Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my wonderful and lovely viewers in the States! And to all of you outside of the US or simply don’t celebrate, I hope you’re enjoying a delightful day. No matter where you are, I want you all to know that I’m eternally grateful for all of you, and I hope you are all safe, happy and healthy. 🙂 Enjoy your meals, enjoy family and friends or just enjoy a day to chill by yourself. As always, I will return in full in December with the holiday reviews. See you all then! 🧡

Yami Shibai 10 Review (Emotional Roller Coasters and Confusing Garbage Trucks)

Plot: The tenth season of the horror anthology series, Yami Shibai.

Breakdown: I was very happy to hear that Yami Shibai was already airing a season ten while I was reviewing season nine for Animating Halloween last year. As of this writing, there hasn’t been an eleventh season announced, but despite this season kinda coming off like maybe it might be a grand finale, I’m hopeful it will come back sometime in the future.

However, if this is the last hurrah, I’m satisfied with how it went out because this season is one of the best Yami Shibai has ever had.

To recap:

Episode 1: A Job to Quit – This was a strong story to start us off on. It was the perfect length. It definitely had the creepiness factor locked in with the mannequins, and it was a fairly unique premise.

Episode 2: Ending Note – There’s a whole lot going on in this episode. It’s quite the emotional roller coaster for a five minute story, and the fact that they pull the rug out from under you in the end was very effective and shocking. Definitely a sadder entry than scary, but still a very good story.

Episode 3: The End of the Day – One of Yami Shibai’s more unique entries, and definitely one where you need to rewatch it a few times to really work out what exactly happened, but I liked it a lot. I choose to believe it had a more hopeful and bittersweet ending than a tragic one.

Episode 4: Last Train – My main gripe with this episode is the possibility that they’re perpetuating stigmas against mental illness, particularly depression. Otherwise, I did call it the weakest of the lot so far, but even then it was still a pretty good episode.

Episode 5: The Last Customer – The art in this episode is some of the creepiest they’ve ever had without stretching out too far into the realm of being unrealistic. I mean, technically, this is just an elderly lady, but she’s designed in such a manner that instantly freaks you out when she’s on screen. While I do think this was a decent one, and certainly had scare value, my main issue here was that the lesson, if there was one, was extremely muddled and messed up.

Episode 6: Trash Drop-Off – Sadly, this is certainly the closest this season gets to a stain on an otherwise really strong season. I do think the premise is quite workable, and you could have had some really scary and messed up imagery with the trash compactor they reveal in the end, and you can have some emotional turmoil with the “most prized possession” gimmick, but instead they poorly explained the rules behind this garbage truck and broke the rules they did establish. I still don’t understand how the episode went the way that it did.

Plus, after I posted that review, I realized that this episode may be borrowing a bit from a previous Yami Shibai episode in season six, Swamp Offering. That episode had a similar premise, only you were meant to sacrifice your most precious item to a swamp to protect yourself from harm, and if you didn’t give up that item you’d be taken away by the ‘muddy,’ That episode was similarly sloppy, but I think it worked better than this one by a significant margin.

Episode 7: What Happened in the Tunnel? – Not the strongest of entries, but still pretty memorable and a mixture of sweet and crazy. It’s one of few Yami Shibai entries where I still can’t decipher what exactly happened or give a strong theory to it, but I feel like this is also a rare instance where that doesn’t matter too much. The ending is confusing, but it’s also where the sweetness comes in. That man’s dedication to his girlfriend is very heartwarming, which makes what happens to them all the sadder.

Episode 8: Wristwatch – This episode had all the makings of being a bad or silly episode, but it really wasn’t. I had a fun time working out exactly what happened, and it wasn’t so vague or messy that I felt like I was making up the story for them – the story beats were there, I just had to pay close attention. The presentation in this episode alone was strong enough to carry it as well.

Episode 9: To My Future Self – This episode really made me think they were gunning for a depressing vibe than a scary one. Like I said in my tag for that episode, how much would it suck to find a DVD from a past version of yourself who winds up massively disappointed that you turned out badly/didn’t achieve your dreams? However, they pulled a 180 on us, and I think it was pretty effective. It was less scary than some people claimed it was, but it was a solid episode.

Episode 10: The Other Building – I don’t think I should have said this was possibly one of the weakest entries in the season since that definitely belongs to Trash Drop-Off and nothing else. Looking back, this episode’s worst sin is that it’s too obvious, but otherwise it creates a decent degree of atmosphere and tension.

Episode 11: Bye-Bye – This episode definitely has creepy atmosphere to it, and some really good audio, but it’s still eclipsed a bit too much by how funny the constant “Bye bye”s are. Just on entertainment value alone, this episode holds a special place in my heart. I can’t help it. BYE BYE!

Episode 12: Pinky Promise – While not really scary or even creepy, this episode was ‘dark’ in the manner of just feeling sorry for the ‘fake’ wife. It was definitely a good and well-written episode that I enjoyed.

Episode 13: The Hundredth Story – Closing out strong, we have a good old fashioned episode about a bunch of teenagers going to some abandoned location to do something spooky. It had good pacing, really good atmosphere, pretty strong creepy vibes, and I love the way they ended it. The only real issue I have with it is that I still can’t wrap my head around these kids managing to tell a hundred horror stories in one night. All with a hundred candles burning. Not a one of them got exhausted or ran out of material and the candles never melted even a little let alone to the point of burning out.

All in all, I really enjoyed this season. There are rumors that this is the final season, but as far as I’ve been able to tell there’s nothing official labeling this season as such, so it’s all just speculation likely stemming from how final the ED feels. As I said, if it is the end, then I’m pretty fine with it going out this way. Sad, but content. I do hope we get more seasons in the future, though, just because this series is such as a staple of Animating Halloween, and I do really enjoy it, but only time will tell.


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Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight Full Series Review (A Hellish Ending to a Franchise)

Plot: The fourth and seemingly final season of the horror anthology series, Hell Girl.

Breakdown: This season kinda threw me for a loop. After being thoroughly unimpressed (read: frustrated and massively disappointed) in Three Vessels, I didn’t have my hopes up very high for Fourth Twilight. My hopes were only lowered after hearing negative things about it for a variety of reasons. However, I didn’t want to just write off the whole season without giving it a chance. I decided to wipe my brain as clear of preconceptions as much as possible, and I’m glad I did because I really think this season’s bad rep isn’t deserved…..

……A little bit.

When it came to the anthology stories, I was rather impressed, really. The stories had been better than about 75% of the stuff that has been included in Hell Girl recently. On strictly anthology merits, I think this season went out quite well.

One of the issues this season has by default is that it’s tragically short. Technically, it’s only a six episode season, which sucks pretty hard for an anthology series especially. It had a bit of a rough start to be sure, but basically all of the anthology stories were quite good, and I enjoyed them. However, it’s obviously quite difficult to sneak in a main overarching storyline to such a short season while still having an adequate amount of anthology stories, which is where the cracks start to form.

As I mentioned in the plot synopsis, this is meant to be the final season of Hell Girl, meaning we need to find some way to say goodbye to Ai. In comes Michiru whom we learn near the end of the series is meant to be Ai’s newest replacement as Hell Girl. What happened to the whole “Ai will be Hell Girl forever” from season three? I don’t know. I don’t care. That was a stupid decision made for stupid reasons. Let’s all just forget about it.

