“Would you like to see… what death looks like?” asks loli Hell Girl Enma Ai… Hmmm, maybe, if it’s as cute as she is…
Apparently in Japan, people are real asses. They’re such asses that there exists a Hell Correspondence website where people can curse others who have done them wrong. But to curse someone is to dig two graves; once you have your revenge, you’ll end up going to hell yourself when you die. Bummer, dude.
Hell Girl is like the Japanese Scooby Doo of anime/manga/live action etc. The general setup is that a character will be taken advantage of or bullied by someone. This can manifest in actual bullying, the stealing of cake recipes, sekuhara, etc. The victim feels powerless to seek revenge, but hears about the Hell Correspondence. After making a pact with Hell Girl, she and her buddies rough up and torture the bad guy/girl. The victim has been avenged and is happy, even though he/she is going to be eternally damned upon death.
So I have a problem with this on a few levels. First off, why not just murder the bad guy directly? I guess since we’re talking about a universe with a definite heaven and hell, the person would still end up going to hell for murder, maybe. But I’d imagine it’d be sweeter to get revenge firsthand.
Secondly, the perpetrator still sort of “gets away with it.” Since the person they’re tormenting goes to hell as well, if their original intent was to cause the target to suffer, they’ve definitely succeeded. For eternity. I guess it makes victory bittersweet when you’re just sorta stuck in hell for eternity, though.
I mean, can’t these people find their own way out? Calling Enma Ai is such a copout. Maybe I’m just thinking too logically here, but there must be some better way to seek revenge. I guess there wouldn’t really be a plot to speak of if everyone thought that way…
The parts where the bad guy gets his punishment are supposed to be delightfully horrific. But I thought they were a bit weak on paper. The evil veterinarian’s punishment was actually kind of funny. I think giant animals in lab coats just kind of evoke laughter from me.
Things also get really meta with the story about a girl who gets chosen to play Hell Girl in the Hell Girl live action drama! But then she gets attacked and becomes the Ex-Hell Girl. Then she has to get the real Hell Girl to seek revenge on the replacement Hell Girl! WHAT!?
The artwork for the manga itself is really nicely done. I like the occasional bold lines and SD transformations. Enma Ai looks really cute in the manga version. I always thought the anime version of her looked a little too plain. The manga version just seems cooler to me.
Moral issues aside, Hell Girl is entertaining for a little while. I definitely like the art, and the manga is a pretty fast read. I just think the stories get a little too predictable after the first one, and I can’t stop the nagging voice in my head that tells me that these characters are acting completely irrationally. One more thing: for a manga named “Hell Girl,” the titular character doesn’t get much face time at all. I guess they tried incorporating her into the various schools in the story, saying she was an exchange student. I think the manga could use an explanation chapter on who Enma Ai is, and why she does what she does. Maybe in Volume 2?