“Jigoku Tsushin”, a website that only accessible exactly at midnight. If you post a hopeless grudge there, Hell Girl will appear and drag your hated foe into Hell. The rumour sounded like an urban myth, yet it spread among the young people and turned out to be true. The girl’s name is Ai Enma. However, the legend does not speak of the contract with the Hell Girl. One day, Michiru, a mysterious girl appears in front of Ai Enma. Ai talks to Michiru, who doesn’t remember who she is or why she is here. Who the hell is she? Her secret past will be revealed!
Hell Girl has a kind of spooky, hallowe’en vibe to it. Every episode tells a tale of somebody who summons the spirit of Hell Girl (Ai, who has long black hair, blood-red eyes and occasionally wears a high school fuku) to remove someone troublesome from their life. This person is immediately seized and taken to hell where appropriate punishment for their crimes is administered. However, cursing someone is a double-edged sword and doesn’t come without its price. The one who summons Hell Girl is also condemned to hell when they finally reach the end of their lifespan – however long that may be.
Peoples reasons and motives for summoning Hell Girl are very different: a girl takes vengeance on a schoolfriend for all the emotional abuse she subjected her to, a young boy want to protect his little sister from the rest of his poisonous family members and an elderly resident of a nursing home wants to put an end to the daily torment she and the other residents suffer in the hand of their neglectful, uncaring retirement home director. Each situation is different and makes you weigh up whether the action is worth the end result. Does a school bully deserve unending torment in hell? Is it worth condemning your soul for eternity just to get rid of them? Just how far would you go to protect those that you love?
The characters, living a normal life, react differently when meeting the supernatural Hell Girl and her spooky entourage. Some of them think long and hard about pulling the red ribbon from the straw doll that ultimately signs their contract. Some of them make their contract in and anger and some them ultimately decide against it. Some of them pull the ribbon knowing and accepting the consequences and other do it thinking that nothing will ever come of the action, saying that “nobody really knows what happens when you die”. The components are the same, but you really see the difference in people when a supposedly quick and suspiciously easy solution appears to one of their problems. Alongside the episodical stories, there is a more prolonged story running underneath. Hell Girl is a franchise that has been going for quite some time, having nearly 100 episodes, video games and live action productions, to name a few. You don’t have to have watched anything of this franchise before in order to enjoy Fourth Twilight, but there are recurring cameos and the history of featured characters that keep fans of this horror legend coming back for more.
What impresses me is the real difference in the stories despite the very similar endings. Some of the people featured in these episodes are cruel and odious – but do they deserve their fate? Is the world ultimately a better place for not having them in it? And do those who condemn them to hell truly feel peace and that justice has been served after what they have done, or are they forever changed by their actions? After pulling the string on a straw doll to send his abusive cousin to hell, Akira becomes a twisted vigilante, taking the law into his own hands. Satoshi Kazama tries, and fails, to send himself to hell, unknowing of the fact that he nearly was sent to hell by a mother who wished that he had died in place of her son (but she was one of those rare people who eventually decide against pulling the red ribbon). At the same time, current Hell Girl Ai Enma recruits wandering spirit Michiru to take her place as Hell Girl.
I can’t believe I haven’t looked at the Hell Girl franchise until now. It is such an intriguing concept and showcases a range of stories where only one component stays the same: pull the doll’s red ribbon, they and you are consigned to hell. The artwork is beautiful and the narrative fascinating – I will definitely be looking to see the earlier seasons after this one.