I do like Michiru. I like her character design, I really like her backstory and her general aesthetic. I truly believe she makes for a good Hell Girl. However, they didn’t fully handle her story well in the end. While her backstory episode was quite good, complete with a case in present time that paralleled her own, the last episode where she takes up the mantle of Hell Girl is lackluster to say the least.

It’s like they wanted her to have this big moral struggle with becoming Hell Girl and just gave up on the idea and made her Hell Girl offscreen during an entirely unrelated anthology story.

All I wanted from this season was a proper ending to Ai’s story. To finally let her pass on and rest in peace. If this is actually the end – the final for real finale end – which it seems to be because this was made in 2017 and there hasn’t been another anime season since – then the one thing I ask for is a good send-off to Ai……And they couldn’t do it.

First of all, the ending is vague. Many people are confused as to whether Michiru actually took Ai’s job and Ai retired or if Ai is still Hell Girl and Michiru is just another Hell Girl. As far as I’ve been able to tell through research, though, bear in mind, resources are limited with this season, Michiru definitely took Ai’s role as Hell Girl and Ai is freed from the job now.

Second, the reason people were confused is because, unlike in season two where Ai actually disappeared when she was freed from her role, in this season, she just kinda…sticks around in the living world with the Hell Team….forever?

The only person who stays in the role is Yamawaro who makes the decision to stay with Michiru as her sole assistant, which made Kikuri super angry, which made me super happy.

In episodes seven through twelve, we see that the Hell Team has bought a bar and spends all of their time there while reminiscing on old cases. Ai never appears in these episodes, but it’s clear she’s still around.

In the end, while Ai did get freed and the title of Hell Girl was passed on, it all just felt unceremonious. Four seasons of buildup, and the ending is pretty much a shrug. And not even a strong shrug. A shrug like you’re unsure if the person shrugged or if their shoulders are just a bit sore.

I did say that this season is “technically” six episodes long. However, the season is also technically twelve episodes long. It was initially released as a twelve episode season, but most websites now list the season as being six episodes long because the new content mostly ends after episode six. Episode seven onward are recycled episodes from old seasons just with the Fourth Twilight OP and ED and intros with live-action paper puppets of the Hell Team attached to them. These reruns negatively impacted the overall rating for many people, but I decided I’m not that irritated by these.

It’s clear that they’re basically bonus material, even though it’s only about a minute and a half of new content per episode. It’s the fact that they were part of the season officially in the first place that rubs people the wrong way, even if they admitted right out the gate that only six episodes were new stories and the rest would be reruns.

As I mentioned in my episode reviews, I really feel like this wound up being a problem with budget and a lack of desire to even make a season four in the first place. They just wanted to officially close out Ai’s story while also spending as little money as possible while still keeping some semblance of an anthology to the series – and that little money wasn’t even enough to support the episode order they gave them so they just put in six episodes from past seasons.

That’s just my theory, but it’s what makes the most sense to me.

I stand by my stance that season two should have just been it. It was a good story, Ai repented and moved on, it still allowed Hell Correspondence to exist – it was fine the way it was. Then season three came along, ruined everything, and season four had to blindly fumble through trying to clean it up a little. I really believe if they could have used all twelve episodes for new stories, it would have been a much better season. A twelve episode order is tighter and easier to deal with in regards to the overarching story than a 26 episode order is, and they could also have more wiggle room with more anthology entries. But nope. Just six. Not enough for a satisfying anthology. Not enough for a fleshed out overarching storyline. Definitely not enough to squeeze in both.

Don’t get me wrong. They still messed up even within the reasonable limits of six episodes, but given the quality of the episodes they had, I really believe they would have been motivated to go out with a bang if they had the budget to do all twelve episodes.

It’s not just not giving Ai a proper send-off, either. I was interested in seeing Michiru grow into her own as a new Hell Girl, but we only see her do the job once. I’m kinda concerned that if they do decide to revive the series in the future, they’ll just bring Ai back because she’s the face of the series and Michiru will just be retconned.

At the end of the day, it’s a very short watch, especially if you skip the latter half, it does bring a slight sense of some more proper closure to Ai’s story rather than just saying “Fuck you, Ai. Be Hell Girl forever to save this stale pretzel stick.” and the anthology entries are pretty good. So if you’re wondering if I recommend it, I give it a hesistant yes, but newer fans would probably be better off with season one or two.

Long time fans, it’s a toss up. Many of them seem pissed by this season, but I can’t say I entirely sympathize, mostly because I’ve realized a good deal of the venom for this season is also aimed towards the individual stories, and I don’t get that much at all. They’re not masterpieces or anything, but compared to some of the garbage I’ve seen in episodes in the other three seasons, these are definitely some of the better entries.

I do agree that episode three, which most people note as being the worst episode of the season, is absolutely, balls to the wall, insane, given that finale, but while many people find that episode to be unrealistically dark and evil, I didn’t see it that way. Sure, there was some iffy writing there, but you’re a little too sheltered and innocent if you think this situation isn’t realistic. I’ve read about tons of WORSE situations in real life. This shit happens.

I can, with certainty, say that most long-time fans will be ultimately disappointed with Ai’s final end though, no matter how much they wind up liking Michiru. They’ll also likely be disappointed with Tsugumi’s end, but I feel like this is a slightly better send off for her than in Three Vessels where they act as if her presence will have a point, but it doesn’t, and then she just gives up and leaves…..At the very least, they’ll probably be pissed that they had her in an entire episode and still didn’t give us any closure about Hajime.

I feel like this season might just make fans demand another season to properly-properly-noforrealthistimeactuallyproperly close out the franchise even though it’s been five years since Fourth Twilight came out.

I guess it’s possible. This is the time for random revivals, continuations and reboots. And there was over an eight year wait between Three Vessels and Fourth Twilight. Personally, I desperately don’t want them to continue. Mostly because I’m afraid they’ll manage to screw it up even more. This ending was far from satisfactory, but it could have been worse. The best I can hope for if they do continue the anime in the future is one of two things – either they continue with Michiru as Hell Girl and we explore whatever weird issue might be preventing Ai from going to heaven and end with her going to heaven. Or they just full-on reboot the entire franchise, we go through Tsugumi and Hajime’s story but rework it a bit to allow for more moral ambiguity on the side of the clients so we actually sympathize with Hajime sometimes, and they end that season with Ai moving on somehow. Or maybe they don’t let her pass on in season one and re-do seasons one and two so she can properly move on in season two.

Never re-do three. Three is just unsalvagable, if you ask me.

Additional Information and Notes: Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight was directed by Takahiro Omori, who directed Hell Girl, and Hell Girl: Two Mirrors, but not Three Vessels, and written by Kenichi Kanemaki. It was produced by Studio Deen. While it is licensed in North America by Aniplex of America, it does not have an English dub.

Year: 2017

Episodes: 6 (12 if you count the “Reminiscence” episodes.)

