Plot: A family worse than hell itself. Sadly, these families are more common than you might think. Akira and Arina are two young children who are trapped in such a family, and it seems like the only way to escape from their abusive family is with the help of Hell Girl.
Breakdown: Holy shit! Holy shit! What the actual hell!? Holy shit!
That was my real-time reaction to the ending of this episode, because WOW. This series still manages to sneak in some really messed up shit sometimes.
Let’s back up first. The plot of this episode really felt more reminiscent of the first two seasons. The people in this family are absolute monsters who are well beyond redemption just from their first scenes. The father, Kensuke, doesn’t care about any discourse or abuse going on in his household and cheats on his wife. The mother, Shiori, is very verbally abusive, violent and is also cheating on her husband. The older sister, Asuka, is an uncaring bitch who spends her time viciously bullying and beating up a kid at school. The grandma, Toshi, is a harpy whose first scene is of her yelling for Shiori to clean a room while Toshi’s currently making a massive mess in there. She criticizes everything, particularly anything involving Shiori and, during a fight at dinner, she stabbed Shiori in the hand with a fork and told her she’d make her life hell from this day forth. In response, Shiori promised Toshi would die. Then we have the cousin, Yoshinori, who I think is dating Asuka? But we’ll get to him a bit later.
The two lone innocent parties in this nightmare of a home are Akira, the middle child, and Arina, the youngest. After witnessing his mother send his grandmother to hell, Akira devises a plan. He brings in the wife of a man Shiori was sleeping with, a man who is in an unrequited love with a woman Kensuke was sleeping with, and the boy that Asuka has been bullying constantly, Mikami.
He offers a deal. If they all send Shiori, Kensuke and Asuka to hell with Hell Correspondence, they’ll offer up a split of their inheritance money, which is about 300 million yen (or a little over $2mil.) While all of them find the offer intriguing, they’re not all on board. The only one who agrees completely is the man because he seems so obsessed with his crush that he doesn’t care if he gets sent to hell when he dies. However, the woman refuses because she believes the price is too severe. She doesn’t hate Shiori enough to care, because she knows the kind of person Shiori is, and she won’t forgive her husband, but she doesn’t find it worth it to go to hell herself, no matter how much money they offer.
Mikami doesn’t refuse nor agree, but he does ask why Akira isn’t doing this himself. Akira claims the reason isn’t because he’s afraid to go to hell, but the woman doesn’t believe him, and Akira doesn’t give a different reason.
At this point, the story is quite unique and intriguing. This actually isn’t the first episode where one character has tried to get another character to send someone to hell nor is it the first time some sort of Hell Link pact has been attempted. However, the fact that these two story elements are converging and added on top of such a severe situation, with child main characters no less, makes for a much more interesting plot.
Akira’s struggle with the concept of going to hell is also, surprisingly, refreshing because, despite many clients waiting to pull the string, we don’t see too many of them actually struggle with the idea of going to hell. If they do, they typically give the doll back immediately.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Akira is a child. I’d wager he’s probably like 13 years old. Fully understanding the weight of using Hell Girl’s services coupled with the severity of his situation must be absolute torture for him. It’s not right of him to pawn off the punishment onto other people, even if they do have their own vendettas, but it’s completely understandable that he’d be scared. I’m also not really angry that the woman and Mikami reacted the way that they did. If you’re going to attempt to enter into some sort of murder pact with other people for the sake of offing nearly your entire family, you have to accept adult responsibility, and, in hindsight, it IS a little selfish to ask three people to damn themselves to hell to get your own family killed.
In another vein, though, I definitely see more of this dilemma than meets the eye. You can only send one person to hell per client, and Akira, at this point, has three people he needs gone. Even if he did agree to get rid of one himself, it wouldn’t solve his problems.
Also, before anyone gets into this, the aspect of calling the cops was brought up briefly when that big fight was happening, but Kensuke just said that the police don’t interfere with domestic disputes and it was never brought up again.
