Anime: Ghost Stories: Freshman Frights


imageA new family arrives in a small town, ready to start a new life in a new place. The kids prepare for a new school and friends, while the father starts his new job. The older sister, Satsuki, and younger brother, Keiichirou are in for a surprise at school when they learn that the old schoolhouse, adjacent to the new building, is haunted. Forbidden to enter, the siblings find themselves without a choice in the matter as their family cat, Kaya, rushes into the abandoned building.

This show is a peculiar blend of slapstick comedy and “Are You Afraid of the Dark” from days long past. Unfortunately, this is not a great combination, as each part seems to detract from the effect of the other, leaving the viewer with a wholesome sense of “well sure, but why?” Many of the potentially serious, spooky scenes in Ghost Stories are drowned out by the makeshift comedy that hijacks the scene. Likewise, some of the funnier moments seem to be cut short by some attempt at being scary.

Episode 1: Tonight, the Spirits Will Be Resurrected!! (Amanojaku)
Satsuki and Keiichirou show up for their first day of school, only to be drawn into the haunted schoolhouse next door. The school nerd, Leo, the jock, Hajime, and the born again upperclassman, a tall attractive girl named Momoko cooperate with Satsuki and Keiichirou to find a missing hat, and their runaway cat. They encounter a demon that ultimately commandeers the body of their wayward cat.

imageEpisode 2: A Hand Reaches Out From the Toilet… (Akagami Aogami)
As the kids try to sort out a plan to remove the demon from Kaya’s body, they realize that the development going on nearby will be much more troublesome than anybody had anticipated. By destroying the forest, the developers are releasing many spirits back into the world. One of these apparitions is some sort of bathroom haunt called Akagami who grabs unsuspecting people and pulls them into the toilet.

Episode 3: The Curtain Is Raised! The Cursed School Fine Arts Festival (Kutabe!)
The school Fine Arts Festival is on, and due to a mysterious lightning strike in the old gymnasium, the play will be performed in the old schoolhouse. The spirit responsible is Kutabe, who resides at a nearby staircase and makes happen whatever people wish for in it’s presence. Between the ill-devised wishes made, and the newfound freedom of this sinister spirit, the play is destined to be a catastrophe.

Episode 4: Requiem From the Dead (Elise)
Satsuki is targeted this time, by a new ghost in the schoolhouse. The ghost plays “Fur Elise” for his victims, and anyone who hears the song four times will die. This ghost is somewhat more wily than the gang is used to, however, and is able to reach through the telephone, television, radio, and so on in order to get his haunting tune out.

imageThe show has some fairly unique qualities to it. Although the general theme is pretty typical, some of the individual stories are quite fetching. I particularly liked Episode 3, with some elements pulled from Phantom of the Opera(the play being performed), as well as a ‘Monkey’s Paw’ type of cursed wish-granting. The release offered with the preview disc said that the show was unscripted, allowing the actors to improvise their lines, following the basic story guide. I applaud them for trying something new. Unfortunately, the improvisation in the show lacks the depth that a script usually carries. The dialogue seems very typical, almost a satirically stereotyped script. There is little spontaneity in the conversations which is, at least to me, the single most important aspect of improv. Despite mediocre acting, the voice casting is wonderful. The actors fit their roles, however ill-defined, with ease. I even had the irrepressible urge to kill the younger brother as his incessant babbling carries through all four episodes.

The animation was fairly bland, with the exception of a couple of demons/spirits at least. The characters were Pokemon like in their style, which not to speak ill of Pokemon, is a little primitive for my tastes. The environment was somewhat more pleasant to the eye. The general environmental shading was done quite well, making the scary scenes very dark, and the less serious scenes quite bright, even cheerful. The soundtrack was on par with the animation, slightly below par with the rest of anime. The music was fitting for the most part, though nothing really struck me as outstanding.

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