Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jigoku Shoujo

Again I’m posting about older series while watching new series and waiting to see if I like their endings.  Today I picked Jigoku Shoujo.

Jigoku Shoujo is a series with an interesting premise, and I do so love an interesting premise.  It goes like this:  If you know someone who deserves to go to hell, you can log on to a specific website at the stroke of midnight, and you will be visited immediately by Hell Girl (Jigoku Shoujo).  She will tell you that if you really want that person to go to hell, she will take them.  However there’s a catch, if you send someone to hell, your own soul is forfeit and will go to hell also when you die – be that today or 50 years from now.  So Jigoku Shoujo gives you plenty of time to consider your decision and leaves you with a straw doll with a red string around its neck.  Pull the string off the doll and your wish is fulfilled.  The person goes to hell and you yourself are marked with a mark to remind you that you’ll also be going to hell eventually. 

Interesting premise, right?

The series follows Hell Girl, whose name is Enma Ai, and her three helpers, Hone Onna, Ichimoku Ren and Wanyuudou.  The three helpers keep track of people who are considering wishing someone into hell, as well as helping Ai take the people to hell who are wished there.  The three also become the straw dolls that Ai leaves with people who are trying to make the decision. 

The series begins as individual stories about people who wish other people to hell and how they come to do so. But as the series progresses a deeper plot evolves.  A young girl named Tsugumi begins to “see” Ai and the people who are going to wish others to hell.  When Ai appears and talks to the wisher, Tsugumi has a vision of it.  Tsugumi’s father, Hajime, begins to track Ai-tachi and try to interfere with the process, basically trying to talk people out of wishing others to hell.  Ai and her group don’t appreciate this interference.

Late in the series Ai’s back story comes out.  She was a young girl who was sacrificed by her village because they believed that sacrificing her would allow them to have bountiful crops and prevent them from starving.  She is initially hidden and protected by a boy she cares for, but is eventually found.  She is buried alive by the villagers and the boy, the one person she cared about and thought would protect her, is the last thing she sees as he’s dropping dirt down on her.   In retribution, after death Ai destroys the village and kills everyone in it.  In punishment for that sin, she becomes Hell Girl and for the rest of eternity she is required to take people to hell who are wished there.   

What becomes clear is that Tsugumi and Hajime are the direct descendants of Ai’s non-protector.  He left the village after she was killed and he failed to stop it, and so missed being killed by her.  He built a temple to atone for not being able to protect Ai.  Tsugumi is apparently having visions about Ai because she and Hajime are the boy’s direct descendants.  When Ai realizes that they are, she goes mad and tries to kill Hajime and Tsugumi.  Then she tries to get Tsugumi to send Hajime to hell (which would also doom Tsugumi herself eventually).  Ai’s three helpers try to stop her for fear that her punishment will be even worse if she kills people again.  Ai fails to exact her revenge because Hajime and Tsugumi care too much about each other and Tsugumi resists Ai’s pressures.  In the end, Ai accepts that her friend from before was fallible and goes back to being Hell Girl with her helpers.

Jigoku Shoujo has two more seasons after the first one and the other seasons explore different aspects of the basic plot, like what happens when the people being sent to hell don’t really deserve it.  Ai has no ability to change the decisions people make so must transport people to hell even when they don’t belong.   The other seasons also explore a little back story on the three helpers, and you discover that Ren started existence as a blood-soaked katana, Wanyuudou was a broken wagon wheel and Hone Onna was a prostitute.  Although all three seasons are good, I liked the first season best.  It’s definitely a series worth watching.

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