Plot: One last doll. One last red string pulled. Hotaru sends Takuma to hell in order to stop the cycle of revenge, but is this truly the end? Will Ai be forced to watch a child suffer through the same fate she did over 400 years ago, or will she find it within her heart to let go of her own anger, forgive those who wronged her and finally end the cycle of revenge?
Breakdown: Previously on “This Kid Can’t Catch a Fucking Break,” the defense squad viciously beat and kidnapped Detective Meshiai, who finally had some proof in clearing Takuma’s name in this whole ‘devil’s child’ and Hell Girl mess. A good chunk of the town, especially most people in the defense squad, had taken to using Hell Girl to make people disappear left and right and using Takuma as a scapegoat. The defense squad feared that suspicion would be placed back on them if Takuma was cleared, so they kidnapped and beat Meshiai unconscious, holding him in a shed, to prevent him from doing so.
Meanwhile, they set out to kill Takuma in order to end this whole fiasco once and for all.
Takuma wasn’t without a kind hand, however, as Hotaru found him and aided his escape. They took refuge in a shrine where Hotaru started reading the book about Hell Girl written by Hajime that Meshiai left behind. They learned of her horrible and familiar backstory from over 400 years ago and worried that they’d suffer the same fate as she did. Hotaru claimed that won’t happen and vowed to protect Takuma no matter what.
As bad luck would have it, and by ‘bad luck’ I mean Kikuri being a bitch again, Kikuri lead the defense squad to the shrine where Hotaru and Takuma were hiding. They took them, tied them up and lead them into a boat in a lake. They tied large rocks to them and smashed a hole in the boat before pushing it out into the water, waiting for it to sink and the kids to inevitably drown.
It looked like it was the end of them until Meshiai drove up, having escaped from the shed. He scared away the defense squad by brandishing his gun and rescued the kids in the nick of time.
Just when things finally looked like they might get better, as they’re driving home, Meshiai suddenly vanished – he had been whisked to hell by one of the only people in the defense squad who hadn’t used Hell Girl’s services yet.
The car crashed into a ditch, but the kids were unharmed. Still, Hotaru was devastated by the loss of her brother and they had no clue what to do next as they walked home. Suddenly, Hotaru stopped in the middle of the road and used her brother’s laptop to access Hell Link – she intends on sending Takuma to hell in hopes of ending this once and for all.
At this point, Hotaru’s annoying, an idiot and a bitch. Just thought I’d catch you up.
It’s remarkable how quickly her character went downhill. Initially, she was pretty cool – shaping up to be an even better detective than her brother. She also sympathized a lot with Takuma. Then she got kinda annoying because she didn’t believe Takuma’s story about Hell Girl at all, but that’s understandable. Then she was back to good again with helping Takuma escape and hide. Then she was back to annoying in how she acted after they got taken. That’s also understandable, to a degree, considering they were about to kill her, but it doesn’t mean she wasn’t being annoying flailing around in the sinking boat when told not to and knocking Takuma into the water during the rescue because she was still flailing. Then we’re back to good again as they drive home. And then it’s down to full idiot with a dash of bitch when she says she has to send Takuma to hell.
And she does it. Not even five minutes into the episode, counting the OP, she’s demanding the doll and immediately pulls the string even though;
1) Her one goal this entire time was protecting Takuma,
2) She should know that killing Takuma won’t stop the town from continuing to use Hell Link or even just being assholes,
3) She was complaining that Hell Link was causing nothing but suffering and shouldn’t exist, yet here she is calling Hell Girl and even rushing to get Takuma gone,
4) She’s immediately damning him to hell when just flatout killing him would give him a shot at heaven, and,
5) Doing this also won’t bring her brother back.
But it’s okay, because she intends on killing herself immediately afterwards.
Yeah, that’s her ‘redemption’ I guess. Just that she is going to ensure Takuma’s not alone in hell and will follow immediately. Again, I must reiterate – hell is hell. Not a place where you pal around with other people. If something in hell is making you happy, you’re either a demon, Satan himself or not in hell.
She does apologize, but that’s of little comfort or use.
