Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight Full Series Review (A Hellish Ending to a Franchise)

Plot: The fourth and seemingly final season of the horror anthology series, Hell Girl.

Breakdown: This season kinda threw me for a loop. After being thoroughly unimpressed (read: frustrated and massively disappointed) in Three Vessels, I didn’t have my hopes up very high for Fourth Twilight. My hopes were only lowered after hearing negative things about it for a variety of reasons. However, I didn’t want to just write off the whole season without giving it a chance. I decided to wipe my brain as clear of preconceptions as much as possible, and I’m glad I did because I really think this season’s bad rep isn’t deserved…..

……A little bit.

When it came to the anthology stories, I was rather impressed, really. The stories had been better than about 75% of the stuff that has been included in Hell Girl recently. On strictly anthology merits, I think this season went out quite well.

One of the issues this season has by default is that it’s tragically short. Technically, it’s only a six episode season, which sucks pretty hard for an anthology series especially. It had a bit of a rough start to be sure, but basically all of the anthology stories were quite good, and I enjoyed them. However, it’s obviously quite difficult to sneak in a main overarching storyline to such a short season while still having an adequate amount of anthology stories, which is where the cracks start to form.

As I mentioned in the plot synopsis, this is meant to be the final season of Hell Girl, meaning we need to find some way to say goodbye to Ai. In comes Michiru whom we learn near the end of the series is meant to be Ai’s newest replacement as Hell Girl. What happened to the whole “Ai will be Hell Girl forever” from season three? I don’t know. I don’t care. That was a stupid decision made for stupid reasons. Let’s all just forget about it.

I do like Michiru. I like her character design, I really like her backstory and her general aesthetic. I truly believe she makes for a good Hell Girl. However, they didn’t fully handle her story well in the end. While her backstory episode was quite good, complete with a case in present time that paralleled her own, the last episode where she takes up the mantle of Hell Girl is lackluster to say the least.

It’s like they wanted her to have this big moral struggle with becoming Hell Girl and just gave up on the idea and made her Hell Girl offscreen during an entirely unrelated anthology story.

All I wanted from this season was a proper ending to Ai’s story. To finally let her pass on and rest in peace. If this is actually the end – the final for real finale end – which it seems to be because this was made in 2017 and there hasn’t been another anime season since – then the one thing I ask for is a good send-off to Ai……And they couldn’t do it.

First of all, the ending is vague. Many people are confused as to whether Michiru actually took Ai’s job and Ai retired or if Ai is still Hell Girl and Michiru is just another Hell Girl. As far as I’ve been able to tell through research, though, bear in mind, resources are limited with this season, Michiru definitely took Ai’s role as Hell Girl and Ai is freed from the job now.

Second, the reason people were confused is because, unlike in season two where Ai actually disappeared when she was freed from her role, in this season, she just kinda…sticks around in the living world with the Hell Team….forever?

The only person who stays in the role is Yamawaro who makes the decision to stay with Michiru as her sole assistant, which made Kikuri super angry, which made me super happy.

In episodes seven through twelve, we see that the Hell Team has bought a bar and spends all of their time there while reminiscing on old cases. Ai never appears in these episodes, but it’s clear she’s still around.

In the end, while Ai did get freed and the title of Hell Girl was passed on, it all just felt unceremonious. Four seasons of buildup, and the ending is pretty much a shrug. And not even a strong shrug. A shrug like you’re unsure if the person shrugged or if their shoulders are just a bit sore.

I did say that this season is “technically” six episodes long. However, the season is also technically twelve episodes long. It was initially released as a twelve episode season, but most websites now list the season as being six episodes long because the new content mostly ends after episode six. Episode seven onward are recycled episodes from old seasons just with the Fourth Twilight OP and ED and intros with live-action paper puppets of the Hell Team attached to them. These reruns negatively impacted the overall rating for many people, but I decided I’m not that irritated by these.

It’s clear that they’re basically bonus material, even though it’s only about a minute and a half of new content per episode. It’s the fact that they were part of the season officially in the first place that rubs people the wrong way, even if they admitted right out the gate that only six episodes were new stories and the rest would be reruns.

As I mentioned in my episode reviews, I really feel like this wound up being a problem with budget and a lack of desire to even make a season four in the first place. They just wanted to officially close out Ai’s story while also spending as little money as possible while still keeping some semblance of an anthology to the series – and that little money wasn’t even enough to support the episode order they gave them so they just put in six episodes from past seasons.

That’s just my theory, but it’s what makes the most sense to me.

I stand by my stance that season two should have just been it. It was a good story, Ai repented and moved on, it still allowed Hell Correspondence to exist – it was fine the way it was. Then season three came along, ruined everything, and season four had to blindly fumble through trying to clean it up a little. I really believe if they could have used all twelve episodes for new stories, it would have been a much better season. A twelve episode order is tighter and easier to deal with in regards to the overarching story than a 26 episode order is, and they could also have more wiggle room with more anthology entries. But nope. Just six. Not enough for a satisfying anthology. Not enough for a fleshed out overarching storyline. Definitely not enough to squeeze in both.

Don’t get me wrong. They still messed up even within the reasonable limits of six episodes, but given the quality of the episodes they had, I really believe they would have been motivated to go out with a bang if they had the budget to do all twelve episodes.

It’s not just not giving Ai a proper send-off, either. I was interested in seeing Michiru grow into her own as a new Hell Girl, but we only see her do the job once. I’m kinda concerned that if they do decide to revive the series in the future, they’ll just bring Ai back because she’s the face of the series and Michiru will just be retconned.

At the end of the day, it’s a very short watch, especially if you skip the latter half, it does bring a slight sense of some more proper closure to Ai’s story rather than just saying “Fuck you, Ai. Be Hell Girl forever to save this stale pretzel stick.” and the anthology entries are pretty good. So if you’re wondering if I recommend it, I give it a hesistant yes, but newer fans would probably be better off with season one or two.

Long time fans, it’s a toss up. Many of them seem pissed by this season, but I can’t say I entirely sympathize, mostly because I’ve realized a good deal of the venom for this season is also aimed towards the individual stories, and I don’t get that much at all. They’re not masterpieces or anything, but compared to some of the garbage I’ve seen in episodes in the other three seasons, these are definitely some of the better entries.

I do agree that episode three, which most people note as being the worst episode of the season, is absolutely, balls to the wall, insane, given that finale, but while many people find that episode to be unrealistically dark and evil, I didn’t see it that way. Sure, there was some iffy writing there, but you’re a little too sheltered and innocent if you think this situation isn’t realistic. I’ve read about tons of WORSE situations in real life. This shit happens.

I can, with certainty, say that most long-time fans will be ultimately disappointed with Ai’s final end though, no matter how much they wind up liking Michiru. They’ll also likely be disappointed with Tsugumi’s end, but I feel like this is a slightly better send off for her than in Three Vessels where they act as if her presence will have a point, but it doesn’t, and then she just gives up and leaves…..At the very least, they’ll probably be pissed that they had her in an entire episode and still didn’t give us any closure about Hajime.

I feel like this season might just make fans demand another season to properly-properly-noforrealthistimeactuallyproperly close out the franchise even though it’s been five years since Fourth Twilight came out.

I guess it’s possible. This is the time for random revivals, continuations and reboots. And there was over an eight year wait between Three Vessels and Fourth Twilight. Personally, I desperately don’t want them to continue. Mostly because I’m afraid they’ll manage to screw it up even more. This ending was far from satisfactory, but it could have been worse. The best I can hope for if they do continue the anime in the future is one of two things – either they continue with Michiru as Hell Girl and we explore whatever weird issue might be preventing Ai from going to heaven and end with her going to heaven. Or they just full-on reboot the entire franchise, we go through Tsugumi and Hajime’s story but rework it a bit to allow for more moral ambiguity on the side of the clients so we actually sympathize with Hajime sometimes, and they end that season with Ai moving on somehow. Or maybe they don’t let her pass on in season one and re-do seasons one and two so she can properly move on in season two.

Never re-do three. Three is just unsalvagable, if you ask me.

Additional Information and Notes: Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight was directed by Takahiro Omori, who directed Hell Girl, and Hell Girl: Two Mirrors, but not Three Vessels, and written by Kenichi Kanemaki. It was produced by Studio Deen. While it is licensed in North America by Aniplex of America, it does not have an English dub.

Year: 2017

Episodes: 6 (12 if you count the “Reminiscence” episodes.)

