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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