And that’s the last we technically see of Hotaru. She attempts suicide via drowning, doesn’t die but ends up in a coma that she never wakes up from.
Great redemption arc.
But we have to address the most pressing question we’ve had over the course of the series – Can this kid catch a fucking break?
The answer is
Well….I guess as much of a break as this kid can get.
Let’s rewind a bit.
Hotaru pulled the string and Takuma was sent on the ferry to hell. She then immediately walked into the frigid lake to drown herself.
Meanwhile, Takuma is crying in the ferry, and Kikuri, the bitch, is taunting him. First she offers him a candy and then she says, knowingly, that this certainly isn’t the first time someone completely innocent has been betrayed and sacrificed by their friend. Takuma then tearfully begs Ai to help him.
Ai visibly struggles with continuing to row after that, and she, shockingly, decides to turn the boat around and return him to where he originated.
When he awakens, he finds Ai who is now back in her human form – brown eyes and all, even in the clothes she died in. She weakly and emotionally directs Takuma to the water, and he figures out that Hotaru tried to drown herself. Her body somehow ends up on the opposite end of the shore….in this lake…that has no tide….almost immediately after she went into the water, I guess?
The Hell team tries to wring some answers out of Kikuri, who passes out and wakes up as the full Master of Hell. She reveals that, since Ai went against her penance and returned Takuma to life, the souls of those she loves will remain trapped in hell for all eternity.
The Hell Team freaks out at this because they find it entirely unfair for the Master of Hell to renege on their deal just because Ai returned one boy. After 400 years of suffering and doing her work without emotion or breaking the rules (barring the first season finale) they believe she deserves to be free now.
And the Master of Hell agrees….Yeah, we’ll soon find that the previous two statements are really contradictory and I have no idea why. He reveals that Ai’s alive, much to the happiness of Ren and Hone Onna, but much to chagrin of Wanyuudou who reveals that, if she was merely revived in her original body, she’ll age 400 years very quickly and die all over again. Ren tries to punch the Master of Hell, but she easily sends him flying. The Master of Hell leaves and Kikuri is….dead? I guess. Not really, she’s still technically alive, but she’s lying face down on the ground and she’s shown to be fine later, but the Master of Hell is still a spider….I dunno. She’s both the Master of Hell yet she also isn’t. It’s confusing.
Takuma’s seemingly too late to save Hotaru, and this, for some reason, is the straw that breaks the camel’s back in him deciding to say ‘fuck it’ and take his revenge out on the town.
Which is dumb.
Yes, the townsfolk/defense squad specifically are responsible for this, but Hotaru’s the idiot who decided to SEND HIM TO HELL with barely a sentence said in ‘remorse’ under the misguided belief that it would stop a cycle of revenge that has been going on for hundreds of years – even more than that if you just want to put the cards on the table and say humanity’s a species of monsters who have been doing horrible things since the dawn of time.
Takuma barely knows Hotaru, either. They’ve spent about a full day, collectively, together. She was still a friend, yeah, and he should certainly mourn her, but being so upset about her “death” specifically, that’s what finally makes Takuma snap and go for the bloodshed?
To continue the comparison with Ai and Sentarou, they were cousins. He was basically her only friend for her entire life. They were close friends, family and even kinda, squickily, romantic interests. It’s a lot more believable and impacting when he betrayed her than when Hotaru did it.
He’s still got his father, too, even if he is in a coma, so it’s not like he has no one left. And he was just granted a pass from Hell Girl – he actually got a break for a change; a break no one else before him has ever gotten.
Though, honestly, I’m not gonna rag on him too much for finally snapping. The kid has been through so much these past few months, I’m surprised he hasn’t already just gone on a killing spree throughout town.
Takuma heads home to presumably exact revenge, and Ai weakly attempts to follow him in order to stop him from making the same mistake she did.
Before we get to that, however, we have to put more characters through the wringer. Let’s spin the wheel of torment!