Recommended Audience: There’s some pretty messed up things in this season compared to the previous three. There’s heavy implications of rape on a minor, another episode implies rape on an adult, there’s a lot of domestic abuse, episode five in particular has some of the most graphic imagery in the entire franchise showing kids’ bodies after a car crash when they were sitting on the outside of the doors, the bodies of three drowned kids, a murder via a stick to the head, a child and her mother slowly burning alive and a bunch of people getting burned to death. 14+


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Animating Halloween | Invader Zim: Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom Review

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Plot: Zim learns about the horrors of Halloween while Dib struggles with randomly shifting between dimensions.

Breakdown: If there’s any show that is perfect for making a great Halloween special, it’s Invader Zim. It’s definitely not afraid to go all-in on the scares and the creepiness as much as possible (IE What Nickelodeon would allow.) It’s clear that the writers weren’t entirely invested in making a Halloween special so much as using the holiday as an excuse to get away with a particularly freaky and horrifying episode, and they used their opportunity quite well.

This is one of the most creative episodes of Invader Zim. While Zim is panicking over Halloween because he believes it’s a night where children turn into candy-crazed zombies, Dib causes an accident that makes it so he keeps getting transported to an alternate and frightening version of their world. If he doesn’t stop it, he’ll end up getting trapped in the other world forever.

The alternative world, it turns out, is actually based entirely from Dib’s imagination, making him a bit of god in that realm. However, he’s far from worshiped. The people in that realm want to use his portal-making head to get to the real world to take it over. Dib has to team up with Zim to escape from the alternates and stop the dimension jumping.

I really love whenever Zim and Dib need to work together. They’re one of the best volatile partner pairings in cartoons. They’re both quite smart, but also extremely eccentric, and despite their arch-enemy nature, they have a silent respect for the other’s skills. They’re always a lot of fun when they’re on screen together, whether they’re teamed up or not, but I slightly prefer seeing them teamed up.

Dib’s weird and creepy as hell imagination world is disturbing to say the least. While there is definitely something to be said about the kinda offensive “crazy kid” cards that instantly slap a collar onto whatever “crazy” kid is in the classroom only to forcibly be taken away by people with ‘crazy’ emojis on their helmets and thrown into a padded truck, I think we can safely say that Dib maybe does need some therapy at least. Literally nothing in this world isn’t horrendously mutated. His school looks like hell, his teacher is the leader of pretty much everyone while also being a horrifying insect creature, and while his father and sister look the closest to normal as they can get in this world, even they turn on him and don’t care about him at all.

What I find especially weird is that Zim doesn’t seem to exist in this world. Dib thinks about Zim constantly. How is there not some alternative Zim in this universe?

While the Halloween stuff isn’t really utilized much outside of just showing characters in their costumes at school and having a brief couple scenes with Zim and Gir fighting off trick-or-treaters, the designs of the creatures within the alternate dimension are so weird, cool and frightening that it definitely makes up for it.

I don’t mind much that this episode is only barely a Halloween special in regards to the holiday because we so rarely ever get cool horror imagery in kids Halloween specials. It was a refreshing change of pace, and definitely something I’m glad Invader Zim chose to do. The series is just such a fun and creepy ride every time, and it has such a unique vibe to it that I can’t seem to find anywhere else.

And, with that, we close out this year’s Animating Halloween! Hope everyone has a safe and fun night carving all the jack-o-lanterns, eating all the candy, dressing up in all the costumes, ignoring that thing in the corner of your room that’s slowly approaching you right now and watching fun Halloween movies and specials!

Happy Halloween!


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Animating Halloween | Yami Shibai 10 Episodes 11, 12 and 13 Review (Finale)

Episode 11: Bye-Bye

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Plot: A pair of friends are on a trip where they wander into a weird local town.

Breakdown: I’m not gonna lie. I was laughing through most of this episode. The constant “Bye bye!” easily tickled my funny bone. I couldn’t stop laughing until the credits.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a decent degree of creepiness here, because there is….but it is terribly overshadowed by how funny it is. Maybe that’s just me, though.

Other commenters seem to not be too impressed by this episode. I do agree that, even without laughing at the “Bye bye!”s the episode isn’t that great, mostly because it’s one of those stories where I can’t really make sense of it. So they enter a town, all the people say “Bye bye” over and over and it causes someone to…be…possessed? Or they say “Bye bye” because the possession is already happening and they’re saying “Bye bye” to the person since they’ll be pushed out by the spirit or demon that’s possessing them?

Without the “Bye bye!”s this episode just amounts to ‘Someone got randomly possessed. The end.’

There is creepiness in the visuals and audio, but that’s about it.

Episode 12: Pinky Promise

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Plot: A woman becomes very concerned when her husband starts acting strange and distant. He explains that he’s experiencing weird dreams of another world with another family, and he can’t stop thinking about them.

Breakdown: This was another episode that I think was very well written and executed. Not sure how scary I found it, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The twist, spoilers by the way, at the end is really good, and it leaves just enough to the imagination to make you question which world was actually real. If you ask me, it makes the most sense that the world we were following was the dream world. It would explain why he was always full after eating in the other world and why he seemed so despondent when he was with the wife we were following instead of being as lively as he is in the “dream.” I also can’t imagine that her existence is entirely reliant on her husband remembering her unless she’s the dream. If he really did choose the dream, I’d imagine he would be locked in a coma or disappear himself or something.

The coloring would also make more sense. Before the twist even came up, I noticed the wife we were following had a weird paleness and blueness to her, even in her lineart, but it wasn’t so stark in comparison to the rest of the artwork that I felt it was that strange. End of Spoilers

This episode isn’t really scary or even creepy, but I guess it would be very concerning to watch your loved one slowly spiral into a state of detachment all because they seem to be enjoying their life in a dream better than the real world.

Episode 13: The Hundredth Story

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Plot: A group of friends perform a hyakumonogatari – a ghostly ritual where you light a hundred candles, tell a hundred ghost stories and blow a candle out after each story. When you blow out the final candle, something is supposed to happen, but what happens is a mystery.

Breakdown: I want to point out that this episode is not the 100th episode of Yami Shibai. That would neat – but it’s not.

However, there is speculation that this episode is the finale to the Yami Shibai franchise. I have no idea if this is true. As of this writing, a Yami Shibai 11 hasn’t been announced, but if it did end like this…..I’d be okay with it.

For a series all about telling ghost stories, we don’t have nearly enough episodes about people telling ghost stories. I think a problem with those types of stories is that they’re typically not written really well, and a lot of them go the same way. The group will tell pretty lame stories, someone will walk off because it’s so lame and then go missing and blah blah blah.

This story, however, is pretty good. It got me with the atmosphere, and the ending twist was something I didn’t expect, especially when twist took another twist, which I thought was really cool.

Something that’s kinda bugged me throughout the previous seasons has been a lack of wanting to do anything with the bookends. Only a couple seasons have done anything with the openings and endings to create some sort of overarching story, even if it is just a few details here and there. This season actually chooses to do some minor things with the bookends.

First of all, the opening makes it seem like the narrator is….dying or something? Every episode, he’d normally say “It’s time for the theater of darkness” (Yami shibai no jikan dayo) and yet, in this season, he keeps audibly fading off when saying that. (Yami shibai no jika……)

Second of all, the ED shows the narrator in an empty theater before removing his mask, placing it face down on the floor and walking off into the shadows. His face is never shown, but the inside of the mask is, and it’s gross. It looks like it’s got flesh inside of it while also having bloodied sutras/talismans of some sort.

