Plot: 400 years ago, when Ai’s duties as Hell Girl first started, she met an angry demonic wagon wheel named Wanyuudou. He seeks hell, and she’s just the person to show him the true nature of humanity and hell. She takes him to a local inn where she shows him the birth of vengeance in a person and how many people would be willing to send themselves to hell in order to appease their need for retribution.
Meanwhile, in present day, it seems history is repeating itself.
Breakdown: I’ve been bad-mouthing the brief glimpse we got into Wanyuudou’s past a while back because I felt like they didn’t explore much, but this episode more than makes up for it.
Granted, I still feel like the previous episode wasn’t well-managed because this episode could have also included the full story of him carrying his princess and crashing in a raid by enemy warriors, causing the carriage to burn up and everyone inside of it to die. It’s not really a huge issue, though. I’m just happy we did get Wanyuudou’s full story.
This episode is very poetic because it somewhat literally is history repeating itself. The first owners of this inn, Kahei and his son Yuuhei, screwed over a woman named Tami who was set to marry Yuuhei. She was even pregnant at the time. They opted to have Yuuhei marry a woman named Hanae for really no given reason. Tami quickly and completely spiraled into a rage brought on by a need for vengeance and set Hell Girl upon the inn owner.
400 years later, the descendants of both Tami, a teenage girl named Ichiko, and Kahei, a woman named Yurie, find themselves in a similar situation. Here, the script is flipped, though. Ichiko spotted Yurie putting bath salts into the hot spring – discovering that it was a fake hot spring all along. It was the dirty secret of this multi-generational inn and Yurie couldn’t risk the secret getting out, so she allowed Ichiko to ‘work’ there and get all the free time she wanted lounging around with her friends.
But she doesn’t stop there. Realizing that she has Yurie firmly under her thumb, Ichiko torments her regularly as well, even forcing her to run through the inn naked after throwing her clothes into the hot spring while she was taking a bath.
In the end, Yurie can’t take anymore and sics Hell Girl on Ichiko, who ironically suffers the exact same terrible fate that Yurie’s ancestor did – being boiled alive in a demonic hot spring.
Both the backstory and the two Hell Girl stories worked perfectly and it was paced very well. I liked how they sometimes had sequences of the stories playing immediately one after the next when a particularly familiar scene was unfolding.
It was also a great look into how Hell Girl worked at the start. Even though I sincerely doubt this is Ai’s first case, especially given how she’s acting, it is confirmed that this is roughly around where Ai first started her duties in the role.
Instead of a website, Ai uses ema tablets, which are wooden tablets hung in Shinto or Buddhist shrines. Visitors write their wishes on the tablets, and it’s believed that the gods will hear their wishes and grant them this way. Ai uses special black tablets that have her promise to avenge grievances on the back. They don’t outright say it, but I assume that these tablets work similarly to the newspapers and website Ai eventually uses in that you can’t see or use the tablet unless your heart is filled with vengeance.
Something confused me, though. Wanyuudou acts as her black doll (Ren is blue and Hone Onna’s is red.) but here she’s seen using a black doll and Wanyuudou isn’t it. Who or what were the dolls before Ai had assistants? Were they really just plain dolls? If they were, why does Ai need her assistants to transform into the dolls now?
In addition, for some strange reason, Ai left behind a corpse in the flashback. Ai never does that. The people always just disappear, which is how I assume Ichiko passed. Yet, in the flashback, Kahei is clearly a shrived up burned corpse on the floor and his family horrifically finds him.
Also, holy hell, pun intended, what a horrific hell torture that took me entirely off guard. We really haven’t had a lot of hell torture scenes lately, and it’s definitely been a while since we’ve seen any that have any real horror to them, but geez. Two different scenes watching people being boiled alive. Yikes.
All in all, I really loved this episode. It more than made up for the droplets of backstory we got for Wanyuudou a little while back (Hope we get the same for Hone Onna. My memory really is crap. I swear I’ve watched this season before…) and even the other Hell Girl stories running alongside the backstory were interesting. Not nearly as fleshed out as usual, for obvious reasons, but still.
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