What I've edited on the wikipedia article on a few occasions was the reason ADV didn't do a dub that directly translated the original version, I've sited sources and still it was taken down for some reason. It was the fact that they did this that made so many people try to bury the series before it was released. Hate for ADV came left and right if you mentioned "Ghost Stories" or "Gakko no Kaiden" (School Ghost Stories), This was the dub that no hardcore anime fan wanted to see succeed. While some threw hateful comments, others were just plain confused. Why would ADV, after so many years of being a group of anime purists (when the company was first founded there was no intention of doing any dubs) and a company that helped give the dubs crowd in the classic "Dubs vs Subs" war validity, suddenly just do a dub that was just plain silly? The reason is simple; in it's Japanese form, this series sucks. That's the reason, it's simple as that.
When this show was released in Japan, reception was bad and I can see why. Before I talk about this show itself, I want to point out that I'm actually surprised this show is bad. You've got Noriyuki Abe in the director's chair, the man behind hit shows like "Bleach" and "Tokyo Mew Mew" (these are hit shows for crying out loud!). And speaking of people attached to "Tokyo Mew Mew" and bleach, the a few members of the Japanese voice cast, such as Takako Honda and Tomoko Kawakami, were in those shows. Studio Peirrot put a lot of money into this series, and usually when a studio puts so much money into a product then that means their real serious about this. And to top it all off, this show is based on a series of best selling novels, I haven't read these books, but I'm gonna assume that they are awesome. Looking at all that I've listed above, you've got to ask yourself, how did this show fail?
Show doesn't start off too bad, actually. We get the basic story, young Sastuki Manoshita has moved with her family to the town where her deceased mother used to live (and creepily, the same house she grew up in). On her first day of school, she, her brother along and their new friends chase their cat into an old school building, and find that the school buildings haunted. Not only that, the ghosts haunting it are suppose to be sealed off. Turns out the ghosts were sealed in areas where construction was taking place, and damage to anything ghost was sealed in meant that said ghost was now set free.
Not a bad too bad of a story, if things turned out differently, this could've turned into a decent kids' series. Instead, we are faced with three main story problems, and because of this the series suffers greatly:
Problem #1: The series is more episodic than chapter based. For long running shows like "Case Closed/Detective Conan" and Naruto, this can be a good thing. If you missed an episode, no worries, you'll catch up eventually and easily when plot points come up. "Ghost Stories", however, is only 20 episodes long. This may not be a huge problem for some people, but to me, this series feels like it needs a consistent story line. Weather it would be better or not because of that, I don't know, but as result of being episodic the show feels a lot like a Japanese version of "Scooby Doo" (as others have described it).
Problem #2: If there was a movie made about a Japanese ghost legend, it's in this series. What makes movies like "Epic Movie" and "Meet the Spartans" so bad? Answer; referencing every movie in the past year, those movies concentrate more on making references than making jokes. Now, while "Ghost Stories" is nowhere near as bad as those movies, they make the same mistake. According to the ghost profiles on the DVD extras all monsters and ghosts are based on Japanese Uban and Ancient legend. With this in mind, it seems like the producers told the writers to make sure every monster and ghost made it into the series. Much like the movies above are reference happy, this movie is very ghost happy.
Problem #3: This series falls apart completely at the end. It got to the point where near the end of the series where they basically just, "Screw this," and just stopped trying. As I said, the series doesn't start off too bad, the series even has a few good episodes worth watching. But alas, the series becomes progressively bad, there become some plot twists that make no sense, there's a few continuity errors in a few episodes and as I said before, material is recycled, thus the show becomes stale. Very stale.
If I wasn't watching the english dub, I would've given up on this show. The dub stays true to the original storyline and keeps the original Japanese names, but changes everything else. The english voice cast had a translated script in the studio with them, and were told to ad-lib when it was appropriate. George Bush haters will love the Republican, the Democrats aren't even safe from the wrath of the Texas voice actors, Scientologist prepare to sue ADV films, and celebrities are ripped a new one. And aside from poking fun at famous figures, there's also quite a few clever one-liners and running gags. The spells that are chanted to seal the ghosts are often changed or twisted in meaning, the kids begin to chant it normal, "Jaku, Jaku, kick the bucket!" which suddently becomes, "Jaku, Jaku, you can suck it!" But where this dub is the funniest, is the personality changes in the characters. Satsuki becomes a fairly unlikable b!#*@, Leo is now Jewish, Hajime is a lot more perverted in the english version, and Satsuki's brother Kechiro it apparently retarded. My favorite performance comes from Monica Rial, who portrays Momoko as an overly fanatical Christian (being a Christian myself, this offends me, yet I can't help but laugh). But if there's an award for most revetting performance, it should go to comedian Rob Mungle, who portrays Amanojaku, the ghost that possesses Satsuki's cat. Rob plays this role seriously, and waits to make a joke, as opposed to making one every 3 seconds, thus making his punch lines all the more rewarding.
People tried to hate on this dub, but in the end of 2006 Anime Insider magazine named it "Best dub of the Year". All attempts to bury it have failed, and even most of the critics caved to liking it. The dub makes the series all the more watchable. If you plan on watching show in Japanese (the Japanese track is still on the DVD with translated subtitles), then go right ahead, just a word of warning, you may like it more when you're not sober.