Anime: Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories (Gakkou no Kaidan, lit. School Ghost Stories) is an anime series created in 2000 by animation studio Pierrot and Aniplex for Fuji Television, directed by Noriyuki Abe (who would go on to helm Bleach), and loosely based on a book series by Toru Tsunemitsu. It tells the story of Satsuki Miyanoshita, who moves with her family to the hometown of her deceased mother, Kayako. On her first day of school, Satsuki; her brother Keiichirou, a first-grader; their neighbor Hajime Aoyama; Momoko Koigakubo, an older schoolmate; and Leo Kakinoki, a classmate and friend of Hajime's with a penchant for the paranormal visit the Old School Building adjacent to the current school complex and discover that the building is haunted.

Soon it's revealed that Satsuki's mother was responsible for sealing several ghosts who haunted not only the school but also the town, and now they are being released by the urbanization taking place in the surrounding area. Kayako left behind a book detailing how to exorcise the ghosts once and for all. In her first confrontation, Satsuki faces a demon called Amanojaku, but in the process Amanojaku is sealed within Satsuki's pet cat, Kaya. Although Amanojaku does not want to help Satsuki at first, the danger soon threatens to envelop the town and it is left up to Satsuki, her friends and Amanojaku to stop the ghosts.

Despite being based on a popular series of light novels, the anime's bland script and below-average production values caused the show to completely bomb, and it ended after only twenty episodes. Normally, that would be the end of it... but then it was handed off to ADV Films for dubbing in 2005.

Given near-total creative freedom (which is unheard of in anime localization), the company was asked to do whatever it took to make the show sell. As such, director Steven Foster opted to rework the show into a pure Gag Dub, throwing out 90% of the original script and having his actors ad-lib most of the rest. Naturally, this was an extremely polarizing move. To many, the English dub is the most entertaining aspect of this series, but there's no shortage of fans, then or now, who complain about the changes. A dub that stayed truer to the original was later released by Animax.

The show was picked up by Discotek Media for a rerelease in 2014, specifically mentioning that ADV's English dub would be included – though, sadly, their gag subs (which contained additional jokes) were not.

Don't confuse this with a certain Coldplay album or the 1964 horror film.

Ghost Stories contains the following tropes:

  • Absentee Actor: Momoko doesn't appear in episode 15 for any apparent reason (which is especially ironic, since a demonic possession story would have been perfect for Miss Born-Again Betty).
  • Adults Are Useless: No kidding. The only adult characters that ever helped the protagonists were a bumbling teacher in episode 18, and a night watchman in episode 16, who turned to be another ghost.
  • Agent Mulder: Leo.
  • Alien Geometries: The haunted apartment complex of episode 16 could change both its internal and external structure. Taken Up to Eleven when the group thought they were in a residential neighborhood, when they were actually still inside the building.
  • Animation Bump: The show generally has mediocre animation, but it does have its moments.
    Amanojaku: Now that is some really nice animation.
    • In episode 18 whenever Akane flails around. Extra care was taken to make her movements fluid to invoke Uncanny Valley.
  • And I Must Scream: The DaVinci Wannabe ghost who paints women trapping them inside paintings "FOREVER" (neither the woman in the opening, nor any of the other victims are ever freed) though it's never specified if the victims are aware inside the paintings.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Usually whenever Leo shares an Urban Legend that ends up being the Monster of the Week, Satsuki and Hajime handwave them off calling them "fairy tales" despite the stories being little different from the crap they dealt with already.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: From episode 18:
    Momoko: Devil cat, did you give us this musical instrument to help us?
    Amanojaku: No, I just gave it to you because I love the xylophone.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Headless Biker goes in a chaotic rampage during the anniversary of his death, cutting off everything that resembles a head.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Main plot of episode 3. Also explored in episode 15.
  • Beware Of Hitch Hiking Ghosts: Both variations show up in with a ghostly taxi driver in the first instance and a vengeful ghost attacking taxi drivers in the second.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Hispanic nurse in the Gag Dub of episode 12 calls Momoko and Satsuki "cabronas", meaning "bitches".
