Reopening the Theater of Darkness | Yami Shibai Season 8 Review

Plot: Season 8 of the horror anthology series, Yami Shibai.

Breakdown: Yami Shibai’s crew took one Halloween off last year to work on a spin-off anthology series called Ninja Collection, but since that bombed and no one remembers it even exists, they came back early this year to give us more horror anthology goodness.

And it was fine.

Like all of the seasons prior, I’ll give a masterlist of my reviews on each episode. However, since I have abandoned numbered rating systems, I’ll just give my brief thoughts on each episode like normal and draw a conclusion.

Episode 1: Dropped Handkerchief – Silly hook attached to a lame and cliche premise. Decent ambiance, though.

Episode 2: Death Day – Much better, and pretty unique. Was both creepy and genuinely scary at the end.

Episode 3: Don’t Look Back – The base concept itself is rather frightening to me, but this episode is very cliché and a giant mess in regards to its own rules and logic.

Episode 4: Bean-Throwing – Quite possibly one of the worst episodes of Yami Shibai based purely on the editing/composition. It’s torture. It’s a shame because the story is fairly unique – not scary, but unique.

Episode 5: The Sound of Laughter – Got me a little in hindsight, but not in a scary way. More of an ‘oh, that’s clever’ way.

Episode 6: Catch of the Day – The only unsettling part of this stupid episode was the pained sounds of a baby crying, but that has no real bearing on the story.

Episode 7: Issun Boshi – Really unique premise and rather interesting manifestation of feelings of jealousy and vengeance, but also really silly.

Episode 8: Viewing – Another fairly unique story held down by its weak premise. I still can’t get over how anyone who has ever been a student before would believe a trio of teens would randomly get the day off of school and then they decide to go anyway, uniform and all, for a…joke?

Episode 9: Antlion Pit – Out of all of the season eight episodes, this one is probably the most memorable to me. Outside of being a cautionary tale of something that many people don’t really have much control over, there isn’t much in the ways of scares here, but I did enjoy it quite a bit.

Episode 10: Footprints in the Snow – Best episode of season eight in all categories, from art to scares to uniqueness to ambiance, BUT it’s also incredibly depressing.

Episode 11: Curse – I really liked this one, but I wish the ending was different. Kinda ruins everything they were going for with the curse.

Episode 12: String Telephone – Really sloppy art, really sloppy premise, bad execution, but if told differently, it’d make for a fine campfire ghost story.

Episode 13: Sleeptalking – Season eight’s finale is just okay. I do find the premise to be a little scary, but they didn’t set up the twist well enough, if at all.

I was pretty underwhelmed by season eight, but outside of getting really frustrated with Bean-Throwing, nothing left too bad a taste in my mouth. There are plenty of spurts of creativity here, but it’s like they have a bucket of good ideas and half-ass the execution most of the time. A few of the entries were legitimately really good, but I yearn for more. I didn’t sacrifice last Halloween just for a few good Yami Shibai episodes in return.

Sad to say, but I think the days of the bookends with the narrator being anything more than typical bookends ever again are long over. I still enjoy them, especially the ending theme sequences, but I wish more effort would be put into making even a slight linear storyline again. You don’t even have to make a big deal out of it. Just make it a cool Easter egg or something.

Onto season nine!


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 8 Episodes 11, 12 and 13 (SEASON FINALE) Review

Episode 11: Curse

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Plot: A teenager boy accidentally breaks a Jizo statue and everyone starts gossiping that he’ll soon wind up getting cursed.

Breakdown: I really liked this entry because it was a pretty good twist on the old “accidentally broke some sacred artifact and got cursed” story. The boy in this story doesn’t believe in curses at all, but he starts getting annoyed by everyone around him whispering and waiting for him to get cursed. At first, it’s just a general annoyance, but he starts seeing a strange man in a suit telling him to hurry up and get cursed already..

Soon, he starts hearing everyone around him waiting with smiles for him to get cursed and urging him to get cursed. Eventually, it’s all he sees and hears until the ending in which he falls down a flight of stairs and seemingly dies. The head of the Jizo statue rolls up next to him and starts cracking and glowing. The kid had indeed been cursed, but not in the way you’d expect.

The growing paranoia and the insensitivity of the people whispering around him made for a better scary experience than the typical bouts of bad luck or suddenly seeing ghosts experiences that most ‘cursed’ characters wind up with.

If I had one big criticism, it’d be that I think the story would have worked better if the guy went crazy and stayed that way instead of him going nuts for one day and then randomly dying. It just seems pointless to torment him for one day and then end it by killing him. There’d be a lot of irony/poetic justice, at least from the spirit’s perspective, in letting him be locked in a world where he never gets cursed, but everyone around him is eager for him to get cursed and thinks and says nothing but that around him.

Episode 12: String Telephone

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Plot: A man’s young daughter brings home a string telephone she made at school and wants to talk to him with it. However, they’re not the only people on the line.

Breakdown: This one has the makings of a decent campfire story, but execution is fairly sloppy.

First of all, the art is really messy. It’s like everything was hastily drawn with a ballpoint pen.

Second of all, I have no idea how things snowballed as badly as they did in the end. He went from going a little nuts at hearing this voice on the phone to suddenly having a time lapse where his wife and daughter leave him and his house fills with garbage because he’s going insane because of this string telephone that…I guess he can’t just throw away?

And then the ghost gets him? The end?

The voice on the phone seems to be of a woman with whom he was cheating on his wife. But I don’t know if she’s dead. The guy never says she’s dead, but she has to be if that’s her ghost on the other line, right?

Why would this lady wait until his daughter made a string phone before trying to contact him? He has a cell phone. Does that not work as well?

I guess, in the end, this was just a cautionary tale about cheating? Because if you do….and your daughter makes a string phone….your life will be ruined and you’ll die in a closet?

Like I said, the bare bones of the story works well enough as a campfire ghost story, it’s everything that was added as extra material that muddies the water too much.

Episode 13: Sleeptalking

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Plot: A college student becomes aware of his odd sleepwalking and sleeptalking habits where he frantically searches throughout his room for something.

