Hell Girl: Three Vessels/Jigoku Shoujo: Mitsuganae Full Series Review

Plot: Over a decade (I presume) after Ai had passed on, she suddenly returns to the living world with the intent of finding and recruiting her replacement – a young girl named Yuzuki. Why has Yuzuki been chosen for this role? And will she accept her duties as the new Hell Girl after witnessing all of the pain and suffering caused by the cycle of revenge?

Breakdown: It’s no secret that I went into this series not really looking too fondly on it. I was pretty annoyed that they even chose to continue the series after Ai had such a satisfying send off in season two. When the series/third season was released, I didn’t even bother watching much of it because I resented that they brought Ai back, and for no real reason either. I thought I’d have a better time now since over a decade has passed and I felt like I could give it a real chance.

That was not the case.

I can say with certainty that Three Vessels is the worst Hell Girl season….at least as far as I’ve seen because Fourth Twilight is supposed to be even hotter garbage.

There’s very little in this season that works. It had a couple of really good anthology entries, an episode or two that I really believe are some of the best Hell Girl as a whole has to offer, and some really interesting talking points, but, after going through all of my old episode reviews, I realized just how many of the episodes were awful. There were many silly, stupid and extremely nonsensical storylines and unlikable characters. We didn’t even get that many hell tortures, and what we did get was typically goofy and weird not creative and frightening.

As I mentioned, the season isn’t even built on a strong foundation. They literally bring back Ai for no reason after she had been gone for about a decade or more, I assume, given how much Tsugumi has aged. She had really strong closure at the end of season two, and they just threw it away. They did show that Hell Correspondence stuck around after Ai passed on at the very end of the season two finale, but I figured that must have meant that someone had just naturally taken Ai’s place and that Hell Correspondence would never truly go away.

They, honestly, could have gone that route. You could omit Ai entirely from the series and just have the show be about Yuzuki becoming possessed by the Master of Hell or something whenever a new client shows up. She wouldn’t remember doing Hell Girl activities, but she’d still has visions and she’d still gets involved with clients and cases, and the Hell Team could try to convince her to become the new Hell Girl because that spot needs to be filled.

The problem there is that Ai is the face of Hell Girl. People remember this series because Ai is such a memorable character. Her shtick, her character design, her story, her giant red eyes – all of it make up the iconic Hell Girl. You can easily make a new creepy Hell Girl, but you run risk of the audience not liking them as much as Ai. I like Ai too, but I wish that weren’t the case because the fans’ attachment to her kinda ruined her story.

Ai also comes back without a body….for some reason. I don’t really understand the ‘body’ situation with any of the Hell characters. Their bodies don’t seem to be actual bodies since they’re not alive. They’re basically illusions that they create, but they are physical constructs that look and feel like the real thing.

Ai basically exists as a butterfly….? Then she has to possess Yuzuki, for some reason, and is only able to have a human form when she’s doing Hell Girl stuff and emerges from Yuzuki via a boring magical girl transformation. Then halfway into the season she gets her physical form back….somehow.

This plot twist at the end makes the whole body loss thing completely nonsensical. How was Ai using Yuzuki as a means of having a physical body if Yuzuki is a friggin’ ghost?

She’s not the only one who loses her body – Kikuri does as well….again, for some reason. She possesses a wind-up doll on a tricycle and spends the entire series needing to be wound up in order to move…..Why? Again. No idea. You’d think a being that is basically the Master of Hell…..I think? would be able to move a doll on its own instead of needing to be wound up. It makes even less sense the more you think about it, and we should just move on.

This season also introduced a new assistant to Ai, although he seems to be more Kikuri’s assistant – Yamawaro. He’s living fungus, I think, or a mountain spirit, I guess. He has one episode dedicated to exploring his backstory, and while it is insanely confusing, it was pretty alright. I don’t have any real complaints about Yamawaro, he’s alright as a character, but I don’t get why he was created outside of giving them a fourth doll to work with, which is only useful in one episode.

Tsugumi returns. Hooray! But she doesn’t do much. Pbbbbttt….

Honestly, Tsugumi’s inclusion in the series was ultimately more of a bummer than something to be excited about. It would have been cool if Tsugumi was here as a deuteragonist, doing everything that she could to guide Yuzuki away from her supposed fate as Hell Girl, and it seems that was initially the intention, but she just wound up doing mostly nothing. She did help Yuzuki a couple times and fill her in on what was going on, but her efforts to stop her from becoming Hell Girl were pathetic. And when Yuzuki finally did become Hell Girl, Tsugumi just gave up and left, never to be seen again – at least in this season.

She has such a fatalist attitude with no faith in anything, which is basically the exact opposite of how we left her in season one. We don’t get many details as to what happened to her in the past decade or so besides Hajime wrote a book on Hell Girl like he promised (but that was explained in season two) and then, at some point, died. From what Tsugumi said, he gave up and died? That is, by far, one of the most depressing facts about this season. Hajime was such an important character to the series and Tsugumi and he just dies off-screen. The Fandom page says he went missing, but this season pretty clearly implies that he died. Of what and when, I have no idea. This show isn’t really big into explaining things and logic.

But of course the main aspect of this season that we have to address is Yuzuki.

*deep sigh*

I find it really ironic that I have so much to say over a character who is literally nothing that I really don’t know where to start.

Yuzuki’s the most benign main character this series has ever had. She’s arguably one of the inert main protagonists in an anime I’ve seen in a long-ass time. She spends an inordinate amount of time in the series doing absolutely nothing but existing and witnessing the Hell Girl clients and targets around her. And when she does finally resolve to do something about them, she always does the bare minimum if that. In one episode, she has a vision of some older people in a mansion. When she goes to the mansion, the people there are too young to fit her vision so she just leaves and never appears in the episode again….

I was getting beyond frustrated with her as the episodes wound down. She was just doing so much nothing. I was incredibly confused as to why this living gallon of Nyquil was chosen to be the new Hell Girl, and even after finishing the series I still don’t get it.

I thought things would start picking up for her after Akie, her best friend, was sent to hell unjustifiably. She got the red eyes briefly, she seemed devastated and she was adamant in not becoming Hell Girl….but nope. She more or less continues to be the same level of nothing she was beforehand, but now with more whining.

The episodes went on, and on, and on, and I was waiting for them to get to the goddamn point with Yuzuki. When they finally did, I was blown away by how dumb it was. Her backstory is so ridiculously poorly written and makes no sense whatsoever. Long story short, her father was a bus driver who crashed the bus because the brakes went out. He died in the accident, as did at least one other person, he was blamed for it because the bus company covered up their involvement in the incident, and the town vilified Yuzuki and her mother so much that literally everyone shunned them. They couldn’t find work or buy food, Yuzuki had to quit school because she was being bullied, they were denied fucking MEDICAL CARE. Then Yuzuki’s mother died of a long-standing illness because she was malnourished, and, of course, no doctor would see this horrible *check notes* unemployed single mother and widow of a dude who died in a bus accident.

When her mother died, she buried her in cherry blossoms, I guess no one ever found her body once the blossoms blew away (or, knowing this town, they found it and hung it in the town square to throw eggs at it) she went back home, curled up with her teddy bear and also eventually died I guess from dehydration and starvation. It’s also heavily implied that no one ever found her body in the past decade or more? The apartment building she lived in apparently became condemned in that time, but no one ever went back in that apartment in all that time?

Her entire existence in the series was an illusion created by the Hell Team to educate her on Hell Correspondence and….I dunno, make her more willing to take the role…somehow? Also, she died as a small child but she’s appeared as a 16 year old this whole time, and no one ever once explained why that was.

Out of all of the stories Hell Girl has had over the seasons, out of all the people who have been fueled with vengeance and have done awful things in the name of vengeance, Ai chose as her replacement a girl who, while having a reason to be vengeful, never actually did anything vengeful in life. She became vengeful for a split second before traipsing off to starve/dehydrate to death in her house. Oh and she was like four or five at the time.

Yuzuki doesn’t deserve to be Hell Girl because the job is a punishment. Ai was given the role as punishment for slaughtering her village in vengeance of her and her parents being murdered by them for the Seven Sending ritual as well as being betrayed by her cousin/only friend/love interest, Sentarou.

Yuzuki did absolutely nothing, not even in death. Even if she has a reason to be vengeful, she didn’t do anything to warrant taking the job. If anything, giving her the job was a stupid decision because they reminded her of everything awful that happened to her a child before her death after showing her all of the awful things involved with being Hell Girl and then pushed her into taking the job. Then they were shocked to find her abusing her power when she became Hell Girl. Like no shit, of course she would.

Not that that was much of a factor anyway because the main reason she flipped and went ‘mad with power’ was Akie. Yup, in the end, her motivation really didn’t have much to do with her tragic backstory. It was all about getting vengeance for Akie. And, yeah, Akie being sent to hell was bullshit, and the person who sent her there totally deserves to die, but if you’re going to shift her motivation to this, I need to feel way more emotional connection between Akie and Yuzuki. They were friends, sure, not denying that, but I never felt like they were anywhere near close enough for Yuzuki to go nuts about getting revenge for her. Akie gets sent to hell in the middle of the series, and I honestly forgot about her most of the time after she was gone. Yuzuki had several friends, and I never really saw how Akie was any more important than any of the others.

