Plot: Rina is forced to care for her disabled estranged mother, Michyo, who seemingly hates her guts and those of her father and pretty much everyone else. Rina’s suffering. Her father is suffering. And it’s all caused by this one woman. If only she weren’t around….
But Michiyo’s story may not be as clean cut as Rina believes.
Breakdown: I’m going to level with you guys for a second. I had a full review written out for this episode, but I had to rewrite the entire thing because most of my discussion points leaned on a plot point that I misunderstood until I was already done writing it.
Because my misconceived version was actually rated higher, I’m going to swallow some pride here and discuss what mistake I had made. Plus, it actually makes for some constructive criticism on how this episode could’ve been made a little better, so it works out.
This is an episode that I definitely remembered from when I watched this season several years ago. I couldn’t really pinpoint why because, at the end of the day, it’s fairly cut and dry. Woman is a complete asshole ruining everyone’s lives, so call Hell Girl and put that bitch on a boat. In addition, the more I thought about it while rewatching it, the worse the story became.
That’s not to say that the story is really all that bad. I disliked Michiyo enough to want her to go to hell. I liked Rina enough to want her to not go to hell. And their situation was understandable and not overblown to the point of ridiculous supervillainy. It was simply a case of a woman imposing on the lives of people she hurt before, continuing to be a nightmare for seemingly no reason. Her mere presence and the fact that she required round-the-clock care over the tiniest things was taking a severe toll on Rina and her father on top of that.
But as I mentioned, it’s really not so simple.
Michiyo is put in the care of her ex-husband after she suffered from an accident that left her almost entirely disabled. Since the accident was deemed her fault, her insurance isn’t covering her nursing care.
Rina despises her mother since she abandoned her and her father when she was young. She never remembered her mother smiling or bonding with her as a child. As time has gone by, Michiyo’s personality has only gotten worse. Now she’s bitter, angry and cruel.
Rina can’t make heads or tails of why her father is willfully accepting the arduous task of caring for her mother night and day. However, she loves her father deeply, so she eventually helps him care for her, no matter how cold and cruel she continues to be.
Eventually, it gets so bad that she believes the only way to solve the problem is by making Michiyo go away by using Hell Girl. She sits on the doll for a while, but adamantly believes she’ll use it sometime in the near future.
When faced with the question yet again of why he lets Michiyo treat him like garbage, Rina’s father shares a very surprising story with her. He owes Michiyo a deep debt because he feels guilty for her being the way she is now, both physically and mentally.
He reveals that Michiyo is not Rina’s biological mother. Michiyo has always been unable to have children. Realizing that Rina’s father deeply wanted children, she begged him to use a surrogate instead of adopting. After a long while of debate, he eventually conceded, believing Michiyo would welcome the child as her own, but he was wrong.
Michiyo changed for the worse almost immediately after that. She never accepted Rina as her child, stopped smiling and grew a horrid personality. After a few years of pretending, she ultimately decided to leave.
Here’s where I had the major misconception. The dialogue, which at this point was Rina’s narration on the matter, lead me to believe Rina’s father had developed a sexual relationship with her biological mother. That’s why Michiyo was really so bitter. Not only was the child they were raising not hers, biologically, but it was the child of a woman her husband was cheating on her with.
Because of this misconception, I was able to sympathize with Michiyo a little more. I definitely understood her reasons for leaving and refusing to return anyway. However, I was much less sympathetic to her attitude towards Rina because none of that was her fault. Even if she could never accept her as her child, she still should have had it within her to apologize and try to establish a good relationship with her, but she never bothered even trying.
When I rewatched that scene a few times, because I was trying to understand if I missed why or if he and her biological mother broke it off, I finally realized that she was saying he was secretly seeing MICHIYO, not her biological mother, behind RINA’S back after Michiyo abandoned them. He was trying to mend bridges and get Michiyo to accept Rina as her child, but she consistently refused.
In my defense, I was watching and writing that at 3AM.
Rina’s father later states that he should’ve known Michiyo was testing him when she made that request. This was another aspect that kinda confused me at first. She was testing him for what? To see if he’d actually make a child with another woman (I certainly hope through artificial means) instead of giving up his dream of having a child? She never makes it clear why she doesn’t want him to adopt. He just wanted a child – he never made any statement about wanting to continue his bloodline or anything.
He blames himself for her personality shift because of this, even though that’s still pretty flimsy. Michiyo couldn’t have children, and this whole thing was her idea. Maybe she just never wanted to be a mom. Maybe she really did see him accepting this offer as some massive backwards betrayal. I dunno.
As for him being the reason behind her physical condition – during one of his visits to see Michiyo secretly, Rina’s father again tried to convince her to come back home. She felt like she was being pitied and that he was only offering to take her back to make him feel better about his own ‘mistakes.’