Ah, look at that! It landed on ‘All of the Hell Team.’ Yup, it’s their turn now. What’s their special little slice of hell? Once Ai is revived, they find that she doesn’t recognize them at all. As much as they love her, as much as she’s done for them, all they can do is sit back and try to protect her from afar, knowing she doesn’t remember any of them (But this is something else that’s contradictory because, later, she does remember them….) Also, considering her time as Hell Girl is, supposedly, up, she’ll never be with them again.
Back with Takuma, he…for some reason, soaks his house in gasoline and aims to burn it down? What? What will that accomplish? He does also splash gasoline on the defense squad too (Even though that had to have been improvised considering he didn’t know they were still tailing him. Dude literally just set out to burn his house down.), threatening to burn them all alive, but guess what? It, for some reason, doesn’t work. Takuma is grabbed by one of the squad members and smacked around. He drops the lit lighter into the pool of gasoline, which quickly makes his house go up, but I guess the defense squad was so far away it just didn’t also catch them on fire?
Most ingenious plan, Takuma. Top notch. Just amazing.
I understand that Ai had supernatural powers when she returned from the dead and burned her village to the ground, killing everyone, but still, Takuma, do better.
They’re about to just beat Takuma to death in the street, right in front of a burning house, because fuck subtly at this point, I guess.
Ai somehow manages to catch up, shocking the defense squad and concerned she might be ferrying one of them to hell. However, she merely tries to talk them out of what they’re doing and starts to lead Takuma away.
Don’t think we got that happy-ish ending too soon, however, because the apprehensive guy from before, the one who sent Meshiai to hell, is now bonkers. He’s even been trying to scratch the curse mark off of his chest. And now he’s smacking Ai over the head with a shovel, proclaiming that he refuses to be sent to hell.
The whole squad joins in on the vicious beating, aiming to kill her. The Hell Team tries to interfere, but are stopped in their tracks when they realize Ai’s actually smiling at them during her beating, as if she’s finally accepted her fate and punishment for what she had done 400 years ago.
Takuma manages to stop them, however, and we hear Ai’s last words, claiming that, with this act, it’s finally over. She fades into a burst of flower petals and vanishes. Kikuri is shown watching this and crying for some reason. I don’t really know. They’ve been showing the spider and Kikuri separately so I know even less than I thought I did. Maybe Kikuri really is her own person and she was attached to Ai, for whatever reason. Maybe the Master of Hell has a heart? I really can’t say.
Afterwards, we see Kikuri in the ferry passing by the weird thing that was holding the souls of Ai’s parents. It releases them and they pass on to heaven. Kikuri reiterates that it’s all over and thanks Ai for all her hard work as she pokes at a cherry (Ai was sometimes seen eating cherries) in the boat.
In the epilogue, Wanyuudou explains that Meshiai was recording his conversation with Takuma and caught a lot of the stuff the defense squad said on tape too. How they got ahold of the tape considering he was sent to hell and had the recorder on him when he was kidnapped, I don’t know. But it’s just another point in the defense squad’s idiot column because that means they left him untied, not properly secured, with his phone, gun and a running audio recorder. They are the pinnacle of stupidity.
The point is, the recording somehow cleared Takuma of everything once and for all, even though that recording could not have included information on anything useful, being honest. They confirmed that no one believed the stuff about Hell Girl, meaning the lack of curse mark wasn’t proof, and I’m not sure I believe they cleared him of every single disappearance just by also hearing Meshiai’s kidnapping in progress.
Definitely would’ve insinuated the defense squad bastards for their specific crimes, as well as provide good proof of his beating and disappearance, but, not only is Meshiai gone so they can’t really prove he was either actually beaten or kidnapped, but the defense squad goons skipped town and no one has seen them since.
Which is complete bullshit.
Why do they get no comeuppance for their crimes? They framed a young boy for their murders. They tormented the poor kid day in and day out just to keep their cover. They beat up a detective and kidnapped him. They hunted down and tried to murder two children. They sent Meshiai to hell just for interfering in said murder plan. Them doing so nearly got Hotaru and Takuma killed in a car accident. They beat Takuma up, intended on killing him, then they beat Ai to death in the street.
