"Revenge is Best Served Cold" – Hell Girl (anime) – 8/10 Pumpkins

Evil is always devising more corrosive misery through man’s restless need to exact revenge out of his hate. ~Ralph Steadman

Genre: Horror/Psychological/Supernatural

Review Status: Complete (26 Episodes / 26 Episodes)

Licensed: Licensed in the US

Art/Animation: The animation is excellent. It’s smooth and never seems lacking. Some of it is recycled, but it’s not a lot (and the shots are shortened in later episodes) so I really didn’t mind. The colors used are vibrant, even though they are usually on the dark side of the palette. Though the show tends to go for the darker tones (pun not intended!) it still is quite appealing, and when they do use bright colors it is used judicially, in order to emphasize differences in moods, circumstances, the past and present. For example, her own little world is rendered in red and gold- somewhat symbolically, due to the death she deals with. As for character designs… Honestly, they aren’t terribly original in and of themselves, but the personalities that fill them make them incredibly memorable all the same. The background music is never intrusive, effectively conveying the mood. The opening and ending songs are very nice, but the opening seems a little out of place with its lightheartedness.

Summary: Hell Girl. For four hundred years, legends about her have been circulating. If you contact her, she will send the person who antagonizes you to Hell. Through the years, the method of contact has changed with the times, but her modus operandi has always been the same- you may only banish them if you truly want them gone from the world. Today, in the age of technology, one merely has to turn on the computer to do so. At midnight, and only for a minute, you may log onto a certain website and type in the name of the person you wish to send to Hell. Hell Girl will then appear, and she will give you a doll with a red string tied around its neck. When you wish to banish the person, you must pull the string. At that moment the contract will be made, and the person will be sent to Hell. But eventually you will have to pay the price….

Review: Dark. Depressing. Hopeless. That was all I could think about this anime during the few first episodes. Time after time you see people, dragged down by their hatred, greed, and fear, making their antagonists disappear. Their stories were told so compellingly that (and I can’t lie about this) if I were in the same situation, I don’t think that I could have resisted pulling the string and sending the person to hell, even if my own soul were at stake. And yet I couldn’t stop watching. What was it about this anime that made me want to keep going? Was it the compelling stories of the people who sought out Hell Girl? Was it my desire to know Hell Girl’s own history, why she did what she did? Was it the need to see someone- anyone- defy the pull of the string and escape eternal damnation?

Even now, I don’t think I can answer that. All I know is that it drew me in like few others have. I may never watch it again, but I will respect it for the powerful piece of storytelling it is. Everything about it screams “Yes! Someone put time and thought and effort into making me!” which, despite the darkness of the show, nonetheless warms my heart.

For me what truly makes this anime is the characters. The people who contact Hell Girl each have their own stories, their own reasons to do so. They tend to be young females, but both genders and varied ages do give their stories a wide range of incidents, so no circumstances seem to be repeated. But the endings to their stories also give this its flavor, as some end up relieved and at peace with their decision, while others see their decisions come to naught. The main cast consists of six people. First, there is Hell Girl, born Enma Ai. Though she first appears disturbingly- if not horrifically- impartial about sending souls to Hell, as the series goes on we discover that not all as it appears to be with her.

The circumstances of her death and the sacrifices she makes to protect her loved ones make it easier to see why she acts the way she does, and that not even she is completely impervious to emotions. Her minions/friends are also interesting, each with their own distinct personality and background story. Of course, this story must also have its protagonists that struggle against fate- Tsugumi and Hajime Shibata, a girl and her father who are direct descendants of the boy Ai loved. Hajime, a journalist, comes across an intriguing story about Hell Girl and drags his daughter down a twisted path to find the truth of it. In the process, his daughter and Ai’s existences become entwined in a way neither can stand.

Overall, I can’t say enough about this. It really is not for everyone, as some people might be bored by how long it takes for the main storyline to start, and those who like their anime light-hearted should stay far, far away.

Recommended: Yes. 16+, though, for disturbing scenes and violence. Several people are punished rather gruesomely, one woman is nearly raped, there is implied murder and attempted murder.

Other titles you might enjoy: Shigofumi (anime),
xxxHolic (anime and manga),
Paranoia Agent (anime),
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (manga),
Bizenghast (manga),
Petshop of Horrors (manga),
Kara no Kyoukai (anime)
Muhyo and Roji’s Buraeu of Supernatural Investigation (manga)


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