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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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 20: The Hell Professor vs. Hell Girl Review

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Plot: Tsugumi, now an adult, finds herself the target of a Hell Girl client. Who is targeting her and why? Will she avoid the fate that comes with that dreaded string pull, or will her life be spared from the depths of hell?

Breakdown: There’s a lot to unpack with this one.

First of all, let us officially welcome back our girl, Tsugumi.

Second of all, let’s mourn the fact that Hajime seems to be basically officially gone now. Tsugumi talks about him like he’s dead, the professor dude never seeks to contact Hajime himself, and Tsugumi goes on about how she’s tired of being alone. Still don’t know what happened to him or, more to the point, why the writers chose to dust him and completely gloss over it. He was a major character all throughout season one. You can’t just do him dirty like that.

Third of all, hip hip hooray, it’s the first time in quite a while that Yuzuki has had so much screentime.

Fourth of all, pbbbtttt, she’s still not doing anything. You’d think she’d have more impact in what is, by far, the most interesting and plot-centric episode of the season so far…..but nope.

Yuzuki is basically a living bad reaction channel on Youtube. Most of the time she says nothing and the rest of the time she’s giving meaningless responses that are neither entertaining nor insightful. She’s also being kinda annoying in that same way Hajime used to be annoying, but worse. She acts like the Hell Team are terrible people who don’t think about the consequences of their actions in sending people to hell.

Tsugumi is much more interesting than Yuzuki in this episode. She can still see and sense things related to Hell Girl, which is how she knew she was a Hell Girl target without anyone telling her. She alludes to a vague past ‘sin’ that she is guilty of. She’s, for some reason, completely resigned to her fate as a victim of Hell Correspondence. In fact, she’s pretty much welcoming it, seeing it as a fitting fate for her. You can also interpret it as her longing to see Hajime again, if the theories of him being in hell are accurate.

Despite the fact that she avoided her previous ‘fate’ she is very firm in the idea that no one can avoid their fates, thus Yuzuki is destined to be the new Hell Girl no matter what. But, this just in,

Finally, we have some interesting theories involving Hell Correspondence brought to you by the client of the week, Shogo Mizorogi.

Mizorogi is a famous and incredibly skilled mathematician who has been researching Hell Girl for years. When he was a child, his mother sent his abusive father to hell. A couple years later, his mother also vanished, seemingly being another Hell Girl target.

He became fascinated by the concept of hell when his formula, the Mizorogi Constant, revealed that other worlds, including hell, do indeed exist absolutely. The book that Hajime wrote on Hell Girl greatly helped his research on the subject. In order to get more information, he wanted to lure in Tsugumi and the Hell Team, so he created some sort of weird generator that creates a force field which repels the powers of the Hell Team (though Ai is instantly able to destroy it.) and input Tsugumi’s name into the service.

Wanyuudo brings up the obvious issue of, if Mizorogi has no grudge against Tsugumi, how was he able to even access the Hell Correspondence website, let alone get a request through?

Somehow, Mizorogi created false hatred through hypnotherapy. This may seem silly, but he’s actually highlighting an issue that has plagued the series in various ways. Sometimes, Hell Correspondence seems easily manipulated. Usually, no one manipulates it on purpose, but many times people have ridiculous reasons for their grudges, are mistaken about their grudge, target the wrong person or there’s a general misunderstanding. In other words, Hell Correspondence requires hatred, but the hatred doesn’t have to be objectively ‘valid.’

Out of this revelation Mizorogi came to a striking conclusion – hell is actually a fabricated system created by weak humans who resort to ‘curses’ to solve their problems. The ‘ultimate irrationality’ created to be separate from the morals and ethics of mortal society.

In order to prove this, he strapped Tsugumi to what I can only describe as a crucification device and hung her over his fancy machine with intents on sending her to hell and analyzing the data from her being transported. He has a specific trigger phrase which will end his hypnotic hatred after the string is pulled.

Suddenly, before he can pull the string, Ai says his trigger phrase, which is her signature ‘Would you like to die this once?’ At first, you kinda think Ai saved Tsugumi on purpose. Nope.

Out of nowhere, Mizorogi’s assistant, Kikyou, reveals himself with a Yamawaro doll. He pulled the string, targeting Mizorogi, which is what prompted Ai to say her catchphrase.

You may be wondering why he did that. Well, along with revealing Kikyou in the shadows, we’re also shown a large group of children alongside him. Kikyou reveals that Mizorogi was suffering from his research. His Constant was originally intended to help produce unmanned military weaponry, which was appealing to governments because it greatly reduced loss of life. Still, he was helping create weapons that would kill plenty of innocent people.

Mizorogi instantly labels himself a hypocrite because here he is criticizing Hell Correspondence for being an irrational system born of the weak willed and kills innocent people when he’s actively contributing to war, which in itself is irrational and kills millions of innocent people all the time.

To help offset his guilt and suffering, he adopted a whole slue of battlefield orphans. They all held grudges against Mizorogi for helping to create weapons that likely killed their parents, and Kikyou, feeling sympathetic to the children, contacted Hell Correspondence and targeted Mizorogi in their stead. All of the children grouped up to support Kikyou when he pulled the string.

Mizorogi disappears, Tsugumi is safe and sound, Kikyou will raise the children and everyone goes home.

Oh yeah, if you were wondering why and how Yuzuki was there for any of it when she wasn’t ‘invited’ so to speak, she sensed Tsugumi was the target, somehow knew to go to Mizorogi’s mansion, and then, like I said, she just kinda watched and complained the whole time.

This episode was indeed very interesting and definitely one of the best of the season so far. The ending kinda came out of nowhere and really requires a few rewatches of that final scene to understand what is even going on, but it’s still good.

I like that Tsugumi is back in the fray, even though she’s become very depressed and despondent. #JusticeForHajime though.

I also liked that all of the Hell Team, even Ai, seem to have retained a soft spot for Tsugumi. They’d still do their jobs if Mizorogi pulled the string, of course, but they all show a great deal of concern for her and desperately don’t want to ferry her to hell. I thought that was pretty sweet.