In this episode, the mask turns back over. What that implies, I don’t quite know, but it’s kinda cool.

Spoilers – The twist after the twist was that the narrator showed up when the final candle was blown out. He started telling the tale of the teenagers who were in the room telling ghost stories. I thought that was a really cool and clever way to incorporate the narrator into an episode. It was also a really interesting way to close out the franchise, if this is indeed the end. End of Spoilers

All in all, I really liked this episode, even if a small group of people telling a hundred ghost stories in one night while none of the candles seem to melt even a little is a bit weird. As a season finale, it’s really good. And if it’s the series finale, then I’m sad to see it go, but I think this entire season was pretty strong, and this was a fairly suitable ending for it. I won’t call it dead quite yet. Yami Shibai has a habit of just coming out of nowhere when you think it’s gone. Hopefully see you next Halloween, Yami Shibai. Thanks for the spooks!


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Animating Halloween | Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight Episodes 7-12 Review (Finale)

Plot: We “REMINISCE” on past Hell Girl stories.

Breakdown: So, what big sin did episodes seven through twelve of Fourth Twilight commit that is such a big stain on this season?

Well, the short answer is that they’re not new episodes at all. Each episode begins with a short intro from the Hell Team, and they’re not even animated. They’re little live-action paper cutouts made into stick puppets that have some banter at a bar they seem to now own called Pub Bones before kinda leading into the story of the episode. The story in question is entirely lifted from some random previous episode. And when I say “entirely lifted” I mean they literally just took the footage from those episodes, stapled the OP and ED from Fourth Twilight along with these short intros onto them and called it a day.

Granted, they are fully admitting that these aren’t new stories. Even before the season premiered, they admitted that only six of the episodes would be new – but the fact that they’re not separating them from Fourth Twilight or even making some sort of themed clip show or something is just lazy. What is even the point of this? They’re not making any meaningful commentary on the events of the episodes, nor do we even bookend the story fully by returning to the Hell Team once the story is over.

Why did they do this? I have no idea of the real reason, but I do have one theory.

I truly think they didn’t want to do a season four at all, but circumstances, either money or fan response to season three’s ending, forced someone’s hand. They decided they had to make a season four to actually end Ai’s story and make a new Hell Girl, but they also didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it.

So they decided they would order a twelve episode season instead of the normal 26 that the franchise has had in the past, but didn’t receive nearly enough money to properly write and animate a good twelve episode season. The crew decided to cut the season in half themselves, only make enough stories for six episodes, and use old episodes to fill the rest of the order. As long as the episodes had at least something new (the intros) and the new OP and ED plastered on them, they could get away with it.

I have no way of knowing if that’s really what happened – there isn’t a whole lot of information online about season four as it is – but that’s what makes the most sense to me, especially considering how the series’ budget seems to have been running out in episode six and how the intros for episode seven onward aren’t animated at all.

Don’t get me wrong, though. These little paper puppet intros are really cute and well done. I would have watched six episodes animated like this, to be honest.

I’m not really upset that the rest of this season exists like this, especially if my theory is correct. The episodes they did give us were some of the best the franchise has offered, and you can easily just skip these episodes and pretend they don’t exist outside of their respective seasons. I definitely would have wanted more stories and a much better buildup to Michiru taking over as Hell Girl, but if executive meddling or budgetary constraints were the reasons behind this then I can’t be too upset.

That being said, even if my theory is correct, that doesn’t really make up for the fact that the final episode is just not good as an ending. I almost feel like maybe that had been a case of them taking an episodic story that would have been episode five and reworking it to be episode six because they realized they needed Michiru’s backstory, which would have been the mid-season finale, to be episode five after they decided to only really have six episodes. Low budget, again, if that’s even what happened, does not account for poor writing. I would have settled for scrapping the case altogether if we got a more fulfilling main story conclusion to close out the franchise.

While the anthology episode was perfectly fine, it wasn’t good enough to warrant me believing that it would cause Michiru to turn on her head about her moral quandary about whether Hell Girl is good or necessary at all, let alone becoming Hell Girl herself. I’m still not even of the mind that anyone needs to “accept” this job. It’s the Master of Hell calling you to do this. It’s your damn punishment. You don’t get to decide whether you’re punished or not. Ai certainly didn’t.

I don’t understand why these writers have such difficulty understanding that. Remembering that important fact about Hell Girl as a role is why seasons one and two work so well. Ai was finally allowed to move on because she had served her penance and come to terms with what she did. She finally let go of her own grudges, sought to stop the cycle of vengeance and died to save Takuma, who was in a very similar situation to her own.

Season three completely forgot this by choosing someone who hadn’t even committed a sin to do the job and spending an inordinate amount of time trying to convince her to do it, even when it was a massively bad idea to put her in that role.

Season four remembered the sin part but doesn’t seem to understand that most people don’t willingly accept punishments. If Michiru willingly chose to do this job because she thinks it’s making people happy, isn’t that kinda the opposite of a punishment? Her story went in reverse. She should have started maybe liking Hell Girl and being kinda like Tsugumi was at a point – basically cheering on Hell Girl for what she’s doing – but then later realize how much suffering it causes, which would be the hell she’d have to live for however many years as she serves her penance.

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What frustrates me most of all about Michiru’s story in hindsight is that she never seems to take responsibility for what she did or even acknowledges that she did it. She never brings it up again after Ai shows her that flashback in episode five. The fact that she burned dozens of people alive in an act of vengeance doesn’t appear to affect her views on vengeance at all, but some random story of a woman getting revenge for her father who was beaten into a coma makes her pull a 180.

I still don’t understand why they didn’t let Ai pass on to heaven. Would that not be the most satisfactory way to end her story? Why is she hanging out in the living world now? Is it just like…a purgatory thing? She doesn’t get to pass on at all? I had one requirement to give a big pass to the way this season ended – let Ai finally rest in peace – and they couldn’t even do that much. Again, I’m happy she gets to spend her days with her friends, but she deserves to finally have peace.

As for the past episodes they chose for the remaining six episodes:

Episode “seven” is episode three of season one, The Tarnished Mound.

Episode “eight” is episode six of season one, Early Afternoon Window.

Episode “nine” is episode twelve of season one, Spilled Bits.

Episode “ten” is episode twelve of season two, Black Rut.

Episode “eleven” is episode two of season three, A Bird in a Cage.

Finally, episode “twelve” is episode nine of season three, Stray Inari.

All of these episodes range from alright to pretty good, so I don’t have much to say about their episode choices. There’s not even much to talk about in regards to the intros. They only barely connect back to the episodes in question, even if they are pretty funny.

Take episode eight for instance. Kikuri tells Hone Onna to keep a bad thing she did a secret, and Hone Onna honors her promise to keep it. Ren’s then like “Didn’t we have a case where trouble started because of someone keeping secrets?” and we get Early Afternoon Window where a woman keeps another woman’s affair a secret. Most cases involve keeping secrets to some degree. It was such a flimsy segue.

In episode nine, Kikuri locks herself in a cabinet to be a brat after Hone Onna scolded her, and this reminded Hone Onna of a case where a girl with depression basically becomes a shut-in.