Recommended Audience: There’s some pretty messed up things in this season compared to the previous three. There’s heavy implications of rape on a minor, another episode implies rape on an adult, there’s a lot of domestic abuse, episode five in particular has some of the most graphic imagery in the entire franchise showing kids’ bodies after a car crash when they were sitting on the outside of the doors, the bodies of three drowned kids, a murder via a stick to the head, a child and her mother slowly burning alive and a bunch of people getting burned to death. 14+


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Animating Halloween | Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight Episodes 7-12 Review (Finale)

Plot: We “REMINISCE” on past Hell Girl stories.

Breakdown: So, what big sin did episodes seven through twelve of Fourth Twilight commit that is such a big stain on this season?

Well, the short answer is that they’re not new episodes at all. Each episode begins with a short intro from the Hell Team, and they’re not even animated. They’re little live-action paper cutouts made into stick puppets that have some banter at a bar they seem to now own called Pub Bones before kinda leading into the story of the episode. The story in question is entirely lifted from some random previous episode. And when I say “entirely lifted” I mean they literally just took the footage from those episodes, stapled the OP and ED from Fourth Twilight along with these short intros onto them and called it a day.

Granted, they are fully admitting that these aren’t new stories. Even before the season premiered, they admitted that only six of the episodes would be new – but the fact that they’re not separating them from Fourth Twilight or even making some sort of themed clip show or something is just lazy. What is even the point of this? They’re not making any meaningful commentary on the events of the episodes, nor do we even bookend the story fully by returning to the Hell Team once the story is over.

Why did they do this? I have no idea of the real reason, but I do have one theory.

I truly think they didn’t want to do a season four at all, but circumstances, either money or fan response to season three’s ending, forced someone’s hand. They decided they had to make a season four to actually end Ai’s story and make a new Hell Girl, but they also didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it.

So they decided they would order a twelve episode season instead of the normal 26 that the franchise has had in the past, but didn’t receive nearly enough money to properly write and animate a good twelve episode season. The crew decided to cut the season in half themselves, only make enough stories for six episodes, and use old episodes to fill the rest of the order. As long as the episodes had at least something new (the intros) and the new OP and ED plastered on them, they could get away with it.

I have no way of knowing if that’s really what happened – there isn’t a whole lot of information online about season four as it is – but that’s what makes the most sense to me, especially considering how the series’ budget seems to have been running out in episode six and how the intros for episode seven onward aren’t animated at all.

Don’t get me wrong, though. These little paper puppet intros are really cute and well done. I would have watched six episodes animated like this, to be honest.

I’m not really upset that the rest of this season exists like this, especially if my theory is correct. The episodes they did give us were some of the best the franchise has offered, and you can easily just skip these episodes and pretend they don’t exist outside of their respective seasons. I definitely would have wanted more stories and a much better buildup to Michiru taking over as Hell Girl, but if executive meddling or budgetary constraints were the reasons behind this then I can’t be too upset.

That being said, even if my theory is correct, that doesn’t really make up for the fact that the final episode is just not good as an ending. I almost feel like maybe that had been a case of them taking an episodic story that would have been episode five and reworking it to be episode six because they realized they needed Michiru’s backstory, which would have been the mid-season finale, to be episode five after they decided to only really have six episodes. Low budget, again, if that’s even what happened, does not account for poor writing. I would have settled for scrapping the case altogether if we got a more fulfilling main story conclusion to close out the franchise.

While the anthology episode was perfectly fine, it wasn’t good enough to warrant me believing that it would cause Michiru to turn on her head about her moral quandary about whether Hell Girl is good or necessary at all, let alone becoming Hell Girl herself. I’m still not even of the mind that anyone needs to “accept” this job. It’s the Master of Hell calling you to do this. It’s your damn punishment. You don’t get to decide whether you’re punished or not. Ai certainly didn’t.

I don’t understand why these writers have such difficulty understanding that. Remembering that important fact about Hell Girl as a role is why seasons one and two work so well. Ai was finally allowed to move on because she had served her penance and come to terms with what she did. She finally let go of her own grudges, sought to stop the cycle of vengeance and died to save Takuma, who was in a very similar situation to her own.

Season three completely forgot this by choosing someone who hadn’t even committed a sin to do the job and spending an inordinate amount of time trying to convince her to do it, even when it was a massively bad idea to put her in that role.

Season four remembered the sin part but doesn’t seem to understand that most people don’t willingly accept punishments. If Michiru willingly chose to do this job because she thinks it’s making people happy, isn’t that kinda the opposite of a punishment? Her story went in reverse. She should have started maybe liking Hell Girl and being kinda like Tsugumi was at a point – basically cheering on Hell Girl for what she’s doing – but then later realize how much suffering it causes, which would be the hell she’d have to live for however many years as she serves her penance.

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What frustrates me most of all about Michiru’s story in hindsight is that she never seems to take responsibility for what she did or even acknowledges that she did it. She never brings it up again after Ai shows her that flashback in episode five. The fact that she burned dozens of people alive in an act of vengeance doesn’t appear to affect her views on vengeance at all, but some random story of a woman getting revenge for her father who was beaten into a coma makes her pull a 180.

I still don’t understand why they didn’t let Ai pass on to heaven. Would that not be the most satisfactory way to end her story? Why is she hanging out in the living world now? Is it just like…a purgatory thing? She doesn’t get to pass on at all? I had one requirement to give a big pass to the way this season ended – let Ai finally rest in peace – and they couldn’t even do that much. Again, I’m happy she gets to spend her days with her friends, but she deserves to finally have peace.

As for the past episodes they chose for the remaining six episodes:

Episode “seven” is episode three of season one, The Tarnished Mound.

Episode “eight” is episode six of season one, Early Afternoon Window.

Episode “nine” is episode twelve of season one, Spilled Bits.

Episode “ten” is episode twelve of season two, Black Rut.

Episode “eleven” is episode two of season three, A Bird in a Cage.

Finally, episode “twelve” is episode nine of season three, Stray Inari.

All of these episodes range from alright to pretty good, so I don’t have much to say about their episode choices. There’s not even much to talk about in regards to the intros. They only barely connect back to the episodes in question, even if they are pretty funny.

Take episode eight for instance. Kikuri tells Hone Onna to keep a bad thing she did a secret, and Hone Onna honors her promise to keep it. Ren’s then like “Didn’t we have a case where trouble started because of someone keeping secrets?” and we get Early Afternoon Window where a woman keeps another woman’s affair a secret. Most cases involve keeping secrets to some degree. It was such a flimsy segue.

In episode nine, Kikuri locks herself in a cabinet to be a brat after Hone Onna scolded her, and this reminded Hone Onna of a case where a girl with depression basically becomes a shut-in.

They don’t even try in episode ten. They have completely unrelated banter before Wanyuudou sees a toy truck, which reminds him of the episode in which a man refuses to allow his house to be torn down for the sake of widening a dangerous mountain road.

Something interesting I did hear in that intro was Kikuri saying she’d have Ai send Hone Onna to hell, which implies she’s still Hell Girl. However, I don’t know how canon these intros are or if Kikuri’s just forgetting that Ai isn’t Hell Girl anymore. Yamawaro isn’t around in these openings, which leads me to believe they are indeed canon since he left to join Michiru. They even acknowledge that he left in the intro to episode eleven in which Kikuri orders ramen because the delivery boy looks exactly like Yamawaro.

If Ai really was still Hell Girl, they wouldn’t be spending all of their time at a bar that they seem to have purchased. They’d be out on cases. However, I do have to ask where Ai even is during these episodes. She never once makes an appearance. I guess it makes sense that Michiru never appears again, same for Yamawaro, because they’re off on cases, but where is Ai? What is she doing while her friends are spending all of their time at the bar? It’s weird, but that actually makes me even more irritated at the ending. She finally has a chance to just sit back and be herself, socializing with her friends casually instead of them being her assistants, and she just never comes by. If her solace in retiring from Hell Girl is really that she gets to spend her time with her makeshift family, why isn’t she spending time with them?

Episode twelve doesn’t include any special ending, by the way. Not even like a stillscreen or something or a special note added to the intro. It’s just the same as the other Reminiscence episodes.

It should be noted that in the DVD and Blu-Ray release of this season, the final six episodes aren’t included, basically meaning this season almost certainly is meant to be taken as a six episode season and nothing else. In addition, Anime-Planet and MAL say the series is only six episodes as well.

I will be writing a full season review soon, but for now it seems like our journey with Hell Girl is pretty much over. I still have a handful of manga volumes to post, but this is it for the anime version.