I know they’re destined to hell once they die anyway, but screw it – I want them to actually pay now…Which, admittedly, is a little ironic because the ending was supposed to be about letting go of vengeance.
However, even that’s a little badly written because what ends the cycle of revenge is the defense squad viciously beating her to death? What? I get that Ai fixing her mistake, stopping the same thing from happening and finally dying was her repentance, but the manner in which it happens is just wrong. The bastards should have been arrested (House on fire, beating a kid to death in the street and still no cops or any neighbors coming out to see what’s up. Were just THAT many people whisked away by Ai in the past few weeks?) and she should have just died of old age like she was going to anyway. Pretty sure speed-aging to 400+ years old and dying that way has to be nearly equally horrific and doesn’t require any cold blooded murder.
Also, apparently, no one believing the Hell Girl excuse also means no one in the town ever tried to use it again? Technically that should just be they were unable to use it…..but….Mmmm more on that in a minute.
After that, the area became a ghost town….somehow. I have absolutely no idea why. The local mall is boarded up and filled with trash, many homes are also abandoned, the streets are littered with garbage, the people left behind seem like flippant assholes and everything there is vacant.
The Hell Team returns to the Realm of Eternal Twilight. Predictably and sadly, they don’t find Ai there. All they find is is a darkened computer and Ai’s grandmother, who is still never explained in the slightest (she’s not actually Ai’s grandma, and I have no clue what her purpose is.) She finally stops spinning string and tells them that Ai says ‘Thank you.’ which is very much appreciated considering they thought she forgot them all for good.
The Realm of Eternal Twilight vanishes and the Hell Team is left in the human world. They decide to go their separate ways for now and just live in the human world for a while.
Back with Takuma, his dad has finally awoken from his coma and is back on two feet, though he’s still recovering. As I’ve mentioned before, though, even with his dad healthy and by his side again, the kid is definitely going to need ridiculous amounts of therapy to realistically lead a normal life again. With all the things he’s witnessed and experienced, I’m surprised he can find it within himself to smile.
They visit Hotaru in the hospital. Apparently, she didn’t drown nor did she freeze to death even though Takuma didn’t immediately call for medical services when he found her, meaning she was probably lying out there in the cold snow, soaking wet, for probably well over an hour or so.
Good job. Pointlessly burning down your house, destroying all of your possessions, financially ruining your family and probably also destroying any mementos of your dead mother while also making an incredibly weak attempt at killing the defense squad that you most likely didn’t even know were following you was way more important than trying to save your friend’s life. (Keep in mind, the laptop was right next to him when he was brought back. He could have alerted emergency services with it.)
Also, this is kinda a bummer ending for Hotaru considering we never see her again. We’re pretty much just lead to believe she’ll be in a vegetative state forever. At least she doesn’t seem to have a curse mark, which makes sense because Ai never held up her end of the bargain. She likely won’t be sent to hell when she passes on, but her brother’s still dead (and I think she might be an orphan considering the only other person we ever see at her home is her brother.)
I know Hotaru was a massive idiot in the end and a bit of a bitch, and don’t try to convince me she knew Ai would turn the boat around and all that would happen to end Hell Link and redeem Takuma – there’s no way, incoming pun, in hell she knew that would happen in the slightest, but she didn’t deserve this.
So, everything’s…I guess as good as we can get on this show. It’s a very mixed bag….
Takuma and his dad walk down the hall of the hospital as they’re leaving Hotaru’s room. The girl they’re passing opens her phone, looks at a message…..
A bright red message….
….and it says her request has been accepted.
Look, I know that anyone working on horror seems to be under this belief that all endings to anything horror need to end in an implication that the ‘killer’ so to speak, is still alive and the story continues, but this ending completely ruins everything they just showed us.
“Twix, calm down. It’s probably a new Hell Girl that the Master of Hell wrangled up. Sure, there’s a new cycle of revenge out there, but Ai’s story has been told. She’s done. She’s moved on. She’s in a better place now.” ~Some person reading this maybe, though I’m probably projecting.
Yes, that is EXACTLY what I thought when I first watched this way back when.
