For most of the series I review, I watch them in their original language. There are exceptions, however, and this is one of them. The original Gakkou no Kaidan is beyond mediocre. The characters are shallow, the stories are stupid and formulaic (there are twenty episodes in total, and it rips off The Ring in at least five of them), depthless, predictable, full of plotholes and every ghost is stopped right at the last possible moment. If I were to review the Japanese version, you could subtract at least 20 to 30 points from the rating.
Interestingly enough, the person in charge of the English Dub thought so too, and decided go with his own version. The result is a hilarious parody chockful of American pop culture and jokes that are so wrong that you’d normally never see in anime. Think sex, drugs and violence here. On top, the characters also love to break the fourth wall whenever something doesn’t make sense in the script. And it actually works!
The lead characters also get transformed from just another standard group of kids without much of a distinct personality, to a group with a retarded dyslexic kid, a drug addict, a closet pervert Jew and an obsessively devoted christian. The funny thing is that despite these seemingly offensive stereotypes, the characters are actually much more colourful and developed than their original versions.
I’ve heard plenty of stories about dubs who completely ruin their original series. However, with everything there are some definite exceptions: with Gakkou no Kaidan, there hardly was anything left to ruin, and the writers for the dub had a clear vision of what they were going to do. It’s an interesting experiment that really brightened up an otherwise horribly dull series, and the humour isn’t like anything you’re ever going to encounter in anime. The only thing that really stands out in the original version is some nice shading and the OP. Talk about catchy.