Ghost Sweeper Mikami Review
Based on the long-running manga comic by Takashi Shina, Ghost Sweeper Mikami ran to 46 half-hour episodes as an anime series and was concluded with the one-hour special released here on DVD, that requires no previous knowledge of the character or her adventures.
In this conclusion to the series, exorcist of demons and other supernatural entities, Mikami and her team of ghostbusters receive a message from the spirit of a dead samurai, warning that a Nosferatu is about to be resurrected into the world of mortals. The spirit provides Mikami with a lance whose divine stone will direct her to the location of the demon’s resurrection. The Nosferatu, Nobunaga Oda arises and after Mikami fails to strike him down with the precious lance, escapes with his servant Ranmaru, planning to build a castle in Tokyo and enslave all the people of Japan. The demon however has had a taste of Mikami’s blood, which has given him extraordinary powers, so he is keen to have more. He challenges all the exorcists in the world to come to him, so that he can feast on their exquisite blood, but it’s Mikami’s blood the Nosferatu really wants. As zombies roam the streets of Tokyo, Mikami and her team must make amends for the terror they have unleashed.
Without having seen any of the previous episodes of Ghost Sweeper Mikami, I think you could safely say that there probably wasn’t too much variety in the situations or progression of the characters throughout the series, judging by the predictable by-the-numbers battle with a demon that makes up the conclusion to the series. Mikami’s assistants however are a colourful bunch made-up of an ex-ghost, Okinu, an exorcist priest, Father Karasu, half-vampire Peat and goofy assistant Yokoshina, who as well as being the spiritual ‘bait’ to draw out demons, is also the lecherous sidekick who provides the wackier humour in the team.
There is a lot of self-referential comedy in the situations using the exaggerated cartoonish form of visual language that can be baffling to viewers unused to manga and anime comic stylisations – huge sweat-beads representing frustration, bafflement and anger, gushing tears and nose bleeds to represent high emotions or sexual excitement and fall-down-legs-in-the-air reactions to stupidity. These are fine, if you are used to this type of visual shorthand, but predictable and occasionally intrusive, although to be honest there’s not much of a story to intrude into here. There’s not much attention to plot or explanation of the connection between a Nosferatu and the plague of zombies that this unleashes, and the demon is (I’m sure I’m giving nothing away here) despatched without too much difficulty with only one or two minor setbacks to draw the fight out slightly.
The animation itself is cartoonish and quite crude, but effective in fast moving action sequences. It’s appropriate for the material and carries the story through to its conclusion with little flair, but admirable functional simplicity.
Ghost Sweeper Mikami is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, but is not anamorphic. The image is interlaced. This is quite evident in freeze-frame, less noticeable in normal playback, but it does have the effect of blurring fast movement and notional camera pans. It’s kind of fuzzy in places, not showing a lot of detail except in close-up and fairly static shots. Colour levels seem ok, but rather dull and lacking vibrancy, blacks are strong and solid. There are one or two marks on the print, but apart from a few reel-change marks, they are fairly minor.
You have three choices of audio and there is little to choose between them. The original Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 track is average – voices are clear enough if a little on the dull side, sound effects are strong and loud and there’s no real background noise. The voice acting is fine, but in this kind of humour it’s obviously stridently overacted, which means it has little advantage over the English dub. The English dub is presented as both Dolby Digital 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1. I settled for the 5.1 English dub myself (althought it actually appears to be 5.0), as the artwork is very busy and prone to exaggerated flash-cuts and visual jokes that would be impossible to catch while reading subtitles at the same time. You can make up your own mind, but any of the sound mixes should be fine and carry the film well enough.
English subtitles are provided and are of course optional if you choose the original Japanese soundtrack. They are properly translated and not just a transcription of the English dubbed soundtrack.
Meet Your Exorcists provides good character profiles for Mikami and her team as well as the ‘Second String Exorcists’ who appear in this particular adventure. A Photo Gallery includes 20 stills from cel artwork and production designs showing how good and colourful the artwork could look. A Trailer (0:52) promises a clash between “the ultimate vampire slayer and the ultimate vampire”, and Manga Trailer Reels present about 15 minutes of catalogue and forthcoming titles from Manga Entertainment.
Ghost Sweeper Mikami is pretty standard, undemanding stuff that is outclassed in this particular genre of comedy demon battling by the likes of Sorcerer Hunters and Inu Yasha. There are a few moments when you feel that a lot more could be done with these characters in a more imaginative situation, but this particular adventure doesn’t distinguish itself from the numerous better examples of this type of work and the DVD is similarly adequate but unexceptional.