Plot: The second season of the horror anthology, Hell Girl. Ai continues to do her job, taking requests on her website to send people to hell and marking the clients for hell (when they die their natural death) after she’s done the deed. Day after day, request after request comes in, but she starts to falter in her duties when she meets a boy whose story becomes eerily similar to her own.
Breakdown: Continuing on right from where we left off in season one, Two Mirrors continues exploring the cases of Ai’s clients while also including new additions to the formula and the cast of characters.
Ren and Hone Onna, who originally were really only used for hell torture shenanigans, are also used as dolls in this season, relieving Wanyuudou of having to do it every time. Why he was the only one used in season one, I don’t know.
The Hell Team is also being far more involved in cases than they have been in the past. Before, they pretty much laid back and just waited for their client to pull the string. Sometimes they’d get involved, if the circumstances of the case were wonky, but for the most they wouldn’t even really appear until the final scenes. I really liked this change because it allowed the main cast to actually be, oddly enough, the main cast. It’s hard to really connect with the cast if most of what we see of them is brief glimpses where they’re playing dressup and tormenting targets.
They still do that, of course, but we get so much more of them actively watching and talking about cases, and numerous times they actually get directly involved, which is obviously a very risky move. They’re not supposed to have any influence on whether or not characters pull the string, but there are a few times where their presence and interference has seemingly affected matters either for the better or worse.
For example, in one episode Ren accidentally triggers a sequence of events – events that otherwise likely wouldn’t have happened at all – that lead to the client pulling the string. In another episode, it seems like the Hell Team, including Ai, are trying to protect an old man who is their current target from being sent to hell because he was very innocent and had noble causes in what he was doing that was earning the ire of the client.
It definitely makes the stories more interesting to have the Hell Team even just commenting on the situation in the background, but it adds so much more when they get emotionally invested and even see themselves being reflected in the stories of the clients.
Speaking of the Hell Team, we also finally get all of their full backstories – Hone Onna’s being the most fleshed out and interesting, but all of the stories being pretty good.
With good additions come bad, however, because this season also introduces us to Kikuri – a little girl with massive purple bug eyes who is basically irritation incarnate. Her true identity isn’t revealed until the final episode, but her existence still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Even knowing her true identity, which is confusing in its own right, she neither needs to exist in this story nor does she need to be nearly as annoying as she is.
The individual stories, as you can imagine, vary quite a bit in their quality, being an anthology. It’s really hard to find any anthology where nearly all of the stories in the set are equally as good, and Hell Girl is never the exception to this rule.
There were only a couple of outright stinkers, there were some shining gems in the lot, but even the moderate/mediocre episodes never usually bored me.
A disheartening theme throughout most of the stories this time around did start weighing on me, and that’s utter depression. Part of the appeal of this series is watching horrible people be sent to hell in comeuppance for their actions towards the client. It’s always bittersweet considering the client is also literally marked for hell as a payment for this service, but many times the client’s life is made much better or they have a better personal outlook towards the future. Some instances during season one even seemed to bend reality or time or what have you to make the client’s life a little better after pulling the string.
It’s essentially a problem that was plaguing Hajime and Tsugumi’s mission as well, because they, or moreso Hajime, were always trying to stop clients from pulling the string. They thought using the service was wrong, even if the targets deserved it or the clients really had no other options – sometimes in a life or death manner. Hajime basically had the catchphrase of “Revenge is bad and that’s that.”
It was difficult to really root for them too much because it always seemed like it was actually for the better for the client to pull the string instead of continuing to live the way they were. Sometimes, they had other options and means of escape and it was more or less just a ‘they deserved it’ type of deal, but many times it seemed like it wasn’t the worst thing to just send the target to hell.
Yes, this sounds terrible because it’s pretty much saying it was difficult to root for people who were, plainly, trying to stop murders, but that’s the way it’s been framed for us. The writers had to go to ridiculous lengths to create a situation that actually supported their viewpoint. It involved an unrealistically perfect woman being sent to hell by a random psycho just….because. In order to avoid writing a reason why, they immediately killed the client off. And, as you can imagine, even that wasn’t strong in their favor because, being honest, Hell Girl’s rules should have prevented that situation from ever happening.
