Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ghost Hound, episode 9

A subdued, subtle show that seems into your mind through your ears, Ghost Hound is as much a soundscape as it is piece of animation. The sound design is nothing short of brilliant, accomplishing more with a few moments of audio than most anime can with hours of dialogue. And it has a lot to say, too. It's Production I.G's 20th anniversary project and boasts a pedigree that includes Serial Experiments Lain, Texhnolyze, Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh, Kino's Journey, and Hell Girl - there is certainly no shortage of stunning style mixed with philosophical pondering that is always just beyond reach.

Sitting squarely in the realm of mind-fuck anime, Ghost Hound clearly has a lot going on behind the scenes and dribbles the hints out slowly. It succeeds where earlier shows such as Lain may have lost some viewers by constantly evolving, expanding or event changing the mystery as it progresses. The viewer isn't left out the dark, the questions just keep leading to more, deeper issues. What starts as 3 boys who all have some connection to death in their childhood leads to out-of-body experiences and creepy visions of insect-like spirits covering everything. That soon veers off back towards the mental trauma you would expect these kids to be carrying around - and that leads to ruminations on memory and the dead, tying back into the spirit world the kids stumbled into. It's a coil that takes you deeper and deeper without really realzing what's going on, but its kept grounded by realistic characters with a plethora of real-world problems and flaws - and that most un-anime of character traits: a willingness to actually talk to those around them about what is happening.

Even with all that, however, it would just be good anime. What takes it beyond that and into the realm of truly great is the execution. The visuals are top-notch. This is a Production I.G show, after all, so the animation and art-direction is unmatched. The character designs might strike some as plain or blandly generic, but just like the show itself, quickly reveal themselves as intricate, subtle and remarkably expressive without relying on the usual flashy tricks. The supernatural bits are handled with a flair that becomes increasingly disturbing and ominous, building the sense of tension. But again, it's the sound design that really steps up as remarkable. There is very little music in the show, the creepy atmosphere is wrapped around the viewer using ambient noise and effects. Sounds fade into each other and are distorted so masterfully that they quickly serve as storytelling tools as deft as direct dialogue or full animation.

Ghost Hound has a lot it wants to get off its chest and manages to do most of it with a glance and the sound of a heartbeat fading into footsteps in gravel. When it does talk, it answers your questions by revealing that you were only seeing the tip of the iceberg before and now you have to re-evaluate everything.

Highly recommended to anyone who wants more than a robot and a cute girl in their anime.
based on 9 episodes : ANN : Wikipedia

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