Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ghost Talker's Daydream

Every now and again something comes out of Japan leaving you wonder "why on Earth is there a market for this?"

"Why would anybody want to see that?"

"Just who is supposed to be the target audience for this?"

This is not one of those things.  I'm pretty sure we can tell who the target audience is based on the back of the DVD.

"Ever since she could remember, Misaki Saiki has had the ability to 'talk' to ghosts.  She works as a special consultant for the city's secret division that deals with supernatural cases.  She also works as a dominatrix at a S&M club, where she okay, I'm just going to stop there, I think the point is made.

So, why do I own it?

Would you believe it's honestly because I spent some time trying to look into more Japanese "horror" material during the time that such movies as The Ring or The Eye or House to try to figure out some of the historical roots of what they find scary compared to what Americans find scary?

Seriously, that was it.  It's what brought me into series and books such as Perfect Blue, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Hellsing, Highschool Of The Dead (to be reviewed later this week!), and others.  I kept reading that this one was really good, and while a lot of the more "adult" stuff from Japan puzzles me more than anything else, I had to admit this one was pretty decent.

...no, seriously, that's it.

Oh come on, I- you know what, forget it, let's just get into the review.

It's going to be really hard to find pictures from this I can post if I can only rely on the Internet.

Our main character is Saiki Misaki, our resident exorcist/dominatrix/albino/virgin (yes, the series makes it a point to mention that).  If she regularly wore a school swimsuit with stockings she'd probably be the ultimate Japanese fetish.  Since she was young, she was always blessed/cursed (depending on her mood at the time) with the ability to communicate with ghosts and spirits.

She works for a government agency that helps deal with hauntings, spirits, and "unexplained phenomena" (which, fortunately, doesn't involve UFOs or anything).   She might be called in to exorcise a house (which could be anything from a murder victim to a young soldier from World War 2 whose spirit came back to where his parents once lived).  Sometimes she has to deal with a wayward lost spirit determined to force young women to kill themselves, or the ghosts of children causing "accidents" with their playing.

She's accompanied on a lot of her jobs (the ghost ones, not the other ones) by Kadotake Souichirou, a judo enthusiast (but not expert) who happens to be deathly afraid of ghosts, because of course that's how the Japanese assign people to organizations.  "Deathly afraid of water?  You're in the coast guard.  Traumatic fire memories?  Welcome to the firefighting squad.  You break out in hives any time you're alone with attractive women?  You're going to be the boss of a hostess club."

Overall, the series handles some pretty dark themes, which of course means you need one of these to balance things out:

That's Kunugi Ai, a high school student who our lead character helps in the first episode and winds up being a somewhat powerful medium herself (considering she flash-fries the guy who committed the crime against her family without trying to).

Oh, and there's also Fujiwara Mitsuru, another high school student and resident pervert who follows Misaki around and occasionally helps out with cases.  He also regularly takes pictures of Misaki in rather...compromising moments.

Based on the manga, the DVD only contains four episodes, two based on stories from the books and two that are original.  The topics involved are not for the feint of heart (the deaths of children, sexual abuse, and other things aren't really "dinner table" topics unless you're the Manson clan), and while I don't think the series really treats such serious topics with as much focus as, say, Law & Order: SVU, it also doesn't take the stories anywhere near as far into the realm of outrageous.  Keep in mind I said that after establishing that there are actual ghosts involved in these stories.

Beyond the pandering to people who just want to see the occasional naked person, there's actually a really good story buried under everything.  A spiritual medium helping authorities resolve hauntings, teaching a rookie blessed (or cursed) with the same gift, it could easily be an ongoing series here on American television.

...except not so terrible that trying to watch one episode caused me actual physical pain.

Okay, so how about one that's actually scary?  Huh?  Can you give me that?

...okay, yes, that is terrifying, but for entirely different reasons.

Back on topic, though.

If you want a single DVD's worth of programming that never really gives any solidly clean, happy answers outside of flash-frying murderers with mental powers, I recommend picking it up and giving it a try (as long as you're over 18).  It's gratuitous, cheesy, and prone to the standard anime tropes of jokes at weird moments, but if they cleaned all that up, they might have one of the more original and well-crafted stories I'd be willing to watch.

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