Breakdown: Eh….Pbbbt.

Fairly lackluster season finale, if you ask me. It is kinda scary to think that you’re doing or saying strange things in your sleep without realizing it, and continuing to do the same weird actions over and over every night would be kinda creepy, but this story just didn’t have much to it.

After spending a fun night with his old childhood friend, a college student becomes aware of the fact that he wakes up every night searching his room for something. In order to figure out what’s happening, he films himself one night to watch video footage of it happening. He turns his room upside down searching for something when he finally finds what or, more to the point, who was missing.

I needed a third party to explain the ending to me, but apparently, and without any context clues beforehand, he and the childhood friend from before actually had a third best friend who went missing. The college student was searching for that friend in his sleep. The friend shows up, off screen, and says he found him, but now he’s missing and the third friend will search for him, implying that the third remaining friend will sleepwalk/talk as well until the day he vanishes and they’re all reunited in whatever purgatory world they’re vanishing off to.

I guess that’s kinda clever, but I wish it had been more properly set up is all.

And that was the final episode of season eight of Yami Shibai! My full review will be up soon, and then we’ll move on to season nine!


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 8 Episodes 9 and 10 Review

Episode 9: Antlion Pit

Plot: A prominent office worker goes missing out of the blue. Her rival starts to become completely wiped out, exhausted from her workload but unable to find the time to get any rest. In her weariness, a desert appears before her on her way to work with a strange antlion pit in the center.

Breakdown: This one wasn’t scary, but it was depressing and had layers to it.

Saki’s rival goes missing, but she doesn’t think all too much about it since she has her own workload to worry about. She’s at the top of her game in the office, but her work is basically killing her. She goes home at extremely late hours only to go home to sleep for a short while before heading back to work.

While out walking, she sees a desert spring up out of nowhere. In the sand is an antlion pit. For those unfamiliar, antlion larvae create traps in the sand to capture and eat ants. The pit is dug in a cone shape, causing any ants that stumble into it to fall and be unable to climb the sloped sand back up, eventually falling to their doom in the center. This one, however, is a massive antlion pit big enough to nab humans.

Voices from within the pit try to coax her in by reminding her of how tired she is and how difficult it is for her to keep up with work. She nearly falls in, but manages to escape. When things only get worse at work and she gets even more rundown, she starts to give up on her life, which causes the pit to call to her again. This time, it’s successful and we’re shown that her rival also fell prey to the pit.

Later, Saki’s boss also thinks to himself about how much work he has to get done and how tired he is, leading him to the same desert. This time we see a line of people, first in near silhouette, emulating the appearance of a line of ants, all basically waiting to get into the pit and talking about how much work they have to do and how tired they are.

I think what they did here with the imagery is pretty clever. Indeed a lot of people basically just work themselves to the bone and/or live for work and don’t have much of a life otherwise, robbing them from truly living and essentially making them worker ants, if you will. Working too hard for too long will eventually lead to your demise.

I really like this episode. It’s not the most creative of all imagery considering comparing office workers to ants is not uncommon, but I like the additional imagery of the antlion pit and having the pit basically call out to you by drawing out your most negative feelings about your current work situation.

It’s very easy to find yourself working so hard that all you really want is to rest and you’ll take any opportunity to do so. And, sadly, sometimes you do find yourself going so far as to give up entirely. When you work yourself to the bone and wind up feeling like you’re not even really achieving anything, it can drain every bit of energy out of you. Someone in the comments said this was a particularly clever commentary on Japanese workforces, but, honestly, it applies just fine to American workforces and probably many, many others.

So, moral of the story, don’t work too hard……which….okay, is a good moral….but it’s not really a luxury for many people to not work this hard, which just leads me back around to the note about this story being depressing.

Episode 10: Footprints in the Snow

Plot: A pair of siblings are out in the woods building a snowman, but they’re not alone.

Breakdown: Best episode of season eight so far. It’s pretty scary, leaves just enough to the imagination and is fairly well-paced, but it’s also pretty depressing. I liked that they used footprints as both a lure to get a new victim to follow them and to trap them where they wanted them by making their own footprints disappear.

There hasn’t really been much differentiation in the art styles between episodes like normal, but this one is noticeably different, taking on a more water-colored art style. I like it.

Like I said, the only negative side to this story was that it was depressing. These poor kids were just having fun building a snowman and then that happens….


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 8 Episodes 7 and 8 Review

Episode 7: Issun Boshi

Plot: Niimi used to be best friends with Miyama before he started dating a girl Niimi had a crush on. Miyama shares the tale of Issun Boshi – a creature that grants one wish to anyone who catches it. Consumed by jealousy, Niimi attempts to capture the creature, but things don’t turn out as planned.

Breakdown: This one was…..unique.

At face value, it’s a pretty goofy story, especially after Niimi accidentally steps on Issun Boshi. It gets damn near cartoony when Issun Boshi pops up in Niimi’s body and beats him up from the inside.

However, if you think about it a bit more, this story is a pretty good supernatural take on being consumed with jealousy or revenge. This is never a tale where the moral is ‘be careful what you wish for’ because Niimi never technically catches Issun Boshi nor is he offered a wish. He accidentally squishes him, which causes Issun Boshi to infiltrate his body and torment him as punishment. The only way he’ll let up is if he kills Miyama for spreading the story of Issun Boshi, causing people to chase him, and Nanako, his crush, for laughing at the legend.

I actually kinda like it, but I don’t much care for the slight implication that Niimi might have schizophrenia, and that’s the reason why he’s hearing voices and getting violent. If true, it’s perpetuating negative stereotypes about schizophrenia.

Episode 8: Viewing

Plot: A high school student gets notified by her teacher to not come to school the next day because the school will be shut down for a special viewing. Deciding to go anyway with her friends as a joke, she finds herself locked in a nightmare as she enters school grounds.

Breakdown: This episode is fine, but it’s also built on an insanely weak premise. What teenager thinks “Oh we get the day off school tomorrow? Hey, ya know what would be funny? If we went to school anyway for no reason and to do nothing. Let’s also wear our school uniforms in case anyone catches us.” Like, what? I know some kids do loiter in their school in the off-hours, but why would that be the first thing you’d think to do when told you have a sudden day off from school?

