If you’ve been into anime for a while, then you’ve probably heard about Ghost Stories. If you have heard about Ghost Stories, then you are probably aware that the English dub was… different.
So, first off, for those who don’t know, let’s lay a little foundation. Back in 2000, anime mainstay Aniplex released a 20 episode series called Ghosts at School, about a group of teenage friends who accidentally end up having to go around their town, trapping ghosts in a book. It did not do well.
To say that it bombed is to undersell how poorly it did. It was an abject failure, and ended up costing Aniplex a good bit of money they knew they weren’t gonna get back. So, when ADV, a well known English dub company, acquired the rights to it, Aniplex was pretty up front about the fact that the show may need some work to make it sell.
By which they meant, do what ever you have to do to put some polish on this turd. ADV spent a bit of time sorting out just what they could and couldn’t do, and once they had laied out a framework, which including not changing the characters names, the ghosts names, or the manner in which the ghosts were vanquished, ADV went to work trying to make this a successful property.
In the end, this is what they did.
Please note, this is not a series of out takes, like I posted last week. This is the actual English dub that ADV ended up releasing. Even crazier, it did really well. Like, well enough the dubbed version has become famous.
Now, obviously, the cast is ad libbing like crazy and just throwing things at the wall in an attempt to be both funny, and as offensive as possible. Which they succeed at pretty damn well. However, there were still a few issues that had to be addressed when doing this, such as making sure that what they were doing still matched the mouth movements of the character as much as possible.
This led to the script basically being rewritten as they recorded it, and why the entire voice cast is listed as scriptwriters on the English dub. Cause they were all responsible.
Like I said, as offensive as possible. Pretty much, the cast tried to offend everyone equally, and they did a good job of that. Points, I guess.
Anyway, according to Greg Ayres, one of the main voice actors, after the release, they ended up getting ripped pretty hard for changing things, as the show apparently had a small but steadfast following in the States. How, I can’t imagine, as the subtitled version lets you see just how big a stinker this show was. Even the original Japanese voice cast called it one of the worst things they’d ever done.
The comedic take the ADV cast took to the material only made it better, which pretty much is all you really need to say to explain how bad it actually was. Even with the blatantly offensive jokes, the dub is vastly better than the original material.
What really makes this stand out though was that even back in 2005 when the dub was recorded, anime import studios were taking the business of English dubs very seriously, and sticking as close as possible to the original script. Anime dubbing had become big business, and the simple fact that ADV allowed this to happen, and released it, was unheard of at that point in time.
Whatever the thinking of the head honchos at ADV, it was clear they were willing to take Aniplex’s advice, and do whatever they could to make the property work, even if it meant releasing the most insane material possible.
One other thing to note. This isn’t even all the best stuff that the cast gets up to. There’s a running gag of slamming Christian Slater and even better, crazier stuff. Very little was off limits in terms of what they could make fun of, rip off, or say, after all.
If you’ve never seen Ghost Stories, do yourself a favor and check it out. The entire series is pretty easy to find if you want to watch it, and I think it may even be available on Youtube at this point.
Ghost Stories will live on in anime fandom as the one time everything went totally off the rails, and crashed into a pillow of comedic perfection, taking a failed series, and making it a legend.