They don’t even try in episode ten. They have completely unrelated banter before Wanyuudou sees a toy truck, which reminds him of the episode in which a man refuses to allow his house to be torn down for the sake of widening a dangerous mountain road.

Something interesting I did hear in that intro was Kikuri saying she’d have Ai send Hone Onna to hell, which implies she’s still Hell Girl. However, I don’t know how canon these intros are or if Kikuri’s just forgetting that Ai isn’t Hell Girl anymore. Yamawaro isn’t around in these openings, which leads me to believe they are indeed canon since he left to join Michiru. They even acknowledge that he left in the intro to episode eleven in which Kikuri orders ramen because the delivery boy looks exactly like Yamawaro.

If Ai really was still Hell Girl, they wouldn’t be spending all of their time at a bar that they seem to have purchased. They’d be out on cases. However, I do have to ask where Ai even is during these episodes. She never once makes an appearance. I guess it makes sense that Michiru never appears again, same for Yamawaro, because they’re off on cases, but where is Ai? What is she doing while her friends are spending all of their time at the bar? It’s weird, but that actually makes me even more irritated at the ending. She finally has a chance to just sit back and be herself, socializing with her friends casually instead of them being her assistants, and she just never comes by. If her solace in retiring from Hell Girl is really that she gets to spend her time with her makeshift family, why isn’t she spending time with them?

Episode twelve doesn’t include any special ending, by the way. Not even like a stillscreen or something or a special note added to the intro. It’s just the same as the other Reminiscence episodes.

It should be noted that in the DVD and Blu-Ray release of this season, the final six episodes aren’t included, basically meaning this season almost certainly is meant to be taken as a six episode season and nothing else. In addition, Anime-Planet and MAL say the series is only six episodes as well.

I will be writing a full season review soon, but for now it seems like our journey with Hell Girl is pretty much over. I still have a handful of manga volumes to post, but this is it for the anime version.

………However.

I am considering kinda breaking my own rules here and reviewing the live-action Hell Girl movie and the live-action TV series. They are available online, and they’re subbed. I may just reserve that as a special for next Halloween. We’ll have to see. Until then, thank you for following me throughout the several years it has taken me to review the entire franchise episode by episode. I have to find a new show to replace it, which will probably be Tokyo Mew Mew New, but I’m considering doing something else in addition to that. I’ll have to look around. Hopefully, it won’t take me eons to review like this franchise has taken me.

(Screencaps from episodes seven through twelve obtained from Fancaps.net)


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Animating Halloween | Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight Episode 6 – Twill Review

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Plot: Michiru vehemently refuses to become Hell Girl, but the Master of Hell looms overhead and won’t let her escape her fate. He shows her one more case to get her to accept her punishment. Will it work?

Breakdown: Okay, I concede. I totally get why people are pissed about this season going the way it did, at least to a certain degree. I’m not sitting here banging on my desk in anger or anything, mostly because I’m just tired at this point, but I’m not happy with how things turned out.

While I stand by what I said about the rest of the episodes being good and Michiru being the best written Hell Girl parallel/replacement, in regards to backstory, they didn’t handle this ending very well at all.

You could say they handled it terribly.

I thought that they would wrap things up quite nicely and then they’d do the spiel of episode seven onward, which may or may not hurt my overall view on the season, but I’d be able to overlook it if the conclusion was still really good. Sadly, it seems like they just kinda gave up at episode five.

This entire season has been very good to this point, so I felt comfortable getting my hopes up a little bit. I really have to stop doing that.

Being completely fair, this episode is fine. As a standalone episode, it’s about the same level of quality that the other episodes have provided so far. The problem is that I wasn’t lying in the last episode review. Despite this season having twelve episodes, this is the season and (animated) franchise finale. And it’s just another anthology episode with the Hell Girl replacement stuff scotch taped to the background.

Hell Girl finales are always dedicated to the overarching story, usually because the overarching story hasn’t been given a lot of focus over the course of the season. They typically have one episode or so to introduce the main character(s) of the season, you see them pop up here and there throughout the episodes, usually not affecting many plots, the mid-season finale will put some degree of focus on them and then the final couple of episodes are dedicated to wrapping up their story.

In Fourth Twilight, however, they were already given a disadvantage by cutting the episode order in half, and then they made it worse by only choosing to make half of those episodes, which meant they had to introduce a new character, show her throughout the episodes, tease aspects of her life, explore her backstory and make her agree to be Hell Girl all in six episodes while still having the anthology structure that the show always has, and that’s just not very workable.

To make matters worse, it’s obvious that the budget for this episode was the lowest of all the episodes in the season. It wasn’t god awful of anything, but I kept getting distracted by how bad the faces looked, especially from medium to long distances. They looked laughable. The secondary main character, Tatsuya, constantly looks like his face isn’t attached to his head, and most of the time the eyes are not aligned properly. The faces also frequently look like they’re not properly angled to the way the heads and bodies are angled. It’s very weird.

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What actually is this mess?

There are also some instances where it looks like the digital effects aren’t quite finished. For example, there was a company logo throughout the episode that looked overly bright and like there never any shading applied to it. One particularly notable scene had a van with this logo have the text be super bright, almost like it was glowing, when the shot showed the van from the back, but on another shot when the van is turning, it’s like the entire logo was suddenly in shadow.

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The CGI car that the main characters are driving later doesn’t feel like it’s finished, but that’s less noticeable.

However, the art and animation are the least of this episode’s concerns. What bums me out most of all is the fact that the overarching story part of the episode, as an ending to both the season and the franchise, is massively disappointing and poorly written.

After vehemently refusing to become Hell Girl this entire episode, Michiru just….decides to become Hell Girl….offscreen. She’s watching this case unfold and, for some reason, she suddenly appears as Hell Girl when the main character uses Hell Correspondence. And that’s it.

She never explains what she saw that made her change her mind. Even Ren points out that her decision doesn’t make any sense. The only line that so much as hints as to why she changed her mind is when Michiru noted that the main character, Yui, thanked Michiru for sending her target to hell, even if it meant she’d go to hell too, like she felt this was the vigilante-esque job they keep telling us Hell Girl is NOT.

What’s more is that Hell Girl is also meant to be entirely emotionless and not give out advice or influence decisions, and yet she seems to do that. While Michiru is expressionless, she still shows emotions and gives advice to Satoshi.

Oh yeah, in the credits, Satoshi, from the last episode, came back, asking Michiru to send him to hell because he hates the misery his parents are going through seemingly because of him. I don’t understand how he was even allowed to access Hell Correspondence. Are you seriously able to access Hell Correspondence if you wish vengeance on….yourself? I get that self-loathing is a thing – trust me, I know that all too well – but vengeance is a different beast. Also, he’s not really doing it because he hates himself. He’s doing it because he believes it will make his parents happier, which is another reason why he shouldn’t have even been able to access the website.

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The fact that Michiru told him that he wasn’t allowed to send himself to hell kinda drives this point home. If he’s not allowed, how’d he even access the website or get a one-on-one with Michiru anyway? The only reason I can think of for this is Michiru wanted to talk to him to give him advice on staying alive and smiling for the sake of making others, especially his parents, happy. But that would be showing emotion and giving advice, which she’s not supposed to be allowed to do.

