Welp, can’t get a more straightforward title than this (the Jap one, Gakkou no Kaidan, sounds much cooler though). I came into this anime with barely any expectation, got to know it randomly from a magazine that I was reading but seriously I wasn’t even taking the whole topic seriously lmao, just saw a small shot from this anime and then my mind just went “why not?”.
Definitely not because I was looking to learn more about Japanese ghost stories or anything like that.
First thing first, let’s have a quick check-up at the anime’s peripherals. Packed with an episodic format and a relatively obvious formula, at the first glance the anime sure appears to be bland, and while it does have a major drawback with a really slow build-up in almost every episode, the climax always managed to leave something behind to mull over, sometimes a good one even. The OP is pretty chilling but, not gonna lie, it feels a bit out of place. If anything, I really like is how the details are meticulously handled in this anime. However, oft-time there were some pretty out-of-place moments, and they kind of spoiled the mood, but not that much of a big deal when viewed as a whole picture so meh.
Plot-wise, there’s nothing special about it, to be honest, pretty much can be summed up in a single phrase: “group of friends solving supernatural incidents after school”. In fact, if I were to go on full nitpicking mode the anime has a lot of problems scattered in many segments, mainly plot holes and some really dumb moments that either made no sense or just annoyed me greatly. Fortunately, I was in a rather good mood while watching this and frankly, those things didn’t amount up to the whole scale of the anime so they could be somewhat overlooked.
Despite the flaws, the major highlight of this anime lies in the good uses of sound effects and directing to bolster the turning point and invoke some major positive feelings toward the story. Really, they sure know how to nail the atmosphere of the climax, especially the BGM which is pretty fire. Pretty sure Ghost Stories is not the first of its kind but it’s always a sight to behold to see how the major elements are blended so well together in an anime (very typical of the 2000s I’d say, and Ghost Stories does give off a “Cardcaptor Sakura” vibe to me).
The “scary” parts are no doubt hit or miss, just like every single “horror” story, but I prefer to let that one a bit on the loose side because I personally think it’s not the main focus of the anime, but more about adventure and stuff. If anything though, it’s the random fanservice that kinda got in the way and thus renders me unable to take the show seriously sometimes.
The cast is probably what gives me the most mixed feelings. On one hand, I do enjoy the slice of life elements that came from them and the banter sometimes works, but when the plot actually kicked in, I lost count of the number of times that I got really irritated for their inability to “develop” through the course of almost 20 episodes. Not to mention they can be annoying at times (can’t be helped because it’s a really fitting nature of elementary schoolers).
Honestly, I expected a lot more than that, I get it that it’s in episodic format and the characters are all very young, but cmon, they have been through all that for dozens of times and still got the usual reaction to how things went through in the mid to late game, which is pretty stupid no matter how I look at it. One can argue it’s just “plot” to create suspense but even so, it’s really badly handled. The only good thing I can say about this is how based af Momoko is, and it goes double when Satsuki’s mom is involved.
What really got me on the salt train is the fact that there were so many wasted potentials in terms of the development of plot and characters. They really nailed the introductory chapters with lore and some mysteries, but then they just all got tossed away or simply neglected, downgraded to being mere plot devices which is really lame. Not until the very very concluding moments that those elements came into play, which was kinda late from how I see it as it just felt forced and thus failed to deliver a wholesome experience.
With all that being said, I did have a lot of enjoyment. There were some really well-done dramatic scenes that almost took my breath away. Like the anime’s main theme is about ghost stories or urban legends but they didn’t forget to mix some extra drama in to spice it up, which is commendable. Simply put, I had some laugh, I had some chills, and I had some awe, so well, not bad of a ride I guess.