Haunted Junction

HauntedJunctioncoverGood God, this American thinks, the Japanese are different. Not L.A. and the Valley different, not East Texas and Texas different. More of an earth and Omicron Persei Seven different. You just could not DO some of the things in an American cartoon that you have in Haunted Junction, a double-DVD release from Bandai.

The story is Sweet Valley High meets Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Saito High is a pleasant, everyday high school, except it’s crawling with spirits. Friendly spirits, ugly spirits, really damned bizarre spirits, all sorts of spirits. The show’s story, such as it is, follows the Saito High Student Council as they deal with these various apparitions. The series focuses on the reluctant council president Haruto Hokujo (Katsuaki Arima), son of a minister, as he tries unsuccessfully to lead some semblance of a normal life. He is joined by the perpetually possessed son of a Buddhist monk Kazumi Ryudoh and the lovely little Mutsuki Asahina, a Shinto priest’s daughter.

Already we can see the problems this show would have had in America. Ministers? Buddhist

Monks? Shintoism? Religion in a supernatural comedy? Standards & Practices would have a fit, but that’s just the beginning. Mutsuki happens to have a wee bit of a little-boy fetish, while Kazumi is obsessed with the voluptuous spirit of the toilets (yep), Hanako-San. This is not a cavalcade of emotional torture and long dark nights of the soul.

Put simply, Haunted Junction is stupid fun. It takes nearly nothing seriously, and it even cheerfully derails the semi-seriousness of the final episodes with utter nonsense. Of course, the sources of all of this levity are the spirits that roam the school, some of whom are just frickin’ bizarre, but they all have enough character and (erm…) spirit to carry on the show without bogging it.

That’s probably what’s most attractive about the whole of Haunted Junction: a whimsical spirit. It’s very much like a sitcom, but it’s smarter and sweeter then most of its American equivalents. The character designs by Atsuko Nakajima are cute without being cloying, and help give the show its airiness. It may be adept at offending the easily offended, but that’s offset by the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. The discs are available as a single, cheap purchase containing all twelve episodes. The transfer is clean, though the show’s colors are muted, so it isn’t exactly going to leap out at you as pastoral beauty. Still, it’s a Bandai release, which tends to mean quality on DVD.

Haunted Junction is a solid B show. It’s not the sort of thing that makes you stand on your head fingering pale blue Japanese guitars due to narrative excellence or thematic complexity, but neither is it a purchase you’ll regret. There is no dub, which is a shame. This is a comedy, so having to read the jokes rather than concentrating on their delivery lessens the impact a bit, but the Japanese voice actors do a fine job, as far as I can tell. Of course, for all this gaijin knows these could be outcasts from the Keanu Reeves school of dramatic expression. This show is different as hell, bizarre as a monkey’s Shakespearean renderings, and probably worth your time.
Rating: B

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com