I’m pretty sure nothing will come of the theories presented in this episode, but they’re definitely points to ponder.


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels Episode 19 – Snow, Moon and Flowers Review

Plot: Kaori Nakiri is the sole heir to her prestigious family’s flower arranging school, even though she doesn’t have a desire for it. A woman named Yukina appears shortly after Kaori’s father’s funeral to reveal that she is the result of an affair Kaori’s father had and that she’s entitled to half of the estate. However, she wants more than that – she wants to be the heir to the flower arranging school. Considering Kaori’s complicated extended family and how stern they are with tradition, it’s not Kaori’s place to give the role to her, but Yukina will get what she wants no matter if it’s given to her willingly or not.

Breakdown: I’ll be honest, I went into this expecting to sleepwalk through it after watching the preview and, yeah, I sleptwalked through most of it…..Until the final third where things just got so ridiculously insane that it was like an alarm clock made of confusion went off by my ear.

The first two thirds is what you’d expect. Yukina’s a manipulative snake, I don’t care about flower arranging or the school, Yuzuki’s here, we’ll get to her later, Kaori has a thing with her childhood friend/devoted employee/love interest, Tsukio, and blah blah blah. Get to the helling already.

Well, we do.

And….uhh….huh.

Things get messy when Tsukio overhears Yukina plotting to poison and kill Kaori in order to inherit the land, the house and the whole spiel and sell it off to make bank. She never really cared about the school, dunno why she even brought it up.

When her cohort tries to poison Kaori’s drink, Tsukio takes it from her, chugs it, and tells the guy to tell Yukina that her plan has failed.

…..So, uhm….dude….what the hell? The drink didn’t need to be consumed. Just take the drink and tell her it’s poisoned. Have it tested, if need be. Why drink it?

Tsukio has three days, max, to live, and no one’s trying to bring him to a hospital or trying to get an antidote from Yukina or arresting Yukina or anything. Just, welp, nice knowin’ ya Tsu-boy!

As Tsukio lays dying, one of her family members or whoever that was reveals that Tsukio was actually her brother. Her father used to say something like Snow, Moon and Flowers, which indicated all of his children – Yukina for snow, Kaori for flowers and Tsukio for moon. Tsukio wanted nothing more than to be a vessel for the flowers, which, yes, does sound like innuendo given the circumstances, but the meaning behind these words is actually much creepier.

The guy reveals that the Nakiri school is merely the public flower arranging school that the family runs. There is actually a secret school meant purely for the main branch of the family called the Hyakki school (which I believe is a different pronunciation of the kanji in Nakiri, but I could be wrong. That’s what the opening implied.)

The man leads Kaori to the underground school…..and…..What the flippin’ flapjack is all of the this? Kaori is presented with a wall of skulls. The skulls belong to each of the former heads (haha) of the family. They believed that true beauty in flower arranging can only be achieved by arranging flowers in these skulls. According to them, flowers and death go together hand-in-hand. Her father claimed that you can tell the truth about someone who has died by seeing what flowers grow in the ground over their dead bodies.

…..Kay.

Having contacted Hell Girl on Yukina earlier, Kaori now knows what she must do – she must kill Yukina and crazily arrange a bunch of flowers and creepy plants in her father’s skull. Struck with, let’s call it, ‘inspiration’ she also realizes that Tsukio was dying for this express purpose. He knew about the Hyakki school and wanted her to use his skull to create a beautiful flower arrangement. As he lay dying in bed, she agrees to his final request.

So, yeah, uhm, what?

Where did all that even come from? I don’t know what else to say. I am flabbergasted. I guess I’m happy that it didn’t end up being fully boring, but sudden weird creepiness doesn’t automatically equal quality. Held my attention more, but it was more like it was being held hostage.

Since we’re getting closer to the end of the series, Yuzuki is finally playing a bigger role, if only slightly. Yuzuki befriends Kaori quite randomly, but she’s not really a part of her story. Instead, she gets more of a very minor B plot.

Yuzuki recognizes Ren, Hone Onna and Wanyuudou as workers at the funeral, which is shocking to them because they have the power of misconceptions. Basically, they can be out and about disguised at whoever or whatever, and, if someone sees them as two different personas, they won’t recognize them. They’ll just believe they’re entirely different people. Dunno why they can’t just change their appearances, but that does answer some questions I’ve had lately.

Since Yuzuki is no longer feeling the effects of these powers, it’s taken as an indication that she’s ‘awakening’ and Ai will need to tell her about her fate soon. Sure enough, at the end of the episode, Ai reveals to Yuzuki that she has an inescapable fate of taking over her job. One day, Yuzuki will be the next Hell Girl.

And that’s about it. I already knew that, and it was hardly a secret. I thought they already pretty much established that to us a long time ago, so it’s really only news for Yuzuki. At least things are moving along with her plot, but talk about a snail’s pace.


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels Episode 18: Special Radio Review

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Plot: Chiriko is a big fan of a popular local radio show called The Midnight Silence. She sends in letters to the show frequently, which are sometimes read on air by the dreamy host Jotarou. She’s become one of the most featured fans under the nickname Chi-Chan, and she’s even become popular at school for her status on the show. However, the “truth” behind the show may not be to everyone’s liking.

Breakdown:

Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t Say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t Say it.

This episode was stuuuuu—-

Stop! No!  ~Positive vibes~

This episode….rrrgh….was…….SO DUM–

Come on, you can do this. Deep breath.

This episode has a severe problem with being good.

In that it’s not.

Well…..baby steps, I guess.

I know I’ve brought this up before, but you know how, in the first season, it was difficult to sympathize with Hajime’s crusade to stop the use of Hell Correspondence because he kept finding cases where it either seemed incredibly justified or the person in question pulled the string at a moment where it saved their lives?

This case should have been in season one because it’s just the type of pointless abuse of the system that Hajime was looking for.

Okay, ‘abuse’ is a strong word, but to say the client today had a ridiculous reason for contacting Hell Girl is an understatement.