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Yuki.
  • Body Horror: Shinobu, after she reveals to Satsuki her (more or less) true form.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Gag Dub takes this and blends it together with the Medium Awareness that they're in a 2D animation.
    Leo: I mean, have you heard about the sports festival?
    Hajime: Yes, the sports festival... That's what this whole episode is about.
    Leo: Ok, lets stop breaking the third wall, they're thinking about cancelling the sports festival!
  • Breast Expansion: The Gag Dub subverts this. Satsuki tries to get a wish-granting ghost to give her "huge boobs", but does it wrong so it doesn't happen.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Implied with Leo, given his name and his character design, which is a collage of "Gaijin" stereotypes.
  • Butt Monkey: Leo and Sakata the schoolteacher, in both versions.
  • Came Back Wrong: The whole premise of episode 9. A particular ritual can bring the dead back to life, but they'll come back as berserk monsters... and yet, somebody just HAD to go and try it anyway.
  • The Can Kicked Him: Akagami-Aogami's M.O.
  • Casting Couch: According to Leo in the Gag Dub, this is how Keita beat him out for the lead part in the school play. Which had a male director.
  • Cats Are Mean: Or at least when they are possessed by a cynical demon with a sadistic sense of humor.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Amanojaku is easily the most sarcastic character on the show.
  • Character Derailment: Lampshaded and then Invoked. Amanojaku in the Gag Dub complains that his sudden Heel-Face Turn in the last episode isn't faithful to his character arc, but then goes along with it in the hope of winning a Golden Globe.
  • Cheeky Mouth: Always averted with Amanojaku. At other times, it's either a brief Animation Bump or someone (usually either Hajime or Leo) has an especially exaggerated expression.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Momoko in both versions. Some of the things she says could not have come from a sane person, she sometimes seems too oblivious to realize what is going on and in one episode she states that the sole reason she has a cell phone is she gets lost easily.
    Satsuki: Something about that boy from the other day is bugging me.
    Hajime: You mean he was pale, almost transparent with red eyes?
    Satsuki: *turning to Momoko* What do you think?
    Momoko: What DOES "Bootylicious" mean?note 
  • Cluster F-Bomb: A (sadly) bleeped-out example in Episode 15 during a summoning spell:
    Shinobu: "F[bleep] me, Satan! F[bleep] me, Satan!! F[bleep] ME SATAN!!!"
    • This gets even more annoying when you watch episode 16 on DVD and find that they don't censor the use of "fucking" in that case. F(bleep)ing ass(bleep)s.
  • Conspicuous CG: Largely averted as the CG models use textures that complement the hand-drawn backgrounds but the more elaborate CG affects are still obvious due to the technological limitations that prevailed at the time it was made.
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: Hajime subjects Satsuki to some skirt flipping in the early episodes
  • Creepy Doll: Merry Mary turned to 11.
  • Deal with the Devil: Episode 15 is entirely about this.
  • Dem Bones: The ghost Da Vinci.
  • Dub Name Change: In the Spanish dub:
    • Satsuki becomes Claire
    • Hajime becomes Ned
    • Momoko becomes Nicole
    • Leo becomes Paul
    • Keichirou becomes Ben
    • Kayako becomes Karen
    • Reichirou (Satsuki and Keichirou's father) becomes Richard
  • Eldritch Abomination: Yamime sounds to be one.
  • Emotion Eater: Amanojaku in the first episode. He feeds on the kids' fear to become more powerful so he can attack them.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: In episode nine. The Gag Dub tacks on an Aesop about paying child support on time.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Gakkou no Kaidan translates to "Ghosts in the School". The series is about... a school haunted by ghosts.
    • It's also a collection of traditional Japanese school ghost stories from folklore and Urban Legend. The traditional stories are explained in a Bonus Feature on each DVD (the ADV original at least; the Discotek rerelease lacks this).
  • Expy: The dub essentially turned Amanojaku into one for Salem.