………However.

I am considering kinda breaking my own rules here and reviewing the live-action Hell Girl movie and the live-action TV series. They are available online, and they’re subbed. I may just reserve that as a special for next Halloween. We’ll have to see. Until then, thank you for following me throughout the several years it has taken me to review the entire franchise episode by episode. I have to find a new show to replace it, which will probably be Tokyo Mew Mew New, but I’m considering doing something else in addition to that. I’ll have to look around. Hopefully, it won’t take me eons to review like this franchise has taken me.

(Screencaps from episodes seven through twelve obtained from Fancaps.net)


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Animating Halloween | Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight Episode 6 – Twill Review

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Plot: Michiru vehemently refuses to become Hell Girl, but the Master of Hell looms overhead and won’t let her escape her fate. He shows her one more case to get her to accept her punishment. Will it work?

Breakdown: Okay, I concede. I totally get why people are pissed about this season going the way it did, at least to a certain degree. I’m not sitting here banging on my desk in anger or anything, mostly because I’m just tired at this point, but I’m not happy with how things turned out.

While I stand by what I said about the rest of the episodes being good and Michiru being the best written Hell Girl parallel/replacement, in regards to backstory, they didn’t handle this ending very well at all.

You could say they handled it terribly.

I thought that they would wrap things up quite nicely and then they’d do the spiel of episode seven onward, which may or may not hurt my overall view on the season, but I’d be able to overlook it if the conclusion was still really good. Sadly, it seems like they just kinda gave up at episode five.

This entire season has been very good to this point, so I felt comfortable getting my hopes up a little bit. I really have to stop doing that.

Being completely fair, this episode is fine. As a standalone episode, it’s about the same level of quality that the other episodes have provided so far. The problem is that I wasn’t lying in the last episode review. Despite this season having twelve episodes, this is the season and (animated) franchise finale. And it’s just another anthology episode with the Hell Girl replacement stuff scotch taped to the background.

Hell Girl finales are always dedicated to the overarching story, usually because the overarching story hasn’t been given a lot of focus over the course of the season. They typically have one episode or so to introduce the main character(s) of the season, you see them pop up here and there throughout the episodes, usually not affecting many plots, the mid-season finale will put some degree of focus on them and then the final couple of episodes are dedicated to wrapping up their story.

In Fourth Twilight, however, they were already given a disadvantage by cutting the episode order in half, and then they made it worse by only choosing to make half of those episodes, which meant they had to introduce a new character, show her throughout the episodes, tease aspects of her life, explore her backstory and make her agree to be Hell Girl all in six episodes while still having the anthology structure that the show always has, and that’s just not very workable.

To make matters worse, it’s obvious that the budget for this episode was the lowest of all the episodes in the season. It wasn’t god awful of anything, but I kept getting distracted by how bad the faces looked, especially from medium to long distances. They looked laughable. The secondary main character, Tatsuya, constantly looks like his face isn’t attached to his head, and most of the time the eyes are not aligned properly. The faces also frequently look like they’re not properly angled to the way the heads and bodies are angled. It’s very weird.

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What actually is this mess?

There are also some instances where it looks like the digital effects aren’t quite finished. For example, there was a company logo throughout the episode that looked overly bright and like there never any shading applied to it. One particularly notable scene had a van with this logo have the text be super bright, almost like it was glowing, when the shot showed the van from the back, but on another shot when the van is turning, it’s like the entire logo was suddenly in shadow.

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The CGI car that the main characters are driving later doesn’t feel like it’s finished, but that’s less noticeable.

However, the art and animation are the least of this episode’s concerns. What bums me out most of all is the fact that the overarching story part of the episode, as an ending to both the season and the franchise, is massively disappointing and poorly written.

After vehemently refusing to become Hell Girl this entire episode, Michiru just….decides to become Hell Girl….offscreen. She’s watching this case unfold and, for some reason, she suddenly appears as Hell Girl when the main character uses Hell Correspondence. And that’s it.

She never explains what she saw that made her change her mind. Even Ren points out that her decision doesn’t make any sense. The only line that so much as hints as to why she changed her mind is when Michiru noted that the main character, Yui, thanked Michiru for sending her target to hell, even if it meant she’d go to hell too, like she felt this was the vigilante-esque job they keep telling us Hell Girl is NOT.

What’s more is that Hell Girl is also meant to be entirely emotionless and not give out advice or influence decisions, and yet she seems to do that. While Michiru is expressionless, she still shows emotions and gives advice to Satoshi.

Oh yeah, in the credits, Satoshi, from the last episode, came back, asking Michiru to send him to hell because he hates the misery his parents are going through seemingly because of him. I don’t understand how he was even allowed to access Hell Correspondence. Are you seriously able to access Hell Correspondence if you wish vengeance on….yourself? I get that self-loathing is a thing – trust me, I know that all too well – but vengeance is a different beast. Also, he’s not really doing it because he hates himself. He’s doing it because he believes it will make his parents happier, which is another reason why he shouldn’t have even been able to access the website.

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The fact that Michiru told him that he wasn’t allowed to send himself to hell kinda drives this point home. If he’s not allowed, how’d he even access the website or get a one-on-one with Michiru anyway? The only reason I can think of for this is Michiru wanted to talk to him to give him advice on staying alive and smiling for the sake of making others, especially his parents, happy. But that would be showing emotion and giving advice, which she’s not supposed to be allowed to do.

Now, I did say that I didn’t care too much how Michiru’s story ended because I just wanted Ai to pass on to heaven. I would think that would be her destination after the Master of Hell found it suitable to find a replacement for her.

But she never passes on after she hands the reins to Michiru. Ai stays in the living world with the Hell Team, whom I guess I should mention at this point are officially called The Four Straws, but I thought that sounded silly, so I started calling them The Hell Team.

The Hell Team and Ai all seem retired from the role, except for Yamawaro, who has grown attached to Michiru in the short time she’s been around and chose to remain as her sole assistant after Ai retired. So Ai just…..hangs around on earth….forever? I guess it’s a tiny bit nice because she gets to spend eternity with her friends and doesn’t have to do Hell Girl stuff anymore, but it’s not really a satisfying ending to her character or the franchise as a whole.

What makes this situation even more frustrating is that they act as if Ai doesn’t know that heaven exists. When Michiru points out that Yui won’t be able to go to heaven, Ai acts as if she’s never even heard that word before. Except Michiru clearly knows that heaven exists, and also, uhm, Ai, you have to know about heaven. It’s been part of your Hell Girl speech for hundreds of years. “You will never know the joys of heaven.”

Wanyuudou later says “Heaven, eh? Easy to say.” I can’t decipher what he means by that. Is he implying that Ai still has more to work to do to get into heaven? Is it impossible for her to get into heaven? I don’t get it.

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Her face is opposite to her head…..

Some commenters seemed to believe there is just another Hell Girl now – that Michiru wasn’t Ai’s replacement, but all of the sources I’ve been able to find confirm that Michiru is her replacement not another Hell Girl. You’d think if there were other Hell Girls in the world, we would have been made aware of them by now. Also, if there were other Hell Girls, Ai wouldn’t have been needed to recruit Yuzuki in the previous season. She’d just get the role the same way that Ai did.

Michiru actually makes for a refreshing Hell Girl. Her character design works quite well, and I love that she has a deep green kimono with roses on it, countering Ai’s flower motif of lilies. I just kinda think her stark green eyes should have been kept instead of giving her red eyes, even if that is a trademark.

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I feel I should maybe take back what I said in the previous episode about how Michiru’s story is better overall than the previous three protagonists. I took points off of Takuma’s story because it was so ridiculously drawn out and overly miserable. I took points off of Tsugumi’s story because of how she was handled in later seasons. I took points off of Yuzuki’s story because it was Yuzuki’s story. So I feel it only fair to knock Michiru’s story down quite a bit for this ending.

While I do believe her backstory is definitely the best and certainly makes her a better candidate for a new Hell Girl than Yuzuki, I can’t pretend like her overall story isn’t negatively impacted by all this. I’m going to swallow my pride here and say even Yuzuki gave more of a fight when it came to being coerced into becoming Hell Girl than Michiru did. She resisted for many episodes, and it took her remembering her own ridiculously tragic backstory for her to agree.

