Gakkou no KaidanRyusei NakaoSlit Mouthed WomanTakehiro Murozono
Ghost Stories (2000 anime series)
Also known as: Gakkou no Kaidan (2000 anime series)
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2000
Director: Noriyuki Abe
Writer: Hiroshi Hashimoto
Actor: Kotono Mitsuishi, Kumi Sakuma, Kurumi Mamiya, Makoto Tsumura, Ryusei Nakao, Takako Honda, Takehiro Murozono, Tomoko Kawakami
Keywords: Gakkou no Kaidan, anime, ghost, horror, Slit Mouthed Woman
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 20 episodes
Website category: Anime early 00s
Review date: 10 June 2024
Gakkou no Kaidan 2000 anime
This one's notorious because of its English dub. This was a gag dub, except released officially by ADV Films. It's famous. People watched the show just to laugh at it. It turns the cast into caricatures, so Momoko is a homophobic, racist religious fundamentalist, Keiichirou is retarded, etc. It's certainly a (lowbrow) achievement and there's nothing else like it in the world of official licensed dubs, but unfortunately the ADR director, Steven Foster, went around saying the original series had flopped in Japan and he'd been told he could do anything to rescue this dead-end property. To quote his website: "I'm probably best known for the cult hit 'Ghost Stories,' a once ho-hum kids' show I transformed into 'the South Park of anime' and 'a comedy for the ages' and, according to 4,343,783 people on YouTube, 'the best dub ever produced'."
In fact, the original was a top ten show in Japan, sometimes getting better ratings than Pokemon. It was adapted from a bestselling manga that had had a live-action movie adaptation per year for the previous five years. It's been repeated multiple times, both on Japanese TV and abroad, with foreign-language dubs that include a second, more faithful English-language one.
I've watched a YouTube compilation of some of its most notorious lines, but otherwise I avoided the Fosterized version. (Yes, that's become a word. Urban Dictionary defines it as "the act of breaking, butchering, or fucking something up that was perfectly fine for no reason other than personal satisfaction".) The original's fine. Nothing you'd recommend to adults, but I didn't have a problem with it. Just don't expect to be terrified. It's a children's horror series with ten-year-old heroes. It's never gory. It's good-natured... but it's also a reasonably exploration of Japanese horror archetypes (even including a somewhat Ringu-like episode). Also, it's based on influential books that originated some of the ideas that have since become so familiar that today they look like cliches.
Our heroes won't die, obviously. It's safe and unthreatening... but "horror" is still its mission statement.
It's episodic, but it's not without deeper elements. Satsuki and Keiichirou recently lost their mother, Kayako, so there are two genuinely emotional episodes. Also, Momoko was a long-term inmate in Kayako's hospital and met her before she died. The last two members of the gang are two boys, Hajime (heroic when it matters, but annoying when he's talking about Satsuki's knickers) and Leo (nerdy supernatural expert). It's like an anime version of Enid Blyton's Famous Five! They even similarly have a pet who accompanies them, although this one's a cat (Kaya) who gets possessed by a ghost (Amanojaku) who loves announcing that he hates humans, couldn't care less about the children and would happily kill them himself. (He thaws over time, but he's reluctant to admit it.)
In ep.2, a hand will emerge from the toilet and grab your face. Yes, sometimes just after you've used it. Mmmmmmm. We also meet the famous Hanako of the toilet, in case you were wondering. Some of the show's ghosts mean well, which I liked, but others you definitely shouldn't cross. A taxi driver learns that lesson the hard way. (Not only does the girl he'd killed get her revenge on him, but she even takes the taxi he's inside at the time.) Schoolgirls egg each other on to do "good luck charm" rituals I wouldn't join with a gun to my head. There's some alarming imagery, e.g. a skeleton who paints schoolgirls standing on chairs with nooses around their necks. Guess how well that ends for the models.
Five years later, there was a Gakkou no Kaidan short OVA series. (Ten ten-minute episodes.) Unfortunately, that's so bad and uninteresting that it doesn't even deserve its own review. The episodes are further divided into sub-stories, which are too short and throwaway to let us connect with the characters or engage with the horror. It's like a textbook on how not to tell ghost stories. It doesn't even have a recurring cast, bar the show's jolly hosts who say hello at the start of every episode and introduce the stories. (Those hosts are famous-in-Japan figures like Hanako, Ninomiya Kinjiro and Kuchisake-onna.)
This 2000 series is far better than that... but, if you're an adult, it's still not that memorable. Your attention will drift occasionally and, to be honest, I see where Steven Foster was coming from given the demographic of Western anime fans at the time. (Even the inaccurate English-language title fits that.) It's sort of okay. (Also, annoyingly, it gives a rabbit carnivore teeth in ep.9.) I approve of making children's shows like this, though, and it has some striking episodes. The Kayako episodes (12-13) are emotionally strong, while the finale gives us the improbable and unexpectedly affecting heroism of Amanojaku. I wouldn't recommend this series to adults, but in its "Enid Blyton Does J-Horror" way I'm quite fond of it.