Title: Jigoku Shoujo aka Hell Girl
Company: Aniplex/Studio DEEN
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 4 Oct 2005 – 8 Apr 2006
Synopsis: It is said that if you access the Hotline to Hell, a mysterious website that only appears at midnight, and enter in a person’s name, the Hell Girl will carry that person to Hell. However, those who have the Hell Girl execute their vengeance will also go to Hell when they die. Shibata Hajime, a freelance journalist, begins to investigate these claims out of curiosity. Not only does he find out that the rumors are true, but he learns his daughter, Tsugume, has a strange connection to Enma Ai, the Hell Girl. Together they try to put a stop to Ai’s fiendish operation.
Plot: Not ambitious enough; nearly non-existent.
Pacing: Moves about as fast as a drunken snail going uphill.
Characters: Many main characters are not developed enough.
Ending: See plot.
Artwork: Beautifully drawn; superficially similar to Abe Yoshitoshi.
Tone: Genuinely creepy.
Horror is an underrepresented genre in anime with a bad track record. Most horror films fail to be legitimately scary or redeeming in any way and even fewer horror anime can claim to be either. Jigoku Shoujo initially surprised me in that it was not only creepy enough to drain the blood from my skin on occasion, but that it set the stage to seriously talk about human nature through our desire for vengeance, and even held the potential for a multi-layered plot focusing on Enma Ai’s motivations and background. If having potential was all it took to make a great anime, Jigoku Shoujo would be a classic. Somehow the producers must not have realized that being potentially good isn’t nearly as important as actually being good.
Potential is quickly dragged to hell as Jigoku Shoujo starts off with seven straight “vengeance of the week” episodes that tell us little of importance. Hajime and Tsugume aren’t even introduced until episode eight and they are the driving force for the plot. Even after they make their entrance, the filler continues almost non-stop until the last few episodes. The discussion of vengeance never amounts to anything more than simple moralizing and the different situations and results presented feel more like a list than commentary. Entire characters are given no back story or personality, most notably Enma Ai’s assistants, and it isn’t like there wasn’t plenty of time for those things to develop. Sadly, it almost would have been better if Ai’s background wasn’t explained at all as the entire thing is somewhat disappointing… as is the ending.
Fortunately not all of the initial potential was wasted. Jigoku Shoujo retains its creepiness throughout, and many of the episodes, while filler, are still fun to watch and even occasionally powerful. The artwork is breathtaking at times and even though the character designs are simple, they’re very elegant and anything but dull or uninspired. Most of the questions that arise about the rules of Enma Ai’s scheme are answered, but some of these answers weren’t interesting enough for my tastes.
Despite what could have been, Jigoku Shoujo is a must see for anime horror fans (all five of you) because it does the most important thing a horror show can do: be creepy. For those who want more, Jigoku Shoujo Futakomori may provide what Jigoku Shoujo lacked, but I wouldn’t hold out much hope. Perhaps we could access the Hotline to Hell and send all those filler episodes where they belong before they poison the sequel the same way they did the original.
The Rating: 5
Reviewed by: Kuma