It’s not like the school is empty either. The teacher specifically said it was closed for a special viewing, meaning there would be some people there.

As for what went down when she actually did go to the school….it’s very confusing. She gets there and sees the classrooms filled with students who shouldn’t be there. Suddenly, the ‘viewing’ starts, and everyone puts their hands to their eyes and screams while a bunch of students drag a coffin through the halls. When the screaming stops, the girl opens her eyes to see that everyone now has empty eye sockets. The coffin opens and reveals Chie’s body and the Chie we’ve been seeing disappears, implying that she’s dead I guess.

So the moral of the story is if your teacher tells you to not go to school, you have to do everything in your power to resist going to school anyway. I know how much you kids love school, but if you go to it during off-hours you’ll die, so don’t do it.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 8 Episodes 5 and 6 Review

Episode 5: The Sound of Laughter

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Plot: A teenage boy is studying for his entrance exams when he starts hearing the sound of an old lady laughing wherever he goes.

Breakdown: This episode was funny, but I could see how it could be kinda spooky for a split second at the end.

The entire episode, I felt like laughing with the old lady, whom we never see by the way. And at the end, when the laughter spreads like laughing gas to the teen’s parents and they just can’t stop laughing no matter what, I was starting to laugh out loud.

Then you realize, ooh it’s spooky because the laughter spread to you. Clever, if you can get it to work, which it did for me, but that novelty wears off very quickly.

I still don’t understand what is up with this old lady. Why is she laughing and tormenting this family? What’s her story?

Episode 6: Catch of the Day

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Plot: A man brings home an odd fish after going fishing with a friend and starts acting very odd.

Breakdown: This episode was really stupid.

Guy caught a ‘fish’ that we never see, and he starts acting all weird because of it. In the middle of the night, his wife catches him cutting up the creature, which is…kinda blur censored or something? It’s clearly still alive and wailing like a baby as he chops it up. This made me very concerned that the ‘fish’ he ‘caught’ was actually a baby he kidnapped, which is why he desperately didn’t want his wife to see it…..

But nope.

It’s just a sea creature of some sort that makes the men turn into….I dunno, something after they eat it. The final shot is of the wife trying to pull off a blanket from her sleeping husband, implying he had turned into a monster, but they cut away before we see it. I guess it is slightly creative, but it’s definitely not scary and not all that interesting.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 8 Episodes 3 and 4 Review

Episode 3: Don’t Look Back

Plot: A young man finds himself lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood with a sign that says ‘From this point forward, don’t look back.’

Breakdown: This episode has the same cliché vibes as the first episode, even though it’s not quite as bad. However, like the first episode, there is also a problem in how the gimmick works.

In this episode, the obvious gimmick is that you can’t look back when you’re walking in this place or else you’ll disappear. The main character meets a young woman who also stumbled into this place. She used to be traveling with her boyfriend, but he looked back when he heard voices and vanished instantly. She has gone crazy desperately trying to not look back no matter what, and she’s trying to save the main character from suffering the same fate as her boyfriend.

Thing is, this place is also a purgatory of sorts. She states she’s been walking for so many days that she’s lost track, implying that no matter how much you walk you can’t escape from this place….so…why not look back? Sounds like you’re screwed either way.

This place also doesn’t follow its own rules. She says you can’t look back or else you’ll vanish, but then she also says she’s looked back several times, but she doesn’t explain what happened when she did. There’s just a closeup shot of a rock on the ground as she says it.

When you do look back and vanish, you’re just transported to the same location only a lot foggier and with ghosts hanging out in the windows of the houses. You’re still stuck in a loop either way. It’s never established that the ghosts will do anything to you, and it still seems like it’s pointless to not look back. If you’re trapped forever, you’re trapped forever.

Tell you the truth, the non-ghost neighborhood is really almost as bad. The ghosts are still technically in that area trying to trick travelers into looking behind them. They pretend to be your loved ones or kind strangers and they never leave you alone. The only difference is that you can’t see them. All the while, you try desperately to not look back and keep walking forward, knowing you’re not actually getting anywhere.

This story is actually pretty frightening to me, but, honestly, the ‘don’t look back’ stuff doesn’t have anything to do with it. The concept of just wandering into to some unknown area and being trapped forever without even realizing it seems like hell to me.

Episode 4: Bean-Throwing

Plot: A little boy is concerned that her mother has befriended a demon and is desperate to drive him out of their home.

Breakdown: Jeeezzzzz that episode was a nightmare to sit through…..Not because it was scary, though.

This episode was a total mess because of the dialogue. The little boy, Youta, is narrating throughout each second of this episode, but there is also regular dialogue going throughout the episode as well in the background. So, if you speak Japanese, you have to focus a lot to get both tracks of dialogue or stop and rewatch sections to focus on one track at a time. And if you don’t understand Japanese, you have to constantly pause the video to understand what’s being said in both tracks.

It totally took me out of whatever scary experience I would have had watching this episode.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Youta’s narration goes at a mile a minute because the episodes are so short. It’s like he chugged a case of Redbull before recording. So you not only have to pay attention to two tracks of dialogue most of the time, but you also have to keep pausing even more frequently just to read what Youta’s saying.

Once you manage to trudge through all of that, you find yourself with a fairly unique story, but also one that’s not that scary. Youta’s family used to be fairly happy, but things changed when his father suddenly left. He started hearing his mother having secret conversations at night with a shadowy figure that had red eyes. After having a weird existential crisis that seems way too heavy for his age, Youta felt like he had to get rid of the demon to protect his mother, but he didn’t know how to do it.

His school has a tradition every year of bean-throwing. People are meant to throw beans at demons once a year to keep them and the misfortune they bring away for a year. Why beans have this power, I don’t know.

Youta keeps a bag of beans from the event. That night, he sneaks to his mother’s room when she’s speaking with the demon, telling him she believes Youta’s starting to figure out their secret. He bursts in, breaking the light, and blindly throws beans everywhere to ensure the demon is gone.