Before we cover that, though, I have a question – are radio shows still that popular? At least with teenagers. I feel like I’m watching an old school early 90s anime. Every person in Chiriko’s class (especially the girls) either currently are or quickly become huge fans of this radio show where it’s literally just some guy who sounds attractive saying really cheesy stuff to make the girls all swoon. He reads fanmail on the air, and Chiriko becomes very popular suddenly because she’s one of the most frequently read writers to the show under the pseudonym ‘Chi-Chan.’

Not only do all these girls own a boombox, but they’re all entranced every night listening to this dude and doing nothing else but staring at the stereo.

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This series was made in 2008-9, so it’s not that recent, but still. Maybe radio’s popularity has stayed stronger in Japan or maybe I’m out of the loop with anything popular. I dunno. Just seemed strange to me.

Anyhoo, as I said, Chiriko, or Chi-Chan, is a big fan of this radio show, hosted by the swoony Jotarou. Every time he reads a letter on air, he sends the writer a bell as a gift. Chiriko has collected several of these bells and lovingly wears them on a bracelet.

After she’s ousted and made popular as Chi-Chan, she meets another fan of the show, Kaname. She’s had more fan letters read by Jotarou than Chi-Chan has, going under the moniker of ‘Frog Princess.’ They become fast friends, and Kaname suggests that they both head down to the radio station to thank Jotarou for everything he’s done for them.

When they arrive, they manage to bump into Jotarou’s co-host, Yume. Turns out, Kaname is also a big fan of Yume because she’s such a great scriptwriter. (Yeah….One of the segments of the show had Yume asking what behaviors Jotarou likes in a girl. He was scripted to respond with “I like a girl who dries her hair after a shower and one that uses shampoo.” I get that, like boy band songs, when the intention is to woo a bunch of teenage girls you have to be vague and act like whomever is being addressed could possibly be any girl who is listening, but this is so bad I legit can’t tell if it’s a joke. High quality writing, Yume.) Kaname is an aspiring scenario writer, and she dreams of working on a radio show some day. Both Kaname and Yume enjoy a pleasant exchange, but Chiriko is in a state of shock……because she never realized the show was scripted.

That, my dear friends, is the motivation for the client this week.

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No, I’m not kidding. Chiriko contacts Hell Girl that very night and pulls the string the next day as she’s walking into school with Kaname. She sends Kaname to hell purely because she revealed that Jotarou’s show was scripted.

I am currently in the process of trying to be less harsh on the stuff I’m reviewing – try to be more positive – but COME. ON. What IS this?

Let me be clear – Kaname is completely innocent in this. She didn’t reveal that the show was scripted just to be an ass to Chiriko. She legitimately loved the writing on the show and thought Chiriko knew it was scripted. She never once appeared like she had malicious intent in her actions. Not even Yume was being condescending or cruel with her words. In fact, she gave a copy of the newest script to Kaname and encouraged her in regards to her dream of becoming a scenario writer. She was perfectly pleasant when she could’ve easily been a typical famous snob.

After Kaname is sent to hell, Chiriko enters a complete delusion that the show’s not scripted and essentially goes bananas. Her bracelet is now absolutely loaded with bells, and she loving hugs her radio when she’s listening to the program.

There was never, not once, ever any indication that this girl was this obsessed with Jotarou or this show. Not to the point of sending someone to hell over it, and not to the point of going coo-coo for Coco Puffs once she finds out it’s scripted. She was a big fan, sure, but nothing ever indicated that she was anything more than that. I wouldn’t even call her a super fan or anything of the like. She also definitely had a crush on Jotarou (whose face is never shown, by the way) as well, but, again, nothing ever indicated that she was obsessed with him or even in love with the guy.

Everything in this episode was so normal that most of the runtime didn’t even feel like a Hell Girl episode. In fact, if Ai and the others didn’t pop up a few times over the course of this episode, I’d probably forget it even was a Hell Girl episode until the very end.

Speaking of Ai and the others, they were acting strangely in this episode. Ai seemed like she was actually interested in the show and Kikuri was making Yamawaro write in a bunch of letters to the show so she could get featured.*shrug*

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Back to the topic at hand, I was thinking maybe Jotarou would turn out to be a jerk, or Chiriko would be superficial and Jotarou would turn out to be unattractive, or Kaname would send Chiriko to hell for impeding on her status as the most-read fan letter writer of the show, but no. Granted, those motivations are silly too, but they’re both better than this.

Chiriko’s a teenager. She has to be aware that most things in media are scripted and fake. How many shows go completely off the cuff? Even if she didn’t know, why does the show being fake have to impact her views on Jotarou? Maybe he actually is a really charming, handsome and romantic guy in real life. Just because he’s fed lines to say doesn’t mean he’s not still someone she can admire.

Why target Kaname, for that matter? Shouldn’t she be more upset with Yume for helping create this illusion or Jotarou himself for seemingly being a liar? Why target Kaname just for accidentally revealing the truth to her? She also pulled the string immediately after making sure Kaname didn’t tell any of the other girls about the fact that the show was scripted, like she’s protecting them or something. Chiriko, I doubt all of the girls in school are as naive as you. Heck, Kaname didn’t just know the show was scripted – she knew Yume was the writer. It’s not like they’re keeping it a secret.

Now Kaname’s in hell and Chiriko’s bound for hell all for what? Nothing. There have been some really silly and ridiculous reasons to send people to hell in this show, but this one might just top them all.

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Oh and Yuzuki? She’s here. She’s just watching from the background until the very end where she’s seen running up to Chiriko seconds after she had already pulled the string and then we later see her flopping over onto her desk in exasperation as she listens to a staticy radio with Ai looming behind her.

I kinda wanted to yell when she did this. She’s acting like she’s exhausted from all this Hell Girl business when she literally did nothing – again. She had a vision and jogged for a few seconds.

Sorry I kinda failed in my quest to be a little more positive today, but sometimes you can’t avoid biting into a bad apple.

Oh well, maybe next episode will be a bit better.


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 17: Inside the Straw Review

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Plot: Yamawaro’s backstory unfolds and….I dunno. Fitting that he’s a mushroom spirit, because I feel like I just took a bunch.