If Akira is okay with the idea of sending all of his family, barring his little sister, to hell, surely he’d be okay with running away. I’m really not blaming the victim here, I truly feel bad for their situation, I’m just confused on a logical/writing standpoint. Normally, the reason here would be that they’re too afraid of their parents coming after them, which is very understandable, but, later, both of their parents run off so it’d be the perfect opportunity to either call the cops, notify whatever they have for CPS in the Japan or just run away, but they don’t.
After his plan fails (since the woman refused, Shiori would still live, so the inheritance wouldn’t go to Akira to be split to the others) he just goes back home with Arina. That evening, Yoshinori arrives and proclaims that he’s going to be living with them from now on since he doesn’t like it at home anymore.
While Kensuke is okay with letting his nephew stay a while, he doesn’t agree with him staying forever, and he’s concerned about his brother being worried about Yoshinori. This pisses off Yoshinori immensely. He seemingly has an emotional break, crying and yelling that they don’t care about him. Then he beats the living hell out of Kensuke and knocks Shiori to the floor, demanding they apologize to him.
After that, we get a short montage of life after that. Yoshinori torments Akira by dumping spaghetti on his head, Kensuke escapes his problems at home by sneaking off to have affairs, same as Shiori, Asuka continues to beat up Mikami every day with her friends, and Yoshinori attempts to sexually assault Arina. It was implied earlier that this has happened before because Arina was really scared around him and hated him, but now it’s become more explicit.
Upon witnessing this, Akira bites the bullet and contacts Hell Girl to send Yoshinori to hell, but he confesses to Ai that he’s uncertain about this decision. He asks her advice, but she cannot give any and tells him that the decision is purely his. She leaves without giving him a doll.
The next day, Kensuke leaves the house because he can’t stand living with Yoshinori anymore. He claims he’s going to live with his brother since he has a free room now, but he was a little too chipper when he left, so I feel like it’s safe to assume he’ll be shacking up with his lover. Shiori claims he’s running away from his problems, but she decides to be a hypocrite and immediately also leaves the house to wherever, I assume her lover’s house. Now there are no adults in the home at all, and Yoshinori is free to do whatever he wants to Akira and Arina.
One night, the mere mention from Akira that Asuka is not home for dinner enrages Yoshinori because he believes he’s insinuating that there’s something suspicious about Asuka’s absence and is mocking him. He hits him to the ground, hogties him with what I think is a jump rope and then chases after Arina, clearly intent on trying to assault her again.
Now, at this point, I thought I was all savvy on Hell Girl and knew enough to figure that Arina had probably used Hell Correspondence behind Akira’s back and had a doll in her room ready to send Yoshinori to hell. She manages to hide in the bathroom, but Yoshinori is so enraged that he just starts smashing the door over and over yelling that if she just lets him do what he wants it’ll be over soon, clearly implying that he’s going to rape her.
As Akira yells from downstairs, we cut to black.
The next morning, Akira somehow frees himself from the rope, Yoshinori is gone, and Akira goes upstairs to check on Arina. Through a hole in the door, he sees Arina on the floor of the bathroom. She’s in tears, the bathroom is in shambles, and she’s lost all of the light in her eyes. This implies that she did get raped, but it’s not entirely clear because the door was still closed and Arina was still fully clothed. I think it’s safe to assume she did because otherwise her state doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. She’d definitely be upset even if he never touched her, but the fact that she’s clearly fully emotionally broken now, and remains that way throughout the rest of the episode, heavily implies that she either let him in the bathroom to make him stop or he somehow opened the door and she or he shut it after the assault.
Devastated that he couldn’t stop all of this before his sister got hurt, Akira resolves to finally call Hell Girl for real on Yoshinori. He sits on the riverbank with the doll waiting to pull the string when Mikami shows up. Akira confesses that he was right – he was scared to go to hell. Mikami reveals his own doll and confesses that, after the meeting, he did call Hell Girl on Asuka, but he also couldn’t pull the string. After a long while of contemplation, however, he came to the conclusion that, if something isn’t done about these people, they’ll just continue to torment them or others. He also realized that knowing he’ll be sent to hell when he dies is a bit of comfort because it means no one he’ll confront in the future will be able to scare him.
After their conversation, Akira and Mikami both pull the strings, sending Yoshinori and Asuka to hell.
