Author: Fuyumi Ono
Manga-ka: Shiho Inada
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: August 2009
Synopsis: “Naru is the brilliant, eccentric and deeply mysterious leader of Shibuya Psychic Researchers – a band of intrepid Ghost Hunters. But none of his colleagues know anything about his past. Now the brave paranormal investigators venture to a haunted school – and deep into their leader’s secret history!”
While I’ve always liked the balance between supernatural education, character exploration and dangerous ghoulish encounters, here I found myself impatient to get past the slow parts and into the literal nitty-gritty of the book’s events. Thankfully readers and I are well rewarded with a dark twist that could, despite what’s happened before, be the most dangerous case the group finds themselves literally trapped within.
Initial portions of the book read a little on the slow side, text heavy and lacking in that kind of suspense that I’m sure most readers enjoy the series for. Characters take time to reflect on some truths regarding each other’s abilities, some more ‘authentic’ than others such as John’s abilities as an exorcist and the monk’s current struggles with seeing spirits. Mai’s abilities don’t come up, which disappointed me only because I’d love to know more about the hows and whys behind her evolving abilities. Along with the short character-centric moments, there was also an interesting, albeit long-winded, look into the cultural differences between the East and West’s outlook and interpretations regarding ghosts and curses. Admittedly I didn’t find the distinction they made as clear as they did but it still proved a neat conversation.
To those who’ve watched the anime adaptation of this series, you’ll be pleased to know that this book takes place after the anime ended, meaning you’re reading entirely new content to your eyes, and long awaited content on top of that. For the first time since the series began, Naru makes a sudden decision that’s directly connected to his past, and without explanation to his co-workers as well. Suddenly the group finds themselves staying in a small town as Naru organizes a corpse search in the area’s dam and they find their expertise requested in a local school haunting that’s anything but open on the details.
All main characters are present for what they fear may be the last case they ever try to solve together, though it doesn’t take long into the investigation for the reason behind their fears to change drastically. It feels notably nostalgic in setting, a connection to early volumes that isn’t lost on the characters themselves either.
Less nostalgic from the early books however was the artwork, which has a distinctly different look style-wise. Unlike most series, where the art tends to evolve for the better, in Ghost Hunt I sadly found it much the opposite. In fact I found this volume to be the most visually unappealing book in the series to date due to inconsistencies of the characters, drawn recognizably in one panel and then oddly disproportionate the next. The art as a whole still works for the story, don’t get me wrong, and I love the way it’s laid out to tell the plot as it always have, but, it’s when comparing it in hand to older volumes where I can’t help but note the sharp drop in quality. It’s a shame and I wish it wasn’t such a glaring issue in a series I love anticipating each new volume of.
Thankfully the series still excels where it always has best: pumping up the suspense and keeping readers glued to the page when things get going for the worst. By the end of the book tension is running high, and the dangers even higher, leaving me more than distressed to turn to that dreaded final page. Worse than this however, came much to my dismay at the end of it all: news that the next volume of Ghost Hunt won’t see store shelves until August 2010 (with the series so close to the original run in Japan). With fans already left waiting so long for this book, it’s a shame we’re left waiting just as long for the next, especially when it holds our interest with such cliffhanger endings.
Though weak on the art side, but leaving no disappointment on the drama scale when it kicked in, Ghost Hunt volume ten was well worth the wait for its fans and leaves lots of questions eager to be answered. What is the truth behind the corpse Naru is searching for? What can be done about the haunted schoolhouse? And will the cast survive it…? This and more awaits us in volume eleven but too bad that really won’t make the next long gap between volumes any easier to take.