When he’s done, he manages to find a light and turns it on. Both his mother and the demon are gone. He rubs his head and feels something odd. The end.

From what I gather, Youta and his parents must have been demons? That’s the only reason why his mother would have also vanished after the bean pelting. I think his father was either killed by a demon or could no longer maintain a non-demonic image anymore and had to stay hidden from Youta until he was old enough to know about his heritage.

I believe at the end Youta is feeling horns developing on his head?

This is interesting and all, but it’s not really scary. It’s mostly just sad because Youta, I guess, killed or banished his parents and now he has to grow up as a demon child without anyone to help him? Or is the talk about needing to do the bean throwing every year seemingly pointless because it means the demons return and indicate that his parents will be back next year?

I don’t know. And quite frankly I don’t want to keep analyzing this episode to figure out anymore. Even in the comments section people were like “I need a mangekyo sharingan to follow this episode.” This episode needed to be at least a couple minutes longer and have more breaks in the narration to not be so sloppy. It is ridiculous.


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Animating Halloween: Yami Shibai 8 Episodes 1 and 2 Review

Episode 1: Dropped Handkerchief

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Plot: Four teenagers go to an abandoned house in the middle of the night as a test of courage…..What could possibly go wrong?

Breakdown: Welcome one and all to 2021’s Animating Halloween! Yami Shibai is finally back after….*snicker* ghosting us last year, and they made up for the lack of season last year with two seasons premiering this year. Season nine is wrapping up right now, and we’ll be going over that this year as well to also make up for the lack of Yami Shibai in Animating Halloween last year.

I’m really excited…..buuuuuttttt…..

This episode was kinda lame, if you couldn’t tell from the plot alone. It’s so ridiculously cliché. It’s so disappointing that this is what we have to start out with. I mean, come on, four teenagers go to an abandoned house at night as a test of courage? Plus, the house has spooOOooooky backstory to it in that people just vanish when they’re in the house and the last residents were a family that also suddenly vanished?

Granted, the story itself has decent ambiance, but the only non-cliche hook is the aspect of the handkerchief, and that’s just boring in my opinion.

They very briefly show a shot of a drawing the kid from the missing family made where it depicts him playing the handkerchief game with what I assume is his family? The handkerchief game is almost exactly like Duck Duck Goose. A person who is ‘it’ walks behind a circle of people. They drop a handkerchief behind one of them, declaring them ‘it’ and that person has to pick up the handkerchief, chase the tagger and try to catch or kiss (?) them before they’re able to make a full lap around the circle and take the tagged person’s spot.

The teenagers all happen to sit in a circle when they visit the kid’s room, since that’s supposedly the most haunted room in the house. They want to party there, but one of them notices a handkerchief behind another person that wasn’t there before. The lights suddenly go out, and when they come back on the person who was nearest the handkerchief is shown to have vanished. The same repeats until everyone’s gone.

It happens so quickly that I just don’t see the point in even playing this game. It would be interesting if they showed one of them winning the game and escaping the house, but none of them can even try. The best that happens is one of them realizes the handkerchief is connected to the disappearances and throws it after they pick it up, but they still die. Even if you realized the game in time, there’s no one to chase or catch so how would you even win?

We have a new intro, this time being the narrator presenting his kamishibai show to a bunch of ghosts populating a dark foggy street. The ending has a new song, which is pretty darn good. The animation accompanying is has a girl made out of pencil scribbles running down a live-action street passing some fellow scribble people until she reaches the Yami Shibai narrator. It’s possible some of these people are references to the stories but I can’t be certain.

Episode 2: Death Day

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Plot: The Kunitake family has a tradition of always gathering in the family home and spending the day together on the anniversary of their mother’s death. It seems like an innocent enough tradition to Sachiko, who has recently married into the family, until she realizes that maybe the mother is celebrating this day as well.

Breakdown: Alright, this is more like it! A more original premise, pretty spooky ambiance and a genuinely surprising and scary twist at the end.

I am very thankful that they didn’t show what the ghost looked like in the end because that would have ruined the entire twist and the looming fear over what was in the room with them. Not sure why Sachiko could see the ghost when no one else could, but that’s an easily hand-waved detail.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. Wish this one had been the first episode of the season, but what can ya do?


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 22 – Flower and Moon Review

Plot: Yuika is an up and coming star in the world of modeling, known for her brash and pushy attitude. Her twin sister, Sumika, is a more timid and studious type. Sumika typically stays to the background being Yuika’s ‘shadow.’ She pretends to be Yuika in order to do her college work, take her exams and even stand in for her at work sometimes. Sumika is far from an innocent flower, though. They’re two sides of the same coin in the worst way.

Breakdown: I really, really thought this episode was finally going to get Yuzuki’s main plot rolling since a good chunk of the first half is dedicated to her struggling with her destiny of becoming Hell Girl. The end of high school is approaching, and her school counselor is questioning her about her plans for the future, but she doesn’t really have any.

Dreams and the future are two concepts that give Yuzuki pause lately.

And that’s it. She just can’t think of anything when she thinks about the future or anything she dreams of being. She’s such a boring character.

The most interesting thing we got from her was the slightest implication that something very bad happened when she was a kid involving her mother, but that’s about it.

I’m also starting to believe that maybe Yuzuki is….crazy? She suddenly seemed to lose contact with her mother, even though she stated that she used to call and talk to her parents every day, and I’m now realizing that we’ve still never seen either of her parents on screen – not even in pictures. I actually kinda hope it’s something like that, because at least that has the potential to be interesting.

After that, it’s a typical Hell Girl story. Although, the way they inject the story of the week is quite odd. Yuzuki is just walking down the sidewalk and she’s suddenly approached by Sumika, who apologizes profusely for the ashes from her flame-less fire seemingly getting on Yuzuki, but it’s clear that the smoke is only barely even slightly near her, so I doubt any ashes got on her. Also, if you didn’t want to bother nearby people with smoke and ashes, maybe not start a non-fire smoke signal in your two-foot wide yard right by the sidewalk?

She then invites Yuzuki to enjoy the warmth from this non-fire….When it’s not even noticeably cold out.