I honestly don’t even want to talk about how they justify Ai becoming Hell Girl again, but I feel I have to.

When Yuzuki breaks the rules of Hell Correspondence by pursuing revenge against someone without a contract (she never actually exacted this revenge – she only said she would and attacked Ai and the Master of Hell) Ai takes pity on Yuzuki, shows her the error of her ways, weeps over her dead child body and requests to accept the punishment on Yuzuki’s behalf. The Master of Hell accepts, but tells Ai that this arrangement will be forever if she chooses to take it. And she does.

Yuzuki immediately screws up in this role and Ai has to suffer forever to get her out of it. Good job, Yuzuki, you useless bag of dry baby wipes.

The season finale is just a bland and stupid version of the first season’s finale. I didn’t want Yuzuki to stay as Hell Girl, but I also didn’t want Ai to take the role back. Let them both rest in peace for god’s sake.

Overall, while there are definitely a handful of very good stories in this season anthology-wise, the main overarching storyline is basically unsalvageable, and a majority of the anthology episodes are much lower quality than they have been in the previous two seasons.

People pointed out that the series leaned a lot more towards nihilism than the previous two seasons, and I definitely can’t argue against that. Compared to the first season, which was almost entirely stories about completely justified vendettas that leave you with a sense of catharsis after the string is pulled while also getting that bittersweet realization that an innocent person is also damned to hell when they didn’t do anything wrong, this season is completely littered in stories where the motivations are either dumb or the client is targeting someone who doesn’t deserve it.

For example, in Akie’s case, she had nothing to do whatsoever with why the client, Azusa, was angered and filled with a desire for vengeance. In order to fridge her so Yuzuki would finally do a thing, they had to come up with a convoluted plan to make her a target.

Azusa’s father was left in a vegetative state after being assaulted by a drunkard. The drunkard in question was the son of some powerful rich family, and he quickly fled the country to avoid any charges related to the crime. Because of this, I guess, Azusa couldn’t focus her revenge on the drunkard, even though Hell Girl has never laid down any rules stating that the target must be in Japan. She didn’t target the father, who basically used his power and money to weasel him out of this, because I don’t remember why. So she then targeted the police chief, Akie’s father, whom she vehemently believed worked to cover up the crime.

She wasn’t content with just sending him to hell. She wanted Akie’s father to suffer so she befriended Akie and turned her against her father by explaining her story. It reached the point where Akie dropped out of school, moved out and nearly denounced her father entirely. That wasn’t enough for Azusa, so she also had it set up to have Akie raped in their house, mocking Akie’s father about it while it was happening over the phone. However, the assault was stopped by Yuzuki doing her series quota of one thing by somehow alerting Akie’s dad about this despite having no way of knowing this was going down.

But it didn’t end there. Azusa ran off, pulled the string and revealed that Akie was her target, even though she did absolutely nothing. The best I can figure is that she targeted Akie because it would cause the police chief great pain, but Hell Girl doesn’t work that way. Your target has to be the person you have a vendetta against. It was such a long and convoluted way to target her in the first place, but they couldn’t even follow the rules.

The aspect of the rules being broken is even brought up in one episode that, looking back, was very trippy. A “hell professor” theorized that there are many ways to dupe the system, falsify feelings of vengeance and target whomever you want with either hypnotism or simply willing yourself into it. In essence, you could weaponize Hell Girl to a certain extent. He was even able to create supernatural barriers and was in the process of making a portal to hell, and who knows the true implications of that if he succeeded.

If Hajime were still alive, he’d have a field day with this season because it supports his arguments so much more than the first season did.

The very end basically cements the nihilism angle. Ai is back in her role, doing this literally hellish job for all eternity. Tsugumi just gave up and left. She didn’t even get to witness Yuzuki being freed or Ai crying for Yuzuki’s sake. Akie’s father’s kind gesture in sparing Azusa was made pointless, for the most part, because Azusa just ends up conveniently stabbing the drunkard to death in the airport after he returns from America after Azusa’s father suddenly dies. Then Akie’s maid even more randomly sends Azusa to hell seconds after she murders him. Yuzuki gets to pass on, which is nice, but Akie’s still in hell. All of this culminates in a message of ‘Yeah, people are horrible and life’s garbage.’ with a teeny tiny asterisk next to microscopic fine print that says ‘but some people are okay sometimes I guess.’

I don’t know if the point of this season was to respond to anyone who may have criticized the first two seasons in that it made off like murder was the solution to life’s worst problems. The message was that it clearly wasn’t, but Hell Correspondence still stuck around and they continued to act as if it was a necessity of life. Ai asserts that she’s not a figure of justice in those seasons, but given how many circumstances where she quite literally saves the day (even though the client has to pull the string first) and how many lives she betters, to the point where it really seems like she retroactively alters reality for the sake of improving the client’s life, it really came off that way. In this season, she almost never comes off that way, which I guess is good, but using her for stupid and shallow purposes is not a good replacement.

You can’t just ignore that a majority of legitimate Hell Girl clients would be innocent people who are in awful situations with horrible people that won’t leave their lives otherwise. That’s why the rules exist, but now they’re saying she’s bad because, for some reason, people can screw with the system to abuse it for stupid purposes or just break the rules outright and it doesn’t matter. Except the rules for Hell Girl herself, because apparently you can’t even say you’ll break a rule and not actually do it without the Master of Hell getting pissy.

Through all of this, Hell Correspondence is still treated as a necessity in the end, and Hell Girl is once again portrayed in a heroic light because her services got vengeance on Azusa.

This series does have some interesting things to discuss about fate, life, philosophy of the afterlife, what people truly deserve and the nature of vengeance etc. I just think it stumbles with those thoughts more and more with each season. I honestly don’t even want to know how much more confusing and tangled their message gets in the next season, but I guess we’ll find out.

Additional Information and Notes: Hell Girl: Three Vessels was directed by Hiroshi Watanabe, written by Kenichi Kanemaki and produced by Studio Deen. It is currently licensed in North America by Sentai Filmworks, but it does not have an English dub.

Episodes: 26

Year: 2008-2009

Recommended Audience: The themes alone are far too heavy for children, but there’s also additional mature content regarding violence, some minor instances of nudity and sexual situations and a couple of uncomfortable situations involving a client/target with implied mental disabilities and one really dark episode involving a ‘miscarriage’. 15+


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 26 – The Path Left by a Soul (Season Finale) Review

Plot: Yuzuki has accepted her role as Hell Girl, and one of her first clients is none other than Akie’s father. He wants to send Azusa Mayama to hell for sending Akie to hell – a request Yuzuki is all too happy to fulfill. However, he changes his mind later on and returns the doll to Yuzuki. Enraged with a desire for vengeance for her fallen friend, Yuzuki resolves to send Azusa to hell with or without someone pulling a string. This is obviously a direct violation of the rules of Hell Girl, but Yuzuki doesn’t care. Her blatant disregard for the rules and abuse of her power calls out the Master of Hell to exact retribution.

Breakdown:

Yeah, that pretty much encompasses my feelings on this episode as a whole.

After the disaster that was the last episode, my hopes for the finale were nonexistent. I just couldn’t see any way that they could write themselves out of this stupidity hole and make a satisfying ending. And I was right. They didn’t.

What surprised me is they didn’t even try. Not even slightly. This is depressingly lazy.

The episode starts with Akie’s dad calling Hell Girl to send Azusa to hell after she sent Akie to hell. He knew she did that because he read up on Hajime’s book and noted the curse mark on Azusa’s chest. Also, apparently all the stuff with Yuzuki did happen, but the entirety of her existence beyond her childhood was fabricated and everyone’s memories of her were erased (she asks if Akie’s father would remember her – this is my only indication that this is what happened) which seems insanely unlikely and would be a huge thing to do just coerce Yuzuki, of all people, to become Hell Girl, but whatever. Yuzuki is happy to oblige, and he even wants to face Azusa as he does it to watch her go to hell, but after he sees Azusa through the window of her home, he returns the doll and refuses Hell Girl’s services.

Yuzuki doesn’t understand, but she also doesn’t care. She just proclaims that she’s going to send Azusa to hell anyway as an act of justice for Akie. This is obviously a no-no, and Ai appears to tell her as much. Yeah, remember how Ai disappeared into Yuzuki in the last episode? And how they acted like she was fully gone this time? Well she’s back now somehow for some reason. Yuzuki still doesn’t care and uses her Hell Girl powers to blast Ai away.

Realizing what she’s doing, the Master of Hell emerges from Kikuri to go punish Yuzuki. Bear in mind, Yuzuki still hasn’t actually done anything. She’s just saying she will. When she arrives at Azusa’s house to take her to hell, the Master of Hell arrives with “Akie” (she’s not really Akie – she’s just a construct of her) to punish her for breaking the rules. Yuzuki fights back, but obviously she can’t really match up in power to the Master of Hell.

By the way, if I’m giving off the impression that Yuzuki’s in any way being interesting or cool or badass for these moments when she’s ‘mad with power’ please don’t think that. It’s horrendously boring. She has a fiery curse mark ball she shoots at people while standing still, the Master of Hell wraps her up in web…..the end. She can’t even be entertaining while she’s doing this stuff. The emotion in her voice is minimal.

