Netflix Review: Hell Girl

Hell Girl
AKA: Jigoku Shōjo: Girl from Hell
Genre: Anime – Horror/Supernatural
Type: Series (26 episodes)
Length: Each episode is about 25 minutes

Hell Girl is a series constructed around the idea of vengeance delivered by supernatural means; tormented folks visit “The Hell Communication,” a website, at midnight exactly. They enter the name of their tormentor and will then get a visit from Hell Girl. Also known as Ai Enma, Hell Girl is a girl with luminous red eyes in a sailor suit. She gives them a tiny straw doll with a scarlet thread around the neck. Hell Girl tells them that she is able to deliver the soul of their tormentor directly to hell, but that the price is that their own soul will belong to hell after they die. The person chooses; vengeance is delivered and the tormentor is killed and ferried to hell. Ai has a trio of helpers which assist her with her vengeance missions.

By the way, Ai Enma works out to the grammatically incorrect “a anime” as an anagram.

Most episodes follow exactly that format, down to a very specific script. For example, when Hell Girl gives her “what happens if you pull the thread” speech, her “I’m going to send you to hell” speech, and her “now I must ferry you to hell” speech in each episode, they’re exactly the same. For the first few episodes, the series follows a “tormentor of the week” format and the repeated scripts got a bit, well, repetitive. However, just when you’re starting to get bored, they start on a story arc involving more characters and they start to delve into the back-story. I’d recommend you hang in there for at least the first eight episodes, it does get quite interesting.

It’s definitely melodramatic, and I can confidently say that the “tormentees” are not problem solvers; they eschew outside-the-box thinking and enter into a covenant that promises their soul to Hell with very little forethought. I kept wanting to send them links to “It Gets Better” videos.

I’m not sure I understand the target market for this show; at times, it seems very childlike, but there’s lots of sexuality, gore and swearing. Episode #7, A Broken Disguise, drops the f-word like machine-gun fire. Then again, I’m very new to anime, so that could be normal for all I know. The theme song is rather atrocious and I ended up skipping it after three episodes. The art is beautiful, especially Hell Girl’s digs, and the revenge sequences are always interesting, although it’s bizarre how quickly you pick up the repeated parts of the script. The vengeance script is burned into my head like some kind of gothy Nicene creed:

Oh pitiful shadow lost in the darkness
Bringing torment and pain to others
Oh damned soul, wallowing in your sin
Perhaps… it is time to die

The franchise also includes a manga, two more anime series and a live-action series (which I’m now dying to see).

Summary: I liked it, but it didn’t blow me away. The art is beautiful and the stories are interesting, but it’s a little too melodramatic for me.

Rating: ★★★☆☆



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