  • Eye Scream: ALMOST happens with Satsuki when Mary and a squad of possessed toys decide to "play" with her.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: This is practically what happened to Shinobu when we learn that she was once a normal girl before she was turned into the avatar of a malevolent trickster deity.
  • Fiery Redhead: Satsuki.
  • Four Is Death: Some of the earlier episodes use this idea on curses. Also was used as a solution to a problem in Episode 18.
    • That episode, however, managed to somehow screw it up in its original language because Satsuki exclusively uses the other word for four ("yon" instead of "shi").
  • The Fundamentalist: Momoko in the English version of the anime... Oh, so much.
    • Though in episode five, even she breaks her God-Is-Good persona for moment, upon noticing how attractive a ghost track runner is.
    Satsuki: Nice ass.
    Momoko: "Do not lust in your heart—" Jesus, you're right.
  • Gag Dub: One of the most famous official ones that isn't an Abridged Series.
    • However, that doesn't stop some people from mistaking the dub for an Abridged Series, especially when encountered out-of-context in Youtube clip compilations.
  • Game Face: Played with some ghosts, particularly Shinobu and the girl who Leo meets in Episode 8.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: Shirotabi
  • Haunted Headquarters
  • Headless Horseman: Episode 19 features a headless biker.
  • Heel Realization: In Episode 5, Dattou stops his evil self from cutting off Keichirou's legs when he realizes how Keichirou reminds him of himself when he was alive.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The watchman from episode 16, who in reality was already dead but his soul was still trapped in the building
    • Also happens with Amanojaku in the last episode. He gets better though.
  • Hong Kong Dub: Inverted. Not accounting for mouth shape, ADV's Gag Dub matches the characters' mouths perfectly. The original Japanese version, on the other hand, often had lips moving long after a character finished speaking.
  • Hypocritical Humour: The Gag Dub has a lot of it, especially in episode 4. Like the overly religious Momoko noting that there are some crazy religious people out there when she's one herself. And Leo hates it when people lie in their online profiles, which he does as well.
    • One example is when Satsuki and Momoko are watching a boy jogging before they discover he's a murderous vengeful ghost.
      Satsuki: Nice ass.
      Momoko: !! Do not lust in your h—Jesus you're right.
  • Ill Girl: Momoko used to be very ill in the past, and in fact she met Kayako right before the latter died because both of them were in the same hospital. Subverted later: she falls extremely sick at some point, but it turns out she was hit with a curse from an angry ghost girl, "courtesy" of Leo. He pretty much has to fall to his knees and beg the ghost for forgiveness to keep her from killing poor Momoko.
  • Implacable Man: Some of the ghosts qualify. Special mention to Babasare and Mary the Doll, who only stopped chasing the protagonists due to sheer luck.
  • Inside Shoes: Unintentionally funny in episode 8: The kids are shown wearing theirs in the final scene in the computer lab, meaning they stopped to change their shoes even in a life-or-death emergency.
  • Intercourse with You: The ending theme.
  • Interspecies Romance: In the Gag Dub, the ghost of a rabbit and one of the students. She breaks up with him not because he's a rabbit, but because he's black.
  • Intentional Engrish for Funny: Mostly in the later episodes of the dub. "NANIIIIII?"
  • Invisible to Adults: Babasare.
  • Killer Rabbit: Shirotabi. Apparently any creature ressurected by that particular ritual comes back as a berserk monster, but this time it just HAD to be a fluffy little rabbit... though keep in mind he gradually turns into likely the most badass looking killer demon rabbit you'd ever see in a cartoon.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded in the Gag Dub when Leo tries to get Hajime to wear a scarf to prevent decapitation. Hajime refuses, pointing out he's comfortably worn the same shirt since the series started.
  • Lip Lock: Deliberately Invoked in Episode 5 of the Gag Dub with this nugget.
    Leo: {running at the camera in a panic} Oh-my-god-oh-my-god-what-the-hell-is-happening-here-these-are-the-fastest-lip-flaps-I've-ever-had-to-sync!!!