Ai and the others save Yuzuki….somehow. They’re in some sort of hell dimension when this is going down, so I’d think the Master of Hell would be able to prevent them from leaving, but whatever. After showing Yuzuki her dying self in the past and weeping over her body, Ai confronts Yuzuki and asks her if she knows why Akie’s father decided to give up the contract in the end. She doesn’t. Ai shows her what Akie’s dad saw in the window – Azusa caring for her bed-ridden father (For backstory, see the review on episode 13.) He must have realized that sending Azusa to hell would mean no one would be there to care for her father, so he left her be. He knew she’d go to hell when she naturally died anyway, so he made peace with it.

Seeing this, Yuzuki collapses as well, also not having the heart to exact revenge on Azusa. However, it’s too late. The Master of Hell catches up with them, intent on punishing Yuzuki for breaking the rules, which, again, she didn’t. She said she would, but she didn’t.

Ai steps up and accepts the punishment in Yuzuki’s stead. The Master of Hell accepts this arrangement, but it, for some insane reason, means Ai will be damned to do this job FOREVER.

In the first season, Ai blatantly broke the rules of Hell Girl, using her powers to attack and manipulate Tsugumi into sending Hajime to hell, which cost her more time as Hell Girl. In the second season, she broke the rules again by returning Takuma to the living world when he had been sent to hell, but it was a test to see if she could overcome her own past tragedies and feelings of revenge to finally accept her full punishment and move on. Yuzuki just says she’s going to send someone to hell without a contract, Ai takes her punishment for her after convincing her not to send Azusa to hell……And she has to be Hell Girl forever? How is that in any way fair?

As Yuzuki is released from her role, she starts to vanish in a field of blue flowers. Before she heads off to the afterlife, Ai holds her and kisses her once more to show her her own backstory. Because apparently she can’t just show her that with her own powers like everything else. When they break apart, they smile at each other, and Ai tells her that Yuzuki is her…….Uh…..no. I’m not even going to go into a tangent about why that’s inaccurate. Just no. You barely have anything in common. No.

The last thing Yuzuki says before she vanishes is pointing out that Ai had a boyfriend (Sentarou) and that she’s kinda jealous of that……*lip smack* Kay. Wait, is she jealous that Ai had a boyfriend and she didn’t or is she jealous because she was romantically interested in Ai? Because the latter is kinda creepy given that Ai is like 12 and Yuzuki is either 16-ish or a five-year-old in a teenager’s body.

Ai’s left alone in the field of flowers and the credits roll. During the credits, we see Ai back in her normal attire getting ready for more clients. We also see Azusa’s father’s memorial marker (I had to look this up on the Hell Girl Fandom page, because there’s no name on it and I didn’t recognize the apartment building.) We cut to an airport where some dude I didn’t recognize is getting off a plane when Azusa comes out of nowhere and stabs him in the gut. The guy was apparently the drunk guy that assaulted her father and left him in such a feeble state. Since her dad died…..I….guess he felt like he could come back to Japan? Azusa’s wearing all black like she just left a memorial, and what I assume were her father’s ashes were still in the box on her table. Did he get the news of her father’s death and immediately caught the first plane back to Japan? What a psycho.

I would think it’d be even more risky to come back considering her father most likely died from complications regarding his injuries, meaning he could be up for manslaughter or at least a hefty lawsuit from Azusa. I’m not really familiar with the Japanese legal system, but I’d assume there’s something she could do.

If this was her plan….why didn’t she just hire someone to care for her father for a few days, fly out to wherever this dude ran off to, and murder him whenever? Why shift her focus to the police chief and then his daughter? You could argue that she couldn’t risk being sent to prison for the murder because she had to care for her father, but it’s pretty obvious she doesn’t care about possibly being sent to prison because in her debut episode she tried to have Akie raped and then called the chief of police, ya know, Akie’s father, to taunt him about it as it was happening.

Actually, what the hell happened with that anyway? Did Azusa get off of any charges because Akie suddenly vanished?

Anyway….Azusa suddenly vanishes.

As she disappears and the other guy falls down from his gut wound, we see….Akie’s maid. She uh….pulled the string on a straw doll….sending Azusa to hell………..Akie’s maid….Just…what? Akie’s maid cared about her enough to not only stalk Azusa after somehow finding out she was responsible for Akie’s disappearance, but also damn her own soul to hell to get vengeance for her?….And why did she wait until Azusa murdered a man? I mean, he deserved it, but this seems really weird. Also, again, I didn’t recognize Akie’s maid at all. I had to look that up in the episode synopsis too. I don’t remember Akie and her having any meaningful interactions – I barely remember her at all.

And that’s it. Ai’s Hell Girl again “forever” even though she’ll relinquish the title somehow in the next season. Yuzuki’s passed on to wherever. And I couldn’t feel more like I wasted so much time on this crap.

I honestly, truly don’t understand how this season has relatively high ratings. I mean, the stories besides Yuzuki’s are fine, for the most part – they have their ups and downs like every season, but we’ll address that in the full series review – it’s Yuzuki’s story that’s lazy, boring, poorly written garbage. But somehow I seem to be in the minority…. Yuzuki’s story and her as a character get quite a lot of praise on MAL that I really question if we all watched the same show. A few people are on the same page as me, but many people are giving this series high recommendations, with some people saying the main good point of the show was Yuzuki’s story.

Even THEM Anime Reviews liked Yuzuki with their only real complaint against her being that she was a bit of a doormat. They even state that they like her much more as a protagonist than Takuma (even though they keep misnaming him “Tamura”) which I don’t understand at all. I mean, Takuma’s story wasn’t all that great either, but I sympathized with him much more than Yuzuki, and his story had way more impact on me than Yuzuki’s. Plus, the conclusion to his story was much more satisfying for both him and Ai than whatever this is.

Yuzuki’s big finale isn’t even unique, because, as I pointed out, it’s basically just a watered down version of when Ai went mad with vengeance. However, while Ai’s breakdown was badass and frightening, Yuzuki’s was boring and stupid. It wasn’t even emotionally understandable. Ai’s backstory is so tragic and heartbreaking, and even though you can agree that she deserves the punishment that has been assigned to her, to some degree, you still feel really bad for her that she even wound up in the position she’s in. She was hated her entire life by nearly everyone. She had to leave her family and everyone she loved, besides Sentarou, to live in hiding only to be found out, murdered alongside her parents and betrayed by the one person she had left.

Yuzuki’s story is sad, but only if you also don’t find it ridiculously stupid – which I do. She didn’t deserve to be selected to be a new Hell Girl because she didn’t do anything vengeance-wise when she was alive. Being Hell Girl is meant to be a punishment, not a gift. And then they made the stupid decision to juice her up on “Look at how many people wronged you in life and how much people suck, look at all the Hell Girl victims, also Akie was a wrongful victim of Hell Girl.” before putting her kimono on and sending her on her way.

It was very obvious that she’d lose her mind to vengeance immediately, and her motivation for doing so was crap. She wasn’t even trying to get vengeance for how she and her mother were treated in life or how they died because literally no one gave an iota of caring to them. She was trying to get vengeance for a person who technically never met her…I think.

Akie’s situation is awful, and I agree she never should have been sent to hell, just as I very much agree that Azusa should have been sent to hell, but I never felt any strong emotional connection between these two. They were friends, sure, but I’d just as quickly forget she existed once she was removed from the story if they didn’t bring her back later. They should have had them be best friends as children or something instead of just her giving Yuzuki a candy in passing once. I actually felt more of a connection between Akie and Azusa during her brief stint on the show than I ever did with Akie and Yuzuki.

I stand by my statement that the show probably would have been a little more interesting if Akie was the protagonist and the next in line to be Hell Girl. The series did wind up basically centering on Akie in the end anyway, and Akie had a better personality. Maybe she could have moved away shortly before the bus accident and Yuzuki and her mother died, and she became filled with rage and vengeance when she moved back and realized her best friend and her parents had died in such a horrible manner. Then she could meet and befriend Azusa, whom she wouldn’t realize was only befriending her to get closer to her father so she could send him to hell, then she’d have Akie attacked, send her father to hell and then Akie would be consumed with vengeance that would make her break emotionally and she’d, I dunno, kill Azusa and maybe some other people.

Oh and you may be wondering what happened to Tsugumi during all of this.

She just leaves during the beginning of the episode.

Yup, just straight up leaves and doesn’t come back.

She apparently came to this town to help Yuzuki, but decided to leave when Yuzuki became the new Hell Girl because she viewed that as the end. There was no more helping her. Thanks, Tsugumi, you sure were…..pretty damn useless. I am really struggling to see how Tsugumi affected much of anything over the course of this series besides to convey exposition.

She stopped Yuzuki from going through the torii gate….for some reason. Now that we know Yuzuki’s a ghost, and Tsugumi knew this….why did she stop her from going through the torii gate? She wanted to save her from becoming a new Hell Girl. Passing on through the torii gate would be the best and fastest way to do that, would it not? Although, if I recall, that may have just been a one-way ticket to hell and she didn’t want that either.

Tsugumi had one interesting episode centered on her, but other than that she pretty much just sat around and watched stuff happen. She was almost as passive as Yuzuki. And I hate to say that because Tsugumi has so much potential to be a strong and interesting character, and I still believe she would have been the best protagonist for the third season, but she’s become so defeated over the years. What’s worse is that we never learn why she’s so defeated. Hajime gave up and died, I guess, but we never learn when or how. She’s still getting Hell Girl visions, I guess, but, again, we don’t know why or how. She felt the need to move to this town to help a ghost to prevent her from becoming Hell Girl but she barely puts in any effort, so why did she even bother showing up?