Until, however, the third season of Hell Girl, Three Vessels, came out. Guess who’s Hell Girl…..It’s Ai….again….inexplicably. As if they completely ignored this final, concrete ending to Ai’s story.
What? Did they just like Ai’s character design so much they couldn’t let her go?
Granted, the story of Three Vessels is meant to be Ai training her replacement, which is flimsy in itself because why does she need to train her replacement? Did Ai have anyone train her? Why does the Master of Hell not take this responsibility? What, did Ai come back down from Heaven or wherever to do unpaid training? Did they recall the Realm of Eternal Twilight? Awkward reunions with the Hell Team all around?
Three Vessels is something we’ll definitely have to unpack this October because, honestly, I never finished it because I was so angry that they reconned this ending. I only watched a few episodes when it first aired and I never went back because I was just that bummed. And, from what I read online, I didn’t miss out on much and the ending is…..rrgh. But, again, let’s cross that bridge this October.
So, what of this finale, eh? In my opinion, there’s something here that could’ve really been good, but it was so sloppily written it’s hard to really like it. Many of the decisions made, even taking panic and despair into consideration, were nonsensical and harmful, and I don’t believe about 90% of that epilogue.
A lot of it was just….washed away. The horrible townsfolk who shunned, hated, feared and framed Takuma while also Hell Girling each other like it was going out of style? All left town without so much as a slap on the wrist. The murderous asshole defense squad? No one ever saw them again. All of the accusations over Takuma’s head and all of the ‘devil’s child’ crap? No one believes the Hell Girl stuff, but that being the only evidence to clear his name apparently fixes it all. His dad wakes up and is okay, which is probably the most believable thing. And don’t worry about everything Takuma’s family owned burning to the ground and all of Takuma’s certain mental trauma – everything’s magically good for him.
And even given all of that hand-waving, it’s not okay. Hell Link still exists, and someone’s using it right next to Takuma. For all we know, the finger-pointing and devil’s child stuff could start right back up again, no matter if the original townsfolk have all collectively abandoned the place. His town’s a shithole now, though he needed to move anyway what with the pointlessly burned down house. The people who killed Meshiai got off scot-free. Poor Meshiai is still in hell. And Hotaru, his only friend, is in a coma.
Lest we forget the biggest bummer of all being Ai’s redemption and freedom….apparently never actually happened….
I actually like how they went about redeeming her. Last time, she broke the Master of Hell’s rules just to exact her own revenge against Tsugumi and Hajime, who were the last descendants of Sentarou. Even though it was a bummer to see her return to work, it was understandable that she wasn’t ready to be freed yet, even if she had let go of her anger towards Sentarou. That was her first step in actually healing instead of just repenting.
Reflecting her story in Takuma and having Ai break the Master of Hell’s rules once more, but this time for a noble reason, was a fantastic way for her to actually earn her redemption and finally pass on to Heaven (At least, that’s where I assume she went.) But the fact that she had to be viciously beaten to death after she decided to help Takuma was just the wrong choice, in my opinion. Its was completely unnecessary. It’s not even a ‘bitter irony’ kind of deal because, while Ai did originally get hit over the head with a shovel when she died, she was actually killed by being buried alive.
This story as a whole also dragged on a bit too long for my taking. Were you getting sick of my ‘This Kid Can’t Catch a Fucking Break’ gag? Try watching several half-hour installments of it. Not even Ai’s actual backstory, which this is meant to reflect, lasted a fraction as long. It only got one episode in the previous season. Not to mention that, honestly, I feel like Takuma went through way more traumatic events that Ai did.
Let’s tally up Takuma’s final trauma score, shall we?
– Was shunned by people in town, accused of killing animals and causing destruction.
– Constantly harassed by one guy, who didn’t even have a beef with him specifically.
– Watched his mother be murdered by an arrow to the neck right in his home – the one he still has to live in after that.
– He’s accused of his mother’s murder, and everyone in town believes he did it since he’s ‘The Devil’s Child.’
– He finds out who actually did it and framed him for it, but can seemingly do nothing about it.
