(Recommended, once again, by this cheeky bastard.)
The story is infamous, but I’ll go over it for anyone unaware. In 2005, ADV Films acquired the rights to make an English dub of Ghost Stories, a harmless, episodic anime involving kids encountering ghosts in their daily lives. Instead of taking what was already there and translating it, ADV decided to write a completely different script, only retaining basic storylines and the characters’ names. The end result became something of a tall tale, as nothing has ever been done like it since, despite positive impressions from “fans.” In the end, the Ghost Stories English dub became known for its abrupt vulgarity, offensiveness, and constant references to pop culture. Allow me to share some lines one can expect when diving in:
“Imagine a black guy chasing you!”
“[Talking to a young boy] You shouldn’t be worried about drag queens. Watch out for priests.”
“When a girl bunny and a boy bunny love each other, the boy bunny sticks his penis into the girl bunny’s vagina. Then the girl bunny acts like she owns the penis.”
Admittedly, Ghost Stories has made me laugh more and harder than any anime I have ever seen. It is precisely because the humor is by no means “anime” that it has managed to do so. That’s actually pretty sad. At the same time, it becomes difficult to really rate this when the original form has been changed so drastically, but still has some semblance of his former self sticking through. On one hand, I could rate this as a comedy, but then what about the anime’s serious attempts at family bonding and the threat of each episode’s ghost(s)? I can’t take that seriously. I could rate it as an episodic series, but the comedy ends up taking out all the context and one can only use established clichés to fill in the void. With my hands tied, I can only go with what I feel is stronger of the two, which is obviously the comedy, while still stringing along what it shows outside of it.
As stated above, this is the funniest anime I’ve ever seen. My preference for humor is a controlled chaos/dark hybrid that’s really hard to find, but Ghost Stories does it fairly well. Never was there a dull moment (outside of the serious moments) when each character were allowed lines to vocalize. They also did a phenomenal job of making clever inputs about what was originally shown and how they had to sacrifice the translation for the sake of making sense. Almost as though the English translation really were the true form, but in an amateur-ish style that’s campy fun. Though, when the anime turns to its darker scenes, the comedy runs dry and the audience has no reason to care anymore. Some episodes have less of these scenes than others, with the humor feeling a little repetitive in bits, bringing various episodes down to forgettable parody.
Another great is vocal performance. Indeed, one of the few anime I can praise the voice acting is when the voices are English. Irony is funny. Each of the main characters, and even one-off characters, have a great control of their vocal roles and what they wish to convey within the context of their character’s stereotype. A whiny, high-pitched Jewish stereotype, a calm, soft-spoken Christian stereotype, the rowdy, aloof playboy, and the ordinary tomboy. Oh, and of course, the shrieking terror of the five-year-old crybaby. These voices will forever be embedded into my soul, and not just for what they say, but how they say it.
Everything else is forgettable. And that’s the major issue with the work. The comedy is typically good, if not great, and the vocal performances are just as well. Everything else, however, is mediocre, or not even taken into consideration. Characters are whatever, art is whatever, plot is whatever—lots of whatever. The only thing that sticks is the presentation of comedy. And if one can adore this series simply from that, so be it. For me, I need something a little more, something that’ll tie it all together, so that by the end, I feel as though I worked off some calories rather than held my breath for three hours. A worthwhile experience one, maybe two times around, but nothing more.
Personal Score: B-
Critical Score: C-
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.