This season finale as a whole was just so boring and a complete waste of time. The first two season finales had so much more tension, drama and intrigue than this. They couldn’t even provide any decent mindless action or cool visuals.

I’m probably just going to plow through season four quickly just to get it out of the way. If this season was given fairly good reviews but four was considered awful, I can only imagine the levels of terribad I’m in for in that season, but hey at least it will supposedly close out Ai’s story for good.

Full Season Review

…..Previous Episode


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 25 – Yuzuki Review

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Plot: The truth has finally been revealed to a distraught Yuzuki – she died when she was a child and everything she’s been experiencing over the past year has been nothing but an illusion. When she learns the truth of her death, she has to decide whether or not to take up the mantle of Hell Girl.

Breakdown: As much as I’ve been ragging on Yuzuki, and as much as I didn’t care for the previous episode, I still held out hope that the reveal behind Yuzuki’s true backstory would be serviceable. I had little hope it would be so good that it would be worth all of the episodes of Yuzuki being a bland sack of drywall dust, but from all I heard about this season I did hold out hope that her story would be alright. Fully bracing for mediocrity, I watched.

And my response was….

I have been trying really, really hard to not lose my temper when writing reviews lately because it tends to make me come off as unfair and grumpy. Well, I’m not worried about that right now, so I’m letting ranty!Twix have a moment out of her cage today, because fuck this, this is brain-bleedingly stupid, fuck this, why, why, why? 25 episodes….for THIS? No, fuck you, Hell Girl: Three Vessels. I’d rather have a full 26 episode run without any main storyline than this steaming heap of garbage.

I had to pause the episode at least three times to exclaim out loud how stupid all of this was. This is next level stupid. How anyone thought Yuzuki’s story was anything but insanely poorly written and purposefully exaggerated to ridiculous levels does not compute with me. It just doesn’t.

Okay….backing up and calming down a tad. Obviously, we have to establish why Yuzuki is considered a replacement for Ai as Hell Girl. She needs to have some sort of deep vendetta or something that would make her a proper candidate, right?

What could such a young girl have gone through to have this vendetta?

Yuzuki’s family life was very normal when she was young. In fact, it was pretty much unrealistically Full House brand saccharine. So, this being Hell Girl, of course things have to go horribly wrong.

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Yuzuki’s father was a bus driver. One day, the brakes went out, causing him to t-bone another bus. He lost his life in the crash, and at least one other person was confirmed to have died as well. We never get confirmation on how many people died or were injured in the crash, but Yuzuki’s father and some girl or woman died.

The bus company completely denied that their bus had suffered from any malfunction or that they were at fault at all. They wouldn’t place any blame on the driver either, but they didn’t say it wasn’t him, so everyone just assumed that Yuzuki’s father was to blame for the crash, which is dumb because several reporters stated that some of the survivors from the bus asserted that the driver said the brakes failed right before they crashed.

Apparently, in this ridiculous version of the world, everyone completely believes the official statement of a bus company who would obviously rather – prepare for an awesome joke – throw one of their drivers under the bus rather than accept any responsibility for a fatal crash. And not a one of them would want to believe the survivors who know firsthand what happened when they were there and witnessed it.

Why wouldn’t there be an official police investigation into this? The only investigation that was cited was the internal one the bus company ran.

Everyone also acts as if he crashed the bus on purpose or something, calling him a murderer and such, which makes absolutely no sense because no one ever presented any theory as to why he’d ever do such a thing on purpose. He wasn’t suicidal, he was a great guy as far as I saw, and I’m certain plenty of people would vouch for him, but nope. Just grr, this awful bus driver man who fucking DIED in the accident and left behind an ailing wife and young child is a monster who obviously crashed the bus with malice.

In any other situation, people would probably have a lot of sympathy for the driver’s family at least. It was a terrible accident that they had nothing to do with. There’s no reason for them to suffer for any of thi—‘Fuck you, viewer!’ says the writers.

It’s time to put the patented Hell Girl ‘people are nothing but evil stupid shitbags’ writing into….

For some reason I still cannot wrap my head around, everyone, and I do mean everyone, starts to treat Yuzuki and her mother like they’re monsters – as if they’re the ones who crashed the bus and did it completely on purpose. As if they all lost precious loved ones in the accident while Yuzuki and her mother laughed maniacally from the street corner while pissing on a pile of everyone’s family heirlooms.

It’s not just the adults either. All of the children in Yuzuki’s school avoid her or write ‘Murderer, disappear’ on the chalkboard because of the terrible things their parents told them about her, which, again, I can’t imagine what they could possibly be saying. ‘I don’t want you associating with that Yuzuki girl again. She’s somehow responsible by proxy for a terrible bus accident her now dead father caused, I think.’

Really, even if Yuzuki’s dad did cause the accident on purpose, which is a HUGE stretch with absolutely no evidence – even it being his fault at all holds little water because of the witnesses – isn’t it enough punishment that he died in the accident? Isn’t it bad enough that Yuzuki lost a father and her mother lost her husband? Why would any of these people, let alone ALL OF THEM be such malicious, horrible scumbags that they’d torment Yuzuki and her mother like this?

I haven’t even scratched the surface of how overblown this behavior is.

It’s not just whispers and people being rude, oh no. They plaster her apartment door with papers that say various horrible things like “God of death,” “Murderer,” “Leave,” “Fall to hell,” “Die,” and “Disappear.”

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An employee/co-owner at the local grocery store not only doesn’t want to sell food to Yuzuki, but she detests that her co-owner, who was childhood friends with Yuzuki’s mother, decided to hire her since they were low on money after the death of Yuzuki’s father (It’s mentioned that Yuzuki’s mother was offered money by the bus company, probably to decrease the chances that she’d sue them, but she refused it.) She even knows that she’s ill, but that only makes her hate the decision more because she can’t do as much work while sick even though she’s trying her best.

I’m still not done. That same childhood friend decided that while Yuzuki’s mother, the one who just lost her husband in a terrible bus accident like not even a month prior, is having a terrible coughing fit (spoiler alert, she’s dying) would be a great time to hit on her, but she rejected his advances and ran off. She said she quit after that, but it’s moreso implied that the guy fired her for it because he’s super pissed the next time he sees Yuzuki and won’t even let her buy food at the store….

Yuzuki’s mom tries to solicit help from their relatives, but each one turns them down. Seemingly for the same reasons as everyone else, so apparently this condemnation is so terrible even family is turning their backs on them. Lovely.

But, hm, how can we go even further with this? How can we assure the audience that all human beings are complete and total irredeemable rotten monsters?

Ah, yes. How about when Yuzuki’s mom gets deathly ill no doctor will see her. I am not kidding. Yuzuki’s mom is turned away at every local hospital and doctor’s office all because of this moronic bus accident bullshit. I paused for several minutes and yelled at my computer screen when I saw this. NO ONE WOULD BE THIS TERRIBLE FOR SUCH RIDICULOUS REASONS, LET ALONE AN ENTIRE TOWN.

Compare this story with that of Ai or Takuma. Ai was treated as a monster because of rumors involving her having weird powers, and because she was seemingly the cause of much suffering in her village for escaping the Seven Sending ritual that was meant to bring prosperity to them. Takuma was framed for the murder of his mother and putting his father into a coma while also being blamed for every Hell Girl incident in his town and everyone accusing him of being a devil child who wrecks stuff and flippantly kills animals.

Yuzuki was the daughter of a bus driver who got into an accident that killed an only confirmed two people, one of which being some no-name no-face person that no one ever references outside of her parents when she initially died, the other of which being himself. Nothing else happened. And yet they’re being treated WORSE than Takuma was. Yes, I’m not kidding. Because at least Takuma’s father was able to get medical treatment, and Takuma was fully allowed to visit him. At least Takuma was able to go out and buy things. At least Takuma had a few people who were willing to try and clear his name. And Takuma’s case was so unreal and ridiculous that I made a running joke about how ludicrous it was becoming.

And Takuma’s town full of horrible people did have some modicum of legitimate reasoning to hate and fear Takuma, considering everyone was convinced he was both a parent murderer and a demon with the power to make anyone he wants vanish. It was only the circumstances revolving around why the evidence for these assumptions initially kept piling up that was convoluted. He was ‘coincidentally’ put in the middle of so much shit that it was insane. Once the wheels were in motion, everyone just kept abusing the ‘Takuma did it’ excuse for friggin’ everything awful, particularly Hell Girl vanishings, that realistic (for the most part) mob mentally set in rather violently.

In addition, both Takuma and Ai were directly the targets of the ire of their respective villages/towns. Yuzuki and her mother are merely related to the target of everyone’s hatred here.

Literally NO ONE will stand up for Yuzuki and her mother – not even the survivors of the crash who went on record saying it was a brake failure will come out of the woodwork. Yuzuki’s mother is dying in front of everyone, and no one will give a single shit – not even doctors in hospitals. Even mass murderers would be able to find medical treatment because doctors have a duty to treat people who are sick and injured, even if they don’t like them or are the worst scum in the world.