This season would have actually worked more for them because so many of these stories are just flatout depressing. Many are very well-written, despite the downer…everything, but that doesn’t change the fact that I wrote ‘depressing’ way too many times in my individual episode reviews. There’s even an episode that seems specifically designated to just say ‘Humanity’s nothing by evil scum, has been since the dawn of time….but some of them are okay a little, I guess.’
Our very first episode, in fact, gives us a bit of a bait and switch because, while it does go back to business as usual with a horrible person tormenting a young girl, it’s later revealed that the target wasn’t the only one tormenting her – the other being her only friend – so she basically sent that person to hell, damned herself to hell and didn’t get full revenge nor end the problem.
Not every single episode is a complete downer, some even have kinda-ish happy endings, but a good chunk of them are borderline heartbreaking.
One of the worst examples was Tragedy of the V where the client is a serial killer, though he’s doing it out of vengeance for his lost family. The only family he has left is a daughter who is lost in a coma, seemingly forever. He’s deathly ill, which is why he resorts to Hell Girl for his final target, and accepts his fate after he pulls the string.
However, as horrible fate would have it, and by ‘horrible fate’ I mean Kikuri being a bitch, his daughter wakes up from her coma immediately afterward, sending him spiraling in a personal hell, realizing his horrible actions and what he’s done to his daughter. This ending wasn’t just depressing for him, it was really depressing for his daughter. She had been in a coma for years and now has to cope with learning her family, barring her father, is dead, that her father turned into a serial killer to avenge them (and not even really avenge them, but moreso avenge their honor because the targets were assholes who were goofing around on TV as they filmed the wreckage of the house his family died in) and that he’s knocking on death’s door himself.
I think the writers actually realized how much they’ve shifted into just being sad sacks this season because the hell tortures this season were sparse. The ones we actually got were typically very awesome and creative, so that’s good, but part of the fun of watching this series is seeing how the Hell Team gets creative with their torments before taking the target to hell, so it’s a bit disappointing that we didn’t get to see that very often.
Speaking of Hajime and Tsugumi, though, I was disappointed that they barely got so much as a cameo this season. Hajime wrote a book about Hell Girl that a Detective, Meshiai, uses to learn about Hell Link, but it’s also implied that he died some time between seasons one and two. I mentioned in my review of season one that Hajime never appears again, and I was a little right because he only appears in a very short flashback as Meshiai reads the book. However, Tsugumi shows up very briefly to convince Meshiai that the story is true and heavily implies that Hajime is dead.
Tsugumi only looks about one year or so older than she did in season one, so what could have happened to Hajime in the meantime remains a mystery. Tsugumi does reappear in season three, now grown into a woman, and she gets a brief few shots in season four, but we never learn of Hajime’s fate as far as I know.
Tsugumi is horribly underutilized. She could have been so much more important than what she was in season two. All she gets is literally one scene, that is actually badly written, in one episode and then she’s gone.
Before I expound upon that, let’s explore the overarching plotline for this season; the story of Takuma Kurebashi – the ‘devil’s child.’
….Oh god…Where do I even start with this kid?
First of all, Takuma’s story isn’t really overarching throughout the entire series. He first appears in episode 14, which sets the stage for all of the other horrible dominoes to fall, but doesn’t appear again until episode 22, which is the start of the rest of his story until the end of the series. Yup. He gets the last five episodes all to himself.
Second of all, he’s a really likable kid, which makes watching him suffer so much all the more painful. He did contact Hell Girl, but when he realized exactly what her services entailed, he respectfully declined and decided, instead, to let the cops handle his problem (Spoiler alert – they don’t.)