After Michiru remembered her tragic backstory, she didn’t agree to be Hell Girl, even after remembering that she had enough anger and hatred within her to slaughter her entire village in a massive fire. Michiru wasn’t even involved in this case, and it didn’t have any parallels to her own story. When Yuzuki’s story closed out, it was with a case involving her best friend’s family and the woman who sent her best friend to hell.

I still don’t understand what was so special about this case to change her mind. It definitely wasn’t what Yui said because she said that to her after she had already agreed. She’s seen several instances of a person getting justice through vengeance via Hell Correspondence. Why did this particular case, that honestly didn’t feel all that special, resonate with her so much that she changed her stance?

They should have just continued the case from the previous episode somehow instead of having Satoshi randomly pop up, say he wants to kill himself and then have Michiru send him off with a pep talk.

All of this combined, if I had to rank the protagonists’ complete stories and their roles throughout the series, I’d rank Takuma’s story first, Tsugumi a close second, Michiru a close third and Yuzuki a distant fourth. I really wish they had ended the series after season two. I wish that so much. It was such a good ending to the franchise. Ai got to pass on to heaven, the Hell Team got to be normal people but Hell Correspondence still existed. It was contained and great, but they had to ruin it….twice.

As for the case in this episode, it was alright. It was a tragic situation, there were multiple levels to it, it kinda made me feel bad for them. What I don’t like about the case is the ending. They both resolved to handle the situation without calling Hell Girl, and, honestly, it may have worked if they could combat the power of the target’s family, but Yui just decided to call Hell Girl anyway behind Tatsuya’s back and pull the string. This wouldn’t be too bad considering that he also used Hell Correspondence, so it’d be poetic that they’d both be bound for hell someday.

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However, that wasn’t the absolute end. She visits her father, who has been in a coma for five years, tells him that it’s finally done – she finally got rid of the man responsible for putting him in that condition….and then she pulls the plug on him and is arrested for it. I guess she wanted to end his suffering, but why did she do it in secret? If he’s really been on life support for five years, surely taking him off is an option that she’s legally allowed to make. She just has to tell people about it before she does it, right? I’ve never taken someone off life support before, nor do I know Japan’s laws on this, but I’d assume so.

Anyway, she’s taken away by the cops, seemingly heading for a life in prison, and Tatsuya is left holding an engagement ring in his hands as she’s carted off.

Our final hell torture was pretty good, but a bit sad because only Yamawaro was a participant.

Not an awful ending, but I also wish this had been handled a bit better.

*deep sigh*

I still have more things to discuss regarding this ending, but we have to talk about episode seven onward to truly close out the season. I did mention once upon a time what the problem was with these next episodes, referred to in the next episode previews as “The Reminiscence Episodes” but I think I’ll reserve that for one more review. Come with me everyone, as we close out Hell Girl in quite possibly the laziest and most lackluster manner possible.


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Animating Halloween | Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight Episode 5 – I Can Hear the Song of the Wind Review

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Plot: The mysterious girl in green, Michiru Sagae, finally remembers her past when she follows a young boy and his parents as they experience a very similar situation to her own demise. As history seems to repeat itself, Ai reveals the truth about Michiru’s past and her future.

Breakdown: Man……

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Fuck Three Vessels.

Why does Three Vessels get away with being rated more highly over Fourth Twilight when it has, and I’m being sincere here, the best Hell Girl replacement/parallel story in the entire franchise?

Yes, better than Takuma.

Yes, WAY better than……………Yuzuki. Sorry, I forgot her name again.

And, yeah, let’s go here.

Better than Tsugumi.

Is everyone really so salty about episode seven onward that they discount all of the good that the series is prior to that?

I’m getting ahead of myself.

This is Michiru’s backstory episode. It has a huge challenge to overcome. See, Michiru is set to be Ai’s next replacement. How and why is she getting a new replacement when the last season said she’d be in that role forever now?

Shut up. It doesn’t matter. As far as I’m concerned, season three didn’t happen and this is Ai’s actual chance to rest in peace.

But, as Yuzuki taught us, you can’t just replace Hell Girl. You need to have a compelling story. You need to have a sympathetic character who deserves to be in the role because Hell Girl is a punishment. It is a form of repentance for a massive sin you committed. It’s meant to teach the person in the role a lesson about revenge and forgiveness, even if it’s not the most effective method of doing that, if you ask me. Three Vessels forgot this and basically said “Oh something something revenge. Whatever. Got it.”

Today’s target is a young boy named Satoshi. A while ago, he and his parents took three other boys with them on a trip since they wouldn’t fit in the cars that the other parents owned. The three little shit stains in the shapes of children silently punch and bully Satoshi while they drive. However, they’re pretty much just keeping their shitty nature hidden from their parents because they act like insane assholes when they start driving away. They’re quite rude to Satoshi’s parents, refuse to wear seat belts, throw their juice cans at Satoshi’s dad and even climb out the window while they’re driving so they can sit on the doors.

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The fallen juice can gets stuck under the brake pedal, and they wind up crashing the car on a sharp turn when a big truck comes around the corner.

Something that’s kinda been bugging me about Hell Girl for quite a while is that they keep shying away from anything gory or showing anything above like a black eye or a bump on the head or a small cut. I kinda figured they’d just cut away to black after the car crashed because there’s no way there wouldn’t be any carnage with three boys who were sitting on the outside of the doors of a car as it crashed alongside a cliff.

But nope.

While it wasn’t the goriest scene I’ve witnessed, it was still quite a bit of carnage for this show, especially when the victims are children. Gotta say, I was quite surprised.

Satoshi and his parents lived through the crash because they were wearing their seat belts. This was an awful tragedy. The boys, despite being little assholes, didn’t deserve to die in such an awful manner.

One of the mothers of the boys who died blames Satoshi specifically. Her logic seems to be that it’s very unfair that he survived when her son died, and getting rid of him also hurts his parents, whom she deems as being directly responsible, so it’s basically three revenges for the price of one.

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As Michiru witnesses Satoshi’s story unfold before her, her memories start to return. In, I’m gonna say, given that this village just got electric lights, and considering the clothes they’re wearing……..the 1890s?……???, Michiru’s father had just convinced the landlord of the neighborhood to finally spring for electricity throughout the village. While the villagers are extremely happy, the landlord and his family are not. They hate that Michiru’s father seemingly pressured them into spending the money and that he’s taking all the glory for it while they still look bad for taking so long to make the upgrade.

The landlord’s son and his friends decide to get revenge on him and his family by forcing Michiru into a nearby pond. It’s not exactly clear if they intended on killing her or just tormenting her in the water, but they were pushing her pretty forcefully. She manages to escape from their clutches and run away, but the ground collapses into the water. All four kids are submerged, and Michiru manages to save herself by grabbing onto a tree root. The son of the landlord also manages to grab a tree root, but the other two boys frantically grab at his legs under the water, accidentally dragging him back in.

Michiru falls unconscious, but when she wakes up she finds the corpses of the three boys floating in the pond, which was another kinda graphic image I didn’t think they’d show.

At the funeral, the entire town is vilifying them, which surprised me. The town was singing Michiru’s father’s praises a while ago, and now a freak accident turns them all against them? They target Michiru specifically because they believe she straight up murdered them by rigging the ground to collapse, which, uh huh, sure okay. That makes a world of sense. No matter how they think it happened, they all blame Michiru, and her entire family is hated by the village as a result.

Later, one of the villagers kidnaps Michiru and locks her in a storehouse on the landlord’s property at the landlord’s wife’s request. She spends ten days suffering without food or water (even though she wouldn’t live without water for that long) and eventually decides to try and hang a wind chime from the window. I think anyway. I don’t think she could have escaped from that window since there was nothing to climb down onto, and it was like two stories up. Michiru was noted earlier as loving wind chimes, and they act as a bit of a parallel to Ai’s motif of bells. (It’s also possible her insect motif is fireflies while Ai’s was butterflies.) However, she falls from the window before she’s able to hang it.

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At home, her parents are worried sick. The police can’t find Michiru, and the villagers don’t care to look for her. Her mother in particular is literally worried sick as she stays in bed believing there’s no hope that Michiru is still alive. Until, that is, the wind chime at their house falls and breaks. When they go to investigate, they hear the sounds of a wind chime in the distance. The sounds lead them to the storehouse where they see the wind chime up in the window. I have no idea how that got up there. Michiru clearly fell before she had a chance to hang that thing. Unless she climbed back up, but I’d imagine she’d be pretty wounded after a fall like that. It’s even tied around a beam that’s on the exterior of the building. I can’t imagine she put that there.

