A Definitive Guide to Ghost Hunt

When Mai Takiyama breaks an expensive camera belonging to ghost hunter Kazuya Shibuya, he tells her she can work off the debt by acting as his assistant. Thus, Mai is introduced to a world of spirits, curses, and exorcisms as well as Kazuya’s arsenal of gadgetry used to scientifically measure paranormal activity.

To start with, most of the spirit activity the Shibuya Psychic Research team investigates takes place on high school campuses, but the series eventually does branch out into things like mansions, churches, and secluded restaurants. In addition to Mai and Kazuya (dubbed Naru for his narcissistic tendencies), SPR employs Lin-san, Naru’s quiet yet capable assistant, and a variety of mediums and exorcists. Together, they fight crime spirits.

As the series continues, the cases gradually become gorier, though this does not necessarily result in heightened creepiness. The first volume is actually probably the best for maintaining spooky tension throughout; there’s just something about watching spectral phenomena on a video monitor that adds to the atmosphere. My favorite case is actually not gory at all, nor is it one of the longer ones. Instead, it’s the side story “Silent Christmas” (included in volume four), about the spirit of a boy who used to be an expert at hide-and-seek.

The characters are kind of a mixed bag. I like Mai, who is spunky and generally level-headed. It’s especially noteworthy that, although she has feelings for Naru, she never lets them get in the way of her work and whole volumes will pass without her dwelling on him at all. Naru’s also pretty interesting, even though he does have the unfortunate habit of being rude and insulting on occasion. Alas, few of the supporting characters are developed in any meaningful way and one is often left to ponder what purpose they serve. The sum total of information on one particular character is that he’s a young-looking priest from Australia. This guy has appeared in nine volumes so far!

The series’ two long-running story arcs focus individually on Naru and Mai, with varying degrees of success. The gradual development of Mai’s intuitive ability is well-integrated into early volumes, and even after her powers are confirmed several volumes later, they continue to develop. By contrast, tiny nuggets of information on Naru’s mysterious origins and possible powers are doled out sparingly and left to hang without resolution. It’s only in volume nine that we actually get some concrete evidence of his own psychic abilities.

After volume five, there’s a noticeable slide in quality. I attribute this to the end of Ghost Hunt’s serialization in Nakayoshi and the beginning of direct-to-tankouban releases. The art becomes inconsistent after this point, reminding me of American comics with the way certain characters’ facial proportions change in every panel in which they appear. The characterization also suffers and many cases have moments where explanations don’t make much sense.

The ninth volume is an improvement over the few preceding it, and reveals some answers about Naru’s mysterious “capabilities.” At the very least, it gives me hope that the series might once again produce something really good. For now, I can really only recommend the first five volumes.



Summary: After accidentally breaking an expensive camera, Mai is drafted to help with the investigation into alleged spirit activity in an old building on her high school campus. Despite her expectations, she enjoys the experience and, at the end of the volume, accepts a job working in Naru’s office.

Creepiness Factor: Low. There are plenty of mysterious sounds and accidents in the old building, but the only truly creepy thing is a chair that appears to move on its own.



Summary: The Shibuya Psyshic Research team investigates a residence with a deadly history: every pre-teen child who has ever lived there has died. The case hinges on a creepy doll owned by the 8-year-old girl currently residing there.

Creepiness Factor: Low. And this is coming from someone with childhood trauma concerning a creepy doll.



Summary: Many strange incidents and ghost sightings have been reported at a high school that has recently been abuzz with the discovery that one of the students has psychokinetic abilities. Mai’s powers of intuition lead Naru to test her for psychic ability.

Creepiness Factor: Zero. A very cute scene between Naru and Mai makes up for that, though.



Summary: Yet more strange incidents at a high school, making three such cases in four volumes. This time, events seem to focus on the spirit of a student who had a grudge against the school. This volume also features a great side story about the spirit of a boy, expert at hide-and-seek, who wants to be found.

Creepiness Factor: Low. There isn’t much in the main story itself, but the resolution of the side story is pretty creepy.



Summary: The case that began in the fourth volume is concluded here. Although the story isn’t anything particularly special, the solution is more of a group effort than previously, and there are some great scenes of conflict between the two leads.

Creepiness Factor: Low. There’s one spooky scene in a nurse’s office, especially after the spirit menacing Mai suddenly disappears. Somehow, that’s always worse than a sudden appearance.



Summary: Plot trumps characterization in this installment, when the SPR is hired by the Prime Minister to research a series of unexplained disappearances at a mansion.

Creepiness Factor: Medium. Prior volumes haven’t featured much blood, but this time Mai’s precognitive dreams include plenty of it.



Summary: The Case of the Creepy Mansion (not actual title) concludes. Art and characterization continue to be not as good as in the first five volumes of the series.

Creepiness Factor: Medium. The best part was when messages from murdered spirits appeared all over the walls.



Summary: A secluded restaurant is cursed—whenever ownership changes hands, the transfer is accompanied by many deaths. In the course of the investigation, Naru is possessed by one of the spirits.

Creepiness Factor: Low. There are a couple of panels of a possessed child grinning eerily. That’s about it.



Summary: The team works together to determine the cause of the curse, freeing Naru in the process. When he awakes, he finally reveals his powers and confronts a wrathful chunk of driftwood. I snark, but it’s actually fairly cool, and meaningful progress on the “Mystery of Naru” plot line is always welcome.

Creepiness Factor: Low. A bunch of frog-like spirits crawling on windows and one possessed middle-aged guy lurking menacingly amongst some shrubbery.

Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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