Yuzuki is running around town in a panic when her mother collapses after coughing up a bunch of blood, desperately trying to find her help, but no one will listen. They either turn her away or ignore her, saying, and I quote “Children’s problems are negligible.” “Making such a big fuss. She probably has a cold or something.” Granted, I have no idea why Yuzuki doesn’t just call for an ambulance, but knowing this backwards-ass episode, the operator would probably be like “Oh, you’re the kid of the evil bus driver. Yeah, your mom can go die. Call us when she croaks. We’ll have a pizza party. Without you, of course. I hope you die too.” *hangs up*

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Yuzuki’s mom is literally hobbling down the street, supported by her like four-year-old daughter, she’s pale with dark circles under her eyes and may as well have a giant neon sign over her head that says “I’m going to take a dirt nap soon.” and everyone just stares at her with sheer hatred in their eyes.

This story might be made a bit better if Yuzuki’s father survived the crash, but wound up permanently injured or disabled because of the wreck, and he grew hateful and bitter because of both his injuries and how no one would believe that he didn’t cause the wreck. And many more people died in the accident, like practically everyone in both buses, and he was one of the few survivors. Everyone would start treating Yuzuki and her mom like crap too for their association with him. Yuzuki’s father would become so far gone that he wouldn’t care about Yuzuki or his sick wife anymore. Maybe, and this is going a bit far, admittedly, Yuzuki’s mom would die out of nowhere because she hid the severity of her illness to not worry Yuzuki or bother her husband. And then, fed up with everything, Yuzuki, who’d I’d imagine as being slightly older in this scenario, would kill her father because he was the cause of everything, and then she’d somehow get some revenge on the people in town who made the situation a million times worse.

This is coming from a place of a genuine desire to help this story be better, by the way, because there is really a good deal of potential in Hell Girl, especially for something like finding Ai’s replacement, but this is just ridiculous. This entire town would run laps around Takuma’s town in regards to being overly evil and ‘we ran an x-ray and we’re afraid there’s literally nothing in your skull’ levels of stupid. I’m not a great writer either, and this suggestion isn’t even that good to be honest, but it’s really all I could come up with while still keeping the bare bones of what they gave us. If I want to be honest, Yuzuki’s story probably needed to be scrapped and just rewritten from the ground up.

Anyway, at the very end of their ropes, and with Yuzuki’s mother clearly at death’s door, Yuzuki’s mother decides to bring Yuzuki to an old rickety shrine where she plans on mercy killing Yuzuki via strangulation before she dies herself. She’s stopped before her hand even reaches Yuzuki’s throat by the sounds of some passing teenagers who pray at the shrine briefly. Almost immediately after they leave, Yuzuki’s mother dies.

Yuzuki buries her in cherry blossoms under a cherry tree. Her eyes turn red, which lead me to believe that she was about to go kill someone or, I dunno, burn her whole town down or something. It would’ve been way too much for a little kid to do, but it’s not anymore unrealistic than anything else in this episode.

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……Nope.

She gets the red vengeance eyes and then goes home to clutch her teddy bear and…..die. Of what, I don’t know. I assume dehydration or starvation or something. She didn’t look like she was dying or was ill when she left, but she just falls asleep on her bear and never gets up. Her corpse is seriously as Ai and the others presented to her. She is just a pile of bones on a teddy bear, which only adds to the confusion of this episode.

So no one thought to check up on Yuzuki? No one ever went back into that apartment? No one ever smelled the stench of dead child?

Back in the present, Yuzuki, whose form also confuses me because I don’t understand why she’s a teenager if she died as a small child, willingly accepts her role as Hell Girl now that she remembers her horribly written tragic backstory. No argument, no nothing, she just accepts her role with open arms.

Also, her assistant is now Akie, who I guess is seriously in hell, which I guess means that the series DID happen….somehow? But they weren’t really friends as teenagers because Yuzuki died as a child? There was a brief scene where the young Yuzuki ‘met’ young Akie, but all that happened was Akie passed by her, gave her a candy and left. She never even introduced herself. So….I don’t really get why Akie is considered so precious to her outside of being the one person who showed her a slight bit of kindness while everyone was being a freshly baked pan of frosted bastards.

Isn’t Akie really confused right now? Like, ‘Wait, who are you? Why am I serving you? I met you for 11 seconds as a little kid and gave you a candy? What?’

Yuzuki’s whole present-day situation is extremely confusing to me. So she left this world full of hatred with a desire for vengeance, if her red eyes were any indication, and she supposedly didn’t pass on to either heaven or hell because she was wandering in this realm because of those dark feelings, if Tsugumi is to be believed….So Ai and the others prepped her for being the next Hell Girl by aging her up and allowing her to live a mostly happy-ish life with good friends that she never had before in addition to having her mom and dad still be alive and speaking to her, just not physically there, while also briefly having her skim by most of the clients they had in the interim, hopelessly “trying” to stop them or maybe not it depends, with her one major moment of slipping in this illusion being witnessing Akie get sent to hell, and all of that really just made her vehement AGAINST Hell Correspondence. Did they even know ahead of time that Akie would be sent to hell? Was that part of the plan? What exactly was the goal here? I don’t get it. Wouldn’t they have been better off just teaching the little girl version of Yuzuki about how to do Ai’s job?

Ai didn’t just transfer her role to Yuzuki. She put her soul back inside of Yuzuki to make her Hell Girl, which makes even less sense. Hell Girl is a role Ai was given. She shouldn’t need to be a part of Yuzuki’s soul to pass on the baton. They act like Ai is gone, Yuzuki tells the Hell Team to leave because Akie’s her assistant now and their previous master is gone, but Ai literally went into Yuzuki’s body. She didn’t pass on or anything. I don’t get it.

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Why is Yuzuki even being given this role? Ai was given the role as a punishment for slaughtering her entire village in vengeance after she was killed by them and betrayed by her closest friend. She needed hundreds of years of watching how vengeance causes suffering to understand her wrongdoing and eventually accept her pain and move on. Yuzuki didn’t do anything. Her eyes turned red, then she hugged a teddy bear and died. She may be a wandering spirit filled with vengeance because of how badly everyone treated her and how their actions basically caused her and her mother’s deaths, but she didn’t do anything to warrant being given this job if it’s really meant to be a punishment. If anything, they’re putting someone in a role who will surely abuse it because they’re clearly now glorifying the act of vengeance.

Case and point, the first thing Yuzuki says when she becomes Hell Girl is that she won’t send someone sinless, like Akie, to hell ever again. She’ll purify the world. Problem is, Hell Girl doesn’t have that power. She is bound by the rules of her role to never reject viable clients or target people who haven’t been marked by clients. That’s a big part of why her existence is so tragic. Even if many of her targets aren’t innocent, she has to ferry a ton of nice people, children etc. to hell all the time since they’re clients. And she also has to let some of the worst people in the world to run free. The one time she chose to attack people she had a personal vendetta against cost her more time as Hell Girl. And the one time she refused a ferry was a test to see if she could really let vengeance go.

The point is, Yuzuki is now Hell Girl, none of this feels ‘earned’ and I am much angrier than I ever thought I would be after watching this. And what’s even worse is this is only going to get…..well….worse…Because, as I mentioned before, this shift isn’t permanent. Yuzuki does not stay as Hell Girl, and Ai doesn’t get relieved of her duties quite yet. We have to go through one more episode to return to the stupid status quo, and I can only hope they don’t manage to piss me off anymore….

Next Episode, the ending. At this point, I just wanna plow through it so we can also plow through Fourth Twilight to see Ai finally pass on for good.

….Previous Episode


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 24 – Mayfly Review

Plot: Yuzuki is fed up with Hell Girl, but she has more important things to worry about, such as the results to her high school entrance exams. However, when she tries to check to see if her name is on the list of accepted students, she suddenly finds that no one recognizes her and the results for her exams don’t exist. Even her home has become dilapidated and condemned. Yuzuki struggles to find someone who recognizes her or proof of her existence when she’s approached by Tsugumi, who explains the truth about what’s happening and Yuzuki’s fate as Hell Girl.

Breakdown: I have been saying for many episodes now that Yuzuki’s story better be pretty damn good in order for it be worth putting this soggy paper towel at the forefront, even though I had no faith that they could deliver something THAT good.

And, well, at least so far, they haven’t.

Let’s cut to the chase, pretty much the entire series was just an illusion. Or it wasn’t…? It’s very confusing. The world that Yuzuki has been living in as a student, as a friend, as a daughter, as someone trying to stop Hell Girl…a few times anyway, does not exist. It was an illusion built by Ai to make her understand the true nature of the world and how everyone has hate in them, but Hell Correspondence acts as a beacon of hope to the people who don’t use it because they can rest assured that the most evil people will pay from their crimes in some way.

This just makes everything so confusing. Does this mean that any Hell Girl case that even slightly involved Yuzuki didn’t exist? Were all the hell candles fake? Were the people in hell fake? Even the people that Yuzuki knew in the illusion didn’t recognize her (In the real version of the world) and/or they didn’t exist at all because it really seems like this entire town is empty once Yuzuki learns the truth. Her group of remaining friends also seemingly vanished in the hallway.

Are we really “It was all a dream”ing the ENTIRE SERIES? Were we seeing illusions? Were the scenes that didn’t involve Yuzuki also illusions? Were they not, and that’s why she wasn’t really involved in much of anything over the course of the series?

If you’re thinking that maybe all of this is a big fakeout illusion within an illusion or something – it’s not.

