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.
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.
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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