Now, I did say that I didn’t care too much how Michiru’s story ended because I just wanted Ai to pass on to heaven. I would think that would be her destination after the Master of Hell found it suitable to find a replacement for her.

But she never passes on after she hands the reins to Michiru. Ai stays in the living world with the Hell Team, whom I guess I should mention at this point are officially called The Four Straws, but I thought that sounded silly, so I started calling them The Hell Team.

The Hell Team and Ai all seem retired from the role, except for Yamawaro, who has grown attached to Michiru in the short time she’s been around and chose to remain as her sole assistant after Ai retired. So Ai just…..hangs around on earth….forever? I guess it’s a tiny bit nice because she gets to spend eternity with her friends and doesn’t have to do Hell Girl stuff anymore, but it’s not really a satisfying ending to her character or the franchise as a whole.

What makes this situation even more frustrating is that they act as if Ai doesn’t know that heaven exists. When Michiru points out that Yui won’t be able to go to heaven, Ai acts as if she’s never even heard that word before. Except Michiru clearly knows that heaven exists, and also, uhm, Ai, you have to know about heaven. It’s been part of your Hell Girl speech for hundreds of years. “You will never know the joys of heaven.”

Wanyuudou later says “Heaven, eh? Easy to say.” I can’t decipher what he means by that. Is he implying that Ai still has more to work to do to get into heaven? Is it impossible for her to get into heaven? I don’t get it.

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Her face is opposite to her head…..

Some commenters seemed to believe there is just another Hell Girl now – that Michiru wasn’t Ai’s replacement, but all of the sources I’ve been able to find confirm that Michiru is her replacement not another Hell Girl. You’d think if there were other Hell Girls in the world, we would have been made aware of them by now. Also, if there were other Hell Girls, Ai wouldn’t have been needed to recruit Yuzuki in the previous season. She’d just get the role the same way that Ai did.

Michiru actually makes for a refreshing Hell Girl. Her character design works quite well, and I love that she has a deep green kimono with roses on it, countering Ai’s flower motif of lilies. I just kinda think her stark green eyes should have been kept instead of giving her red eyes, even if that is a trademark.

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I feel I should maybe take back what I said in the previous episode about how Michiru’s story is better overall than the previous three protagonists. I took points off of Takuma’s story because it was so ridiculously drawn out and overly miserable. I took points off of Tsugumi’s story because of how she was handled in later seasons. I took points off of Yuzuki’s story because it was Yuzuki’s story. So I feel it only fair to knock Michiru’s story down quite a bit for this ending.

While I do believe her backstory is definitely the best and certainly makes her a better candidate for a new Hell Girl than Yuzuki, I can’t pretend like her overall story isn’t negatively impacted by all this. I’m going to swallow my pride here and say even Yuzuki gave more of a fight when it came to being coerced into becoming Hell Girl than Michiru did. She resisted for many episodes, and it took her remembering her own ridiculously tragic backstory for her to agree.

After Michiru remembered her tragic backstory, she didn’t agree to be Hell Girl, even after remembering that she had enough anger and hatred within her to slaughter her entire village in a massive fire. Michiru wasn’t even involved in this case, and it didn’t have any parallels to her own story. When Yuzuki’s story closed out, it was with a case involving her best friend’s family and the woman who sent her best friend to hell.

I still don’t understand what was so special about this case to change her mind. It definitely wasn’t what Yui said because she said that to her after she had already agreed. She’s seen several instances of a person getting justice through vengeance via Hell Correspondence. Why did this particular case, that honestly didn’t feel all that special, resonate with her so much that she changed her stance?

They should have just continued the case from the previous episode somehow instead of having Satoshi randomly pop up, say he wants to kill himself and then have Michiru send him off with a pep talk.

All of this combined, if I had to rank the protagonists’ complete stories and their roles throughout the series, I’d rank Takuma’s story first, Tsugumi a close second, Michiru a close third and Yuzuki a distant fourth. I really wish they had ended the series after season two. I wish that so much. It was such a good ending to the franchise. Ai got to pass on to heaven, the Hell Team got to be normal people but Hell Correspondence still existed. It was contained and great, but they had to ruin it….twice.

As for the case in this episode, it was alright. It was a tragic situation, there were multiple levels to it, it kinda made me feel bad for them. What I don’t like about the case is the ending. They both resolved to handle the situation without calling Hell Girl, and, honestly, it may have worked if they could combat the power of the target’s family, but Yui just decided to call Hell Girl anyway behind Tatsuya’s back and pull the string. This wouldn’t be too bad considering that he also used Hell Correspondence, so it’d be poetic that they’d both be bound for hell someday.

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However, that wasn’t the absolute end. She visits her father, who has been in a coma for five years, tells him that it’s finally done – she finally got rid of the man responsible for putting him in that condition….and then she pulls the plug on him and is arrested for it. I guess she wanted to end his suffering, but why did she do it in secret? If he’s really been on life support for five years, surely taking him off is an option that she’s legally allowed to make. She just has to tell people about it before she does it, right? I’ve never taken someone off life support before, nor do I know Japan’s laws on this, but I’d assume so.

Anyway, she’s taken away by the cops, seemingly heading for a life in prison, and Tatsuya is left holding an engagement ring in his hands as she’s carted off.

Our final hell torture was pretty good, but a bit sad because only Yamawaro was a participant.

Not an awful ending, but I also wish this had been handled a bit better.

*deep sigh*

I still have more things to discuss regarding this ending, but we have to talk about episode seven onward to truly close out the season. I did mention once upon a time what the problem was with these next episodes, referred to in the next episode previews as “The Reminiscence Episodes” but I think I’ll reserve that for one more review. Come with me everyone, as we close out Hell Girl in quite possibly the laziest and most lackluster manner possible.


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Animating Halloween | Yami Shibai 10 Episodes 9 and 10 Review

Episode 9: To My Future Self

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Plot: Having given up on his dreams of becoming a manga artist long ago, a man finds a DVD from his past self among the junk in his apartment. When he watches it, his past self wishes his future self luck on achieving his dreams, but when he admits to the screen that he failed in his dreams, the DVD malfunctions. After that, the man believes he has been cursed by the DVD.

Breakdown: Man, what a weird way to encourage people to never give up on their dreams.

Okay, that’s probably not the real message. The real message is probably more akin to “Don’t bully people or otherwise be a crappy person” but this one took me for more of a ride than I expected. It was heading down a somewhat predictable path. I thought that the man’s history would slowly start erasing after he became cursed. Or he’d disappear because his past self was unhappy with learning about his future and would ensure that wouldn’t happen. However, it took a sharp left turn towards an ending I never expected.

People kept touting this as being the best episode so far, and I’m not sure I agree with that. It was certainly good, but I think they were too in-your-face with the scary faces. Yami Shibai might get some shit sometimes for not showing enough, but here I think they showed a bit too much. When the first jump-scary shots popped up, I didn’t get in the least bit scared or even surprised. They pretty much warned you of the jump scare before it happened by showing the creepy person walking in the foreground.

The scary atmosphere was constructed entirely by the story, if you ask me.