See…

She’s dead.

And has been the entire time.

She is one of apparently several potential Hell Girl replacements that Tsugumi has seen come through over the years (That doesn’t make any sense given the fact that between the second season and now, Ai has supposed to have been gone even to her associates. Although maybe they were coming through without Ai and they brought in Ai to help secure a replacement?) However, the others have hung on and lived between worlds, never being able to pass on and living in torment in the living world, and she was trying to tell Yuzuki that her fate as Hell Girl was preferable to the alternative.

Tsugumi has completely given up on the hope of ever getting rid of Hell Correspondence, which, again, is weird because she should have lived in a Hell Correspondence free world up until the past year or so. Her father lived with a hope and passion for that dream for years, but eventually he grew tired and gave up (it’s continuously implied that he died, but they still never outright say it.) Tsugumi gave up after years and years of her powers in seeing Hell Girl visions. They taught her that Hell Correspondence was necessary and fate is something you can’t fight. She needs to live alongside with Hell Girl and not deny her.

Yuzuki refuses to give up and tells Tsugumi that she doesn’t think she’s given up either or else she wouldn’t have stopped her from passing through that torii during the festival. She doesn’t know what will happen if she passes through it, but Tsugumi knows, and she’s still vehemently trying to get her to not pass through.

Tsugumi agrees and says maybe a small part of her does still believe, which is when she decides to tell Yuzuki the big death secret as long as she agrees to accept the truth and not fight it.

Yuzuki, however, refuses to believe and runs to her house in a panic only to find her skeletal remains on the floor of her room clutching her teddy bear and the Hell Team confronting her.

So….are the remains also an illusion or did no one think to look in this apartment for however many years? There’s just a dead child on the floor. How did no one notice this?

So far, I am less than impressed by this being Yuzuki’s big revelation. At best, it’s uninspired, and at worst you literally just told me to my face that I wasted around 12 hours of my life on stuff that didn’t happen, maybe, I think, possibly? Being an illusion or a dream doesn’t take the full value of an story experience away, the good stories that were told are still good, but it does damage it quite a bit.

At this point, all I can hope for is that Yuzuki’s full backstory will be worth a few more points, because, so far, it’s pretty lame and not worth the price of admission. So Yuzuki’s dead. It just means she somehow managed to be even more lifeless than she has been when I thought she was alive.

I’m also a little bummed that this episode had no case in it. I pretty much knew that would happen because the last few episodes in any season of this show is usually relegated to main plot stuff, but when our main plot stuff is Yuzuki-centric, I’d rather have a case to keep my attention…

Next Episode…

….Previous Episode


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Yami Shibai 9 Review

Plot: Season nine of the horror anthology Yami Shibai.

Breakdown: Someone forgot to post the full review of this series after Animating Halloween was over.

And I’m not naming names, but it begins with a Fiddle and ends with a popular candy bar name.

That’s right.

Fiddlesnickers.

Anyhoo, I learned a couple of days ago that Yami Shibai 10 is airing right now, which is cool.

Season nine has a theme for the first time in what feels like eons. This season has a zodiac animal theme to it, which I didn’t even catch onto until ten episodes down the line. I don’t know if I’m not bright or the creators didn’t make it obvious enough, but here we are. I think it’s pretty cool to have a horror based zodiac theme to the stories, and they have exactly the right number of episodes, so that works out quite well.

This was quite the interesting season, so let’s go down each episode real quick.

Episode 1: Rat Wedding – Entertaining and definitely creative, but not really scary.

Episode 2: The Man in the Rabbit Hutch – Very creepy episode with horrifying sound effects, but has an ending that is a little too predictable.

Episode 3: The 44th Sheep – If there was ever a chance that counting sheep could be made scary, this episode made as big of an effort as anyone could.

Episode 4: Lapdog – LOL

Episode 5: Paper Mache Tiger – An incredibly sad story that still manages to deal a good amount of tension and creepiness. I loved it.

Episode 6: Spirit Ox – One that was bordering on boring until the end where it becomes very sweet.

Episode 7: Mr. Rooster – Not scary at all, but really makes you think. The ending was confusing and cliché, though.

Episode 8: Rocking Horse – One of my favorite Yami Shibai stories to date. I just wish it were longer.

Episode 9: Snake Celebration – A very intriguing idea with some pretty strong creepy vibes at first ruined by a lame ending.

Episode 10: Boat Meat – Loved this episode for the most part, but it has an unreasonably confusing ending. It’s made a little less confusing if you know Japanese, but even then the ending is still very depressing.

Episode 11: Dragon Palace – It’s fine. Don’t have much to say about it. It’s fine.

Episode 12: Monkey Prayer – It’s fine.

Episode 13: The Year of the Cat – A clever story just not all that creepy.

Web (or Mobile?) Special (Episode 0): The Old Well – Surprisingly, for a limited release special episode, this was quite creepy. Maybe some of that is attributed to the vertical format, given the subject matter, but I enjoyed it.

Overall, Yami Shibai 9 was one of the strongest seasons we’ve had so far, which is good because the series was really starting to lull into very, very average territory. We had a few gems, some really interesting ideas and only a few episodes that were simply “fine.” I hope, with everything I have, that Yami Shibai 10 and possibly onward continue the upwards trend so we can have plenty of fun for many Halloweens to come.


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 23 – Twilight Hills Review

Hell Girl Three Vessels - Tomohide Bullying Fumio

Plot: While Yuzuki continues to refuse to be the next Hell Girl, another client shows up – Fumio. He is constantly bullied by Tomohide and his cronies for seemingly no reason outside of the fact that he has nice things and his family is higher class. There are always two sides to a story, however.

Breakdown: Lets enter the new year by getting things back into action with Hell Girl: Three Vessels!

It dawns on me that I have been reviewing this season of Hell Girl for over a year. Part of that has been my erratic posting schedule as of late, but part of that has just been a complete lack of motivation to just plow through the rest of it. It says something when I’m more motivated to finish “Let’s see how many ways we can torment poor Takuma” Two Mirrors than I am “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn” Three Vessels.

Typically, this doesn’t have much to do with the story of the week. While this season has had plenty of bad duds, it’s more or less been fine overall in the episodic story department.

The problem, yet, again, continues to just be Yuzuki – the protagonist who is so dull and forgettable that I keep forgetting her name and have to look it up half the time. We’re at episode 23.

Like I said the past two or three episodes, you’d think things would finally start heating up with her story at this point, but nope. She spends this entire episode ghosting Ai and her associates because she’s determined to not be the next Hell Girl. And that’s it. She just ignores them and barely says a word until the ending. She even completely ignores the case of the week.

At the end, Ai allows her to hear the ringing bells of the people around her again, indicating that many of them are either current Hell Girl clients, targets or have already pulled the string. Then she lashes out at Ai, refusing to be Hell Girl, saying she just wants to be a normal girl and go to school with her friends. She doesn’t even think Hell Correspondence has a point. Her lashing out prompts Ai to claim that she now feels hatred and, thus, hell in her heart as well.

Yes, congratulations, Yuzuki. You’ve been annoyed into hatred.

Ai Enma

At least it looks like the next episode will finally be centered on her and the main story, if you can even call it that, of this season, but I really just feel like anything they come up with won’t have been worth the frustration and boredom that comes with watching Yuzuki over this entire series.

As for the story of this episode, sorry to say, but it’s one of the weakest, most confusing and unsatisfying stories we’ve had so far. First of all, we’re back to the good ol’ reliable bullying setup, which is fine, really, but they act like Tomohide has this secret reason for hating Fumio or that Fumio did something to Tomohide or someone related to him to make him hate him to such a ridiculous degree, but they never actually give one.

Instead of focusing the majority of the episode on Fumio, much of the episode actually focuses on Tomohide. Fumio comes from a borderline rich family, though he himself isn’t a snob or anything – he’s actually rather meek and polite. Tomohide, on the other hand, is lower class. I wouldn’t say he’s technically poor, but he definitely doesn’t live in luxury. His mother is always working, and his father is “gone.” It’s implied that Tomohide sent his father to hell, given that he does have a curse mark, his father was clearly pointed out as having just up and left, and he grasps his shirt at the curse mark when talking to his little sister about their father, but they never give the specifics. Was his father abusive? Does his mother know what happened? We never find out.

When he’s not bullying Fumio, Tomohide’s a rather likable and hard working young man. He’s a baseball star at school with a dream of going to high school and playing baseball there to hopefully become a professional baseball player. However, he’s decided to give up his dream so he can immediately go into the workforce after middle school and help his family. In addition to his constantly working mother, who is never seen on screen, you have Tomohide’s little sister, Suzumi, who is extra cute because she has jammies that make her look like a cow. Not in a mean way – they’re literally cow pajamas.

Suzumi in cow pajamas

Suzumi’s, like, four, but she talks like she’s an older teen or adult, fussing about the water bill and chastising Tomohide for doing the dishes incorrectly. She’s already baking bread and is rather good at it. She wants to be a baker in the future but is willing to give up her dream so she can stay at home taking care of the house while their mom works and Tomohide goes to high school to become a baseball star. Tomohide won’t let her do that because he’s vehement about working so he can give up his dream.

