Most of us can agree that when it comes to anime, Japanese subtitles are so much better than their English dubbed counterparts. Subtitles allow for a more authentic experience for the viewer. Nothing can be lost in translation (literally) in a subbed version. What can dubs offer that the original script can’t? Ghost Stories was a pedestrian series about a group of elementary school kids and their dealings with a haunted school house- until ADV Films bought the series and released the English dub.
Ghost Stories, (Gakkō no Kaidan) was released in 2000 by animation studio Pierrot and Aniplex for Fuji Television. The series follows main character Satsuki Miyanoshita who moves with her family to the neighbourhood her deceased mother grew up in. On the first day of starting at their new school, Satsuki and her little brother Keiichirou along with their neighbour Hajime Ayoma; Momoko Koigakubo, an older classmate; Leo Kakinoki a classmate and friend of Hamime’s with a penchant for the paranormal, visit the abandoned school building next to their elementary school.
It is revealed Satsuki’s dead mother was once the principal and was responsible for sealing several ghosts in both the school and the surrounding neighbourhood but due to urbanisation these ghosts are now being released. The first demon faced is a foe named Amanojaku, who is accidentally sealed within Satsuki’s pet cat. With the help of Satsuki’s mother’s guidebook, the rag-tag team of friends and an at-first apathetic Amanjojaku exorcise the demons inside the haunted schoolhouse.
The original Japanese version of Ghost Stories is as pedestrian as it comes. Despite the popular light-novels the series was based on, this children’s anime falls short of the mark. The original script is bland, the characters mere cardboard cut-outs compared to the more spunky series aired in the early 2000’s. Ghost Stories was a complete flop.
Five years later the animation company sold the rights to ADV films, blessing us with the English dub we all deserve. ADV were told they could do whatever they wanted to do, as long as they bought the license. The dubbed version retains only the basic plot and story line, screenwriter Steven Foster reworked the show into what could only be described as a Gag Dub, almost everything was improvised to fit the “flip-flaps” of the characters mouths and the result is a riot! The dub is basically 22 minutes of vulgar jokes, pop-culture references and ‘take-thats’, as well as regularly breaking the fourth-wall, with the voice actors pointing out shoddy animation quality and so-on. Although sometimes it can be argued there are too many disposable dirty jokes and cheap shots, the majority of the of series hits it out of the park.
It must be noted that ADV’s dub is not a child-friendly series like the original Japanese version, this is definitely an adult comedy despite the child characters, which makes it all the more funny. Think South Park meets Pokemon.
Despite the original Ghost Stories being a commercial failure, at the time ADV’s English dub was met with criticism from the anime community. Voice actors Monica Rial and Greg Ayres were met with booing at an anime convention in 2005 where the series was first premiered. However within recent years the dub has been met with welcoming arms, a majority of fans consider the dub to be a huge improvement on the original, lack-luster Japanese version. If you are an anime fan who also enjoys modern westernised comedy then I strongly recommend you watch Ghost Stories, so that the next time you see an elitist anime fan arguing online that Japanese subtitles are better than dubs, you can ask whether or not they have seen the Ghost Stories dub.
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