Jigoku Shoujo is the latest in a long and celebrated tradition of "horror/suspense" titles that don't really have either horror or suspense. The anime tend to go for sheer style over things like character development or logic and generally end with gruesome deaths tinged in irony. In the case of some of the shorter works, the formula tends to work: Vampire Princess Miyu, Pet Shop of Horrors, and even the more recent and slightly longer Requiem from the Darkness are all fairly worthwhile titles despite having basically zero character development or coherent storyline.
Unfortunately, this is where Jigoku Shoujo falls short: length. With so many episodes to fill, the show quickly dead-ends into the same exact formula. Just as a magic trick gets less impressive the more times you see it, Jigoku Shoujo's excellent premise is bound to lose appeal by the 17th iteration of the same basic episode.
People might think I'm exaggerating, but not only is the plot basically identical for each episode, there are in fact entire stretches of dialogue that only change by one or two words. Feeble efforts are occasionally made to mix the show up a little, but adding different-colored sprinkles to the same goddamn cup cake does not make a new experience.
This wouldn't be so frustrating if the first episode hadn't been so entertaining. The show's actual premise is delightfully creepy, a true example of a modern Japanese ghost story. If the creators had actually continued to come up with original ideas, the storyline could have really shaped up into something special. As is, we're left with a disappointing narrative some people might like but almost no one will love.
The show has a good stylistic feel to the entire thing, but falls short in a lot of areas when you compare it to other contemporary works. The designs of the one-episode characters all begin to blend together after a few episodes, and movement is generally choppy and minimal. There's a bunch of reused (albeit admittedly cool) animation from episode to episode, and the entire visual experience is tainted by an action scene at the end that looks like absolute ass.
OMG GOGOGOGOGO Noto Mamiko!!!!!!!1111!!!1
...at least, that's what I'd usually be saying, as I love her work in just about every anime I've heard her in. In this case, however, all the director has her do with her character (Enma Ai) is speak the same handful of lines over and over again in a sleep-inducing monotone. The experience is somewhat comparable to hearing a master musician play one note continuously over the course of two hours - a freaking waste of talent.
The rest of the voice acting is unmemorable either way, and the music does an ok job at setting the mood, but does suffer a little from overuse. I didn't particularly enjoy the OP, either.
In every episode, the anime focuses on a new set of characters, which translates to minimal development or depth. These characters generally fall into one of two archetypes: victim and villain. From there, it's a slow agonizing process of watching them sink into the dull abyss of inevitability. This works for a while, but after a few episodes the total lack of characterization makes caring for them extremely difficult.
There is a small set of recurring characters, but most of these are even less developed than the ones that go away at the end of every episode. Enma Ai, the title character, remains an emotionless enigma until the final few episodes, at which point her back-story feels decidedly underwhelming.
The sole beacons of light in an otherwise tedious cast are the "mortal" recurring characters, Shibata and his daughter. Their past actually ends up being somewhat touching, and is definitely the high point of Jigoku Shoujo's development. Unfortunately, this isn't enough to save the show.
The old cliché is that variety is the spice of life, and it certainly applies here, where literally every portion of the anime is reused somehow. Even though the show starts strongly, this becomes irrelevant when the writers refuse to expand on their initial ideas.
Imagine your favorite episode of your favorite TV series. Would the series have been half as good if every episode was merely a slight variation of your favorite one?
Well this is my first review so be lenient to me. >.<
At first when I watch the show my first impression is that it is quite interesting. (A girl from hell sending evil people to hell). In this world, there is this website call the "Jigoku Tsushin" where you can submit name of people that you want to send to hell and the hell girl(Enma Ai) would do it for you for a price of going to hell after you die.
The story is very slow pacing, having most episode showing you just a short story ( Like Detective Conan) that may not help in the main plot. However near the end of the anime they starting showing some background story of the character. Some scenes are just repetivtive.
When I starting watching the anime, I feel that the art was weird, some camera angle was werid too, but I start getting use to it after watching the anime for some time. The art was trying to be realistic (like Death Note) therefore it may looks different from most anime.
The sound was fitting to the anime.
Most character don't have backstory, most likely it is going to show on the second season or the third. At the near end of the anime there would be some background story of the main character (Enma Ai).
Overall I feel that this anime is a good time killer if you are free and don't mind the repetivitve scenes that the show have. This anime does not have much plot but I think the story premise is great.
Notice: This review covers all three seasons of the franchise, as they are practically the same show.