The first half of the episode is some of the clunkiest dialogue and exposition I’ve ever seen in this series, which is kinda ironic because they exposit so much without actually saying much of worth. Like Fumio’s rich, has a watch that was a gift from his still-alive rich father, which is why he wears it to school when his teachers tell him it might not be a good idea, he really wants to make movies and has a sweet entertainment center in his room and got a brand new video camera, but we don’t know why he wants to make movies so badly. Tomohide’s father is gone for some reason, he sent him to hell for some reason, Tomohide is playing “No, I’ll give up MY dream” hot potato with his little sister, he loves baseball, but can’t play it in high school for no real reason.

Make no mistake – Tomohide really is giving up his dream for no reason. Everyone around him, including his sister, is telling him to go to high school and become a pitcher because he can easily go pro, and becoming a pro baseball player would make his family a lot of money. But he insists on working. When he’s at a local factory getting a tour for prospective employees, he starts muttering to himself “Work…work” like he’s being forced into work, but no one is doing that.

Don’t get me wrong. His decision is logical. Getting a steady factory job immediately to help out his family isn’t nearly as risky as trying to become a professional athlete, but I really can’t see why he absolutely has to skip high school entirely and not even give it a shot before entering the workforce. His family really doesn’t seem that badly off with just their mother’s income. I’m not sure why either he or Suzumi feels the need to give up their dreams to make money for the family (or in Suzumi’s case, take care of the house) when they’re not struggling that much financially from all I see. Their apartment is pretty spacious and clean, they have plenty of food, fresh water, nice clothes, the aforementioned awesome cow pajamas, a rather large bedroom, they’re both in great health, etc. If they are really struggling that badly, they didn’t convey that well enough for me to sympathize with Tomohide at all.

Tomohide claiming he absolutely needs to work.

Speaking of sympathizing with Tomohide, that’s quite the task considering he has the biggest hate boner for Fumio for seemingly no other reason besides he’s rich and Tomohide’s not. They were hinting that there was more to the story. Ai even asked Fumio, when he asked why he was the only one so unlucky as to be targeted like this, “Are you sure you haven’t scarred anyone?” Fumio looks up in shock, as if there is something terrible he’s done….but it never pays off. We never learn if Fumio really did do anything bad besides be rich.

Tomohide overhears that Fumio made it into a good high school on recommendation, so he gets pissed and bullies him. He sees that Fumio got a nice watch from his dad, so he gets pissed and bullies him. Fumio gets a new camera and goes off by himself to use it in the woods, so he gets pissed and bullies him. And when Fumio offers to give him the camera or the watch, Tomohide smacks them away and gets even angrier.

At one point, Tomohide, in a seeming change of heart, decides to return Fumio’s camera to him (guess he took it anyway) but decides against giving it back when he overhears Fumio say that high school is just a path to college. It’s a place where you figure out what you want to do in life, and he’s already figured out what he wants to be, so he’s not that concerned about high school.

Tomohide got so pissed at him saying this when he’s being ‘forced’ to not go to high school and immediately go to work that he grabs Fumio later and completely flips out this time. Before, the bullying was actually rather tame for this show. He took his money and pushed him around, but the main point of contention was his focus purely on bullying Fumio. They don’t bully anyone else, even if their classmates are afraid of the boys and choose to not help Fumio. Tomohide hates Fumio so much that he tells him repeatedly that it doesn’t matter if he goes to a school in another city or if he sends him to hell (he now knows that Fumio called Hell Girl) he’ll never escape, he’ll never let Fumio go and Fumio will never be happy.

All of this ire because he’s jealous that Fumio has rich parents.

You can have negative opinions on rich adults as much as you like, but rich kids can’t control who their parents are. All things considered, Fumio’s a pretty good and kind kid for a rich kid in any form of media. The worst things he does are use the nice things his parents buy for him and kinda imply that he doesn’t think all that much about high school, but that was only because he saw it as a means to figure out what you want to be as an adult, and he already has that figured out. It’s not like he went “Pfft, high school? A mere way to waste my time until I go to the most prestigious college money can buy me into. *snooty rich person laugh*” He obviously cares somewhat about high school because he was really excited when he learned he got into the one he wanted.

Even if he had said that, that’s not enough reason to hate him nearly as much as Tomohide does.

Tomohide attacking Fumio with a pipe.

But this brings us to the big moment – the string pull. After Tomohide snaps and attacks Fumio with a metal pole, Fumio whips out the straw doll, but hesitates. Tomohide, who knows exactly what Fumio’s doing because he’s also a Hell Girl client, notices it, and then…..

……He berates him into pulling the string until he does.

The last thing we hear from Tomohide on his ferry ride is “I’m sorry, Suzumi.”

What the hell is wrong with you, dude? You knew the doll was for you. You knew what it was. You knew the power was real….and yet, you just goad Fumio into pulling the string, basically committing suicide? When you know full well that you’ll be leaving your mother and your sister all alone, basically damning your sister to taking care of her four-year-old self until the day she has to give up her dreams to help support her mother because her brother decided to be a dumbass and get himself killed for absolutely no reason when one of the reasons he was choosing to go into the workforce immediately in the first place was so she didn’t have to give up her dream of being a baker?

Is there any brain cell in your skull that is functioning?

At the end of the day, as Fumio takes a tour around the high school he chose, he sees some other boy being bullied and realizes that Tomohide was right, he’ll probably never escape from being bullied. At least, I think that’s what they were trying to say. I mean, just because some other kid is being bullied doesn’t mean he has to.

Also, Tomohide’s friends watched him get Hell Girl’d and they tell their entire class what happened in a huge panic. They even turn on the class in paranoia and claim they’re all probably Hell Girl clients sending people to hell.

Overall, this episode is very, very sloppy. I kinda like the idea of having a bullying story where the script is flipped and we are meant to sympathize more with the bully than the victim, but they did such an awful job executing that idea. You don’t sympathize with Tomohide nearly enough, and the victim is too meek and marshmallow-esque that you can’t even dislike him a little. If you dislike him, it’s probably because he’s kinda whiny, but he has a bit of a right to be. There’s not enough details given for any of the important factors of the story, despite the clunky exposition-y dialogue, and the details they do give just aren’t good enough and/or feel stupid.

I don’t even want to talk about Yuzuki’s part again.

Onto the first of the final three – let’s see if Yuzuki’s story is really up to snuff.

Next Episode….

…..Previous Episode


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 9 Episodes 11, 12, 13 (Season Finale) + Special (Episode 0) Review

Episode 11: Dragon Palace

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Plot: An overworked man and his coworker go night fishing to relax. He soon realizes that his friend isn’t exactly fishing for fish….

Breakdown: Unrelated to the episode, but can I just take the time out to say, holy crap, how am I just now noticing that this season has a full zodiac motif and it isn’t just an opening sequence gimmick?

Every episode so far has had a title and theme that involved a zodiac animal. I feel like a fool.

Anyway, this episode is okay. Not the first time I’ve seen a story where someone who is overworked or lonely or something gets dragged away by some mysterious beautiful woman who just wants to suck the life force out of the men, but this version was done well enough. Not sure what any of this has to do with dragons, though. Is the woman meant to be a dragon?

Episode 12: Monkey Prayer

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Plot: The legend of the Monkey Prayer claims it will bring death to anyone of your choosing.

Breakdown: There’s nothing inherently wrong with this episode, but there’s not a lot to sink your teeth into in regards to unique aspects. I’ve never heard of the Monkey Prayer before, but there’s certainly no shortage of legends concerning curses that bring death upon someone. The background of the legend is that monkeys started mimicking humans in prayer during funerals, but they have a special way of praying, with their elbows touching when they put their hands together. It’s not really that unique.

The other aspect of this episode is not judging a book by its cover. There’s a creepy girl in class who first alerts Mei to this legend. At first, it seems like she’d be the one doing the cursing, but it turns out she’s not only innocent, she was also giving Mei information that could save her life. I’ve also seen this before. In fact, I feel like I’ve probably seen it in Yami Shibai several times.

The motive of the actual culprit is very vague. Someone theorized that she was jealous because she had a crush on Mei’s boyfriend, but it’s not really clear.

It’s fine, but it’s kinda sloppy and not enough is done to make it stand out much.

Episode 13: Year of the Cat

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Plot: A designer tells his coworker about the legend of the cat of the zodiac. The story goes that the rat tricked the cat when they were supposed to have a feast with god, causing him to miss the party. While this legend is a relatively well-known folktale, there’s an urban legend tied with the myth. Apparently, after that incident, the cat ate the rat, and god kicked the cat out of the zodiac as punishment. People are still born in the year of the cat to this day, and if god notices them he wipes them from existence.

Breakdown: Fruits Basket reference!

Now that that’s out of the way, this is a pretty clever horror twist on the legend of the cat of the zodiac, and it’s a great note to cap off the zodiac motif of this season. I’m not sure it’s all that scary, though. I suppose not many people would know whether or not they were born in the year of the cat, but the main lesson here seems to be to keep your ego in check. If you do that, then you’ll never receive the punishment from god.

I like how the episode mirrors the legend by having Mitsuki deceive the MC about the design contest their boss was holding. However, this time the rat’s the ‘good’ guy instead of being, well, a rat. He wasn’t really justified in what he did, though, so it’s hard to call him a good guy. The MC may have been an asshole, but he didn’t really seem bad enough to do that to him.

SPECIAL (Episode 0): The Old Well

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Plot: A woman is camping with friends when she accidentally falls down a well. Trapped, she has to find a way out on her own. However, she’s not really alone.