One of the pieces of paper making up the “fire” blows onto Yuzuki’s foot. It’s a picture of Sumika and her twin sister, Yuika, as teenagers. She clearly doesn’t want Yuzuki to see this picture…..so again…I ask…why are you doing literally any of this? Why the “fire”? Why not just tear up the pictures? Why not set the fire in a place that won’t immediately draw attention from passersby? Why invite Yuzuki over to enjoy the private picture fire? You make no sense, lady.

Anyway, absolutely nothing involving Yuzuki has any bearing on the Hell Girl story today. What a surprise.

The real story is fine, but I feel like it’s basically treading water we’ve already treaded. Most notably, I was really reminded of the season one episode, A Night Among Traveling Entertainers.

You have a pair of twins, one of which is the bitchy star, Yuika, and the other is the timid doormat, Sumika. Yuika treats her sister like garbage and acts incredibly self-centered. She’s always telling Sumika to do her college work for her and even pretend to be her so she can take her exams for her.

Sumika comes off as a nicer person, but the twist is that she really isn’t deep down, which is pretty clearly foreshadowed by her burning the pictures earlier. While Sumika isn’t as mean as Yuika, she is self-centered and conniving.

When Yuika gets herself injured because she was a drunk moron, she demands Sumika take her place in a photo shoot so she won’t ruin her career. Sumika does great at the shoot and even earns a lot of positive attention because she’s being so much kinder and gentler than Yuika.

Not only that, but Sumika clearly covets Yuika’s boyfriend, Masato. While Masato does love Yuika, he gets along great with Sumika, and Yuika is, well, not a pleasant person, so you do kinda root for him to be with Sumika…..for a minute.

This whole conflict with the boyfriend comes to a head when Sumika pretends to be Yuika and tricks Masato into having sex with her….ya know…raping him.

He realizes only after the fact that she was actually Sumika, but his actual feelings are quite iffy. He seems like he feels bad about cheating on Yuika accidentally, but he’s not getting angry with Sumika, and we cut away before we can get any further information on what went down.

Yuika has been following her and becomes enraged when she realizes what happened.

After this, Yuika’s wound heals and she and Sumika basically fight for Yuika’s life.

They’re both dressed identically, so there’s no way to tell them apart.

One of them calls Hell Girl and pulls the string, sending the other twin to hell. It’s meant to be ambiguous, and the viewer is supposed to decide which twin was the client and which was the target, but there are several hints as to the identities of each, and I think it’s pretty clear that Sumika was the target.

They do obscure the name on the candle at the end. You can only see the ‘ka’ part of their first names. The rest is covered by a wax drip. However, what you can see of the kanji that is covered doesn’t match the way Yuika writes her name.

Masato breaks up with the woman who has the doll. He had never entered into an actual relationship with Sumika, he only slept with her once, so it seems weird that he would ‘break up’ with her.

The woman in the boat acts more like Sumika than Yuika. She asks “Am I not supposed to chase my dreams? Even though I wanted to be myself….” Yuika was always herself. She was a selfish bitch in front of people, and she was a selfish bitch in private. Sumika, on the other hand, had to hide behind Yuika’s persona in order to get attention while still being herself. Sumika was a kind person, but, as I said, she had a more nefarious side to her that was more scheming and selfish.

Finally, and the most obvious piece of evidence. It was established early in the episode that the only concrete way to tell Yuika and Sumika apart was a flower-shaped birthmark on Sumika’s lower back. That’s how Masato proved it was Sumika when they slept together. They specifically zoom in on Yuika’s bare back at the end of the episode and show that it has no markings on it. I even watched it frame by frame to make sure not even partial marks were shown – they weren’t.

The only thing that doesn’t mesh with this is that Yuika is notably more pleasant in the press conference at the end. Maybe she was humbled by the experience. Or maybe Sumika was actually the client and she just covered up her birthmark with makeup for whatever reason.

I’m 98% certain it was Yuika who lived and Sumika who got sent to hell. If true….eh, I don’t really care either way. Yuika was a bigger bitch than Sumika, no doubt, but Sumika was also a slimy bitch who basically raped Masato – no matter if he chose her in the end or not.

All in all, this episode was pretty okay. I liked that they were at least trying to create a fairly wide gray area here, and I appreciate the attempts at masking who the client and target were, even if, in my opinion, it was a bit easy to figure out. I am getting very annoyed at Yuzuki, though. They better throw her story into high gear in the next episode, because it really feels like it’s a road to nowhere.


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Hell Girl (Manga) Volume 4 Review | Alt. Title: Literally Everyone is Awful

Plot: The continuing stories of Hell Girl….

Chapter 14: Melody of Sorrow

Uhm….wow. This was one of the more ridiculously over done chapters we’ve ever seen on Hell Girl.

Seriously, it went down to supervillain-esque levels of muahahaha-evil.

Yui has a step-dad, Junichiro, whom she really loves. He’s a sweet guy who always supports her and she loves him just like a real dad. According to her parents, her real dad ditched her mother and her when she was three because he wracked up a lot of debt.

Yui’s class volunteers her to play piano for a singing contest at their school in a few weeks. She really liked the piano as a little kid, but stopped playing. The instant she picks it back up, her step-dad flips his shit and demands she stop learning and tell the class to find another pianist. She’s shocked at his drastic change in demeanor, but her mom encourages her to continue learning as long as she keeps it a secret from him.

Inevitably, he finds out, and holy shit sundae, he goes berserk. He slaps her across the face and locks her in her room for days, obviously not allowing her to practice piano anymore but also not allowing her to go to school or even eat. When her friends show up to check on her, he verbally reams them for encouraging her to play piano and shoos them off. When her mother tries to sneak some food to her, he slaps her across the face for going behind his back.

After however many days, he finally has a conversation with Yui about why he’s so upset. Get ready….This guy’s a fucking lunatic.

He shows her the picture that was in her piano practice book that her mother gave her. It was a picture of her mother and her biological father, Tadase. Her father was a piano genius and was on a fast-track to big success as a pianist. Meanwhile, Junichiro was always jealous of him because he couldn’t play nearly as well. He only got more jealous when Tadase got married and had a kid.