He’s always very kind and respectful of people, even when they treat him like garbage. When he’s hearing whispers in the mall, he hums to himself and ignores it, only to cry when he’s all alone. When things start getting worse, he holes himself up in his house and does disturbing things like lay in his overflowing backtub in the dark singing the Seven Sending song to himself.
He’s very non-confrontational, which might be why, when he does become confrontational, he’s pretty bad at it…..almost comically bad….I’m sorry, I still can’t get over what he did in the finale. It was just a gem of nonsense.
Third, I can’t even begin to convey to you how much horrible garbage this kid goes through over the course of this show. It was seriously getting hard to watch after a while, and it was hard enough just in his first episode. Do you know that TV Trope ‘The Woobie’? If they had an award show for Woobies, he would clean up.
Rarely have I ever seen a character go through so much shit in succession with really no bright spots along the way – and if there were bright spots, they were snuffed out within 24 hours. I’m not exaggerating, by the way. If he’d get a friend or even someone trying to clear his name, they’d be taken to hell, die in an accident, savagely assaulted into a coma, beaten and kidnapped or driven to suicide and left in a coma all within about 24 hours of either meeting them or hearing good news about something they’re doing for him.
I have a master list of all of the bad things that happened to Takuma over the course of the show in the final episode review.
If you thought the individual stories were getting to be too depressing to enjoy, you certainly won’t have a single drop of enjoyment watching Takuma’s extended plotline. You’re not meant to, obviously, but it drags on for way too long. The kid gets six episodes of torment – nearly a quarter of the entire series – suffering from one blow after the next, and usually doing it all alone. It, honestly, could have been cut down by at least two episodes and have the same effect. Hajime and Tsugumi’s story spanned many episodes in little pieces before getting their main focus, and the show continuously inserted them into regular episodes, even if they barely did anything. All of this happening at once, barring the gap between episodes 14 and 22, is just too much to pile on.
Nearly everyone either shuns, hates or is terrified of this poor kid who did literally nothing to deserve it. He’s even made the scapegoat for tons of Hell Girl clients in order to avoid suspicions being directed towards them for the disappearances they’ve caused.
Not even that makes much sense because, outside of this particular storyline, no client has ever been charged or convicted of a Hell Girl disappearance because the service never leaves a trace behind. That’s partly why the service is so appealing to many people. It’s basically the perfect murder. All you need to do is pull a string on a doll and they’re gone for good. There’s no evidence to lead investigators towards accusing the client, considering both the doll and the target disappear upon the string being pulled, and the suggestion of Hell Girl is just laughable to investigators, so it just seems like these bastards are blaming Takuma for no reason.
After all of that happens to him, none of the people who actually deserved to be punished got any punishment. The guy who started the ‘devil’s child’ rumors is sent to hell, but that’s about it – and that was in episode 14 so that was just the tip of the iceberg. Even if the ultimate message is to forgive and let go of anger, at least a little cosmic karma would’ve been nice to see. But nope. Not a single bit of punishment for them outside of being damned to hell once they die naturally.
It’s just such a hard pill to swallow. Nearly every client in this show has to suffer, but they at least get some reprieve when they pull the string, and they don’t go through half the crap Takuma does. This is one kid who even refused getting the doll and refused to lash out on those wronging him for so long, until the very end (and even then, he doesn’t do much) and he gets the bare minimum in return.
Coming back to Tsugumi’s role, she easily could have taken Hotaru’s place in Takuma’s story. Hotaru is the younger sister of Detective Meshiai, who has been assigned to the rash of mysterious disappearances in the town. She serves as Takuma’s one longer-staying confidant (And by that I mean, again, 24 hours) throughout his arc, but her role easily could have been given to Tsugumi. She already knows of Hell Girl’s story, she’s an established and beloved character, she would have plenty of reason to befriend this kid and try to help him out, and she would be able to better convince Meshiai of the legitimacy of Hell Girl. She could also make for a good big sister character if they aged her up a little more.
