which I found pretty irritating.
Art: 7/10: It slowly improves over the manga, and by the end is quite good.
Story: 7/10: While each of the individual cases are well-written, the attempt at an over-all plot is poor and the last-volume twist is disappointing.
Characters: 8/10: Although the characters are certainly likeable, I wish we had learnt more about them.
This manga has some well-written cases in it, and there is enough information for someone who is interested in the subject, but doesn’t necessarily know anything about it, to keep up with the action and learn a few things along the way. The characters are likeable, even though they are lacking development. If you’re into the paranormal or are just looking for an interesting manga with a few laughs along the way, I recommend Ghost Hunt. Overall, I give this manga a 7/10.