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.
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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