Plot: Ren takes a particular interest in a client that is strung together with an older case of theirs. Eleven years ago, Ai and the others sent the abusive husband of Honomi Chiwaki to hell for her. Now her daughter wants to do the same to her out of misguided vengeance for her father.
Breakdown: This episode was one of the most depressing I’ve seen in Hell Girl. Absolutely no one won in this situation, and everything is broken to microscopic pieces in the end.
Nene, daughter of Honomi, was merely a toddler when her father was alive. He was a horribly abusive monster who targeted both Honomi and Nene, but she was too young at the time to remember the abuse when she got older.
Her mother called upon Hell Girl to free them from the torment, willing to be sent to hell if it meant saving her daughter from a life of terror and pain, possibly even death. In present day, Honomi is a busy but still very loving and doting mother who does her best to raise Nene and give her a good life. However, their life is far from perfect.
Upon meeting with her grandmother, mother of Heitaro (Nene’s father), she has started turning on her mother. I have no clue when this started, but I can surmise that her talking with her grandmother has been going on for at least several months to a couple of years. Even though it’s not explicitly stated by Nene at any time, it’s implied that her grandmother has been telling her that Honomi killed her father and that’s why she won’t talk about him.
Her grandmother acts extremely kind, but still very manipulative, when she’s with Nene in order to bring her to her side and hurt Honomi as much as possible. She even convinces Nene to move in with her, which Honomi accepts because she realizes she can’t stop her anyway. Honomi even gives Nene her own bank account that she will load with money whenever she needs it to cover her living expenses.
Eleven years ago, the grandmother was more than happy to show her true colors, and they were the same as her monster of a son’s. She did nothing but drink and harass Honomi, not caring that either of them were being abused. She’d even simply tell Honomi to get Nene to shut up as she’s crying her eyes out and wounded from the abuse. However, Nene doesn’t remember this either.
Honomi’s not giving Nene up without a fight, however, as she secretly meets with the grandmother to pay her off to let Nene go home, but the grandmother is adamant. She’ll fight her in court if she has to. All she wants is for her to pay for Heitaro being gone, even without a shred of proof that Honomi killed him (There’s not even a body.)
Nene overhears them fighting about it, realizing her grandmother is also not to be trusted, and runs off in a rage at the both of them. Honomi gives chase and they stop on an overpass, Nene threatening her with the doll if she comes any closer.
Honomi admits that she killed Heitaro by using Hell Girl’s services and explains the abuse her husband put them through. She believes she’s the only one who needs to suffer for this and can’t run the risk of Nene pulling the string. Since she’s going to hell anyway, she saves Nene from what could’ve been an ever-lasting horrible decision that could damn her to hell by committing suicide by jumping off the overpass.
So now Nene is an orphan with a hateful grandmother she can’t trust who probably doesn’t want her around anyway since her only goal in being nice to her was to get back at Honomi.
The only good part of this situation is that Nene was saved from going to hell herself, but goddamn her life is in shambles now.
She spent however long getting an idealized version of her father built up in her head by her grandmother only to have that be shattered upon the realization that he was an abusive asshole. She spent however long hating her mother enough to call Hell Girl, believing her mother had killed her father, only to realize that her mother was a battered wife who sent her husband to hell to save her daughter. Then she had to watch her mother commit suicide in order to save her from hell. She spent however long thinking her only ally in this situation was her grandmother only to realize she was also an asshole who was only nice to her to get revenge on her mother. Now she’s possibly a homeless orphan with such massive emotional baggage it’s hard to see how she’ll ever get through it.
But it’s not even over there because we see Honomi in the ferry with Ai and she starts sobbing that she’ll likely never see her daughter again or know how she’s doing or how she’ll turn out as she grows up. She had to damn herself to hell to save her daughter, then she had to kill herself to save her daughter again. She was robbed of her future and watching her daughter grow up all because her husband and mother-in-laws were horrible people.
But we’re still not done because we have to talk about Ren’s part. Ren has taken a particular interest in this case because he remembers the old case and doesn’t want to see Nene be sent to hell or Honomi be immediately sent to hell (she’s damned anyway, but on her natural death) over a situation that was not either party’s fault.
We explore Ren’s backstory in this episode. He was a very old sword – from what Kukuri said, at least 100 years old.
He had seen many wars, battles and murders. He had drank the blood of countless people – men, women and probably children. And throughout all that time, as an inanimate object, all he could do was watch (Which might be why his special power is his all-seeing eye) One day, he was pierced through a stone on yet another battlefield. Ai and Wanyuudou found him and asked if he wanted to take on a corporeal form and join them. Yearning for something more, he agrees, Ai pulls him out of the stone and we get some nice Ren fanservice when Ren emerges from a bright light in his literal birthday suit.
Wanyuudou is deeply concerned that Ren’s getting too involved in this case and will interfere when they’re not supposed to. Supposedly, such an offense might get him removed from Ai’s service, though I found this part of the plot to just be really ridiculous. This entire season has practically been non-stop Hell Team interference in one form or another. They’ve even basically saved some people from going to hell. Now Wanyuudou gets his panties in a bunch when Ren’s not even approaching them or talking to them, just watching from afar like he always does?
I will admit that the very ending where they fakeout Ren possibly saving Honomi, and thus interfering greatly, did get me. However, he, for better or worse, chose to do his job and merely comfort Nene as she cried at the scene instead.
While the ending of Honomi and Nene’s story is far from a happy one, Ren starts finding some solace in his life. He’s still forced to merely observe, but what little influence he does have, what little he can do after the fact, is enough to lessen the burden on his heart if only somewhat. And he admits that he has found a family with Hone Onna, Wanyuudou and Ai, which I found touching.
Overall, while this episode was dreadfully depressing on both sides, I can’t say it wasn’t well-written because it was extremely good in that regard. I deeply cared for both Nene and Honomi (Admittedly Honomi more than Nene because, even though she’s being manipulated, I don’t think she’s giving her mother nearly enough credit.) and the story differed from the norm quite a bit to make it refreshing and engaging.
Plus, having the backstory of one of the Hell Team actually be fully explored and well-written as well was a much welcome bonus.
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