But nope. Kikuri, for some reason, calls her out to just briefly tell Meshiai to believe Hajime’s words from the book, not even revealing who she is to him in order to give him much more of a reason to listen to her. Then she just up and leaves and we never see her again, this season anyway.
Great use of her character. Good job. I’m proud of you.
It’s a bit of a problem anyway because Hotaru’s not that great of a character. She has her ups and downs and she truly cares about Takuma, even though she barely knows him, but she’s also irritating and ends up betraying Takuma anyway – completely pointlessly even – just so she can play the role of Sentarou in this story.
As I touched upon in the plot synopsis, Takuma’s story is meant to be a reflection of Ai’s backstory, which puts her at odds. For most of the episodes, she and the Hell Team just sit by and watch over Takuma as all of these terrible things keep happening to him. He’s not a client, but they continue to visit him and follow his plight anyway. Things come to a head in the very last episode when he’s sent to hell via Hell Link and Ai has to ferry him away.
This is Ai’s big final test in her repentance. If she decides to go against the Master of Hell’s orders, she and her parents will be doomed to hell for all time. However, if she doesn’t, she’ll be allowing another innocent person to be wrongfully damned (literally) the same way she was 400 years ago.
The resolution to Ai’s story is pretty well done, even if the absolute ending is tainted by the third season. I wanted to view this in same light I originally viewed this season way back when I originally watched it, which was when I believed it was the final ending to Ai’s story, but I just can’t shake how it’s marred by the third season (and fourth) continuing on instead of letting it end here. Is Hell Girl really such a cash cow that they didn’t want to let it end, or was Ai’s character design really so appealing or notable that they didn’t want to introduce a new Hell Girl and gamble on her instead?
Neither the ending to her story nor Takuma’s is really great, though. Ai’s turnaround lacked strong emotional impact, which is disappointing given how emotional the ending to season one was, and Takuma’s was too cleanly scrubbed at the end, even with the implications in play. There’s just no way a kid who has gone through that much horrible stuff can just get up and move along happily like nothing happened. I’m glad he at least got a partially happy ending, but still.
Bottomline: This season got knocked down just half a point from it’s predecessor because it was harder to actually enjoy than season one, and the main plotline was just a little too drawn out and relentlessly upsetting than the storyline with Hajime and Tsugumi. There are many points where this season shines brighter than season one, and I’ve even stated that this season holds some of the best episodes of the franchise, but the problem areas drag it down a little too much to really keep it at the exact same level as season one.
You don’t even get to enjoy nearly as much poetic justice as you’re accustomed to due to the change in writing or tone or whatever they were going for. Even the best episodes, even the ones that do have sweet, sweet karma in them leave you feeling depressed. Not all shows, especially not Hell Girl, are designed to make you feel good, but 26 episodes worth? That’s pushing it.
I really needed Ai’s finale to be one big uplifting hurrah to make up for it all, even if it would have to be bittersweet, but it wasn’t. It was a good note, but it was also weighed down by bad. And, as much as I hate to take future seasons into consideration, even the good in the finale is tarnished just on the basis that it’s not the actual end for her.
I hope her actual finale in Fourth Twilight makes up for it, but all I’ve heard is terrible things about that season (it’s even earned a one star rating on THEM Anime Reviews – ouch.)
Additional Information and Notes: Hell Girl: Two Mirrors/Jigoku Shoujo: Futakomori was directed by Takahiro Omori, who also directed Koi Kaze, Baccano! and Durarara!! It was produced by Studio Deen and is currently licensed in North America by Sentai Filmworks, but it has yet to be dubbed in English.
Year: 2006 – 2007
Recommended Audience: Like the first season, the subject matter alone calls for a more mature audience, but, specifically, there are some brutal scenes involving people being boiled alive, beating a young girl to death with shovels, miscarriage caused by pushing a pregnant woman down stairs (though we never really see that, if I recall) a woman being shot in the neck with an arrow and more. You also have some iffy themes such as incest and rape appearing once or twice. There’s also some animal abuse and death, but not nearly as bad as some of the stories in the previous season. 15+