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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hell Girl vol. 2

Raina - I hope you get to see it someday. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

Timber - That's kinda sad actually. I guess girls on motorcycles is the key to get your brother to agree to something =P

CosmicSailor - I do agree that Tin Man had its faults, both in storyline and character, but it's still more watchable than most of what's on TV. At least you gave it a try, and that's cool.

OK, so on to my review of Hell Girl, which I finally got around to watching tonight. Witchblade will be next time. Yeah, I know I said I'd do a double-review, but one thing you learn when you get to know me: when I say I'm going to do something, there's a good chance I will still end up procrastinating. Don't take my word as gospel.


Volume 2 of Hell Girl covers episodes 6-10. Because it's still early in the series, the 'veangence of the week' formula continues, but a few alterations to the basic formula manage to add enough of a difference that it doesn't feel like you're just rewatching the first five episodes.

Ep. 6: Early Afternoon Window
Keiko Yasuda witnesses Namiko Todaka, her neighbor and the wife of a prominent businessman, having an affair, and is threatened and tortured for what she knows. Her daughter Haruka calls upon Ai (Hell Girl), and learns the truth, carrying out the pact that will send her mother's tormentor to hell.
This episode is pretty standard for the series: someone calls upon Ai to avenge a greivance against themselves or a loved one.
I will say I hate Keiko's husband: he cares more about his work than his wife, and thinks she is the cause of all their misfortune, refusing to listen to her explanations and even resorting to hitting her. Men like that disgust me.

Ep. 7: Cracked Mask
Here's where it gets interesting. Ayaka Kurenai, an aspiring actress, seeks to send her adopted mother Midori, a famous actress herself, to hell for supposedly sabotaging her chances.
We learn rather quickly that Ayaka just wants money and attention, and is willing to go to any lengths to get it, including ruining the life of Kaoruko Kurushima, another girl picked over her to be the lead in a play.
In the end the tables are turned, as Kaoruko asks Ai to send Ayaka to hell.
I really, really liked this episode. We had a deviation from the normal storyline back in Ep. 5 with a ruthless corporate climber attempting to use Hell Girl to her advantage, but this takes that idea even further. You find out Ayaka's motives pretty fast, and her internal monologues are quite spiteful and filthy.

Ep. 8: Silent Friendship
This episode throws in the first major change to the ongoing storyline by introducing a couple of recurring characters: Hajime Shibata, a reporter of dubious moral character, and his daughter Tsugumi.
After coming face to face with Ai at the beginning of the story, Tsugumi develops visions that point to Ai's next victims, which Hajime uses to try and track down the infamous Hell Girl.
The actual vengeance story in this episode almost takes a back seat, with much of the time spent establishing Hajime and Tsugumi. I happen to know from a bit of research I did online that these two characters will play a pivitol role later in the season, which will lead into an exploration of Ai's backstory: how and why she became Hell Girl.

Ep. 9: Sweet Trap
Back to a more standard story, although Hajime and Tsugumi are once again present.
Hiromi and Yuka Kasuga are daughters of a baker, and they are about to fulfil their dream of opening their own pastry shop. But after Yuka shows off their creations to their father's old friend and mentor Shinya Morizaki, he steals their recipes and claims them as his own. This happens on live TV, and the girls are the ones accused of stealing, which causes their business to go bankrupt. This was Morizaki's plan all along, as revenge for Hiromi refusing his sexual advances.
This is one of the few episodes that actually freaked me out, but only in the rather disturbing use of a sexual slang term that was also meant to be a play on the fact the story revolved around the world of sweets and the fact Morizaki was a perv; I'm not sure if it was in the original script or something the english dub staff came up with, but yeah... *shiver*

Ep. 10: Friends
This one also followed the standard vengeance plot, but it was a bit more muddled, leaving you unsure of the motives of the aggreived party.
Does Minami Shibuya have a right to want to send her former friend Shiori Akasaka to hell for abandoning her for the sake of popularity? Is she really behaving like a stalker with constant calls and emails, just wanting an explanation from Shiori? It leaves you questioning things right up to the end.
And what an ending: at first it appears as though the girls may end up settling their differences with no one getting sent to hell. But this is a horror series, and we can't have 'happily ever after'.

I believe that if people steer clear of this series due to it's repetative elements, they are missing out on something good.
What I like about it is the way it lays bare the darkest, most detestable side of human nature: some people are truly cruel and callous, and you can never hope to change them. Even the threat of hell does not sway them, so when they actually do end up there, it's too late. It also asks the difficult question: if hell existed, and you could make a deal to send someone there even at the cost of your own soul, would your reason be enough for you to do it? Could you seek vengance, right a wrong, even knowing you would be doomed to suffer after you die?

Hell Girl is not an easy series to watch, and often it is quite uncomfortable, but in the end I believe it's worth it. It's not strictly entertainment; it's the kind of thing you watch when you want to challenege yourself.

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