– His father is severely assaulted by the same guy, leaving him in a coma. Takuma bears witness to some of this.
– The perpetrator tries to kill Takuma immediately afterward.
– The perp is sent to hell, and since Takuma’s the only one in the room, he’s accused of making the guy disappear and assaulting his father.
– He’s forced to live alone for months while the entire town continues to shun him and spread awful rumors.
– He finally gets one friend who cares for him no matter what, but then she’s sent to hell the next day.
– People start using Hell Girl in excess and then framing Takuma for their deeds, while also continuing to perpetuate the idea that Takuma’s a devil’s child, making him even more shunned, hated and feared across town.
– Some bitch purposely waits until her target is close to Takuma before pulling the string and sending him to hell, making Takuma look exponentially worse.
– Has a detective seemingly believe his innocence, and when he’s able to provide some modicum of proof, he’s brutally beaten and kidnapped, right in front of Takuma’s door, to keep him quiet.
– Has Hotaru believe he’s at least innocent, and later believing in Hell Girl, only to have her be whisked away to the Realm of Eternal Twilight while she’s in his house, making him look even WORSE.
– A woman is able to clear Takuma’s name at least in regards to the disappearance of the dude who started this mess, but she dies immediately after giving a statement, and her statement can’t even be corroborated so it doesn’t matter much.
– He’s hunted down like a dog and forced to go on the run.
– He’s captured and nearly murdered in a slow and agonizing manner.
– He’s rescued only to have his rescuer be soon sent to hell.
– He’s involved in a car crash because of it (Admit it – car crashes are terrifying enough without the cause being ‘the driver suddenly vanished without a trace.’)
– Immediately following the crash, his one friend and confidant decides to call Hell Girl on him, pinning everything on him when he has done absolutely nothing.
– And she instantly pulls the string, sending him to hell.
– He’s granted a pardon from hell only to find Hotaru basically dead on the shore, having been driven to suicide.
– He loses his house in a fire that was completely unavoidable and made total sense. No stupidity involved. Nope nope.
– He made a lame impromptu attempt to kill the people who were hunting him, and it didn’t work.
– He got beaten again.
– Ai saves him only to get beaten to death.
– His one friend, Hotaru, even if it’s hard to still call her a friend, remains in a coma forever.
– Bonus: It’s quite possible he’s still on the hook for his mother’s murder at least seeing as how the actual perp was sent to hell and Takuma was the main suspect, only getting away from jail time for the moment because there wasn’t enough solid evidence to charge him. His father wasn’t actually a witness to the murder, and even if he was no one’s really going to believe he’s not just covering for his kid.
All of that spanned out over six episodes (14 and 22-26) when it really could’ve been three or maybe four at most, especially since some things just didn’t need to happen.
At least the stuff with Tsugumi and Hajime was spread out in small chunks over the course of half the first season with really the only final three episodes focusing on their own specific story, which pretty much needed all of those episodes. Here, it was just relentlessly pouring on so much crap on this kid one after the other. And considering one of the main facets of this show is relishing in the assholes getting their comeuppance only to find…no one getting comeuppance after ALL OF THIS is just frustrating. Only innocent people directly suffered through this whole arc, barring Kakinuma, and his suffering is bittersweet because it caused more suffering for Takuma.
I’m not saying kill them or send them to hell, but at least arrest the defense squad, show the other townsfolk paying in some karmic way. Do something! Just saying ‘welp, they all left town.’ and wash your hands of it is just lazy and enraging.
Even if they ended the series here and Ai really never returned, it’s still not all that great of an ending for her. I should’ve teared up, but I didn’t. I should’ve been far happier for Ai than I was. This ending should have been on par with the awesome ending of the first season, but it just fizzles and gives up.
It’s a good ending on paper, but the execution never reached greatness, and that’s just disappointing.
Spoiler alert for the rest of the franchise here, but as far as I know, Ai won’t finally officially leave her post as Hell Girl for good until the end of Fourth Twilight, and as far as I’ve heard, that season is a pile of stinky garbage. As I’ve mentioned, we’ll tackle her fate in Three Vessels this October.
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