Breakdown: I can’t really get a lot of information on this special. From the way it’s formatted, I guess it was a….mobile exclusive episode that was released before season nine’s proper premiere as a way of promotion, but I can’t be sure. It does have an extremely weird vertical format, though.

This is, by far, the scariest episode of season nine, and probably one of the most legitimately scary episodes of Yami Shibai that I’ve ever seen. Granted, it’s not the most creative premise in the world, but it did manage to play on my biggest fear – drowning. And drowning in such a confined space as a well just makes it worse. I’m not claustrophobic, but in a circumstance of drowning, it would make me panic so much more.

The ending is simultaneously depressing and scary, which is kinda good for a horror story since it means I sympathize with the main character. Still, what an awful fate for that poor girl.

And that was all of Yami Shibai 9! I really hope we get season ten next year, but for now we’ll just head on to do the full Yami Shibai 9 review and kinda close out this year’s Animating Halloween!

Like I mentioned in my announcement at the start of the month, I knew I’d be very sparse on Halloween content this year due to personal matters, and I certainly was, so allow me to welcome you all to Animating Halloween: Noctober! Throughout November, I will be peppering in more Halloween reviews throughout my regular reviews of the month. While a good chunk of the hecticness has died down for me, it will start back up soon enough. I hope to be back to normal in time for A Very Animated Holiday Special, but we’ll have to see. Until then, thank you all for your patience, comments, likes and sticking with me through the spoooOOOOoooookiness.

👻 Have a Happy and Safe Halloween! 🎃


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 9 Episodes 9 and 10 Review

Episode 9: Snake Celebration

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Plot: A woman who has recently married visits her in-laws for the first time in order to celebrate her brother-in-law’s birthday.

Breakdown: This episode had a lot of promise in the first half but really fell off in the latter half. This story does a good job at making you like the main character and the in-laws, and the noises made when the family were behind the paper doors were really creepy…..However…

I know people, myself included, sometimes have a problem with Yami Shibai choosing not to show enough of the ghost or monster or what have you, but this episode has the opposite problem in that it shows too much. I was so into it until the instant they showed what the snake monster looked like. They had a perfect thing going where were just seeing what was happening via silhouette behind the paper door, but then they made that pointless by outright showing us the creature full out for numerous seconds, and it’s really lame.

Spoiler alert, the in-laws are snake people, but in the lamest of terms. As in, when they shed their skin, they’re just scaly. That’s it. No creativity whatsoever just…scales. And of course the ending is the MC turning into a snake person too, but really just getting scales. They’re not killing her or anyone else, they’re simply making her scaly. And that’s only when she chooses to look that way. The family usually has regular human appearances, and it’s only when they shed this skin that they look this way. I wouldn’t want to become scaly, but it’s hardly the scariest horror story ending.

I will say that the art style is creepy enough. It’s a bit rough and ugly, but the faces are just subtle enough in their creepy stares and slightly wide eyes that it makes you uncomfortable.

Episode 10: Boar Meat

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Plot: A young girl named Nao, who has recently moved to the countryside, has a difficult time making friends until she meets another girl named Botan. A strong bond forms between them quickly as they care for peonies through the winter, but there’s something peculiar about Botan….

Breakdown: I was really loving this story for a while. The art, the water color-like coloring style, the characters, the story, the pacing – it was one of the most engaging Yami Shibai stories I’ve seen to date.

However, it’s also one of those episodes that makes absolutely no sense unless you know Japanese, and even once you learn the context it’s still a little confusing. Granted, the story isn’t confusing at all until the very ending.

A bullied new kid in town, Nao, befriends a really nice girl named Botan, and they live in their own little world simply caring for a peony plant on a hilltop in the woods. It’s obvious something is off about Botan, but her intentions with Nao never seem malicious.

I feel like I have to spoil this one to explain how confusing the ending is, so fair spoiler warning.

At the end of the episode, Botan hurts her leg on something unseen. In a panic, Nao rushes off to get help, despite Botan’s pleas to not leave her side. As we cut to black after the incident, we see Nao with a really haunted expression sitting quietly at the table as her mom talks to someone on the phone about making a hotpot for dinner with the boar meat they’re giving them…..the end.

It’s rare that I reach these levels of confusion, but there I was. The sub I watched didn’t have any notes about the context here, as usual, so I went to the comment section to find someone explaining the ending.

According to one of the commenters, Botan was actually a boar who could, for some reason and somehow, take the form of a young girl. But, to everyone else, Botan just looked like a boar. Case and point, one of Nao’s bullies started throwing rocks at them because he believed Nao was being attacked by the boar. During the attack, Botan’s eyes turned yellow, scaring the boy away.

When Botan hurt her leg, she actually got it caught in a trap meant to hunt boars. It’s unclear what would have happened had Nao stayed with her, but, supposedly, when Nao went to get help, she either returned to realize her friend was actually a boar, which had since been killed by the trappers, or the people she got to help were the trappers, who in turn killed Botan right in front of Nao – either of which would explain why she looks so horrified and grief-stricken near the end. I can only imagine she felt exponentially worse once her mother started talking about making a hotpot with the boar meat that was offered by the trappers who just killed her best friend.

You may be wondering how the heck we jumped from a little girl taking care of a flower to a boar. The thread holding all of this together is Botan’s name. Botan means ‘peony’, but there’s also a Japanese stew called Botan Nabe made with wild boar meat. It’s named as such because the pieces of boar meat are cut and arranged like the petals of a peony. Basically, the ending is a super dark joke on Botan’s name.

There was also a theory that Botan was merely caught in a trap and was later killed by a wild boar, but this theory doesn’t fit nearly as well as the other one, especially since the mother would be ridiculously nonchalant about the entire situation. “Oh a boar killed my daughter’s best friend? Oh sorry about the fuss. Sure, I’d love to make dinner out of the boar meat!”

Either way, holy crap, what a depressing end to this story. This poor girl is just lonely and bullied. She finally finds a friend, and not only does she realize she wasn’t an actual person the whole time, but she, at best, saw her dead body (I have no clue if she ever reverted to looking like a boar to Nao at any point. For all we know, she could have seen a young girl’s dead body.) or, at worst, witnessed her being slaughtered. And no matter which of those it was, she still has to deal with the fact that her best friend is for DINNER. What the actual hell?

In my opinion, as long as you know the context, this is a pretty good story, but that ending is way too depressing. Season nine’s really going heavy with the sad stories, eh?


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 9 Episodes 7 and 8 Review

Episode 7: Mr. Rooster

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Plot: A punk rock band gets a new bassist named Mr. Rooster, but he’s a bit…off.

Breakdown: Hmmm. This one is interesting. Not sure I’d go so far as to call it scary, especially since the supernatural aspect technically wasn’t malicious, but it was somewhat creative and the imagery made it a little creepy.

I don’t much care for the ‘It was all a dream….?’ ending, but eh.

Episode 8: Rocking Horse

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Plot: A man’s sister sends him his old rocking horse for his son to play with. His son loves the toy….but so does someone else.

Breakdown: Wow, this was probably one of the best episodes of Yami Shibai. Not reaching the peak of quality, but still fairly high on the list.

Rocking horses aren’t really one of those old toys that typically gets used as horror story props, but they took the idea and ran with it. The rocking horse on its own looks weird enough to seem both realistic as a toy and yet very creepy. The episode has some really eerie vibes to it, a really intriguing story and a frightening end.

My only real gripe with it is the fact that the story just stops. It sets up this mystery so well, but right as it starts getting really interesting, the episode ends. I am well familiar with Yami Shibai’s system. Their episodes are four minutes long at most, and that’s barely enough time to tell a coherent story from start to finish. Many times, this results in the episodes having very abrupt endings that, many times, also end in cliffhangers. But this was one of those episodes where I felt like it was more of a cliffhanger middle than a cliffhanger ending. This story definitely needs a part two, but they haven’t done that in Yami Shibai in a long, long time so I’ll probably never get proper resolution to it.

Great episode, but I really needed like one more minute to get a satisfying ending.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 9 Episodes 5 and 6 Review

Episode 5: Paper Mache Tiger

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Plot: A man’s son dies in a tragic accident, leaving only the paper-mache tiger he helped him make as one of his only precious heirlooms.

Breakdown: Yami Shibai likes to delve into ghost stories that are purely sad sometimes, and this is one of those moments.

This episode is sad from start to finish, and there’s never a moment where you’re creeped out. In fact, if anything, the presence of the ghost makes you feel somewhat comforted. However, the story has an extremely bittersweet ending. The instant the head of the paper mache tiger starts shaking its head ‘no’ back and forth, you start panicking, but then when the head falls, you’re really hit with the full brunt of the grief of their situation. I won’t spoil the story for you, but I very much enjoyed it, no matter how sad it was. I’ll say this is now my favorite story of both season eight and nine.

Episode 6: Spirit Ox

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Plot: A man starts reliving the same day over and over.

Breakdown: I was gearing up to write this one off as just plain stupid, but it wound up being really sweet and wholesome. I had a feeling about the twist at the end about the ‘special occasion’ but I was so confused about the spirit ox aspect.

I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just tell you to read up on the Japanese Bon festival before watching this.

Overall, this was a really sweet and lighthearted story that I really enjoyed.


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