I do believe I have talked about my experience with Ghost Hunt in the past. It was one of the first manga I read, it was one of the first light novels I read, it’s one of my favorite stories to date, and for good reason at that. It’s an incredibly good read.
As you can probably see, my dear readers, the cover of this manga looks quite old fashioned, and that’s because the author, Ono Fuyumi, wrote the light novel in 1989, and the manga was released in 1998 by Kodansha Comics. For context, 1998 is when Boogiepop and Others was released, and I’m talking about the light novel, not the manga, and that’s considered a classic. In modern light novel terms, this is real old. In fact, the Ghost Hunt light novel, also referred to by it’s original, Japanese name Akuryou (meaning Evil Spirits), predates the term ‘light novel’ itself, as the term is believed to be coined in 1990.
You can really tell that this story comes from a different time period. There’s a lot of stylistic and thematic differences from the light novels of today, and the overall feel of Ghost Hunt is very different from your average story. That is in large part owed to the literary abilities of Fuyumi-sensei, who is better known for her Twelve Kingdoms series, and even better known for the fucking Shiki series. For those who don’t know, Shiki is really famous horror manga. I actually didn’t know that Shiki was also written by Fuyumi-sensei up until a few years ago(I’m just stupid that way).
If I had one word to describe the feeling I got when reading Ghost Hunt, whether it be the manga or the light novel, it would be ‘transient’. There’s this simultaneous feeling of dread and expectation with every page, but there’s also an expectation of unexpectation? I really don’t have a better way of describing it. The series begins with a case that brings Kazuya Shibuya of Shibuya Psychic Research (SPR, the acronym is rather convenient, you’ll know what I mean when you read the story) to the school of first year highschooler Taniyama Mai, who dubs him ‘Naru’ because of his narcissistic attitude. Pretty quickly, we also get introduced to other characters, a buddhist monk, a shrine maiden who has a gag of calling every ghost an earthbound spirit, a foreign priest who speaks in Kansai-ben, and a celebrity psychic with some issues.
The reason I call Ghost Hunt transient is because of the fleeting nature of the cases, and the overall atmosphere you find yourself in when reading it. It almost feels like there’s a veil in your mind, and if you tug on that veil, the novel will disappear. It’s a feeling which is reinforced by the almost dream-like nature of each case, as they are quite isolated, and the only common thing between them is the characters. The isolation is such that in each new case, the character might as well have forgotten that the previous one ever happened. That’s not a critique by the way, this feeling really adds to the mystique of the story. The fact that oftentimes, the facts about the case and the story are revealed in a non-linear fashion adds to this effect as well. There are also a lot of comedic moments, which are very well done as well.
Of course, the crown jewel of Ghost Hunt is the horror and mystery. It’s not your average jumpscare horror, or even visual horror in the manga, it’s what I call true horror, something that doesn’t simply scare you, but leaves you in despair and dread, unsettled. It stays with you for a while, but also intrigues you. Fuyumi-sensei really knows her supernatural stuff well. Like really well. Because Ghost Hunt is based in the real world, often with ghosts inspired from stories from reality, the research done by the author really shows. You can tell she really loves what she does. My interest in reading about supernatural happenings and the occult stemmed from when I first read Ghost Hunt. The mystery elements are also expertly woven, and are part of what brings you into the completely immersed state one tends to reach when reading this story.
The manga, whose art was done by Shiho Inada-sensei, captures the feeling of Ghost Hunt quite well, but, and even though I try not to be the stereotypical light novel reader, the light novel was still better. The manga is quite good, but one major problem I had when I first read it was, especially in the later cases, the manga had a lot of specials and asides/extras right in the middle of the ongoing plot, and that really broke the immersion sometimes. It’s quite short as well.
The character interactions and the character plots are also great, though limited to the main character. The side characters get some backstory, and have lots of personality, but they don’t really get any sort of character development. Mai starts off as a normal highschool girl, who begins developing psychic powers after her continued exposure to the supernatural. She finds herself unnaturally drawn to the working at SPR, and that gets her more and more involved with the supernatural world. It also pays well, which is helpful to her personal situation, though that’s not really a big motivator for her. She began working for SPR in the aforementioned ‘first case’ where the SPR crew comes to her school and she manages to break an expensive camera, and also almost manages to get into an accident involving a book shelf, from which she is saved by Kazuya’s assistant, Lin, who gets injured instead. To pay off her debt, she temporarily becomes Kazuya’s assistant.
Mai has a tendency to get into accidents and bad situations, which is later revealed to be because of her latent psychic powers, which involve clairvoyance and informative dreams. In her dreams, she is often guided by Kazuya, but (SPOILERS) It’s actually Kazuya’s dead twin brother(SPOILERS END).
Ghost Hunt also has an anime which is a really good anime and a good adaptation, and for those who are less reading-inclined, I would highly recommend the anime (which is not something I say about most light novel adaptations). It tells the story in a more modern art style, and it captures the essence of what Ghost Hunt is, not to mention, it has a banger opening. Surprisingly, it was done by JC Staff, who don’t really do horror much. Their most well known series are fucking Magical Index, Food Wars, Sakurasou no Pet no Kanojo, and of course, the second season of One Punch Man(though I don’t think it’s well known for a good reason).
I would recommend even those who don’t like horror to read Ghost Hunt. It’s a really good horror series, but it’s also so much more than horror. It has that quality which automatically isolates your mind when reading it, completely immersing you into the world of the novel/manga. The only complaint I have about this series is the length. The series itself is only eight volumes, and since the nature of each case is quite isolated and there’s not much character development, it does seem to end very fast. Otherwise everything else is great.
Ghost Hunt does have a pretty short sequel called White Heart, or Akumu no sumu ie Ghost Hunt, and does somewhat address the ending of Ghost Hunt, which many, including me, consider to be bittersweet. Forget crying, I fucking scoured the internet for answers back when I finished Ghost Hunt, but didn’t get any, because guess what? White Heart hadn’t been translated then. Not the light novel, not even the manga! It took FUCKING YEARS TO GET TRANSLATED AND I HAD TO SUFFER FOR YEARS, but the good news is that you don’t have to, my dear readers. Not to mention the fact that the light novel had a pretty broken translation back then, often missing entire volumes. It was only in 2017 when most of the manga was assembled at Baka-Tsuki, still missing chapters from vol 5 and vol 3. Even today, the last chapter and epilogue of volume 3 are missing, and the fifth chapter of volume 3 is only partially translated. Thankfully, the case by case nature of the series means that your reading experience doesn’t suffer that much because of it.
Farewell for now my dear readers, we shall meet again soon enough.