She suddenly makes the decision to put an end to his misery herself and jump in front of a tractor trailer. She didn’t lose her life, but she became severely disabled.
Despite hearing this story, Rina still wasn’t giving up the doll.
The next day, she tries to find it to no avail. Ai tells her that it belongs to someone else now. Here’s where I got confused on a more technical level. Is Ai implying that Rina’s father stole the doll and used it? Because he did see her with the doll and might have known what it was. Or is she saying Rina’s father took out a contract himself on Michiyo? I thought that Hell Girl worked on a ‘dibs’ kind of system. If someone has an existing contract on someone, they have the right to the target. You can’t take out a new contract unless the old one has been terminated, which it wasn’t in this case.
I’m inclined to believe he stole it, because it is the same black doll, but does that mean that, when you pull the string on someone else’s doll, you take the contract? Because he was the one marked after that.
Rina’s father takes her mother out to their favorite spot by the river. He asks her one final time if she’ll ever find it within herself to accept Rina and forgive him. Even if she can’t do the latter, do the former for the sake of Rina because she’s precious to him and doesn’t deserve this treatment.
Michiyo refuses, stating she’ll never be able to forgive him or accept Rina no matter what. In response, Rina’s father pulls the string on the doll, sending her to hell, saving Rina from both Michiyo’s terrible treatment and suffering the fate of being sent to hell.
This was another issue that arose with me only because my initial misconception was now gone. Now that I know Rina’s father wasn’t cheating on Michiyo with Rina’s biological mother, I feel 1000x worse that he’s destined for hell. He did it for the sake of saving Rina, but also for the sake of atoning for mistakes that were never actual mistakes. His wife put a slimy and vague ultimatum in front of him, literally begging him to take this weird bait, and he made a logical choice.
Michiyo overreacted to ridiculous levels over something so stupid, and Rina’s father bore the guilt of making her feel that way when it was completely unwarranted. I can understand if she eventually regretted her decision to push him to having a child via surrogate and that she could never find herself emotionally connecting with a child that wasn’t biologically hers – for all we know she never wanted to be a mom in the first place – but to have such malice against Rina’s father for that and to put such guilt on Rina for literally just being born is disgraceful. She put absolutely no blame on herself for any of this happening and kept playing the victim.
When Rina arrives, her father walks off in a daze and she spots something in the empty wheelchair – a marble.
One of the Rina’s only memories of her mother involved her giving a marble to her, but she didn’t remember Michiyo accepting it. As we’ve already discussed, she never remembered her smiling. However, when Rina picked up the marble, her memories cleared up a bit more. She accepted the marble and gave the faintest of smiles. That may have been the one and only time Michiyo ever even slightly accepted Rina, and, considering she was keeping hold of it during the entire episode and refusing to give it to Kikuri when she popped up on occasion, it’s believed she was holding onto it as a sort of thread to her humanity. But now Rina will never know.
No answer would make up for anything in the slightest, though.
Michiyo’s ride to hell is entirely silent. She has no emotional response whatsoever. No words to say. Nothing. She’s basically emotionally dead.
And….I just feel miserable again. A terrible person got sent to hell, and an innocent person was spared from that fate for a change, but Rina’s father doesn’t deserve that fate, nor does he deserve to seemingly fall into a pit of despair for his actions.
I liked how Rina was narrating the entire episode. That was a change-up from most episodes. The Hell Team also wasn’t really involved at all here outside of a few visits from Kikuri, which were tolerable anyway and served an actual purpose.
I don’t think the little side-plot of her fiance starting to distance himself from her seemingly due to his parents starting to disapprove was necessary mostly because it just added more misery to her situation and wasn’t even really connected with the main plot. None of what she was doing with her mother or father was affecting her relationship with her fiance, and his parents got on just fine with her father at the start of the episode. But she suddenly learns that his parents are starting to disapprove midway through the episode and we never see him again.
I really believe that this episode would’ve been improved if my misconception was a reality. If Rina’s father had cheated on Michiyo with Rina’s biological mother, so much more would make sense and be less miserable. Michiyo’s reasons for becoming so cold and callous would be more understandable, especially in regards to Rina. Her leaving would be more understandable. I’d be a little more content with Rina’s father damning himself to hell as penance for his actions. And even the part with the marble would be a little sweeter.
She was just a terrible person who might not have been quite as terrible as we perceived by about a millimeter.
What a twist.
Overall, I’m disappointed that I had to redo this review just to gain a much worse perspective on the episode, but it can’t be helped. This is an alright episode for what it’s worth, and I think I finally have the word to describe this episode that I haven’t been able to grasp in the past – sloppy. The components for a really great episode, even if you don’t use my suggestions, are there. It’s just disjointed and doesn’t build upon that foundation well at all.
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