  • Lull Destruction: Used frequently in the Gag Dub to turn boring moments into successful humor. A good example is in Episode 15, where Yamime says "Wheeee!" when floating up the stairs, then casually hums a tune while removing the barricade from the bedroom door.
  • Lost in Translation: Both lampshaded and averted in the Gag Dub when it explained the xylophone; its keys play the musical notes often used to end broadcasts in Japan. Not averted with Four is Death.
    Leo: The script so far isn't making sense to anyone working on this show so here's what we got... I think.
  • Mama Bear: Kayako. From beyond the grave.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Shinobu and Yuki.
  • The Millstone: Leo is occasionally the reason why the gang keeps being chased or cursed by the ghosts. A good example happens in episode 14 where he almost makes a vengeful ghost kill Momoko because he thought it would be a fantastic idea to snap photos where said ghost had died.
  • Mind Control: One of Ohma's abilities. He tries to kill Satsuki and Keichirou by making Satsuki's classmates attack them with knives.
  • Mind Screw: The Headless Biker freaks out one of his would-be victims so badly that the poor bastard stabs his own neck so the Headless Biker wouldn't try to cut his head off again.
  • Modesty Shorts: Satsuki wears them one episode after she gets tired of skirt flipping by Hajime.
  • Monster of the Week: Fairly obvious and name-checked verbatim in the Gag Dub.
  • Mood Whiplash: the openings of several episodes cut from a screaming victim to the jaunty opening theme song. It can be quite jarring.
  • Murderous Mannequin: Episode 16 features an army of quite creepy mannequins.
  • My Eyes Are Up Here: Ouma to Satsuki in the Gag Dub.
  • Names to Know in Anime:
  • Noble Demon: Amanojaku acts as a total Jerk Ass in the beginning but he starts helping Satsuki more and more as the series progresses, even though he still acts like he wants to see her in despair. In one episode he states that he dislikes humans, but hates ghosts who harm people on purpose more.
  • Not-So-Innocent Whistle: Inserted in the dub, during Shizuko's flashback to Momoko. The taxi driver does it after hitting her with the cab.
  • Off Model:
    • Done deliberately in episode 7 with the mirror people, to make them look creepier.
    • Poked fun of in the Gag Dub whenever it's done unintentionally
    "And your father thinks it's always cute to cross his eyes in pictures—SEE!? Se-look, he did it there!"
    "Oh, damn anime! Look what's happened to my eyes!"
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Shirotabi's curse kind of resembles a classic werewolf curse: She only turns in her demonic form at night, and the form itself somewhat looks a werewolf.
  • Panty Shot: Multiple ones, played for Comedic Underwear Exposure instead of Fanservice (for the best considering Satsuki is about ten). Becomes a running gag until it gets subverted when Satsuki wears gym shorts in the "Bloody Sports Festival" episode.
    • Momoko gets one in the last episode by inverting Skirts and Ladders, but Hajime and Leo are too embarrassed to bring it to her attention.
    • Satsuki gets a final one at the end of the last episode courtesy of a Dramatic Wind, again played more for embarrassment than fanservice.
  • Parental Incest: The Gag Dub. Time travel.
    Satsuki: "She thought I was attractive. That is so... grossing me out."
  • Potty Emergency: The whole school goes through it on episode 2, partly due to the sewage system breaking down, partly due to being afraid of Hanako-san in the Toilet. Sakata, though, just casually strolls out of the class and walks to the old school's toilets. He still doesn't get his dump. He gets forced into the toilet by the episode's ghost.
  • Potty Failure: Keiichirou on episode 2, due to being afraid of going to the old school to pee.
  • Precision F-Strike: Starting in episode 16 in the Gag Dub. There were plenty of F-bombs before this, but they were bleeped out, including a Cluster F-Bomb by the monster of the week just a couple of episodes earlier. Strangely, an utterance of "shit" was bleeped out earlier that same episode.
  • Product Placement: For the Sony Playstation in episode 7. A close-up of an analogue controller while Leo's mom was playing it. The name "SONY" and "PLAYSTATION" are clearly written out, along with the Start and Select buttons, and the symbols on the pad.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Akane in the Gag Dub.