Upon seeing the wind chime in the window, Michiru’s parents immediately believe she’s in there so they break the lock and retrieve her. However, before they’re able to leave and get her medical attention, the landlord and other villagers stop them at the door with cans of oil. They believe Michiru’s parents will call the police about what they did to Michiru, so they douse the place in oil with the intent of setting the place on fire and burning them all alive.

Michiru’s father tried to confront them only to be met with such a massive blow to the head with a wooden stick that he immediately died. Again, this was more gruesome than the show has been for quite a while. Not majorly graphic, but still showed more than I thought they would.

The landlord lights the place on fire and they wrap metal wire about the door latch to ensure that they can’t break the door open. Michiru and her mother are forced to accept their fate and wait to go to heaven together as the flames engulf them.

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Back in present time, Michiru says that she still doesn’t understand the situation with this boy and Hell Correspondence even with her memories intact. The boy has done nothing wrong, the other parents are evil in her eyes, and she views Hell Correspondence as nothing but a means of perpetuating misery.

Ai shows her that it’s not quite as black and white as that. She shows her the client crying at her son’s coffin with the straw doll in her hands. Ai explains that it’s not their job to determine what’s right, wrong, good or evil – it’s also not their job to interfere in what the clients decide – it’s entirely up to the people involved. Michiru starts to panic because she doesn’t want Satoshi to go to hell, but at the last minute the client throws the doll away, it disappears, and the client collapses in grief. She’s made the decision to not send Satoshi to hell.

After witnessing this, Ai returns Michiru to the flashback, showing her that her memories didn’t fully return quite yet. She didn’t remember what happened after the fire started. Ai shows her that, in their final moments, Michiru’s mother laid on top of her to protect her from the flames as much as possible, even if their deaths were certain. In what I really think is the most graphic scene there’s even been in Hell Girl, we actually see Michiru and her mother slowly burn up while still alive. As Michiru dies and is consumed by the flames, her vengeful spirit emerges from the storehouse as a massive wave of flames that burns up all of the villagers and the entire village with it.

As the fire burns behind them, Ai tells Michiru that she’s committed a terrible sin, and she must atone for it by becoming Hell Girl.

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Despite some aspects of this story being a bit hard to believe and confusing, like I still don’t understand how these little girls are getting demonic fire powers as they die in terrible circumstances, nor do I understand why Mr. Sagae was so hated by the landlord just for negotiating the installation of electric wiring to the point where his son felt it suitable to try and murder his daughter, nor do I understand why Michiru has such a green motif to her without anyone pointing out how weird that is (and, unlike Ai, whose eyes changed to red after she died, Michiru’s green hair and eyes were present before she died.) it’s definitely very captivating, and it does all come together to make Michiru a prime candidate to become Hell Girl.

Takuma’s story was good, probably the second best out of the four, but it was a bit too drawn out and ridiculously harsh to Takuma, who did nothing wrong. He was never a Hell Girl replacement candidate, but the parallels to Ai’s life were clearly made in order to give Ai’s story a conclusion that wound up being screwed over by the third season.

It blows Yuzuki’s story out of the water. I don’t even want to talk about that mess again, but they made Michiru likable, sympathetic, interesting and a viable replacement for Hell Girl in five episodes when they couldn’t do a damn thing with Yuzuki in 26 episodes.

Tsugumi’s story was quite interesting, and it’s definitely closer to Takuma’s in quality level than Yuzuki’s, I liked how she was a descendant of Sentarou (and a distant relative of Ai) got Hell Girl visions and was sympathetic to what Ai did as Hell Girl. She even kinda had reasons for becoming vengeful. However, I can’t help but take major points off for what Tsugumi’s story became over time. She was wasted more or less in season two. She was ultra wasted in season three before just bouncing when she figured she had failed, and she popped in during season four to do one thing to help people, and we never even get confirmation if it worked. And lest we forget how Hajime was treated.

Also, Ai had to lie to her about Hajime in order to make her vengeful enough to consider using Hell Correspondence on him, so that kinda makes her story a bit less engaging, in hindsight.

Michiru’s story, despite being short, was a stronger parallel to Ai’s. It was effective in making her sympathetic, it was heartbreaking on its own merits without basically beating you over the head with a “FEEL BAD” stick, and it provided a good reason as to why she needs to become Hell Girl.

The ending in particular hits you with the tragedy of the situation and Michiru’s desire for vengeance. Her mother was literally burning alive on top of her in a last-ditch effort to protect Michiru even a little. Michiru had to watch her mother die in her own final moments, after watching her father be murdered, while knowing the people responsible were right outside the door not giving a single fuck, if not taking glee in what they were doing, which is pretty akin to Ai’s feelings of betrayal being fueled by seeing Sentarou put dirt on top of her and her parents as they were being buried alive, even if he was being forced into it.

What’s more is that the case of the week is a strong parallel in itself. While we did focus more on Michiru, Satoshi’s situation is absolutely heartbreaking. He not only has to deal with those parents and possibly others treating him and his family like monsters, but he also clearly has a ton of survivor’s guilt that is only being compounded by statements from the other parents that he should have died instead of them and that he’s probably happy he survived. I was very relieved that the client didn’t pull the string, but, as we see, it’s still an awful situation all around. Those parents lost their sons, Satoshi’s family is forever fractured, and Satoshi himself will likely have to deal with terrible trauma for the rest of his life. Not pulling the string didn’t make the situation better or worse, even if it did spare Satoshi’s life and future.

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As Ai puts it, in many circumstances, what’s right or wrong depends on a person’s feelings. You can definitely make the argument that, no matter what, sending Satoshi to hell would be wrong and wouldn’t solve anything, and you’d be right, but the way the client is feeling right now makes her believe that’s not the truth. She views it as having some sort of semblance of justice, and I believe the only thing that stops her is the realization that it won’t bring her son back and won’t make her feel better. It would be a largely pointless gesture that would just cause more suffering.

However, after watching nearly the entire Hell Girl anime franchise, yes, emotion has a huge stake in this. While many cases are clear cut and dry ‘one is evil and the other is a victim’ all cases are fueled by emotion. They have to be by necessity. That’s literally how Hell Girl works. You need to have a strong feeling of vengeance against a specific person to even use the services. Many cases are just driven by what the client believes is right and wrong, even if these cases can, and frequently are, objectively slanted one way or another.

Hell Girl has too wide of a spectrum of cases to make any concrete claim about whether Hell Correspondence is good or bad. It stops evil people in their tracks before they do more bad things, saving lives. It rids certain horrible people from the world without ever letting them do another horrible thing, which protects the lives and happiness of others. But this is all based on how people choose to use the service.

‘Evil’ people can use it. The service can be abused. And, at the end of the day, everyone, clients and targets alike, are heading for hell. It’s just that the clients have more time to enjoy their lives before their trip down the river Styx. So even if you did save your life by the pull of a string, it’s basically wasted either way. It just saves you some suffering which will be paid back with interest in hell.

I suppose those third parties with no attachment to the contract would still be happy, but not all cases have innocent third parties being saved, and more often than not there are innocent third parties being hurt by the string pulls as well. It’s an incredibly gray area that’s filled with tons of questions of morality and philosophy.

The fact of the matter is that Michiru has to accept the way this system works, whether she likes it or not, and atone for her own sins in vengeance.

Being fair, I still don’t know how that particular aspect of Michiru’s story goes down, so I might still take points off from her story or character, but I’m feeling hopeful. I really just want Ai’s story to end peacefully and in a satisfactory manner while also sending off a fitting replacement, even if her time in the role is woefully short.

As in one episode.

As in next episode.

The series ends in the next episode.


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Animating Halloween | Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight Episode 4 – Bury Me Deep Review

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Plot: Sakura resides at the Lovely Hall retirement home where abuse by the staff is rampant. All of this abuse is orchestrated by the daughter of the head of the powerful Yanohara group who owns the facility, Saeko. Sakura sends a request into Hell Correspondence to send her to hell. However, she struggles with the decision to pull the string while befriending Wanyuudou. Meanwhile, a familiar face tries to help Sakura and the other residents of the Lovely Hall.

Breakdown: Well, talk about another really sad entry where the targets once again remind me of the first two seasons in that they’re just ridiculously evil sacks of moldy feces.

Elder abuse is some unforgivable shit, and these assholes are stone cold awful to these poor people.

There’s something particularly sad about an elderly person using Hell Girl’s services. They have so little of their life left, and unlike a younger person who can have decades of a reasonably happy existence before dealing with their impending trip to hell, elderly clients have to deal with that reality immediately.