Breakdown:

I don’t even know where to begin with this. When I saw the preview for this episode, I was uninterested because I don’t much care about Yamawaro’s origins, but now that I do know Yamawaro’s origins, I feel a strange cocktail of emotions beginning with an ounce of confused and topping off with ten gallons of “What is actually happening right now? I feel like my brain is trying to escape my skull.”

I’ll try to summarize best I can.

Yamawaro was a mountain spirit or a mushroom spirit who spent his time alone in the mountains. Sometimes, he would, for some reason, take the form of a naked boy. Other times, he would take the form of a bunch of mushrooms. And still other times he would take the form of a naked boy…..covered in mushrooms….Don’t ask. I don’t know.

Ai stumbled upon him and invited him to join her group, but he initially declined because he believed being alone was just how you were supposed to live.

Later, he found a happy family living in a house near the mountain – two loving parents, Fujiko and Risaburo Ashiya, and their young son who looked incredibly similar to Yamawaro’s human form. The son, Hikaru, tragically died shortly thereafter in an accident in the swamp. His parents were devastated.

Cut to several decades later, the mother, now an old woman, is bedridden and reaching the end of her life. She wishes to reunite with Hikaru and knows she will soon see him in the afterlife.

Yamawaro, for reasons beyond even his understanding, decides to appear to her (naked again) claiming he’s Hikaru so she can give the woman’s life some happiness before she passes. The father is wary of him and later we’ll find out that he knows Yamawaro’s not human, but he doesn’t want to break the illusion and hurt his wife.

The father also happens to be a…doctor…scientist….botanist…medicine man? Some combination of the three? He’s been trying to grow something called caterpillar fungus, which, he surmises, can somehow be used to make a medicine that will bolster a person’s health and grant them longevity. He wants, more than anything, to give his ailing wife more time on this earth. He requests Yamawaro to assist him in his research. Caterpillar fungus needs to grow on a living being, but every animal he’s tried to grow it on hasn’t produced adequate results. He knows Yamawaro is a supernatural being, so he hopes that the fungus will react better with his body. What a coinky dink that Yamawaro happens to be living mushrooms…..I think….right? Why is this Yamawaro’s backstory episode and I’m still confused as to what he actually is?

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This better not be some sort of weird-ass Mario crossover.

Next comes a….very, very uncomfortable scene where the father applies a special medicine to a fully naked (barring a towel) Yamawaro’s back while chanting something that supposedly makes the medicine work? This is bad enough, but Yamawaro starts moaning and develops a blush on his face…then he starts….panting and sweating….

Look, I get that he’s moaning in pain and the blush, panting and sweating are probably a result of a high fever, but this is still extremely disconcerting to watch.

Spores and mushrooms start growing very quickly all over Yamawaro’s body to the point where he’s basically entombed in them. Slicing off some pieces from the growth, Risaburo makes his concoction, that he calls Ambrosia, and gives it to his wife.

The potion actually works. A little too well, actually. Fujiko reverts back to her thirties somehow. The experiment was a massive success, but Fujiko couldn’t stand what her husband was doing to Yamawaro. The poor boy was wrapped up from head to toe in bandages, because he took so many of the spores I presume, even though the first sample seemed like enough, and she was concerned that Risaburo would continue to experiment on him. She secretly brought him back to the mountains and told him to run away, which he did. Eventually, he must have made his way to Ai to join her team.

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In present day, things only continue to get more confusing, if you can believe that.

Ai has a request from Fujiko, and Yamawaro insists that he be the one given the job. Ai agrees. He doesn’t plan on stopping the ferrying if she chooses to pull the string, but he hopes that he can convince her to not pull the string at all. Technically, they’re not supposed to interfere with cases, but they seem to have thrown that rule out the window at this point.

Kikuri later finds the straw-dolled Yamawaro lying in a bed in the Ashiya household while Fujiko falls back under the delusion that Yamawaro is Hikaru…..even though….ya know….he’s a straw doll now. Yamawaro also shows his doll’s insides to Kikuri, which, as shown before, is a bunch of fungus. The dialogue points at this being a result of the experiments, but wasn’t he a mushroom spirit before? Did he just turn into a bunch of mushrooms for funsies?

Fujiko has called Hell Girl to send her husband to hell for making Yamawaro suffer for his experiments. Fair enough, I suppose, but why did it take her so long to call her? And if she was considering doing that anyway, why not call her, pull the string and not send Yamawaro off into the woods? Then she could live the rest of her days happily with ‘Hikaru.’

Now…here’s another weird thing. Fujiko contacted Hell Correspondence…..via a newspaper. This isn’t a new thing – Ai used to get her clients from blank newspaper ads back before the Internet, but the scene where they show her doing this is in black and white and she’s young again. She’s still young in present time because of the potion, but the use of the newspaper and the scene being black and white makes me think this was way back when Hikaru died. I guess this is meant to be recently, because they never say she got a doll back then, but they made this shot look way too similar to a distant flashback for me to be certain about it.

Fujiko is suddenly old again now….??? She was in her thirties literally ten seconds ago. She aged fifty years between shots……Whatever. She finally confronts her husband with the doll, accusing him of also having something to do with Hikaru’s death, but he denies this and says it was just a sad accident.

The dialogue is really unclear for the rest of the scene. The best I can make of it is that Risaburo was actually more intent on just finding the secret to eternal life more than he was in helping his wife, I guess. He just said that to trick Yamawaro into helping him….I think. He knew he needed a non-human specimen for his research…somehow…and pure luck lead Yamawaro to them so he took advantage of that. But then he muses that it actually worked and that it saved him trouble? Why is he so confused about why it worked?

Fujiko pulls the string and Risaburo is sent to hell.

However, the weirdness doesn’t even end there. After the string is pulled and everything’s all said and done, Yamawaro rushes to the Ashiya mansion to witness it….sinking into the lake….for some reason. Also, Fujiko’s in there….young again….holding Hikaru…..Is she already dead? Why is the house sinking? There was never any indication that the house was at risk of sinking. Truth be told, I didn’t even fully realize it was situated on water. I knew they were near a swamp, but that’s about it.