Hell Girl is a mostly episodic show that aims to attract you with some of the easiest tropes anime have invented in order to sell. Those would be young people suffering, while doing the whole thing as fast as possible and with no cathartic endings so there will be as much SHOCK EFFECT (people screaming in agony) as possible to awe you, while in the mean time leaving you to stare at some haunting moe leading-chick as an extra bonus. This is the most interesting aspect of the trilogy, and if you don’t like it don’t bother even watching a few episodes.
So basically each episode is about some youth or kid suffering for some reason or another, by bullies, uncaring relatives, assholes, jerks, and other affiliated types of unlikable characters. Then they will find this site on the internet where you can ask for the person you hate to be taken to hell, with the price being your own soul going to hell after you die.
Any reasonable viewer at this point will wonder what kind of an idiot would sell his soul to the devil just to get a pitiful revenge on some random asshole. The answer is simple. NOBODY! But since the stories are short and the bad guys are presented as the incarnations of Satan himself, you are made to think that it is indeed worthy to waste these suckers, even if it costs your eternal soul. You don’t have time to think an alternative solution; the worst things happen one after another so fast and so hard that in just 15 minutes you scream KILL THAT BASTARD, YOUR SOUL IS LESS IMPORTANT THAN TAKING REVENGE!
Of course as soon as that happens, the show then tries to make you rethink what you just did. Was it worth it? Really, was it? You just killed someone, and condemned his soul eternally to the pits of hell, and you will join him when you die, and until that happens you need to live with the guilt, and the dreaded knowledge of where you will go when you kick the bucket.
And that is pretty much the concept of the whole franchise. It remains as such for most of the episodes, so it is reasonable to say the shock factor will start to get dull from a point on. It’s expected after a point on for the show not to be creepy anymore, as the mystery starts to be revealed and the repeating formula doesn’t work as it did at first. And as expected with any franchise that tries to outlive itself, eventually all the main characters become silly caricatures with less depth and far more fan service in a cheap attempt to keep you interested past the point they have nothing else to show in terms of personality.
It is true that some cases play around the premise, like NOT condemning a person or falling in for your own trap. The focus also changes as the seasons go by in pretty much the following way:
Season 1: Horror, episodic, no character development, waititng sadistically to see assholes being sent to hell.
Season 2: Mystery/detective, semi-episodic, the recurring characters expose their backdrop stories.
Season 3: Slapstick humor and moe-moe, silly cases without much importance, gets a rather big arc towards the end.
But aside from the aesthetic differences, nothing changes in the basic formula and it is always about condemning people to hell.
So what else is there in this show besides this SHOCK FACTOR (people running around in panic) that will eventually grow stale and become boring and just another generic softporn? Well there is also Ai and her assistants. She is an eternal loli responsible for taking all the victims to hell and pose all mysterious and charismatic with her unknown past. The second hook of the show is just waiting to see what is going on with her, what is her story and why does she do all that. And boy will you wait a lot for it. The first season is offering very little about her, while the second pretty much reveals everything in a the last episodes but doesn’t result to the whole revenge thing stopping. It goes on in the third season which by now has lost its mystery, and the SHOCK FACTOR (people jumping off rooftops in their despair) doesn’t work anymore. It is also cheerier and has more fan service so it clearly shows how it outlived its prime and just desperately tries to get a hold of you with retarded ecchi jokes.
Anyways, the story part of the franchise is piss poor and one should not try to watch it if he wants a great scenario with unexpected plot twists and complicating intertwining subplots. It’s just a Revenge of the Week show with different people every time as protagonists. As for the characters themselves, just like any other show heavily based on SHOCK FACTOR (people chewing their own hands while eye rolling) they are easily forgotten or overshadowed by the tragedy of the events they experience, so they are all nothing but plot devises rather than a likable cast you will care to cheer or boo. Also, you will never see again most of them getting involved in a later case, so it becomes even easier to forget them. And even if you try to like them for those few scenes they are part of, they are still quite stupid to be honest; like in most thriller shows they do some really stupid things just for the sake of the drama/tragedy to work in the worst way imaginable.
The thing that eventually most will remember is the trippy visual effects; the whole show is filled with cinematics that boost three times the tragedy of each situation. It helps not to get bored right away with it, despite realizing its formulaic structure early on. It is still a show made by studio DEEN though, so chances are you will dislike it just for that. Despite being one of their better titles, it still looks amateurish in many parts and still bases its appeal on cute young and eventually sexualized people. And as usual, they are too lazy to draw faces properly or have fluent animation. They do increase the budget in each season but in overall, this is their standard treatment of “Hurr durr, too bored to draw but it has shocking stuff, cute people, and creepy colours all over the place, so nobody will notice.”