Many residents of retirement homes have basically been thrown away by their families. The Hell Team even mentions that this is rumored to be the place where families send off their elderly family members to die. That sounds terrible, but it’s far from unrealistic. So many people wind up spending their, forgive the wording, twilight years all alone at some nursing home just trying to hang on to their dignity while hoping one of their family members will write or call.

The fact that Sakura feels she must use Hell Girl for not just her sake, but the sake of all of the other poor people who are being tormented by these employees and Saeko is heartbreaking to say the least. I loved that they had her and Wanyuudou bond for a bit before she pulled the string. They were absolutely adorable together, and it makes me sad that she couldn’t see him anymore after she pulled the string.

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It threw me for a bit of a loop that she had the forethought to bury her journal underneath the cherry tree, protecting it from being found by the staff. What a badass hero. This woman can barely walk, and the dexterity in her hands is particularly bad, but she sneaked out and pulled that off.

Pretty cut and dry story otherwise, barring one note.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back Tsugumi for the last time!

Yup, Tsugumi’s back…..for some reason. I guess they just wanted to toss her in one more time before the franchise ended? But what a weird sendoff. Tsugumi did actually do something in this episode, but they don’t bother showing the results of what she did.

Tsugumi is a caretaker at Lovely Hall, and she knows full well of the abuse going on in the retirement home. However, she can’t do anything about it because Saeko just covers everything up (and partakes in the abuse) and most of the other staff are all partaking in the abuse so they won’t help her. They all just get on her back about trying to speak up and help. Near the end of the episode, Sakura tells Tsugumi as they sit under a cherry tree that she knows there are bodies buried beneath the tree. Tsugumi puts an audio recorder in her wheelchair to record what Saeko and the others are saying as they harass her about the journal they found out she’s been keeping.

Well…..we never see her turn the recording over. We never see any bodies being exhumed from under the tree. We never see the other staff getting punished. For all we know, Tsugumi’s plan didn’t work.

Things supposedly did get better at Lovely Hall after Sakura sent Saeko to hell, but we don’t know if the place actually got better after that. Did the abusive employees get fired? Did a kinder and more responsible person from the Yanohara group take over? We don’t know.

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She didn’t really have any moments with any of the Hell Team. She brushed off Wanyuudou whenever she saw him, and she gave like a tiny smile when she saw Ai outside in the end. Also, yeah, she’s still getting Hell Girl visions.

They really handled her character like crap. Not nearly as bad as they handled Hajime, because at least they actually did SOME stuff with her instead of just booting her from existence offscreen, but….*lip smack* I guess this is goodbye, Tsugumi.

The hell torture this time around was pretty alright. The origami part was a little goofy, but not nearly as bad as the last episode with the balloon heads.

Two other things – Michiru appears in this episode but doesn’t really contribute anything. And, apparently, Kikuri is back to being a wind-up doll. How and why? I dunno. But who cares? We’re almost done here….


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Animating Halloween | Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight Episode 3 – Someday, Somebody Will…..Review

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Plot: A family worse than hell itself. Sadly, these families are more common than you might think. Akira and Arina are two young children who are trapped in such a family, and it seems like the only way to escape from their abusive family is with the help of Hell Girl.

Breakdown: Holy shit! Holy shit! What the actual hell!? Holy shit!

That was my real-time reaction to the ending of this episode, because WOW. This series still manages to sneak in some really messed up shit sometimes.

Let’s back up first. The plot of this episode really felt more reminiscent of the first two seasons. The people in this family are absolute monsters who are well beyond redemption just from their first scenes. The father, Kensuke, doesn’t care about any discourse or abuse going on in his household and cheats on his wife. The mother, Shiori, is very verbally abusive, violent and is also cheating on her husband. The older sister, Asuka, is an uncaring bitch who spends her time viciously bullying and beating up a kid at school. The grandma, Toshi, is a harpy whose first scene is of her yelling for Shiori to clean a room while Toshi’s currently making a massive mess in there. She criticizes everything, particularly anything involving Shiori and, during a fight at dinner, she stabbed Shiori in the hand with a fork and told her she’d make her life hell from this day forth. In response, Shiori promised Toshi would die. Then we have the cousin, Yoshinori, who I think is dating Asuka? But we’ll get to him a bit later.

The two lone innocent parties in this nightmare of a home are Akira, the middle child, and Arina, the youngest. After witnessing his mother send his grandmother to hell, Akira devises a plan. He brings in the wife of a man Shiori was sleeping with, a man who is in an unrequited love with a woman Kensuke was sleeping with, and the boy that Asuka has been bullying constantly, Mikami.

He offers a deal. If they all send Shiori, Kensuke and Asuka to hell with Hell Correspondence, they’ll offer up a split of their inheritance money, which is about 300 million yen (or a little over $2mil.) While all of them find the offer intriguing, they’re not all on board. The only one who agrees completely is the man because he seems so obsessed with his crush that he doesn’t care if he gets sent to hell when he dies. However, the woman refuses because she believes the price is too severe. She doesn’t hate Shiori enough to care, because she knows the kind of person Shiori is, and she won’t forgive her husband, but she doesn’t find it worth it to go to hell herself, no matter how much money they offer.

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Mikami doesn’t refuse nor agree, but he does ask why Akira isn’t doing this himself. Akira claims the reason isn’t because he’s afraid to go to hell, but the woman doesn’t believe him, and Akira doesn’t give a different reason.

At this point, the story is quite unique and intriguing. This actually isn’t the first episode where one character has tried to get another character to send someone to hell nor is it the first time some sort of Hell Link pact has been attempted. However, the fact that these two story elements are converging and added on top of such a severe situation, with child main characters no less, makes for a much more interesting plot.

Akira’s struggle with the concept of going to hell is also, surprisingly, refreshing because, despite many clients waiting to pull the string, we don’t see too many of them actually struggle with the idea of going to hell. If they do, they typically give the doll back immediately.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Akira is a child. I’d wager he’s probably like 13 years old. Fully understanding the weight of using Hell Girl’s services coupled with the severity of his situation must be absolute torture for him. It’s not right of him to pawn off the punishment onto other people, even if they do have their own vendettas, but it’s completely understandable that he’d be scared. I’m also not really angry that the woman and Mikami reacted the way that they did. If you’re going to attempt to enter into some sort of murder pact with other people for the sake of offing nearly your entire family, you have to accept adult responsibility, and, in hindsight, it IS a little selfish to ask three people to damn themselves to hell to get your own family killed.

In another vein, though, I definitely see more of this dilemma than meets the eye. You can only send one person to hell per client, and Akira, at this point, has three people he needs gone. Even if he did agree to get rid of one himself, it wouldn’t solve his problems.

Also, before anyone gets into this, the aspect of calling the cops was brought up briefly when that big fight was happening, but Kensuke just said that the police don’t interfere with domestic disputes and it was never brought up again.

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If Akira is okay with the idea of sending all of his family, barring his little sister, to hell, surely he’d be okay with running away. I’m really not blaming the victim here, I truly feel bad for their situation, I’m just confused on a logical/writing standpoint. Normally, the reason here would be that they’re too afraid of their parents coming after them, which is very understandable, but, later, both of their parents run off so it’d be the perfect opportunity to either call the cops, notify whatever they have for CPS in the Japan or just run away, but they don’t.

After his plan fails (since the woman refused, Shiori would still live, so the inheritance wouldn’t go to Akira to be split to the others) he just goes back home with Arina. That evening, Yoshinori arrives and proclaims that he’s going to be living with them from now on since he doesn’t like it at home anymore.

While Kensuke is okay with letting his nephew stay a while, he doesn’t agree with him staying forever, and he’s concerned about his brother being worried about Yoshinori. This pisses off Yoshinori immensely. He seemingly has an emotional break, crying and yelling that they don’t care about him. Then he beats the living hell out of Kensuke and knocks Shiori to the floor, demanding they apologize to him.

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After that, we get a short montage of life after that. Yoshinori torments Akira by dumping spaghetti on his head, Kensuke escapes his problems at home by sneaking off to have affairs, same as Shiori, Asuka continues to beat up Mikami every day with her friends, and Yoshinori attempts to sexually assault Arina. It was implied earlier that this has happened before because Arina was really scared around him and hated him, but now it’s become more explicit.

Upon witnessing this, Akira bites the bullet and contacts Hell Girl to send Yoshinori to hell, but he confesses to Ai that he’s uncertain about this decision. He asks her advice, but she cannot give any and tells him that the decision is purely his. She leaves without giving him a doll.

