(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Series: Ghost Stories (clips)
Where You Can Stream It: YouTube
The Pitch: In 2000, the children’s horror anime series Ghost Stories flopped in Japan. It was a series meant to capitalize on the growing J-horror phenomenon at the time, with films like Ringu and Ju-On, by introducing younger audiences to Japanese ghostly folklore through a kiddish anime show. So when it failed, its studio Animax shipped it over to American dub studio ADV Films, the studio behind classic dubs like Neon Genesis Evangelion, with only three conditions: don’t change the character names, don’t change the way the ghosts are killed, and don’t change the core meaning of each episode. Otherwise, ADV was given free rein. And boy, did they take it.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: I think I need to preface this by saying I didn’t seek out these clips of the Ghost Stories dub. I stumbled on them, as we’re probably all meant to do, during a feverish trip down crackhead anime YouTube, the algorithm rabbit hole that sends you to the weird part of the website after you click on a few too many “I took an arrow to the knee” meme videos (I have also never played Skyrim). But after I lazily watched one Ghost Stories clip, thinking it was just some old rip of an “Abridged” anime series (fan-created parodies of popular shows like Dragon Ball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh! that took off in the early 2000s), I was baffled to discover that this was, in fact, the officially licensed dub. And down the rabbit hole I went.
It all started with this (absurdly offensive) clip.
Yeah, I laughed. I was sleep deprived and thought I was half-dreaming the ridiculous dialogue, delivered with weirdly passionate conviction by the dub actors. But then I went back to the clip again, and laughed for a full minute. To this day, I think this is one of the funniest YouTube clips I’ve seen (which might get my feminist card automatically revoked). But I was scrolling the comments, as you do when you’re half-watching a crack-anime video, and was surprised to discover that this clip came from the official dub for an anime called Ghost Stories, a series I had never heard of before. My curiosity piqued, I dug deeper. And no, the irony is not lost on me that the clip that sent me down the virtual rabbit hole featured a demonic rabbit lusting after its racist master.
I watched several more clips and found the Ghost Stories dub to be consistently offensive and outrageous. There’s the angry, swearing teenage girl with a younger brother whose severe learning disability causes him to speak complete gibberish; there’s a Jesus-obsessed evangelist who constantly slut shames everyone else; and there’s a talking cat whose favorite word seems to be “bitch.” Throughout the series — which again, I’ve only watched in clips on YouTube — the characters poke fun at anime tropes, at the poor animation quality, and oddly, at Christian Slater.
The script (yes, this thing has a script) was written by ADR Director Steven Foster, its translator, Lucan Duran, as well as all of the actors for the dub including Greg Ayres, Monica Rial, Chris Patton, who got to improvise several lines and make suggestions to running gags. Per CBR.com, the writing process mostly consisted of whoever showed up at the recording studio first making stuff up, and everyone who came later would build on the tone and jokes.
The result is a raunchy, wildly inappropriate, self-aware comedy that I have to imagine is better than the original version. After all, the original studio Animax apparently signed off on all these changes. Either they liked the changes, or they just didn’t care, but either way, it lends to Ghost Stories‘ weird legacy as the most best and worst anime dub.
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