Junipsycho pretended to be her dad’s close friend for years in college as a part of his master plan – yes, this is actually a ‘master plan’ situation – he was going to wrack up a bunch of debt in Tadase’s name, kill him and then throw his body in the river, claiming he ran off to avoid debt collectors. Meanwhile, he’d swoop in, marry Yui’s mother and become Yui’s step-father.

No, I’m not kidding, and the crazy doesn’t stop there.

I guess even the simple act of trying to learn piano was enough to get him livid about Yui possibly becoming as skilled as her father. However, even he knows he can’t keep her imprisoned forever, so he agrees to let her be free….as long as he can ensure that she never plays piano again.

The only way to do that?

SLICE OFF HER FUCKING FINGERS WITH A BUTCHER KNIFE!

As he’s about to strike, he accidentally stabs her mother in the back as she rushes in to protect her daughter. He doesn’t give a damn about anything happening right now and really seems like he’s going to kill both of them.

Luckily, Yui contacted Hell Girl earlier and decides to pull the string to save her mother’s life.

The hell torture is rather predictable, but fitting. He’s tied up and forced to play piano in hell for all eternity.

Yui’s mother’s going to pull through, and Yui decides she wants to strive to become an amazing pianist just like her father, no matter if she’s damned for hell after she dies.

Just…wow. That was so ridiculous. We’ve definitely seen supervillain-esque targets on Hell Girl before, but this guy takes the cake. He’s managed to keep his cool for about ten years to the point where Yui would never suspect him of killing a fly, but the instant she says she’s trying to learn piano for a school event he suddenly can’t keep himself from viciously violent outbursts of insane proportions. Hell, for all he knew she sucked too and he had nothing to worry about. Piano skill isn’t genetic. He’s not even a practicing pianist anymore, why would he care? Just because he doesn’t want to be reminded of Tadase?

Chapter 15: Puppy Waltz

Stop with the stories of animal abuse in this franchise! They’re not pleasant to read, even if the asshole goes to hell. And they’re all basically the same story anyway. Stop it!

I’ll spare you the story – bitch abuses, neglects and kills her dogs, nearly kills client’s dog, nearly gets client mauled by dogs, somewhat-ish happy ending for client, implied Ai helped her dog survive an attack, target can suck on battery acid through a straw made of used hypodermic needles in hell. The end.

I hope that’s the last animal abuse story I have to sit through as I finish off this franchise, because I am reaching my limit.

Chapter 16: Beautiful Friendship

This.

Chapter.

Is.

Dumb.

I wish I could just leave it at that, but considering I just screwed you out of a proper review of the last chapter, I’ll talk about this one.

Makoto and her best friend, Tsuho, are planning to go to karaoke with the other girls in their class. Tsuho decides to invite Tomita. She’s a quiet glasses girl who mostly keeps to herself, typically spending her time reading manga or being on the Internet…..*looks in mirror*…..Are they spying on me?

Tomita doesn’t respond to Tsuho, not even when she yanks her book out of her hands and mocks her for liking manga, claiming she’ll never get a boyfriend if she doesn’t stop reading stuff like that.

Makoto grabs the book back from her and tells her to stop making Tomita feel bad.

This must have been translated in Tsuho’s head as the absolute most offensive thing she has ever heard in her 14-ish years of life, because she immediately runs out of the room screaming to her friends that Makoto is uninvited from karaoke. In addition to that, the next day, Makoto finds that everyone in class is ignoring her and treating her like garbage when they actually do pay her mind. All because she was nice to Tomita….

Keep in mind, Tsuho was technically or seemingly trying to be nice to Tomita when she went over there. She was inviting her out to karaoke and she didn’t appear to be kidding, but then she quickly started being a jerk. It’s not like the class hates Tomita for any real reason, either. They just mock her and made her an outcast because, by their standards, she’s weird.

Tsuho keeps calling Makoto a hypocrite, which I thought meant we’d get some reveal where Makoto used to bully Tsuho when they were really young or whatever….Nope. It’s just….something she keeps saying for some reason.

Now, in most other stories like this, Makoto would probably become good friends with Tomita and one of them would have to inevitably send Tsuho to hell because she’s being such a c-bag.

Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnope.

Turns out, Tomita’s a total bitch too. See, if there’s one thing you need to know about this chapter is that everyone – every, single, person – is awful. There’s not a nice person in this entire chapter except Makoto. It’s like there was a zombie virus outbreak, but instead of people turning into zombies they turn into assholes and Makoto was born with an immunity in her blood.

Tomita believes her only friends are on the Internet, who express that they have similar problems, but they’re also negative towards each other in suggesting things like committing suicide. Tomita also says she doesn’t care if her ‘friends’ on the Internet are assholes, because she can just delete whatever they say to her. Still, Makoto extends an olive branch, but Tomita swats it away. She tells her they have nothing in common, she never asked for her help in the first place and to never talk to her again.

Makoto is shocked, and she continues to get bullied to even worse extents. I don’t know why Makoto is getting all this harassment. Tomita is also outcast, but throughout this entire chapter she’s pretty much left alone barring that one incident at the start and that was very mild bullying compared to what Makoto is getting.

The bullying gets so bad (and she can’t tell her mom because reasons) that she decides to join the forum that Tomita was on before. It’s a forum for victims of bullying, so she believes she can find some kindred spirits there, even if there are assholes. One of the messages she finds suggests visiting Hell Correspondence to ferry their tormentor to hell. She decides to call Hell Girl on Tsuho, but she’s apprehensive to pull the string.

She becomes even more apprehensive when one of the girls who has been bullying her musters up the courage to greet her. Then she immediately runs off yelling to not tell Tsuho she did it. Uhm….is Tsuho a high school mob boss? Why does she seemingly have all of this power over the other girls to the point where they’re terrified of what she’ll do if she finds out they had the audacity to tell someone on their blacklist “Morning.”?

After this, Makoto thinks there’s some hope for things to go back to normal. She even greets the class when she walks in, and, even though she is met mostly with cold stares and silence, some of the girls do smile back at her.