The next day, Kensuke leaves the house because he can’t stand living with Yoshinori anymore. He claims he’s going to live with his brother since he has a free room now, but he was a little too chipper when he left, so I feel like it’s safe to assume he’ll be shacking up with his lover. Shiori claims he’s running away from his problems, but she decides to be a hypocrite and immediately also leaves the house to wherever, I assume her lover’s house. Now there are no adults in the home at all, and Yoshinori is free to do whatever he wants to Akira and Arina.

One night, the mere mention from Akira that Asuka is not home for dinner enrages Yoshinori because he believes he’s insinuating that there’s something suspicious about Asuka’s absence and is mocking him. He hits him to the ground, hogties him with what I think is a jump rope and then chases after Arina, clearly intent on trying to assault her again.

Now, at this point, I thought I was all savvy on Hell Girl and knew enough to figure that Arina had probably used Hell Correspondence behind Akira’s back and had a doll in her room ready to send Yoshinori to hell. She manages to hide in the bathroom, but Yoshinori is so enraged that he just starts smashing the door over and over yelling that if she just lets him do what he wants it’ll be over soon, clearly implying that he’s going to rape her.

As Akira yells from downstairs, we cut to black.

The next morning, Akira somehow frees himself from the rope, Yoshinori is gone, and Akira goes upstairs to check on Arina. Through a hole in the door, he sees Arina on the floor of the bathroom. She’s in tears, the bathroom is in shambles, and she’s lost all of the light in her eyes. This implies that she did get raped, but it’s not entirely clear because the door was still closed and Arina was still fully clothed. I think it’s safe to assume she did because otherwise her state doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. She’d definitely be upset even if he never touched her, but the fact that she’s clearly fully emotionally broken now, and remains that way throughout the rest of the episode, heavily implies that she either let him in the bathroom to make him stop or he somehow opened the door and she or he shut it after the assault.

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Devastated that he couldn’t stop all of this before his sister got hurt, Akira resolves to finally call Hell Girl for real on Yoshinori. He sits on the riverbank with the doll waiting to pull the string when Mikami shows up. Akira confesses that he was right – he was scared to go to hell. Mikami reveals his own doll and confesses that, after the meeting, he did call Hell Girl on Asuka, but he also couldn’t pull the string. After a long while of contemplation, however, he came to the conclusion that, if something isn’t done about these people, they’ll just continue to torment them or others. He also realized that knowing he’ll be sent to hell when he dies is a bit of comfort because it means no one he’ll confront in the future will be able to scare him.

After their conversation, Akira and Mikami both pull the strings, sending Yoshinori and Asuka to hell.

The hell torture this time around is pretty decent, but has one big flaw. They’re both tied up extremely tight from head to toe in the same jump rope-like rope that Yoshinori used to tie up Akira, and the very limited and janky animation used when they’re in the background is quite off-putting and effective. Definite live-action J-horror inspiration there…..and then they ruin it by having their heads inflate to cartoonish levels and pop like balloons.

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“Now Twix,” someone says through their computer monitor, “This ending was messed up, but I don’t think it warranted the reaction you gave at the start of this review.”

Well, vague representation of someone who is maybe reading this, what if I told you this episode wasn’t over yet?

“Well, I guess I’d still wonder what could possibly happen after the string pull that would be so shocking.”

Well, what if I told you that Akira and Mikami become Dexter?

“Well, I guess I’d—wait what?…..Like the serial killer, Dexter?”

Yup. Akira and Mikami team up to become serial killer vigilantes in order to protect innocent people from the awful beings in the world. They set up shop in the little abandoned cabin by the river that they first met in, and they reveal that one of the girls who was beating up Mikami has been kidnapped by them and is tied up on the floor. The last we see of them, the girl is flailing and crying while Mikami and Akira stand over her with a hacksaw and a huge butcher knife, saying, as long as her body’s not discovered, they’ll never be suspected of murder.

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As we see Arina back home, still in her emotionally broken state, Akira proclaims that he’ll continue doing this as long as it saves even one girl like her.

Holy.

Shit.

Rarely has an episode of this show knocked me on my ass as much as this one did, but wow.

What a massively dark episode. There was absolutely nothing positive for anyone here. Which, I suppose, was the point. Michiru’s one contribution to this episode was to ask for how long they’ll continue to do this – I think their Dexter situation seemingly acting as a parallel to Hell Correspondence.

Oh, and for anyone wondering, Shiori and Kensuke didn’t get comeuppance at all. Narration near the end explains that they never returned home, even with Yoshinori gone, and they’re shown living it up with their lovers while all of this is happening. I would think that if Mikami and Akira’s first targets are going to be people who have personally wronged them that they might find them and kill them someday, but that’s assuming that they don’t get caught, which I’m not too sure of. They’re just teenagers, and they’re murdering people underneath a very public and seemingly well-maintained walkway right next to the river. Maybe they’re assuming that, by cutting up the bodies and putting them in the river, that they’ll never get caught, but come on, boys. If your plan is what I think it is, there’s no way that you won’t be suspected of murder. Both Akira’s whole family and all of the kids that bullied Mikami are on their kill list. I would be shocked if they got away with this for much longer.

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Outside of the janky art and animation this episode, this certainly was a captivating story. Even if they did briefly go back to their pure evil antagonist structure for a bit, they didn’t go overboard with it. These people are horrible, awful, detestable creatures, but, sadly, I can’t say that I would be surprised if this family existed in real life. It’s one of those situations where I can actually cite worse families I’ve heard of before….

This episode does make you think about Hell Correspondence, but maybe not in the way the writers intended. Hell Correspondence neither helped nor hurt here. No one was really saved by Hell Girl in this instance, and, given the ending, the boys could have just chosen to murder Yoshinori and Asuka instead of sending them to hell. The ultimate message, as I alluded to before, is how long can this be kept up, and, more to the point, is it worth it?

Mikami and Akira both assert that what they’re doing is for the sake of innocent people. The ones they’re targeting are people who have clearly shown they’re beyond redemption and, if left alone, they’ll just torment other people.

Hell Girl, as she has declared several times, is not a vigilante, no matter how she’s viewed or used. Her job is just her job. As long as someone has a valid vendetta and pulls the string, she sends anyone to hell.

If the main question, for this episode anyway, is really how long they’ll continue to do this, then that’s not a question that can be mirrored with Ai and her crew. She doesn’t control how long she does this job, and, if Three Vessels was any indication, she’s meant to do this job for eternity so it’s pointless to even ask her this.

Perhaps it’s just a question in general to hint to Ai and the others that they may have a chance to end Ai’s punishment soon? It’s unclear and confusing.

Overall, another really good and shocking episode, and I look forward to the next one.


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Animating Halloween | Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight – Episode 2: There’s Only You Review

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Plot: A comedy duo, Haru and Nanako, appear to have a pretty clear dynamic. Nanako is the genius writer and true star while Haru is the sidekick who tends to her every whim. Behind closed doors, it’s revealed that their dynamic is the exact opposite and they’re lying to the public. But why? And how do they wind up with a straw doll in their hands?

Breakdown: In episode two of the supposedly worst season of Hell Girl we have what I really think is one of the strongest stories of the franchise.

I don’t even want to spoil it that much because it’s pretty well-written, complex and really had me enthralled the whole way through. I was legitimately impressed.

The only real weak spot I’d say is that the ending kinda comes out of nowhere, and I think it would have been made a little stronger if the candle at the end went out instead of staying lit, but I don’t really have many complaints otherwise.

These characters are flawed and they’re abrasive, but they’re quite easy to sympathize with, and their entire situation is just heart-breaking. It’s not even really within their full control. It’s about anxiety, burnout, fear of the future, guilt and depression. At the end of the day, this wasn’t a case of vengeance. It was a case of ending persistent suffering. Comedy and tragedy do go hand in hand, after all.

That’s not to say that this episode broke the rules of Hell Correspondence, because they didn’t. As Ai points out, you can love someone but still have resentment in your heart. They each had a level of codependency and bitterness, but those were stains on their relationship, not the foundation. Not to play up these two as being some deep love. It’s more like a strong connection that they both needed in a time where they were both at their lowest. They each saw each other in the other and both admired and despised what they saw. But they also saw the other as being their opposite and much better, which only made them feel even worse. It’s a genuinely saddening downward spiral that’s only made sadder considering they were helping build each other up at first. They were reaching heights together they had never dreamed of alone, and yet they still both fell.