Episode 10: The Other Building

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Plot: An ill man who has been hospitalized keeps trying to push his physical therapy too far at night behind everyone’s backs to help him get well enough to go to work. One night, he believes he spots another building to the hospital that should exist filled with creepy patients, but no one believes him. What is this other building?

Breakdown: This one was okay. May or may not be the weakest of the season. It was just a bit too easy to figure out the twist here, and the main character was a bit too dumb for my liking. He keeps seeing monsters and strange visions before passing out whenever he goes out at night, but he doesn’t think, hey, maybe it’s a good idea to just not go out at night. Or, at the very least, if you do go out at night, don’t go beyond where the salt is because that’s always where the trouble starts.

The imagery was fairly spooky, and, for some reason, this episode certainly had the most animation I’ve ever seen in this show. Like it was actually….ya know….animated. It’s was obviously still very rough animation, but it was a lot more than the typical level we normally get and I don’t know why.

You want to know something very strange? Throughout this entire episode, I was getting severe deja vu. I’d swear I’ve seen this episode or a very similar story somewhere before, but, for the life of me, I can’t remember where. Does anyone know what I’m thinking of? Am I crazy?


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Animating Halloween | Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight Episode 5 – I Can Hear the Song of the Wind Review

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Plot: The mysterious girl in green, Michiru Sagae, finally remembers her past when she follows a young boy and his parents as they experience a very similar situation to her own demise. As history seems to repeat itself, Ai reveals the truth about Michiru’s past and her future.

Breakdown: Man……

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Fuck Three Vessels.

Why does Three Vessels get away with being rated more highly over Fourth Twilight when it has, and I’m being sincere here, the best Hell Girl replacement/parallel story in the entire franchise?

Yes, better than Takuma.

Yes, WAY better than……………Yuzuki. Sorry, I forgot her name again.

And, yeah, let’s go here.

Better than Tsugumi.

Is everyone really so salty about episode seven onward that they discount all of the good that the series is prior to that?

I’m getting ahead of myself.

This is Michiru’s backstory episode. It has a huge challenge to overcome. See, Michiru is set to be Ai’s next replacement. How and why is she getting a new replacement when the last season said she’d be in that role forever now?

Shut up. It doesn’t matter. As far as I’m concerned, season three didn’t happen and this is Ai’s actual chance to rest in peace.

But, as Yuzuki taught us, you can’t just replace Hell Girl. You need to have a compelling story. You need to have a sympathetic character who deserves to be in the role because Hell Girl is a punishment. It is a form of repentance for a massive sin you committed. It’s meant to teach the person in the role a lesson about revenge and forgiveness, even if it’s not the most effective method of doing that, if you ask me. Three Vessels forgot this and basically said “Oh something something revenge. Whatever. Got it.”

Today’s target is a young boy named Satoshi. A while ago, he and his parents took three other boys with them on a trip since they wouldn’t fit in the cars that the other parents owned. The three little shit stains in the shapes of children silently punch and bully Satoshi while they drive. However, they’re pretty much just keeping their shitty nature hidden from their parents because they act like insane assholes when they start driving away. They’re quite rude to Satoshi’s parents, refuse to wear seat belts, throw their juice cans at Satoshi’s dad and even climb out the window while they’re driving so they can sit on the doors.

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The fallen juice can gets stuck under the brake pedal, and they wind up crashing the car on a sharp turn when a big truck comes around the corner.

Something that’s kinda been bugging me about Hell Girl for quite a while is that they keep shying away from anything gory or showing anything above like a black eye or a bump on the head or a small cut. I kinda figured they’d just cut away to black after the car crashed because there’s no way there wouldn’t be any carnage with three boys who were sitting on the outside of the doors of a car as it crashed alongside a cliff.

But nope.

While it wasn’t the goriest scene I’ve witnessed, it was still quite a bit of carnage for this show, especially when the victims are children. Gotta say, I was quite surprised.

Satoshi and his parents lived through the crash because they were wearing their seat belts. This was an awful tragedy. The boys, despite being little assholes, didn’t deserve to die in such an awful manner.

One of the mothers of the boys who died blames Satoshi specifically. Her logic seems to be that it’s very unfair that he survived when her son died, and getting rid of him also hurts his parents, whom she deems as being directly responsible, so it’s basically three revenges for the price of one.

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As Michiru witnesses Satoshi’s story unfold before her, her memories start to return. In, I’m gonna say, given that this village just got electric lights, and considering the clothes they’re wearing……..the 1890s?……???, Michiru’s father had just convinced the landlord of the neighborhood to finally spring for electricity throughout the village. While the villagers are extremely happy, the landlord and his family are not. They hate that Michiru’s father seemingly pressured them into spending the money and that he’s taking all the glory for it while they still look bad for taking so long to make the upgrade.

The landlord’s son and his friends decide to get revenge on him and his family by forcing Michiru into a nearby pond. It’s not exactly clear if they intended on killing her or just tormenting her in the water, but they were pushing her pretty forcefully. She manages to escape from their clutches and run away, but the ground collapses into the water. All four kids are submerged, and Michiru manages to save herself by grabbing onto a tree root. The son of the landlord also manages to grab a tree root, but the other two boys frantically grab at his legs under the water, accidentally dragging him back in.

Michiru falls unconscious, but when she wakes up she finds the corpses of the three boys floating in the pond, which was another kinda graphic image I didn’t think they’d show.

At the funeral, the entire town is vilifying them, which surprised me. The town was singing Michiru’s father’s praises a while ago, and now a freak accident turns them all against them? They target Michiru specifically because they believe she straight up murdered them by rigging the ground to collapse, which, uh huh, sure okay. That makes a world of sense. No matter how they think it happened, they all blame Michiru, and her entire family is hated by the village as a result.

Later, one of the villagers kidnaps Michiru and locks her in a storehouse on the landlord’s property at the landlord’s wife’s request. She spends ten days suffering without food or water (even though she wouldn’t live without water for that long) and eventually decides to try and hang a wind chime from the window. I think anyway. I don’t think she could have escaped from that window since there was nothing to climb down onto, and it was like two stories up. Michiru was noted earlier as loving wind chimes, and they act as a bit of a parallel to Ai’s motif of bells. (It’s also possible her insect motif is fireflies while Ai’s was butterflies.) However, she falls from the window before she’s able to hang it.

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At home, her parents are worried sick. The police can’t find Michiru, and the villagers don’t care to look for her. Her mother in particular is literally worried sick as she stays in bed believing there’s no hope that Michiru is still alive. Until, that is, the wind chime at their house falls and breaks. When they go to investigate, they hear the sounds of a wind chime in the distance. The sounds lead them to the storehouse where they see the wind chime up in the window. I have no idea how that got up there. Michiru clearly fell before she had a chance to hang that thing. Unless she climbed back up, but I’d imagine she’d be pretty wounded after a fall like that. It’s even tied around a beam that’s on the exterior of the building. I can’t imagine she put that there.

Upon seeing the wind chime in the window, Michiru’s parents immediately believe she’s in there so they break the lock and retrieve her. However, before they’re able to leave and get her medical attention, the landlord and other villagers stop them at the door with cans of oil. They believe Michiru’s parents will call the police about what they did to Michiru, so they douse the place in oil with the intent of setting the place on fire and burning them all alive.