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So, class, can one of you please enlighten me on what the hell I just watched?

I kinda feel like the Hell Girl stuff was unnecessary. Was the guy a terrible person? Yeah. Did he deserve to go hell? Probably. But the timing was really weird, and I honestly didn’t feel like I hated the guy enough to want him to be sent to hell. I don’t much care that he did, but I wasn’t rooting for it.

This is another one of those times where I feel worse for the client because now she really won’t ever be back together with Hikaru again, no matter what was shown in the window. Unless Hikaru’s in hell too for whatever reason.

She should have taken this into consideration when she called Hell Girl. She’s been so intent on reuniting with Hikaru one day. It’s been her one driving focus in her days after Hikaru died. Why would she sacrifice reuniting with her son in peace in Heaven just to send Risaburo to hell for kinda hurting someone who’s not even human? She could’ve just left him or stopped consuming the potion. She would eventually die a natural death, and Risaburo, without Yamawaro around, would die some years down the line and be sent to hell anyway. It’s rather pointless.

The story, boiled down, is fine. Yamawaro connected with some grieving parents in the twilight of their lives because he took pity on them after they lost their son and decided to fill the void for them. He eventually needed to leave, and, realizing the benefits of relationships to other people, he decided to join the Hell Team. But when everything else is added to the mix, it just becomes too confusing and weird to be worth any real value.

The only two things I gained from this episode are learning a little more about Yamawaro, kinda, I still don’t even have a good grip on what he actually is, and seeing Kikuri be *gasp* nice and tolerable for a change. She’s actually having a good discussion with Yamawaro and is defending him. It’s like she’s a completely different person in this episode (and she didn’t need to be wound once for some reason.)

…….Am I forgetting something?……….

……………………OH YEAH, Yuzuki! She exists! Right. She was here for literally one minute of screentime. She went to the Ashiya mansion to talk to Fujiko about Hell Girl. She thought the person would be in her eighties, but the only people living there were in their thirties, so she just….frickin’ left and never came back.

Protagonist of the year.

Didn’t investigate further. Didn’t ask for their names. Didn’t ask if she had contacted Hell Girl or anything. Just ‘Oh I must have the wrong house. Guess I’ll leave the episode now.’


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 14: The Street Corner of Bitterness Review

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Plot: Yuzuki now possesses the ability to sense people who are going to contact Hell Correspondence soon. The next client is a girl named Hidemi who accidentally garnered a bad reputation after being photographed with a delinquent in the city. She plans on sending the person who spread the photo of her to hell for ruining her life.

Breakdown: (Note: I somehow overlooked posting this episode’s review in the proper order, but it was just brought to my attention today, so better late than never. Sorry about that. Enjoy! :))

…..*lip smack* This is what we’re starting the second half of the season off with, eh?

Okie dokie.

First of all, Yuzuki is basically now all but cemented as being a less interesting fusion of Tsugumi and Hajime. At least she’s actively trying to stop people from using the service now, but she’s bad at it. She’s also bad at seeming like she’s emotionally invested in anything. At the end of the episode, she’s overwhelmed with the amount of people she’s sensing will contact Hell Girl and is clutching her head trying to get the bell sounds to stop, but I don’t really believe her response. She’s acting way too unemotional about it. Even when she was begging Ai to bring Akie back she was just barely emoting.

Also, side note, apparently Yuzuki’s friends haven’t been bothered all that much by Akie disappearing. I understand that because even I forgot for a little while.

Second of all, this story is a massive mess from start to finish.

Hidemi was in the city for a test, she spent too much time at her friends’ house and ended up missing the last train home. She also broke her cell phone. Unlike most people who would visit various shops, or even stop people on this busy street in this highly populated city, and ask if she can use their phone to call her parents or even the friends she was visiting, she decides the best course of action would be to spend some money at the arcade trying to get a stuffed cat, then sit on the sidewalk and fall asleep…

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It’s implied that she was worried about getting caught by the cops because she was young and out late at night, but is anyone really going to press charges against this kid for missing the train? Also, if she’s worried the cops might hassle her, why did she choose, of all places, the middle of the sidewalk to sit down and even fall asleep?

She’s awoken by aforementioned delinquent, Kinya, and he offers to take her back to the convenience store in which he works where the only other person there is a guy who looks just as skeevy if not moreso as Kinya does.

She finally has the opportunity to call home, though….and chooses not to….because she sees this as an adventure or something. Let me make it clear that Hidemi is very much a shy and proper young woman. Nothing about her even suggests that she has hidden desires to be any sort of rebel or anything. She comes off as the kind of girl who would find not putting the chip clip back on the reduced salt kettle chip bag as an act of rebellion. I’m not saying she can’t just be really good at concealing this part of her, but I am saying that it is strange. Not to mention the fact that it’s a dickish thing to do to stay out in a strange city all night and neglect to call your parents. Even if you want to have some neat little convenience store adventure, they’re still probably worried sick and it’s rude to not at least tell them that you’ll be okay on your own until the trains start back up.

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She spends the night there, and Kinya walks her to the train station in the morning, which is where she gets her picture taken by someone off-screen. It’s in the morning, not at night, and it’s not like there’s any implication that she’s romantically with him or that she’s a prostitute or anything. She’s literally just walking next to him and talking.

The photo spreads and ‘ruins’ her life, which I don’t get. Do people really have nothing better to do than gossip about a photo that looks about as incriminating as a picture of her jaywalking? And that’s all they’re doing by the way – gossiping. No one’s treating her differently outside of whispering around her. Yet that’s somehow enough for her to wish whoever spread the picture to be sent to hell.

The only way it gets worse is through more stupidity.

Kinya was a punk, but he was legitimately nice to Hidemi because some old guy in an alleyway was nice to him and told him that being nice was good or whatever.