Hell Girl would be a great anime IF it had far more plot, and far less episodes. It was like a good punch line you heard so many times that it stopped being funny no matter how much they tried to flavour it. It is not a show I recommend, aside from a few episodes just to get the basic idea. Beyond that, I enjoyed far more other similar shows such as Hundred Stories or Mononoke. They lasted far less and had a lot more memorable cases and interesting characters.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: Improves with each season by one point.
Season 1: 6/10, Season 2: 7/10, Season 3: 8/10
SOUND SECTION: Has small variations to the soundtrack in each season but in overall the quality remains equally high. (8/10)
STORY SECTION: Has a different feeling in each season (horror, mystery, humour) but in overall it is mostly episodic and formulaic, with a finale that makes things a bit more interesting. (4/10)
CHARACTER SECTION: Most are just appearing in one episode, the recurring ones are only Ai and her team. Each season has a different feel about them, with the second being in overall the best.
Season 1: 6/10 (tragic but not developed), Season 2: 8/10 (serious and developed), Season 3: 4/10 (erotic, moe-moe, stupid)
VALUE SECTION: A very famous franchise as a whole but I can’t find much replay value in it, since most cases are too formulaic and eventually predictable. (6/10)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: Too bent on shock factor and has very little plot. Otherwise, it has its silly charm.
Season 1: 4/10, Season 2: 4/10, Season 3: 2/10
Season 1: 5.5/10, Season 2: 6/10, Season 3: 5/10
This anime has a special place in my heart, and I will tell you why, becuase this happens to be a review :)
This anime is about hell, and going to hell. It is about hating, and being hated. Its is also about cursing and being cursed in return. Why is this so important? Because it all relates to life. People think hell is a place where you burn for your sins, and that is what it is, but life is the thing that makes it all happen. Without life, there is no answer to the question of hell, and people continue to misunderstand the concept.
To some people, this anime is scary, pointless, and just encourages people to take vengeance themselves, but I see the deeper meaning. The people sent to hell by the website, "the hell corrrespondence", have learned nothing, and the person sending his hated one to hell has learned nothing, and it is visible. They complain that the price of hell is too much for revenge, but it teaches a valuable lesson, even though it may be very complicated at times, and I love that aspect about this anime. I am a Muslim, but every religion has the same concept of hell, if not a tiny bit different.
Curse someone and two graves are dug......I just realised what it meant, and I am glad it didn't take as long as one would imagine it would take to figure it out.
But enough about the concept, what do I think of these characters?
Enma Ai is a girl who is in charge of ferrying these cursed people to hell, while atoning for her sins.
When she was little, she had been accused of being "the devils child", and was heavily misunderstood, so the village people decided to kill her and her parents, and what really got her blood boiling was the fact that her childhood friend betrayed her but giving into peer pressure and being the first to bury her alive. She later broke out of her grave and burned the village to the ground. This, of course, causes the dude in charge of hell to treaten her by either making her become hell girl, or letting the souls of her loved ones suffer for all eternity. She is then forced to close her heart, so her emotions don't get in the way. Even though she seems somewhat antagonistic, I love this character the most. It makes me feel bad to see her ferry the people to hell, and you gotta admit, shes adorable.
Hajime Shibata, an investigator of the "hell correspondence", was a descendant of Ai childhood friend. Ai seems to have some connection with his daughter, Tsugumi. When Ai finds out who she is, she tries to get her to send her father to hell, but doesn't later on. Hajime is not the brightest person, having lost his wife years earlier, during a fight in which she admitted cheating on him, and he told her to go away in the rain, which caused a car crash. The problem is........I dont see how it related to Ai's case, because it wasn't really vengeance, but maybe I need more time to figure that out..........hehe :p
I really like how this anime doesn't just show them being ferried, but it also includes a hell-like punishment, in hopes of making the sinner repent, but whether that happens or not, that person will still go( sad huh?)
I just can't stand how there are not loopholes for a person who did not do anything wrong to go...by blind vengence.
I really love this anime
"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves" - Confucius.
Jigoku Shoujo tries its hand at philosophy, psychology, and horror. The premise is simplistic and childish, but then again people go nuts about Death Note, so what the hell do I know. There is depth to people wanting revenge so badly that they are willing to give their soul to achieve it, and in this show we are repeatedly exposed to such circumstances. You will absolutely loathe some of the characters, feel sorry for others, but most of all get bored of how repetitive things get.
