Plot: How long has Hell Girl been around, and what’s it like when one of her previous clients finally passes on naturally and has to uphold their end of the bargain? A man named Fukumoto sheds some light on this as his candle starts to burn out.
Breakdown: The most interesting episodes of Hell Girl are usually ones that break the formulaic structure, and this story is no exception. It is the best episode of Hell Girl so far, even if there is no target or punishment today.
Instead we get a fifty year old case of a man named Fukumoto.
Hajime is actually doing stuff today as Tsugumi’s visions lead him to a book store which carries a story called Purgatory Girl. The story is incredibly similar to how Hell Girl currently works.
A man had a beautiful wife, but one day another man named O raped her. His wife was distraught and in constant agony, and she eventually decided to take her own life. Filled with anger, the man calls upon Purgatory Girl, who avenges grievances. O mysteriously disappears soon after.
This story reflects the real tale of Fukumoto, an esteemed artist and writer. He was close friends with another writer named Okochi. Fukumoto came home one day and found that Okochi was taking advantage of his wife. Soon after, his wife committed suicide.
Some time before this happened, Okochi told Fukumoto about the Hell Correspondence, which, at that time, was an ad in the classifieds. The ad was blank to those who held no grievance, so Fukumoto could never see it, but when this happened, he was suddenly able to see the writing. He called upon Hell Girl, and Okochi got his punishment. Meanwhile, Fukumoto has been living with the burden of his curse mark for several decades, and his candle is nearing its end point.
He suggests maybe Hell Girl wanted Hajime to find him and learn of this before his passing, which explains why Tsugumi got the vision.
One of the hanging questions left at the end of most Hell Girl episodes is ‘What happens now?’ in regards to the clients. You usually get a small glimpse of their current path after the string has been pulled at the end of the episodes, but most of these clients are very young and viewpoints can change drastically over the course of a lifetime.
Fukumoto shows this much when he explains that he took many paths after he gained his curse mark. He threw himself into work, he tried to devote himself to religion and even became heavily invested in volunteering, but none of it alleviated the weight on his chest from the curse mark.
He eventually resigns himself to holing up in his apartment drawing and painting many pictures of Ai, culminating in his masterwork, which is a mural of several images of Ai. The only thing he has to look forward to at this point in his life is seeing her again.
Another very interesting aspect of this episode is Ai’s role. We’ve seen Ai display some very minor signs of emotion throughout some episodes, but this is the first where she may actively be trying to convey emotions however way she can.
While Ai isn’t in much of this episode, it is implied that she actively wanted Hajime to know of Fukumoto’s story and purposefully lead him to his location through Tsugumi. She also seems like she wants to have a heart to heart with Fukumoto in the boat, but pulls herself back. The biggest display of her emotion is through Fukumoto’s mural, which starts crying when he finally finishes it. Ai is somehow crying for Fukumoto through this painting, which is the last thing he sees before his candle burns out.
While we don’t actually get to see Ai herself crying, this scene is very powerful because it confirms that she does have a great deal of sympathy for some of her clients. She even chooses to sit down in the boat and face him as he gets ferried to hell instead of looking ahead and rowing the boat like she normally does. She obviously wants to offer as much comfort as she’s allowed to before he gets to Hell.
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