Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae – Recap
So the subs for the last episode finally came out the other day. This pretty much wraps it up as far as Jigoku Shoujo goes; as far as I’m concerned, it’s time for Enma Ai to take her place in the annals of anime history and fade gently into the good night. The series has always had its ups and downs – after the first season there was a sharp decline in the quality of the various episode storylines. This wasn’t because Jigoku Shoujo was a victim of its own episode format; quite the contrary I think that there was potential to turn it into a sort of dark, evil parody of a slice of life show and I think that’s what attracted me to the series in the first place. They never really managed to capture that feel again. The storylines themselves became a little ridiculous too with people getting punished because someone they had wronged overreacted or were a little insane, and then there were the innocents who had nothing to do at all with the events that transpired. The main example of this was Akie in Mitsuganae. In fact in every season there was at least one person who got sent to hell for all the wrong reasons.
Were the writers trying to make a point in doing this as time went on? Were they trying to show that our hatred is often petty and meaningless in the grand scheme of things and it shouldn’t be enough that we are driven to sell our souls just so that we can be rid of whoever we bear a grudge against? Did they want to show that the Hell Correspondence is a completely amoral tool and that it can be used for evil as well as justice? Are evil and justice often determined by perspective? Did they just run out of ideas? It’s not my place to pass judgement on any one idea. I’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to decide whether the show truly went downhill or was just underappreciated because viewers expected them to continue in the same style for three seasons. My personal opinion is that it could have been done better, though I think I understand what they were trying to go for.
What I appreciated less was the deterioration in the actual punishment scenes as time went on. There was always a sense of poetic justice and a distinct satisfaction in seeing people get exactly what they deserved. Even at the beginning of Mitsuganae that teacher who was sent to hell for supposedly being cruel to his students got called out for giving students the wrong impression and not realising that their hearts are easily hurt. I won’t claim to understand Japanese culture but having grown up in an asian family I faced a similar pressure to constantly excel and get into a good school no matter the cost, and at that age the threat of being barred from graduation or something would probably have caused me to become desperate, especially if there was nothing else I could do. As the season went on the punishments seemed less and less befitting and in the end didn’t really make sense. It was as if the writers had just stopped trying. I suppose they managed to redeem themselves a bit halfway through the series when Ai separates from Yuzuki but at that point they had started working on the overarching plot once again and didn’t really have time for more of the awesome penalties we became accustomed to seeing inflicted upon those damned souls.
Speaking of Yuzuki, I don’t know what anyone else on the internet thinks of her but I started to care about her around halfway through when Akie was sent to hell and she started to question the whole purpose of the Hell Correspondence. She wasn’t without faults though, constantly brushing off Ai and insisting that it was a joke they were playing on her got a little old after awhile. However they managed to craft a story for her that was suitably and equally as tragic as Ai’s own past. It was really a bit sad in the end when she simply disappears without so much as an afterthought and no one would remember her. Not even Akie, when it seemed like she crawled back from the depths of hell to help her friend but was really just a puppet of the Lord of Hell, who finally makes a reappearance at the very end, although it’s never really explained what his ultimate motivations are. That and the significance of Tsugumi disappearing after killing that guy at the end were the two plot points I really wanted explained and the reason why I’m not wholly satisfied with the ending. Did she become one of Ai’s assistants in the end, or am I just imagining things and she wasn’t actually there?
I guess, in the end, I enjoyed the series. It’s not one I would watch again but I will always look back on Hell Girl fondly. Heck, I might even pick up the manga adaptation; judging from the first volume Miyuki Eto did a pretty good job.