#1 The dub
Let’s not dance around the bush here: the main reason this show has a cult following and people continue to seek it out is because of the dub. After the show failed to impress in Japan, the English localization team was given free reign to rework the show in order to make it more appealing. Rather than tweaking the story to be more engaging, the staff opted to go the parody route and turned the entire anime into a dark comedy.
And this isn’t just the original show with some more jokes added in, they really went all out and rewrote everything except for the overall plot of each given episode. So while the adventure Satsuki and her friends embark on remains the same, dialogue has been altered to be more obscene, with many of its conversations and scenes pushing the boundaries of good taste. Even among the main cast alone one character is turned Jewish, another is rewritten to be a “cured” homosexual turned radical Christian, and another is mentally impaired. The jokes are risque and often prone to offending people, which makes it remarkable that this was released as a professional product.
While stuffing the entire show full of jokes does mean that some are less funny than others, overall watching Ghost Stories was hilarious to me. I was regularly cracking up and forced to pause the video, so that’s always a good sign. Still, your mileage may vary.
#2 The original version isn’t half-bad
You may wonder what kind of abysmal anime performed so poorly that the Japanese creators allowed some mad Americans to have their way with it. Surely it must be a show so poorly made the entire staff should be forced into seppuku! The reality is quite different.
I wouldn’t exactly call Ghost Stories stellar, but I certainly found things to enjoy in the original version. It’s a fun, episodic story about some kids solving paranormal mysteries in their town and around school. The cast is enjoyable and the animation is all-around nice, heck, I find the character designs for the main cast really well done and creative. It’s simplistic and a bit cheap on the fan-service, but a solid 6/10 in my book. Heck, even if you do watch the dubbed version you can still appreciate some of the original intent of the creators that shines through, even if the dub may sabotage some of the sadder scenes.
#3 Rude kitty
The first episode introduces us to the main cast of characters, with our protagonist being Satsuki Miyanoshita. She has just moved back into the town where her deceased mother once lived and started attending her old school alongside her little brother Keiichiro. The episode sees them meeting the remaining members of the cast and attempting to banish the great spirit Amonojaku who runs amok in the old school building. All goes well until they accidentally seal him away in the body of their pet cat Kaya.
For the rest of the show Kaya is the vessel for this spirit and that ends up being a source for much hilarity. Amonojaku as played by Rob Mungle is just an absolute ass that threatens the kids as they battle with his ghostly pals and provides ominous hints from time to time. He is by far the most entertaining character in both versions and also enjoys the most development, even though his character arc is pretty standard fair. Even so I like the idea of these kids having a pet that is very special to them become possessed by a rude and vulgar spirit. It’s a fun setup, especially when other spirits mock Amonojaku for his predicament.
#4 The ghastly folklore
Each episode sees the group of kids attempting to banish another ghost and as far as I can tell all of them are based on popular Japanese stories. One episode involves a hand emerging from a toilet to drag people away with it, another has headless motorcyclist rampage around town, all of which are interesting stories that involve Japanese culture while not being too difficult for Westerners to follow. While it may be more predictable if you hail from Japan or are very familiar with the subject matter, I found myself constantly looking forward to what the villain of each given episode may turn out to be.
It’s especially fun if you have seen characters that match these ghost stories in other media, such as the aforementioned hand that also made an appearance in Majora’s Mask. This is the kind of show that gets you Googling for more information, at least it was for me. When I first watched the show I was definitely interested in what the heck an Amonojaku was and I ended up keeping Wikipedia open during each episode to read up on all the ghosts.