It seemed like Kinya might actually be turning into a decent guy, but then, after the commercial break, Kinya’s suddenly viciously beating the old guy in the alleyway because he believes he’s secretly super rich. His reason for thinking this? The old guy wears a big coat when it’s really hot out….so he’s…hiding…money in it something, I dunno. Why he suddenly starting thinking this I also don’t know.

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He gets arrested for the assault, but he also acts like he’s proud of it. He wants to be a big shot and getting arrested by the police will only increase his prestige. He even plans on bragging to the cops about everything else he’s done….This guy is a major league moron.

Yuzuki had convinced Hidemi to go with her to see Kinya in order to help clear her name and improve her reputation, but they both witness his spectacle as he gets arrested. She flips out because he’ll probably be featured in the papers (doubt it) and people will connect him back to the photo. Fair enough in that respect, I guess. She immediately contacts Hell Correspondence on Kinya.

Kinya….Oh geez…*sigh*….Kinya escapes police custody, obtains a gun and takes Yuzuki hostage. No I’m not kidding. No, I also have no idea how those events transpired.

The point is, Hidemi sees him do this. Kinya doesn’t even recognize her until Yuzuki mentions her name, so she pulls the string.

The hell torture is okay. Everyone’s giant-ish and intimidating Kinya. Ai is massive, like kaiju-sized. It’s playing off of the fact that he said he wanted to be a big shot, but now he’s little. Haha.

As he’s ferried away, he laments being nice to Hidemi, but, uh, dude, do you really think letting some lost girl take shelter in a convenience store you don’t even own, feeding her stale bread and then walking her to a train station is properly weighted against beating a poor old homeless dude in an alley, escaping the police, popping off some shots and taking a teenage girl hostage?

Yuzuki waits for Hidemi and, here’s where I get REALLY confused. A girl with completely different hair both in style and color, a much more revealing sense of fashion, tons of jewelry, makeup and a tattoo suddenly bursts in and…that’s Hidemi. She has the little stuffed cat she wanted earlier and the curse mark on her chest, so that’s proof it’s her.

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Why does she suddenly look like this, especially since there’s no implied time skip of any kind after the hell torture? How do you go from “Oh dear, my life is ruined because I was photographed talking to a punk.” to “I’m going to change my appearance so drastically that the gossiping people from before will basically feel justified in believing I was a girl of loose morals, and more rumors will spread about me and ruin my life some more! Ya know, the reason I was miserable enough to call Hell Girl to begin with! I love being smart!” not just in general but in minutes/hours? I almost wanted to believe it was days later, but Yuzuki’s wearing the exact same clothes between when she’s taken hostage by Kinya and when we see the new Hidemi. I don’t get it.

Time issues aside, again, maybe she was just really, really good at concealing a desire to be a more rebellious girl, but they didn’t do a good job of making this connection with the audience outside of one line which could easily just imply a desire for a little more independence not that she suddenly wants to completely change herself both inside and out. Kinya’s character turn was a little more understandable because we knew he was a punk at the start, even though he was on the receiving end of the violence there, but even then he was nearly as bad in his car crash of a personality shift.

Finally, Ai’s back to being Ai fully, which is good, even if I feel bad she has to return to this job at all. They brought back the classic scene of her preparing to take someone to hell, including…her grandma….Yup. Grandma’s back. Where did she go and why is she back? No idea. She’s just here again. Somehow. I like Grandma and everything, but I never once understood her character.

Ai’s trying to teach Yuzuki about the futility of trying to save Hell Girl clients, which is more poking at Tsugumi and Hajime. I know this is for the sake of training her to be a new Hell Girl, but I am so far from caring about that plot element. She better have some gem of a backstory otherwise I’ll just feel like her entire story was a wash.

Overall, this episode was confusing and blah and I really hope things actually pick up soon, especially when it comes to Yuzuki.


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 16: The Trap of Temptation Review

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Plot: Naowa is seen as a creepy man by his colleagues because he spends a lot of his free time playing with a local little girl named Kayo. He has no ill intentions, he just legitimately loves kids. Still, he has a shadow hanging over his head and a familiar curse mark emblazoned on his chest. He has already used Hell Correspondence, but who did he send to hell and why?

Breakdown: This episode left me feeling so conflicted.

The start is fairly unique because we’re focusing on someone who has already pulled the string. That doesn’t happen very often.

Even though this particular story is also pretty unique, I found that the events were somehow quite predictable. A new woman named Yuki joins the factory in which Naowa works and she becomes focused on him very quickly. My mind immediately shifted to ‘She has some relation to the person Naowa sent to hell and wants revenge.’ And lo and behold that’s exactly what happened.

What I didn’t expect was that Nakajima, the man Naowa sent to hell, was just like Naowa with one big difference – he actually was a pedophile. He didn’t do anything directly to Kayo, but he did take a bunch of pictures of her, clearly trying to get upskirt shots, and even kept them in an album. He told Naowa that he wouldn’t do anything to Kayo, though such a claim is obviously not to be trusted, and he blackmailed Naowa by saying, if he told anyone about what he was doing, he’d tell everyone that Naowa is just like him. Considering everyone already thinks he’s creepy, that threat definitely has weight to it.

Worried for Kayo’s safety, Naowa sent Nakajima to hell.

We learn all of this because Naowa is telling Yuki that they shouldn’t be together in a romantic sense because he’s bound for hell and won’t be able to find any happiness in the end. He also shows proof that Nakajima was a pedo by showing her the album of pictures he found at Nakajima’s apartment, which gave me quite a bit of pause.

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Why….did he keep that? Why didn’t he burn it or something? Even if he took it for the sake of evidence, which is dumb because there’s no way to prove it was Nakajima’s, he didn’t intend on having Nakajima arrested, and, at this point, has already sent him to hell. If anyone found that album, he’d be buried in so much shit he’d drown in it. Anyone finding it is bad enough, but he’s willingly showing this album to Yuki. While I know why she believes it’s Nakajima’s in hindsight, she has no reason to believe Naowa that the album was Nakajima’s.

He had absolutely no reason to keep that unless it was for his own sick purposes.

