GHOST STORIES – SEMESTER 1: FRESHMAN FRIGHTS (DVD) Image

A minor controversy ignited when ”Ghost stories” had its premier at Otakon, the annual anime convention in Baltimore. Die-hard fans of the original Japanese version derided ADV for their freewheeling adaptation.

When it came time to adapt “Gakkou no Kaidan,” an anime about ghost hunting kids, into the English language, ADV and English language director Stephen Foster, decided to do something a little differently. In lieu of creating a literal translation, Foster and his crew of talented voice-over actors instead used the script as a guideline, improvising dialogue and toying with how the overall storylines play out. While the episodes do follow the original Japanese episodes, the improvisations tweak it and add a spontaneity and genuine comedy to an otherwise bland anime.

Fitting somewhere between “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “What’s up, Tiger Lily?,” “Ghost Stories” is a show not afraid of taking chances. Crude and risqué humor permeates the show, turning it from a kid friendly novelty to a comedy overflowing with absurd jokes, hilarious zingers, and plenty of sexual innuendo.

Once a spiritual resting place, the grounds around an old school have been disturbed by nearby construction, and ghosts, demons, and monsters have awoken, intent on doing what they do best: scaring people.

When Satsuki and her younger brother Keichiro are moved to a new school, they quickly discover that the old school, situated adjacent to their newer digs, is haunted by ghosts and demons. Having befriended, or at least made allies with, a couple of kids bent on playing ghostbusters, they venture into the old school to rescue Keichiro’s cat, and the feces is thrown in the air-conditioner.

Simple, right? And had ADV stuck with a more literal translation we probably would have seen another uninspired anime imported into a market overflowing with bland and tired shows. But their willingness to the try something new, to take a show that, by all accounts isn’t very good, and put a unique post-modern spin on it not only gives it a facelift, but makes “Ghost Stories” one of the funniest, most inspired anime to reach American shores.

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