Michiru’s father tried to confront them only to be met with such a massive blow to the head with a wooden stick that he immediately died. Again, this was more gruesome than the show has been for quite a while. Not majorly graphic, but still showed more than I thought they would.

The landlord lights the place on fire and they wrap metal wire about the door latch to ensure that they can’t break the door open. Michiru and her mother are forced to accept their fate and wait to go to heaven together as the flames engulf them.

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Back in present time, Michiru says that she still doesn’t understand the situation with this boy and Hell Correspondence even with her memories intact. The boy has done nothing wrong, the other parents are evil in her eyes, and she views Hell Correspondence as nothing but a means of perpetuating misery.

Ai shows her that it’s not quite as black and white as that. She shows her the client crying at her son’s coffin with the straw doll in her hands. Ai explains that it’s not their job to determine what’s right, wrong, good or evil – it’s also not their job to interfere in what the clients decide – it’s entirely up to the people involved. Michiru starts to panic because she doesn’t want Satoshi to go to hell, but at the last minute the client throws the doll away, it disappears, and the client collapses in grief. She’s made the decision to not send Satoshi to hell.

After witnessing this, Ai returns Michiru to the flashback, showing her that her memories didn’t fully return quite yet. She didn’t remember what happened after the fire started. Ai shows her that, in their final moments, Michiru’s mother laid on top of her to protect her from the flames as much as possible, even if their deaths were certain. In what I really think is the most graphic scene there’s even been in Hell Girl, we actually see Michiru and her mother slowly burn up while still alive. As Michiru dies and is consumed by the flames, her vengeful spirit emerges from the storehouse as a massive wave of flames that burns up all of the villagers and the entire village with it.

As the fire burns behind them, Ai tells Michiru that she’s committed a terrible sin, and she must atone for it by becoming Hell Girl.

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Despite some aspects of this story being a bit hard to believe and confusing, like I still don’t understand how these little girls are getting demonic fire powers as they die in terrible circumstances, nor do I understand why Mr. Sagae was so hated by the landlord just for negotiating the installation of electric wiring to the point where his son felt it suitable to try and murder his daughter, nor do I understand why Michiru has such a green motif to her without anyone pointing out how weird that is (and, unlike Ai, whose eyes changed to red after she died, Michiru’s green hair and eyes were present before she died.) it’s definitely very captivating, and it does all come together to make Michiru a prime candidate to become Hell Girl.

Takuma’s story was good, probably the second best out of the four, but it was a bit too drawn out and ridiculously harsh to Takuma, who did nothing wrong. He was never a Hell Girl replacement candidate, but the parallels to Ai’s life were clearly made in order to give Ai’s story a conclusion that wound up being screwed over by the third season.

It blows Yuzuki’s story out of the water. I don’t even want to talk about that mess again, but they made Michiru likable, sympathetic, interesting and a viable replacement for Hell Girl in five episodes when they couldn’t do a damn thing with Yuzuki in 26 episodes.

Tsugumi’s story was quite interesting, and it’s definitely closer to Takuma’s in quality level than Yuzuki’s, I liked how she was a descendant of Sentarou (and a distant relative of Ai) got Hell Girl visions and was sympathetic to what Ai did as Hell Girl. She even kinda had reasons for becoming vengeful. However, I can’t help but take major points off for what Tsugumi’s story became over time. She was wasted more or less in season two. She was ultra wasted in season three before just bouncing when she figured she had failed, and she popped in during season four to do one thing to help people, and we never even get confirmation if it worked. And lest we forget how Hajime was treated.

Also, Ai had to lie to her about Hajime in order to make her vengeful enough to consider using Hell Correspondence on him, so that kinda makes her story a bit less engaging, in hindsight.

Michiru’s story, despite being short, was a stronger parallel to Ai’s. It was effective in making her sympathetic, it was heartbreaking on its own merits without basically beating you over the head with a “FEEL BAD” stick, and it provided a good reason as to why she needs to become Hell Girl.

The ending in particular hits you with the tragedy of the situation and Michiru’s desire for vengeance. Her mother was literally burning alive on top of her in a last-ditch effort to protect Michiru even a little. Michiru had to watch her mother die in her own final moments, after watching her father be murdered, while knowing the people responsible were right outside the door not giving a single fuck, if not taking glee in what they were doing, which is pretty akin to Ai’s feelings of betrayal being fueled by seeing Sentarou put dirt on top of her and her parents as they were being buried alive, even if he was being forced into it.

What’s more is that the case of the week is a strong parallel in itself. While we did focus more on Michiru, Satoshi’s situation is absolutely heartbreaking. He not only has to deal with those parents and possibly others treating him and his family like monsters, but he also clearly has a ton of survivor’s guilt that is only being compounded by statements from the other parents that he should have died instead of them and that he’s probably happy he survived. I was very relieved that the client didn’t pull the string, but, as we see, it’s still an awful situation all around. Those parents lost their sons, Satoshi’s family is forever fractured, and Satoshi himself will likely have to deal with terrible trauma for the rest of his life. Not pulling the string didn’t make the situation better or worse, even if it did spare Satoshi’s life and future.

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As Ai puts it, in many circumstances, what’s right or wrong depends on a person’s feelings. You can definitely make the argument that, no matter what, sending Satoshi to hell would be wrong and wouldn’t solve anything, and you’d be right, but the way the client is feeling right now makes her believe that’s not the truth. She views it as having some sort of semblance of justice, and I believe the only thing that stops her is the realization that it won’t bring her son back and won’t make her feel better. It would be a largely pointless gesture that would just cause more suffering.

However, after watching nearly the entire Hell Girl anime franchise, yes, emotion has a huge stake in this. While many cases are clear cut and dry ‘one is evil and the other is a victim’ all cases are fueled by emotion. They have to be by necessity. That’s literally how Hell Girl works. You need to have a strong feeling of vengeance against a specific person to even use the services. Many cases are just driven by what the client believes is right and wrong, even if these cases can, and frequently are, objectively slanted one way or another.

Hell Girl has too wide of a spectrum of cases to make any concrete claim about whether Hell Correspondence is good or bad. It stops evil people in their tracks before they do more bad things, saving lives. It rids certain horrible people from the world without ever letting them do another horrible thing, which protects the lives and happiness of others. But this is all based on how people choose to use the service.

‘Evil’ people can use it. The service can be abused. And, at the end of the day, everyone, clients and targets alike, are heading for hell. It’s just that the clients have more time to enjoy their lives before their trip down the river Styx. So even if you did save your life by the pull of a string, it’s basically wasted either way. It just saves you some suffering which will be paid back with interest in hell.

I suppose those third parties with no attachment to the contract would still be happy, but not all cases have innocent third parties being saved, and more often than not there are innocent third parties being hurt by the string pulls as well. It’s an incredibly gray area that’s filled with tons of questions of morality and philosophy.

The fact of the matter is that Michiru has to accept the way this system works, whether she likes it or not, and atone for her own sins in vengeance.

Being fair, I still don’t know how that particular aspect of Michiru’s story goes down, so I might still take points off from her story or character, but I’m feeling hopeful. I really just want Ai’s story to end peacefully and in a satisfactory manner while also sending off a fitting replacement, even if her time in the role is woefully short.

As in one episode.

As in next episode.

The series ends in the next episode.


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