Onto Yuki, she is the proper client today. She was high school sweethearts with Nakajima (called it) and knew about his “other interests” but loved him anyway. When he suddenly went missing, she decided to investigate his disappearance for herself since the police wouldn’t help. She got hired at the factory in which Nakajima and Naowa both worked, and, knowing Naowa was close with Nakajima, decided to get close to him for information. When Naowa told her what he did, she called Hell Girl and pulled the string.

And now it’s time for a….

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Okay, technically it was a premonition Yuzuki was having the whole time as she watched Naowa pull the string, but same difference. I guess Ai was trying to convince her that cycles of revenge are constant and inevitable, which is weird because I thought she had learned that wasn’t true at the end of the second season, but whatever. Yuzuki still wants to try to stop all that from happening, though, so Ai releases her from being frozen in place or whatever was happening there and allows her to chase after Naowa after witnessing him pull the string. The episode ends with Yuzuki trying to find Naowa.

I thought this would be a clever ending because it would be ambiguous on whether or not she succeeded in stopping it, but they ruin it by having Yuki’s candle appear at the end, confirming that Yuzuki didn’t stop it and Naowa was sent to hell anyway. So…..that twist was more pointless than a circle.

Obviously, we have to discuss the uncomfortable aspect of this entire episode. Now, I understand that there’s a stigma about single adults having pretty much any contact with children unless it’s their job or something, and this is especially true of single adult men. Some adults do genuinely like kids and want to spend time with them even if they’re not related to them or don’t have a job in childcare or anything. And that’s perfectly fine. Naowa has proven….besides the ‘keeping the album’ thing…..that he doesn’t have any harmful thoughts or intentions towards Kayo or any other child. Naowa is a perfectly fine main character that you can connect with…..Again, barring the album thing.

That being said, it’s also completely understandable why so many people find him to be creepy. Naowa keeps to himself a lot, doesn’t have really any interests, seems uninterested in dating, and spends an inordinate amount of time playing with Kayo. Every day after work he spends hours playing with her and no other kids. Her parents are never around (except once at the start of the episode I think her mom appears and apologizes to Naowa for something. Maybe him spending time with Kayo because she works a lot or something? She seems perfectly cool with him spending so much time with Kayo.) and she’s never with other children.

The way the Hell Team addresses this, albeit briefly, is strange. Hone Onna points out that it’s obviously weird for a grown man to be playing with little girls, and Wanyuudou responds “Even though, in the past, looking with such eyes was weirder.” What does that mean? Are his eyes strange or is he saying watching little girls was seen as weirder than playing with them back in his time? I don’t even know if there’s an argument to be had there. Then Yamawaro says “That’s called ‘eras’, right?”

I dunno. Maybe? Things do drastically change between eras, even when it comes to perceptions of social appropriateness. Even just a few decades can make behaviors that weren’t initially unacceptable in acceptable and vice versa.

Plus, it makes the situation and stigma even worse when you introduce a character who, on the surface, is basically identical to Naowa…..only he IS a pedo. I was starting to feel a tiny bit bad for side-eyeing Naowa so much when he legitimately cared for Kayo, but then justification for those feelings entered the mix when they basically confirmed that the not-innocent version of this type of person is very much valid and probably more common.

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And then there’s Yuki…….*sigh* I usually feel compassion for clients, but this time, no. Her boyfriend was a pedophile, she knew this and didn’t care. Join him in hell. Just go. You’re just as guilty as he is.

In the end, I still don’t know how I feel about this episode. I guess it’s simply middle-of-the-road. It doesn’t do anything outlandish or terrible enough to make me angry at it, which, considering the subject matter, you’d think it would, nor does it do anything particularly noteworthy or interesting to make it actually good – we don’t even get Nakajima’s hell torture. It’s just okay.


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Hell Girl: Three Vessels | Episode 15 – The Tortoise and the Hare Review

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Plot: Usagi is known by many people as a ‘tortoise’ because she’s mentally slow. In contrast, her brother seems to be quite successful as a DJ. What could possibly lead either of these two to contacting Hell Girl?

Breakdown: I’m gonna need you to bear with me because, dear god, this episode requires so much unpacking.

It is, for the most part, certainly one of the best and most thought-provoking episodes we’ve had in Three Vessels so far. However, with that comes a lot of horribleness and questions I never thought to ask about this series before.

First of all, I never thought this series would touch upon anyone with special needs. I am actually quite baffled they went there. They never outright say Usagi has special needs, but there’s no dancing around it – she does. She can’t make a decision on what to get out of a drink vending machine without a line of 20 people forming behind her, when she always gets the same drink every time. She can’t figure out how to open her drink, which is basically a juice box, or cut a pizza. She takes a very long time to organize her thoughts and schoolwork, it even takes her a very long time to pack her school bag. She doesn’t react verbally immediately when approached. I’m not going to diagnose her with anything specific, I’m definitely not the person to do that, but it’s obvious that she has some form of special needs.

Everyone acknowledges this, it seems, but she doesn’t receive any actual help from anyone. It’s one of those situations where people acknowledge it and they make adjustments but no one’s trying to actually provide her with true care of any kind. Again, I can’t diagnose her with anything so, for all I know, she doesn’t absolutely need any sort of professional care, but I feel like someone should be doing something for her.

Second of all, the kinda obvious play on words. Usagi’s called a ‘tortoise’ implying she’s slow, but her name is ‘Usagi’ which means rabbit, implying she may actually be faster, so to speak, than people might think. Which kinda makes sense considering the ending, but we’ll get there when we get there.

Third, back on the special needs thing……I am extremely, extremely, extremely uncomfortable at the confirmation that people with special needs can not only be clients of Hell Girl, but they can also be targets. Usagi’s not terribly impaired. She makes her way through school relatively fine, I think, and her parents apparently think she’s capable of becoming a nurse because they come to her with a plan for making that her career path. But there’s no getting around the fact that she is impaired in some fashion.

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The fact that people with mental disabilities can be clients and targets of Hell Girl is horrifying and horrible. I guess if kids can be clients and targets too then Hell Correspondence really has no limits. That’s rather frightening and upsetting.