Onto the Michiru stuff, we learn that Michiru doesn’t seem to remember who she is and is also very confused by Hell Girl clients. That’s pretty much it.

Overall, really good episode. I honestly won’t care that much about episode seven onward if they continue with this level of quality. I know they probably won’t, but here’s hoping.


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Animating Halloween | Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight – Episode 1: Can’t Be Seen, Can’t Be Heard Review

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Plot: Mayama is relentlessly bullied in a group chat. She has no friends and lives a miserable life. A fellow loner named Yukawa befriends her and is seemingly the only other person in her class who doesn’t bully her. She finally has a friend….or so it seems.

Breakdown: What wonderful timing to break back into our final season of Hell Girl. Almost poetic that a show I kept returning to each Halloween season is getting its final anime review set on Halloween. I promise I didn’t plan this – it just worked out very well.

So…..Fourth Twilight….The last Hell Girl anime season. To say I was disappointed by season three is definitely an understatement, but what concerned me most of all was that, despite season three getting some good response for whatever reason, season four was considered awful by many more people. The main issue is something we’ll get to in about five more episodes, but for now let’s try to be nice. Let’s be hopeful.

This might actually be okay.

This might actually be better than most people give it credit for.

This might start off with an endless barrage of people in a group chat calling the protagonist “gasball” and making fun of her farting and getting gassy after eating potatoes……

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*sigh* It’s gonna be a long frickin’ 12 episodes. Or seven episodes.

Okay, let me back up.

Mayama is being bullied in a group chat populated by her classmates that she keeps reading all day every day. They harp on practically nothing else but calling her a gasball and saying she smells of farts because she eats a lot of potatoes. The gasball thing is meant to be a double-whammy insult because it’s also calling her fat. They say she’s so filled with gas that she’s swelling up.

A few things – 1: She’s never seen or…uh…heard, farting. Never even like a flashback to a time when she farted and it was a big embarrassing moment or anything.

2: There’s never any indication that she smells even slightly bad.

3: She’s considered chubby? She doesn’t look any different from any other girl in this school.

4: She’s never shown once eating potatoes.

5: Is the title meant to be a play on the term “Silent but deadly”? Because I will burn this whole season to the ground if they made a fart pun out of the title of the first episode. Or any episode. I better just be imagining things, I swear to god.

I know that teenagers are just awful, and I know that making fun of people for things that aren’t true isn’t uncommon either, and I also know that cyberbullying is horrible, especially when you get locked in a habit of being unable to simply not read the messages, but this just seems silly. Constantly harping on her farting when it’s both untrue and juvenile would seem stupid to so many of these teenagers. Mayama both lost her father (it’s unclear if he abandoned the family or died) and is, for some reason, considered overweight – two things that most asshole kids would more likely jump on.

They later showed that this whole group started with things that actually were at least partially true about Mayama – namely that she’s too passive and apologizes too much, making her annoying.

Mayama is befriended by the flippant fellow loner, Yukawa, who spends most of her time on her phone listening to music and ignoring people. Yukawa wants to be her friend since they’re both loners. She even makes a group chat for them, and one other person named Yokota, since they’re all loners, which kinda defeats the meaning of being a loner, but whatever. It’s quite clear that Yukawa will betray Mayama at some point. It’s not even slightly subtle. She’s not likable at all. She’s uncaring and cold and acts as if ignoring each other while sitting in close proximity counts as friendship.

Earlier, Mayama had tried to contact Hell Girl to send someone to hell as revenge for her bullying, but both Ai and Kikuri knew that she didn’t truly know for certain who she wanted to send to hell. There were too many people for her to know. They decided to let her think about her final choice for a while and left her. Once Mayama befriended Yukawa, it seemed like she had an outlet for her feelings, she had a friend, she wasn’t focusing on the cyberbullying anymore, and it seemed like they may have actually lost a client….but of course it’s not that simple.

Mayama had become kinda beloved in the little three-person group chat because she was constantly telling Yukawa and Yokota about how she wants all of her classmates to die and also explained the manners in which she wanted them to die.

One day at school, her classmates all start acting very scared of her. Mayama gets to her desk and sees an open laptop with the three-person group chat up and her awful messages on display. Now everyone is both still cyberbullying her and is scared of her because of what they read in that chat.

Mayama doesn’t believe Yukawa would do such a thing, so she rushes off to another classroom to find Yokota. When she believes she’s found Yokota, she tells her who she is, but all she does is laugh in return. For some reason, this makes Yukawa believe that Yokota isn’t the one who put the laptop up and believes it has to be Yukawa.

Mayama calls on Hell Girl again, this time knowing for sure she wants to send Yukawa to hell. This time, Ai agrees and gives her the straw doll. She later meets with Yukawa in the park to get the full truth. Yukawa admits that she started the cyberbullying chat. One day, Yukawa bumped into Mayama, causing Mayama to drop her cell phone. She apologized, which pissed Yukawa off. She felt it was annoying and weak for a person to be bumped into, drop their own phone and then apologize to the person who bumped into them. She was so annoyed by this one interaction that she started a group chat to talk about how annoying Mayama is. She even started the “gasball” thing and the stuff about her farting after eating potatoes.

She admits all of that, but says that she felt bad about how far it went. She didn’t realize that people wouldn’t let up. She felt so bad about it that she befriended Mayama. However, she denies that she was the one who put the laptop on her desk. Mayama doesn’t believe her because she’s the only person who could have done it. Fed up with her lies, she pulls the string, sending Yukawa to hell.

While silly, the one highlight of this episode is the hell torture. Because, for a change, it’s actual torture. Sure, her having a giant cell phone for a head is silly, but the fact that they turned her organs into data and deleted them, literally, was horrifying.

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However, as per usual following up season three, things aren’t as clear cut as they seem. Once Yukawa has been sent to hell, Mayama basically turns into a clone of her. She just constantly listens to music on her phone and ignores everyone. She also doesn’t apologize to anyone when she bumps into them. But then, plot twist, she gets a message on the three-person group chat from Yokota, whom she believed was Yukawa pretending to be someone else on a spoof account. Turns out there were two Yokotas in the other classroom, and Mayama met the wrong one. Yokota was the one who put the laptop on Mayama’s desk, but why he did that is still a mystery.

This story isn’t that bad, to be honest. Some of the aspects about it are really stupid, and bullying being a motivation is something we’ve seen many times before, but it’s never not relevant in life so it’s fine. The plot twist at the end really did get me. I knew 100% that Yukawa would turn out to be a bad person, but I didn’t see the Yokota twist coming. That was a pretty good twist.

However, it’s not one of those twists where I’m like “Ooh nooo, she sent the wrong person to hell!” because Yukawa did start the bullying, and it was for a monumentally stupid reason. Just because it got out of hand and she decided to be her friend to make up for it doesn’t matter a whole lot, especially since she wasn’t even really a good friend. She ignored her most of the time in real life, was rude to Mayama’s mother and they basically just had a “Who else you want to die?” “This person!” “Oh who else you want to die!?” go around in the three-person group chat.

I don’t even know if I can say Yokota was more in the wrong because making fun of someone for farting is one thing – having a long stream of messages about how you want all of your classmates to die and explaining the manners in which you want them to die? That’s some psycho-ass behavior. Yokota wasn’t right for putting those messages up for display, and I still don’t understand why he did it, but Mayama also wasn’t right at all for saying those things.

You may be wondering what our main storyline of the entire series is going to be. That is also introduced a bit in this episode. A girl clad in green, and I mean entirely, like her eyes and hair are even green, whom we’ll later learn is named Michiru, appears to Ai and keeps telling her what she’s doing is wrong. Maybe the world doesn’t need a Hell Girl anymore.

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And that’s pretty much it for now.

Ai also has a spiffy new kimono, which is very pretty.

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Also, Kikuri’s not a wind-up doll anymore….somehow….for some reason…..yay?

The art and animation for this season are definitely a little different. I can’t really determine if I like it. What stands out most is the fact that the colors are a bit more saturated than they have been in the past, and the lineart is kinda off and on with looking crisp and looking very janky. I really hated the design of Mayama’s eyes. They’re shaped terribly and look too big.

The OP and ED are pretty good. They haven’t clicked with me as much as previous seasons, but maybe they’ll grow on me more.

I’m really hoping that the season will be okay in spite of what happens from episode seven onward. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, Fourth Twilight. Please deliver in some way.

Next episode….


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