There is a set formula, where someone gets pushed to the brink, asks for supernatural vengeance, and then revenge happens. While highly stylized, and there is a purity of form to the repetition of it, it gets dull. Luckily, there is an actual story rather than endless recurring execution of the same thing. Unfortunately, the endless recurrences do happen, and boy does it get dull. Jigoku Shoujo cannot make up for it with the style points, though it does try.
This may come off as a tad harsh. Jigoku Shoujo isn't all that bad. The aesthetic of the story is interesting, and there are a few interesting characters. The point of the show is drilled into the viewer relentlessly. The obvious moral grey areas are shown. You get to view characters who are scum of the earth and how their victims reach the breaking point. There is a cohesive vision that connects the art and the plot.
What the main problem, and for Jigoku Shoujo this is a big point, is something left to ponder. The moment you give up on anything light and carefree, you make up for it either by action (very little and rather poorly done), romance (very little and rather poorly done), or something to think about (very little, and rather poorly done). The moral grey areas are shown, but there is no delving deeply into them. It is always resolved in the same way: being force fed the point through the characters. There is only one real exception to this, and it isn't explored at all. This is what makes the show unable to reach its potential.
Writing (Story and Characters):
While starting purely episodic, Jigoku Shoujo slowly adds an underlying arc leading to the last episodes. That arc is what made me tough it out to the end, and it is a hard thing to do. The heavily repetitive nature of the show makes it very hard to not get bored before that arc gets the center of the stage. That being said, there are a couple of characters that are decidedly interesting, and a few others that aren't bad. But the episodic format introduces far too many characters for the show to truly stand on that point alone, and the repetitive nature hampers the overall story.
Mediocre, that's as much as I can say about the plot. The concept is nice but the repetitive nature gets numbing. The recurring characters are interesting enough, but they don't get enough time in the center of stage before the middle point, so essentially it becomes (for the most part) a character driven show with replaceable characters. Still, I am sure that people who like monster-of-the-week type shows but fighting isn't their central interest will find it less of a problem than I did.
The characters are a problem to analyze in Jigoku Shoujo for the simple reason that the episodic format, always focusing on at least two new characters, gives an overabundance to truly care about. There are recurring characters that are overall rather interesting, and they do develop. Some of the villains manage to elicit plenty of hatred, but rarely do we get someone both abusive and understandable... which destroys the moral grey areas that could have made this show great.
So at the end, the writing is bravely stylized and crafted, it doesn't achieve what it could have. Just like Death Note (of which Jigoku Shoujo is a spiritual predecessor), in the end it fails to truly achieve depth. There are young people suffering, which is a big attraction to plenty of viewers, but there really isn't much of an added value to people looking for something else.
Art (Animation and Sound):
Some things age well, like the audio part of the artwork, and some age badly, like the animation. Overall, the artwork does fit the premise, but horror is a demanding subject to explore. There is artistic merit to plenty of the things here, but it cannot overcome the fact that the repetitive nature waters down the artistic point... though that is perhaps unfair to say, as it is perhaps the strongest theme of the show.
Some scenes are fantastic to view, there are some fascinating backgrounds, but overall many of the choices are too standard. The fact that there are so many characters makes very few truly distinct, and the action scenes have aged terribly. Movement can get stilted and the execution is uneven. Stil, there are some memorable scenes, and a few of the artistic themes do make up for plenty of the big issues. All that being said, it ends up being rather unimpressive.
What is a strength is the good soundtrack, which fits perfectly to the theme of the show, and great voice acting of the recurring characters. The fact that some of the minor characters aren't voiced that well is a small point considering the vast amount of them. The effects are usually very atmospheric and help give added punch to the important scenes. The use of reverb (and turning that effect off) on the voice of the title character gives Jigoku Shoujo some well needed pathos.
The art is at times glorious, and at others falls flat. It brings the world some life, though all in all, the formula behind the writing is reflected well in the art. The double-edged sword of the episodic nature with strict adherence to a certain aesthetic both gives a sense of strength to certain scenes and a feeling of closure, but cause things to feel dull at others. The animation has aged badly, and could have been what made everything come together, but instead the only true saving grace ends up the audio.
I'm not sure whether to be impressed or bored with Jigoku Shoujo so instead I choose to be both. This is hard for me to judge honestly, because I am not the target audience despite my penchant for philosophy and psychology in horror. Recommended to people who love feasting on the tears of young people suffering.