The hell torture this time around is pretty decent, but has one big flaw. They’re both tied up extremely tight from head to toe in the same jump rope-like rope that Yoshinori used to tie up Akira, and the very limited and janky animation used when they’re in the background is quite off-putting and effective. Definite live-action J-horror inspiration there…..and then they ruin it by having their heads inflate to cartoonish levels and pop like balloons.
“Now Twix,” someone says through their computer monitor, “This ending was messed up, but I don’t think it warranted the reaction you gave at the start of this review.”
Well, vague representation of someone who is maybe reading this, what if I told you this episode wasn’t over yet?
“Well, I guess I’d still wonder what could possibly happen after the string pull that would be so shocking.”
Well, what if I told you that Akira and Mikami become Dexter?
“Well, I guess I’d—wait what?…..Like the serial killer, Dexter?”
Yup. Akira and Mikami team up to become serial killer vigilantes in order to protect innocent people from the awful beings in the world. They set up shop in the little abandoned cabin by the river that they first met in, and they reveal that one of the girls who was beating up Mikami has been kidnapped by them and is tied up on the floor. The last we see of them, the girl is flailing and crying while Mikami and Akira stand over her with a hacksaw and a huge butcher knife, saying, as long as her body’s not discovered, they’ll never be suspected of murder.
As we see Arina back home, still in her emotionally broken state, Akira proclaims that he’ll continue doing this as long as it saves even one girl like her.
Rarely has an episode of this show knocked me on my ass as much as this one did, but wow.
What a massively dark episode. There was absolutely nothing positive for anyone here. Which, I suppose, was the point. Michiru’s one contribution to this episode was to ask for how long they’ll continue to do this – I think their Dexter situation seemingly acting as a parallel to Hell Correspondence.
Oh, and for anyone wondering, Shiori and Kensuke didn’t get comeuppance at all. Narration near the end explains that they never returned home, even with Yoshinori gone, and they’re shown living it up with their lovers while all of this is happening. I would think that if Mikami and Akira’s first targets are going to be people who have personally wronged them that they might find them and kill them someday, but that’s assuming that they don’t get caught, which I’m not too sure of. They’re just teenagers, and they’re murdering people underneath a very public and seemingly well-maintained walkway right next to the river. Maybe they’re assuming that, by cutting up the bodies and putting them in the river, that they’ll never get caught, but come on, boys. If your plan is what I think it is, there’s no way that you won’t be suspected of murder. Both Akira’s whole family and all of the kids that bullied Mikami are on their kill list. I would be shocked if they got away with this for much longer.
Outside of the janky art and animation this episode, this certainly was a captivating story. Even if they did briefly go back to their pure evil antagonist structure for a bit, they didn’t go overboard with it. These people are horrible, awful, detestable creatures, but, sadly, I can’t say that I would be surprised if this family existed in real life. It’s one of those situations where I can actually cite worse families I’ve heard of before….
This episode does make you think about Hell Correspondence, but maybe not in the way the writers intended. Hell Correspondence neither helped nor hurt here. No one was really saved by Hell Girl in this instance, and, given the ending, the boys could have just chosen to murder Yoshinori and Asuka instead of sending them to hell. The ultimate message, as I alluded to before, is how long can this be kept up, and, more to the point, is it worth it?
Mikami and Akira both assert that what they’re doing is for the sake of innocent people. The ones they’re targeting are people who have clearly shown they’re beyond redemption and, if left alone, they’ll just torment other people.
Hell Girl, as she has declared several times, is not a vigilante, no matter how she’s viewed or used. Her job is just her job. As long as someone has a valid vendetta and pulls the string, she sends anyone to hell.
If the main question, for this episode anyway, is really how long they’ll continue to do this, then that’s not a question that can be mirrored with Ai and her crew. She doesn’t control how long she does this job, and, if Three Vessels was any indication, she’s meant to do this job for eternity so it’s pointless to even ask her this.
Perhaps it’s just a question in general to hint to Ai and the others that they may have a chance to end Ai’s punishment soon? It’s unclear and confusing.
Overall, another really good and shocking episode, and I look forward to the next one.
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