  • Put on a Bus: It happens with the friendlier and more harmless ghosts of the old school building.
  • Replicant Snatching: Episode 7 was about a group of evil spirits residing in a dimension beyond the mirror who tried to abduct everyone in town and impersonate them once the originals were trapped in the other dimension.
  • Right on the Tick: In episode 5, there's a ghost who is said to always kill a runner at the sports festival at 4:44. Because, as mentioned above, Four Is Death.
  • Rule of Scary: Boy, where to start...
  • Running Gag: Satsuki's accidental Panty Shots in the anime proper. The dub makes a few more out of commenting on the quality of the script and animation, invoking Engrish and anime trends.
    • There's also a series-spanning gag about Christian Slater's career.
    • In a few episodes, there's a workman getting yelled at by his boss ("Fill that hole, hole-filler!"); his response is always a muttered "jackass".
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: All the ghosts who had been sealed away by Kayako get free after the construction sites destroy the places where they had been imprisoned.
  • Self-Deprecation: Satsuki and Momoko diss Greg Ayres and Chris Patton, the voice actors for Leo and Hajime, in episode 3.
  • She's a Man in Japan: Played for Laughs in the English Gag Dub. Momoko's hairstylist cousin Maki was a woman in the original version, but was changed to a Camp Gay man in the Gag Dub.
  • Shinigami: Death Nurse from episode 12 is implied to be one.
  • Shirtless Scene: One of Hajime appears during the opening for no reason.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Hadley to Sakata in the Gag Dub.
  • Skirts and Ladders: Momoko did not stop to think of this before asking Hajime and Leo to boost her into a high window, and from their expressions the boys didn't either.
  • Smug Snake: Shinobu Matsuda/Yamime
  • Snarky Non-Human Sidekick: Amanojaku.
  • Soul Jar: Momoko, for Kayako's spirit.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Reo was changed to Leo in the Gag Dub. It's possible that his name was actually supposed to be Leo, considering that he writes it in katakana.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Episodes 14 and 18 feature one.
  • Suddenly Shouting: "Oh, Satsuki, let's sing! Jesus loves me—COME ON, YOU KNOW THE WORDS!"
  • Take That: Makes up quite a few of the jokes.
    They've been left behind, like a black family in Bush America!
  • The Taxi: Episode 10.
  • Token Evil Teammate / Nominal Hero: Amanojaku.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Lampshaded throughout the Gag Dub, most explicitly in episode 7.
    Aww for god's sakes you kids are so stupid... You both deserve to die.
  • Trade Snark: ADV's DVD release has a dubtitle track that does this with Keiichiro's random noises, usually rendered as "[Keiichiro Sob™]".
  • Tragic Villain: The Railway Ghost and Yuki.
  • Trickster Mentor: Amanojaku.
  • The Unintelligible: Keichiro in the Gag Dub is capable of talking normally, but get him emotional and he reverts to unintelligible babbling.
    Keichiro: AH...ABADABADA-
    Amanojaku: Please! SPEAK!
    • The ADV DVD Release invokes this with the "Dubtitles" subtitles track, where Keiichiro's dialogue is often listed as either [Gibberish] or [Keichiro Sob] and after about episode 4, [Keichiro Sob ].
  • Uncanny Valley: Purposely invoked with Animation Bumps that make unnatural movements very fluid. Best example is Akane from episode 18.
  • Urban Legend: The underlying source of all of the ghost stories used in the series.
  • Verbal Tic: Leo in the Gag Dub, yeah.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Satsuki, to the point that Hajime even lampshades this in episode 11 by saying that if she attracts anything than it is not human.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Satsuki and Keiichirou's grandparents. They appear in one very brief scene in episode 1, and then they aren't seen or mentioned in the further episodes. Funny enough since they appear in the series' intro along with the main characters and supporting characters like Sakata and the school principal.
    • They also appear in the photo album during the flashback/letter reading in episode 12 (about the cursed nurse).
    • Gag Dub Grandpa did say that he'd move to Vegas when the grandma died, so...