At lunch, she tries to sit with the others, but Tsuho trips her and has a big tantrum, asking her what she said or did to the other girls. She tells Makoto she’s “ruining the mood for everyone” and that she’s annoying. Makoto tries to plead for Tsuho to take her back, claiming she’ll better herself if she’s always found her to be annoying – as long as she gets her friends back, she doesn’t care.

Makoto: “I think you’re my best friend!”

This line is met with Tsuho splashing her drink all over Makoto as she’s on the floor.

Tsuho: “I thought you were my friend. But you stood up for Tomita-san. So why aren’t you friends with her instead?!”

‘I thought you were my friend, but then you had to stop my mild bullying of a person who has seemingly never done anything to me before! And that is unforgivable!’

Even in the face of everything Tsuho has done and is doing right now, Makoto still pleads for her to put that behind them and make up. And then everything immediately shifts from devilbitch!Tsuho to this.

And that was immediately followed by me saying this.

Like, seriously, what the hell? How are we supposed to believe for a single microsecond that this harpy is actually now sorry for everything she did? I mean, I guess she does change her personality on a dime, considering how drastically it changed in the start, but this is just ridiculous. Tsuho trips her because she thinks she might be winning some of the girls over again, splashes a drink all over her when she calls her her best friend and then screams that, indeed, her major sin was STANDING UP FOR SOMEONE TSUHO WAS BULLYING, and then it’s just “Oh, Makoto, I’m sorry. :’(“

But they have to at least attempt to make us feel even a little sad for Tsuho….considering the very next shot is of her being sent to hell by Tomita.

Yup, Tomita, possibly breaking the rules of Hell Girl, I’m not sure, also called Hell Girl on Tsuho, but she actually pulled the string. Tomita is ecstatic about what she’s done and rushes off to tell her friends on the Internet.

Later, we discover that Tomita hasn’t been to school since that happened, though we never find out why. I also find it very hilarious that they’re calling her a freak for spending a bunch of time on the Internet. My, how times have changed. Makoto tells herself that there will be people she’ll want to get rid of in the future, but she’ll never visit Hell Correspondence again.

And the moral of the story is that everyone’s garbage.

I’m not even really exaggerating here. The bullies come off as assholes, of course, Tsuho comes off as ridiculously petty and evil, and even the bullied parties come off looking bad. Tomita’s a bitter psychopath, the people on that bullying forum were the same, and Makoto is just flatout pathetic. She’s really on the floor on her hands and knees BEGGING to be taken back by a girl who has done nothing but make her life a nightmare ever since she did something as minor as just pointing out that she’s making someone else feel bad.

Tsuho had the entire class turn against Makoto, kept verbally harassing her and calling her a hypocrite, she got her in trouble with her teachers, the class wrote horrible stuff about her on her papers, she was told that no one wanted her around, Tsuho knocked her down and splashed her drink all over her – but yeah, sure, she definitely sounds like someone I’d like to go back to being friends with. Why don’t we go see a movie? I hear “I’m a Huge Basket of Ass: The Tsuho Story” is playing.

I’ve had bad fights with friends before, to the point where we stopped being friends, and then we made up, but never to anywhere near this level, and groveling was never part of the picture. It sends a bad message, too. You can forgive someone for treating you like crap if you want, people make mistakes, and as long as they show effort in bettering themselves, then it can all be good, but begging someone like this to go back to being your friend? And acting like YOU’RE the problem and YOU need to change to be less ‘annoying’?

This is clearly a toxic relationship. Even if Tsuho wasn’t sent to hell, I can imagine Makoto would never be able to continue being her friend without living in constant fear of somehow pissing her off and earning her wrath once more.

It would have been better if Makoto decided to continue with what she was doing and try to get the other girls to cool it and befriend her again, because it’s clear that at least some of them were acting out of fear of whatever Tsuho would do to them. Then maybe all the girls could realize they were being foolish, see what a terrible person Tsuho is and ostracize her instead. But nope.

Tsuho didn’t deserve a drop of any sort of redemption they were trying to give her in the end. Just because you go ‘boo hoo’ and have her say ‘sorry’ when she’s been gleefully tormenting Makoto this entire time doesn’t make up for a damn thing. She’s a terrible person, and I have no qualms with her being in hell.

Not saying I liked what Tomita did, though, because she embodies the opposite extreme of the stereotype of the crazy bullied kid (Bonus stereotype points: Is a nerd who spends too much time on the Internet and reads comics/manga) who ends up murdering their tormentor. The fact that she’s so giddy about it is equally cringey. This series is no stranger to enjoying revenge, but the only thing Tsuho did to her was be rude to her. Sure, she’s also an outcast, but it’s clear that she doesn’t even want anyone else to fraternize with her.

Chapter 17: Fake Hell Correspondence

Ending on a brief note since this chapter reflects a story told in the anime. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad note since the episode in question was one of my favorite Hell Girl episodes, The Fake Hell Link. Pretty much everything in this chapter is the same as the anime, barring the differences in names (Shouko Baba is Akiko Hayashi here. Ikami Waka is Sanae Shiraishi here. And finally, Mami Kuriyama/Manaka is Ochiai/Nishikawa here.) and some minor things like Kuriyama had actually tried to use Hell Link before and learned firsthand that she needed to damn her own soul to make it work, but Ochiai didn’t. She just heard the stipulation through rumors, but other than that, spot on.

I don’t think I was in the right mind to enjoy it as much, though, because I was still reeling from the previous chapter.

————————————

And that was the end of volume four!

………It wasn’t that good. Only one story in this entire volume was actually worth anything, and I’m not sure I can give it full marks since it’s mirroring an anime episode. Chapter 14 takes second place in that regard, but it’s difficult to even take that chapter seriously because of how overly evil they made her step-dad.

With the animal abuse chapter coupled with the stupidity of the bully chapter, it’s just not a good volume overall. To make matters worse, we’re also introduced to Kikuri in this volume. Joy. She only shows up looming in the background of one panel, but she’s formally ‘introduced’ in the omake at the end of the volume. So, yeah, from now on we have to deal with Kikuri. Oh well, at least we don’t have to listen to her….