Then there’s point four, which is how badly Usagi is treated by others. In general, people tend to treat Usagi poorly because she’s viewed as annoying and hopeless, but she gets the worst of it from the people who are closest to her.

There are her three friends, who constantly express how annoyed they are that they have to take care Usagi. They talk about her like she isn’t literally inches away from them, and they directly tell her that she should show more gratefulness for them being so caring when she’s such a bother to them.

When Usagi gets a boyfriend, meaning she won’t be relying on her friends quite so much, they get mocked by some bitches who point out that someone like Usagi got a boyfriend before them – IE the tortoise managed to pass them all, which makes them all very upset so they start making fun of her even worse behind her back, calling her a perverted tortoise grabbing at men.

Then you have Usagi’s parents, who do seem to care about her and love her, but not enough to actually get her any real help or even properly acknowledge her struggles. They ask her to make a decision about a career path, and while she has been reading up on culinary school, she can’t bring herself to say anything about it. When she fails to bring up her decision, they say, somewhat kindly, that they figured as much, so they proposed making her a nurse since she’s so nice, which Usagi accepts even though it doesn’t seem to be something she wants to do.

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Usagi later expresses that she knows her parents have given up on her and that her friends make fun of her. She works hard, but she can’t make progress because she’s ‘a tortoise.’ She smiles through everything they do either to or for her to help bear the pain, which is one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard in this show.

Finally, we have her brother, Michito, who is seen as the reliable and successful sibling. He has a seemingly good career as a DJ and was even featured in a magazine (full page article and everything) and has his own CD. Her friends even fawn over him and ask Usagi for his autograph the next time he’s in town.

Michito, however, is also an asshole to Usagi. Like her friends, Michito outwardly expresses frustration with having to deal with Usagi, even/especially when they were young kids, and also partakes in calling her a tortoise. However, there is some part of him that cares about her. When he realized that Usagi had actually chosen something to do as a career but couldn’t bring herself to say it and just accepted what her parents had chosen, he confronted her about it, seemingly upset that she wasn’t confident enough to assert her own desires over those of her parents, who didn’t even think she’d be able to choose anything.

Their relationship as a whole is rather warped, though.

Yes, people, we’re touching upon incest….again.

Usagi has an admirer named Endo who appears to legitimately have feelings for Usagi. He asks her out, and they start dating. When Michito hears the news, he is enraged. Soon after, Usagi finds photos in her mailbox of Endo dating other women. On their next date, Endo explains that Michito invited him out the other night to some music event. Without explaining exactly what happened, he apologizes to her and says he has no right to be with her.

Later, Usagi meets up with Michito and it’s revealed that they’re both the clients and they’re both the targets.

Usagi is targeting Michito because he was the reason Endo broke up with her (the Wiki says Michito forced Endo to hang out with those other girls so he could frame him and force him to break up with Usagi. I guess that can be inferred by the available information, but it’s unclear. Endo did seem to legitimately have feelings for her, and he was actually upset that he had to break up with her, so I’ll believe that.)

In turn, Michito is targeting Usagi because he is jealous of the fact that he perceived her as the fortunate one. He believes she never tries hard yet always has people doing stuff for her, making life easy for her and giving her attention. He resented the fact that he was seen as the reliable and stable one, so everyone just expected great things of him and didn’t give him as much attention as Usagi.

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Yeah, I don’t much get it either. To make matters more confusing, he claims he’s quitting music because it’s not working out for him, which is directly in contradiction to everything we’ve learned of him to this point. Michito responded to that point by saying their parents misunderstood……Misunderstood what? We saw the article and the CD seems legit too. What is being misunderstood here? He is working at a convenience store, but I just thought that music still can’t pay the bills even with his success, which, considering the fickle nature of the music business, is entirely understandable. Really don’t understand his situation, but the bottomline is that he’s jealous of Usagi.

They agree to drop their dolls into the river and forget the whole thing. Michito tells her that, even as a ‘tortoise’ she can work hard and find one of many good men out there to find love with, which gives her pause because, well, he was the one who orchestrated Endo ‘cheating’ on her and their break-up in the first place.

He returns home, and SURPRISE, he’s now locked in a hell torture. Usagi went into the river after Michito left, retrieved her doll and pulled the string. Why? Flashback to a time when they were kids. Usagi declared that she wanted to someday be Michito’s bride. Michito, however, scoffed at this idea, stating no one would ever want to marry such a tortoise. We only saw that part of the flashback earlier in the episode, but now we get a continuation where Michito returns and says he’ll agree to let her be his bride IF she becomes beautiful.

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Basically, Usagi was in love with her brother since they were kids, but he always manipulated her and treated her badly. I feel like he does have feelings for her too, slightly, but he’s more invested in just keeping her down than he is interested in anything romantic with her. Control over affection, basically. Usagi got sick of Michito manipulating her like that and using her love for him against her while not reciprocating it, so she decided to pull the string.

The last shot of Usagi is her laughing maniacally while still standing in the river proclaiming that she really can do her best despite being a tortoise, which I suppose is in pride of her making the decision to pull the string when she’s had such difficulty making decisions on her own.

God. Damn. That poor kid.

Of course, the sadness of this situation is cut by the hell torture. Michito is placed within a tortoise shell in a wild west setting and the hell team, dressed as cowpokes, shoots at him with a bunch of guns, so he retreats into his shell, which gets spun around. He doesn’t believe Usagi would pull the string after they decided to get along, and he’s thrust into hell by a missile explosion.

Not the goofiest hell torture we’ve seen, but more than enough to kinda wreck the tone of what was happening here.

Overall, though, this was truly a ride to say the least. A really uncomfortable and terrible ride, but a ride nonetheless. I certainly sympathized with the client and pretty much hated the target, but I don’t feel any real catharsis at him being sent to hell, and I feel worse than normal for the client in question. It’s just a terrible situation…..

Oh yeah, Yuzuki came up. She asked Usagi to not use Hell Correspondence when Usagi didn’t even know of such a thing at the time, meaning she may have very well put the idea in her mind.


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