What the “Hell”?
I always feel badly when I give up on a show. To me, it is a caliber of failure that I can’t tough it out to the end, but it then violates my Third Rule of Anime. (“If you feel the show is not going to get any better, leave it. It will NOT get better.”) Sometimes, the show is taken away from me. I watch a lot of Comcast/Xfinity On Demand and it seems they are always having an argument with the Funimation Channel. Someone calls someone a slob and the show line-up gets yanked away (which may have happened with “Case Closed”).
In some instances, I take this as a sign to give up on it (I did this with “Piano” and “Gundam Seed Destiny”). This show, I walked away from it, as nothing was happening over and over again. I got to Episode 10 before I said enough was too much. A typical show plays out like this:
Our victim (usually a girl between the ages of 14 and 24), is put upon by some horrible older person (mostly a man, but not exclusively). They do some heinous act and nothing can be done to bring the swine to justice. In their despair, the victim either remembers the Hell Girl site or hears about her by a conveniently passing person. You can only access this site at the stroke of midnight and when you do, you will type in the name of the person who needs some discipline.
Upon sending the name, Ai Enma, the Hell Girl, magically shows up at your place, which is creepy enough. I mean, it’s past midnight and I am in my darkened lair. I have done this deed and she is there mere seconds after the dispatch of it. Brrrrrrrr! She then launches into her spiel:
“This is for you.” [You are given a voodoo doll with a red string about its neck]. “If you truly wish revenge, untie the scarlet thread from his neck. Pulling the thread binds you into a covenant with me. I will ferry the soul of your tormentor straight into the depths of hell.” Now, as Ai is saying this, our victim clutches the doll, perhaps recalling the words of that Tony Orlando and Dawn song (“Untie the crimson ribbon from the old doll’s neck/When you do that I’ll take their soul to heck…”), hands trembling as she goes for the string. THEN Ai, after an almost lethal pause, goes into the second part of it:
“However, once vengeance has been served, you will have to deliver on your end of the bargain.” [Art this point, the victim stops short]. “There always has to be a price. And so when you die, your soul will also belong to hell. You will never know the joys of heaven. Your soul will be left to wander through a world of pain and agony, there to remain for all of eternity.”
At this point, she gives the 10-second tour of hell. Yeah, it’s not too pleasant, like being at a Tampa Bay Buccaneer game. Ai departs and now our victim ponders their fate and future. At this point, there is a final confrontation our victim has with the horrid person in question, who firmly reiterates that they are really a loathsome human being and that they deserve what comes to them. The thread is removed and “your grievance shall be avenged”. The creep suffers earthly indignities and humiliations first before they are ferried off to hell and our victim bears the mark of one who has made this covenant.
To Ai’s credit, she does not request payment immediately, allowing the person to live out a life, but they are haunted by their decision.
The problem with the show is that it really is the Crud of the Week Comeuppance Award. The show rarely varies from this formula and all you see is victim after victim, with their pathetic story, and some rapacious butthead, getting what they deserve.
Now, they did try to spice it up a bit with a girl who can see Hell Girl. Her father is a reporter, who is not above blackmailing celebrities with some juicy photos of them being naughty. He tries to hunt down Hell Girl and stop what happens but somehow manages to arrive too late to be of any help. Yawn.
I had a lot of questions, and if I had managed to stick it out, they could have all been answered…maybe. Questions like:
- How did you contact Hell Girl BEFORE the internet? Pigeon?
- Has she always been Hell Girl or did she replace someone?
- Can she be replaced as Hell Girl?
- What happens when Hell Girl retires?
- What if you change your mind and don’t seek vengeance? What happens with the doll?
- What happens when it is time to claim a soul? How does that go down?
- Is anything really else going to happen in this show?
This is a real shame, as it is such a good-looking show. Ai’s design is especially creepy, with the eyes that never blink, that has seen far too much for her young age (even though she much be ancient in real time). It’s just that the same thing happens week after week. Sure, there are some clues dropped that things are not as they seem (I mean, she is still working with a first gen Macintosh PC!) but even the introduction of the reporter did not change things up. It just added to the repetition, except we now have a new element of futility.
If you think you have what it takes to sail through all 78 shows, then this might be what you seek, terror without horror. There is no need to show gallons of blood or severed bodies; just the mere presence of the Hell Girl is enough to make things unpleasant in one’s life.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 9 (Very strong character design and graphics, great use of color)
Plot 5 (Talk about a Dittomaster)
Pacing 6 (Again, as it is a formula, it follows the same track)
Effectiveness 6 (Plus de seme)
Conclusion 5 (OK, I didn’t take it to the end, but it strikes me as having no real end)
Fan Service 1 (A similar show would be “Ouran High School”)
Overall 6 (Some change-up is desired)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it.