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 21: Right in Front Behind You Review

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Plot: Yuzuki meets a young boy named Kaito who is clearly being abused by his step-mother. She senses that he’s about to use Hell Correspondence and desperately tries to stop him. But there’s hell within everyone, and the challenge of freeing some people from their personal hell is easier said than done.

Breakdown: Wow. Rarely do episodes of this show leave me speechless, but…..wow.

First of all, this episode breaks your heart from start to finish. This poor kid is being abused so badly and so often that the first time Yuzuki meets Kaito he’s passing out from his injuries in the rain. He desperately wants to make his parents happy, but no matter what he does it’s never good enough. It’s not just direct abuse either. Kaito’s step-mother is pregnant, and she loves to passive-aggressively take shots at Kaito by telling her unborn child, named Mao, to not be like her troublesome liar of a big brother when she’s born.

What’s even worse is that his father is absolutely no help. But that’s the least of the problems with the father, which I’ll get to later.

The entire story is such a raw and realistic depiction of child abuse. New mom loves her biological child more than her step-child, perhaps even seeing him as a stain on their otherwise happy ‘natural’ family, so she mocks him, puts him down and hits him – always on areas that are covered by his clothing. The child doesn’t want to make waves because they don’t want to disappoint their parents. The father’s defensive of the mother and is overly sympathetic because she’s pregnant, and/or doesn’t care enough about his son to step in.

I felt so terrible the entire runtime, and that feeling only got worse and worse the further we got into the story.

Second of all, this is a case with a child client, so obviously the tensions are higher than usual. Kaito is a very likable kid whom you feel extremely bad for as you watch him just try his best and keep a smile on his face all the while he’s being treated like garbage.

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Third, Yuzuki is being more active here, which is appreciated, but, again, her presence doesn’t affect anything and she doesn’t stop Kaito from pulling the string. Ai interfered this time, showing Yuzuki where Kaito was and allowing her to watch him right as he pulled the string without actually letting her be seen or heard, but still.

Fourth, we really have to talk about Kaito’s dad. As the Hell Team watched Kaito, they asked themselves why he hasn’t yet told his father about what’s happening. I figured it would be the same as most similar situations in Hell Girl, the anime or manga, or just, sadly, real world situations – the dad wouldn’t believe him and would accuse him of being a liar or being jealous of the new baby.

Yuzuki even tries to tell the father about the abuse, but he refuses to listen and storms off.

Thing is, he does know about the abuse, and he’s known for a while…..he just doesn’t stop it because he wants to make his wife happy. She was such a catch that he doesn’t want to sacrifice what they have for the sake of saving his son, which is just as bad as if he was doing the abusing himself.

But his terrible nature doesn’t stop there.

He tries to fucking murder Kaito because he believes that’s the best resolution to the situation.

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What. The. Unholy. Fuck.

You may be wondering at this point where the string pull comes into the equation. When does that abusive bitch get her whatfor, eh?

Right as Kaito’s dad is about to drown him in a lake, he pulls the string.

And his step-mother…..

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…..Has a miscarriage.

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You read that right. Kaito’s target was Mao – an unborn child.

I remember when I first started these reviews and I wondered if there was an age restriction on who can be targets or who can be clients because surely it’s really messed up to send a teenager to hell or to expect them to have the emotional or mental capacity to understand the consequences of their actions in such a huge decision.

How times have changed.

Now we have a child client no older than eight, which actually isn’t too uncommon in this series…..and an unborn baby target.

My jaw dropped.

I never even considered that being possible. At worst, I thought the baby would die if the step-mother was sent to hell. I never figured the baby itself would be able to be targeted.

People were discussing in the comments about how this could even work. The step-mother was very close to her due date, so the baby was fully formed. And I assume that the baby had to have a soul because the deal Hell Girl offers is to get two souls – the client and the target. By all logic, we’re to assume that a baby’s soul is being tortured in hell right now, and that is one of the most depressing things I’ve ever heard.

Kaito opted not to kill his step-mother because he just wanted their lives to go back to normal. She used to be a loving parent who never abused him, but the instant she got pregnant her attitude started changing and their good times together stopped.

He always loved his step-mother. This much is proven when it’s shown that he greatly treasures an Eggman (not the Sonic one) hat as that was the first gift she ever gave him. Even when she cruelly tried to throw it away because it was ‘shabby’ which it wasn’t, he dug through the garbage to get it back because it was so precious to him. Kaito’s biologic mother is nowhere to be found, so it’s understandable that he would be so attached to his step-mother.

Since she changed when she got pregnant, he loved her and so did his father, his logic lead him to targeting Mao instead of his step-mother.

When Kaito pulls the string, his father instantly collapses in guilt over what he was about to do, for some reason (Incredibly convenient conscience timing or the power of Hell Girl?) but Kaito forgives him. Kaito goes to the hospital to see his step-mother to comfort her over her miscarriage, but also to remind her that she still has him and his father and things will go back to the way they were before when they were happy.

And that’s the way the story ends. The three do indeed return to the happy family they once were, only now, as the Hell Team point out, they’re all just biding time hiding from their own sins until they inevitably have to face them. Kaito has to deal with the fact that he killed a baby, his little half-sister no less, and damned her to hell while also coping with the fact that he’s now damned to hell. His father has to deal with the fact that he was complacent with his son’s abuse and that he tried to murder him. And his step-mother has to deal with the horrible acts of abuse she committed against Kaito.

For now, though, they laugh and have fun and manage to enjoy their lives even though they’ve all seen hell now.

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Yuzuki, for some reason, smiles at this sight even though it’s an insanely bleak image. Yeah, Kaito’s happy now, and yeah they’re all back to ‘normal’ but they all just went through a lot of fucked up shit and things are never going to be okay – especially if the step-mother winds up getting pregnant again.

There are no winners here. There rarely ever is an actual ‘winner’ in a Hell Girl story, but this is devastating at every angle.

This is definitely one of the best Hell Girl episodes I’ve ever watched, but it’s also one of the most difficult I’ve ever had to sit through.


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