There always has to be a price.
Beginning on September 30th, IFC will present all 26 episodes of the supernatural thriller Hell Girl, from Aniplex. This Japanese anime import will air at 8:00pm ET/PT as part of the Tuesday night “AUTOMAT” programming schedule. AUTOMAT is a four-hour block of alternative programming, including network premieres, originals, shorts, web shows, and anime.
The official IFC press release describes Hell Girl:
Rumor has it that there is a website, HellCorrespondence.com, which can only be accessed at midnight. Those who reach it can enter the name of someone who has wronged them and get their revenge through Young Ai Enma, also known as Hell Girl. This denizen of the underworld takes requests from the website and sends the appropriate victim to Hell. However, those who choose to go ahead with revenge must pay a price: on the day that hey die, they will also go to Hell, with no chance of redemption for their soul.
I recently sat down to watch a few episodes of the anime series and found myself enjoying it. On the surface, it would seem that the series of stand-alone episodes would eventually grow tired and repetitive, but the slow unveiling of the back story of Ai offered a surprising layer of depth. Each episode follows a different ‘victim’ who has been in some way taunted or abused and who turns to Hell Girl for help. When offered her assistance, they are told and graphically shown what future awaits them in hell. I, for one, would probably just have let bygones be bygones in most instances rather than damn myself to an eternity of suffering. I was pleased to find that each episode provides a further catalyst to each character going through with the sentencing.
Characters do not merely get treated bad and then immediately make their decision. Often, more insults must be piled upon them or they’re placed in an extraordinary situation where the audience, while perhaps not agreeing with decision, can certainly come to understand it. The actual act involves Hell Girl providing the victim with a doll with a red string tied around its neck. When the string is removed, the pair are entered into a contract and Hell Girl, along with her three assistants, take action. The three assistants are Wanyudo, an older gentleman, Ren Ichimoku, a young man, and Hone Onna, a beautiful woman with the ability to expose her bones (her name means “Bone Woman”) to frighten her targets. Together, the three companions often terrorize the bullies of the show, getting them to admit their sins, at which point Hell Girl takes over and ferries them through the gates of hell.
My favorite parts of each episode are the times when the three companions terrorize the bullies to get them to confess their wrong-doings. At these points the show is at its most mystical and scariest, with various traps and visions played out to scare the tormentors. Ai herself is shown to be a young girl with red eyes with a soft, unassuming voice. Not your normal supernatural agent of hell.
The style of the show is fairly straight forward and traditional and the voice acting is above average for imported anime shows. The show clocks in at the 30minute mark and the episodes do have some repetition to them, though thus far each has managed to be different and unique enough from the previous to maintain interest. The individual stories are resolved within the episode, though like I mentioned, threads about Hell Girl herself weave the episodes together. Slowly we find out that Hell Girl isn’t just some mystical girl waiting around to strike vengeance, but rather she is a seemingly tortured soul living with her Grandmother and a mysterious spider who has no choice but to carry out the deeds. The only way to find more of her backstory is to keep tuning in every Tuesday!
Early Episode Guide
Hell Girl Episode 01 – From Beyond the Twilight, September 30th, 8pm.
In this introductory episode, a young girl named Mayumi is manipulated by an evil classmate who makes unreasonable demands of her and forces her to do things against her will after helping her fix a “problem” that she herself created. Grade: B-
Hell Girl Episode 02 – The Possessed Girl, October 7th, 8pm
A stalker terrorizes Ryoko and her family, forcing her to seek the assistance that only HellCorrespondence.com can offer. Things go from stalking to much worse very quickly and Ryoko must make a split second decision that leaves her eternal soul hanging in the balance. Grade: A
Hell Girl Episode 03 – The Tarnished Mound, October 14th, 2008
Diving into the Japanese culture of baseball, familial honor, and group responsibility, Iwashita won’t stand being the fall guy for the popular, arrogant star pitcher Hanagasa. Refusing to let his friends mistreatment and misfortune at the hands of Hanagasa stand, Iwashita logs onto HellCorrespondence.com. Grade: A-
Hell Girl Episode 04 – Silent Cries, October 21st, 8pm
When Junko loses the last member of her family, a faithful canine, will she turn to Ai for vengeance as the sinister secrets of Dr. Honjo and his veterinary clinic come to light? Grade: B+
Hell Girl Episode 05 – The Woman in the Tall Tower, October 28th, 8pm
Cruel CEO Riho tries to corrupt her employee Misato into doing darker and more illicit computer work, including an attempt at hacking HellCorrespondence.com itself. Is Misato a good soul or as guilty as her boss and what do Hell Girl and her companions have to do with this story? Grade: A+
All in all, Hell Girl looks to have some promise. The confrontations between the companions and the bullies are always interesting and the continually unfolding story of Ai is intriguing. As with all IFC Programming, the show is presented uncut and uncensored, though I hadn’t seen anything that would need to have been censored. For those of you who get IFC, Hell Girl is worth a look, especially to anime fans, though the stories are interesting enough to attract non-anime fans as well.
Tune in every Tuesday at 8pm starting September 30th. Encores are the following Friday at 11:30pm if you miss it Tuesday.
Have you seen Hell Girl before? How many of you subscribe to IFC?