Another trip to hell…

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Enma Ai or Hell Girl (Jigoku Shojo) is back for a third season. In “Jigoku Shojo Mitsuganae”, Ai enters the body of middle schooler Yuzuki Mikage and continues her business of exacting people’s revenge by ferrying their tormentors/targets straight to Hell.

Ai was killed in the second season so I suppose they had to find a way for her to come back. Hence her spirit (a blue butterfly) alighting on Yuzuki who dreams she is kissed and embraced by Ai. This is not that kind of anime so keep your hairnets on.

Poor Yuzuki carries Ai’s spirit inside her so whenever Hell Girl goes into action, Ai comes out of the girl. This time, Ai has five assistants: Wanyudo, Honne Onna, Ren Ichimoku, the devilish little girl Kikuri now inside a doll and Yamawaro, a boy who tags along after Kikuri and calls her “princess”.

Anyone familiar with seasons one and two knows the drill by now, Each episode is self-contained and deals with someone who feels they need the services of Hell Girl because they’re being bullied or they really hate someone or just want to get rid of a person for whatever reason. At midnight, they access a Web site, enter the name of their target and send their request to Ai.

If she accepts, she will offer the person a straw doll with a red string tied around its neck. Pull the red string and the target goes to Hell. However, Ai’s price is that both the target and the person making the request will end up in Hell. The one making the request just goes to Hell after he or she dies. If they enter into a contract with Ai, they will bear a mark on their chest.

The animation is still crisp and sharp in season three. But unless something interesting happens in the third season, this is just same ole same ole for me.

Why you should really listen to your parents

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There are days when I’m just not in the mood to follow a series. When a quick anime fix is all I need to get me through the day or week. Enter the short film.

“Kakurenbo” by Shuuhei Morita fits this bill. The movie is about a group of children playing hide-and-seek in an abandoned city. They all wear masks.

One of the characters is a boy named Hikora whose sister, Sorincha, disappeared while playing said game. I can’t remember how long she’s been missing though. Hikora thinks by participating in the game, he will find her.

But he will realize this particular hide-and-seek game comes with a sinister twist.

It’s not a bad short film and actually won several awards.

Descent into Hell Take Two

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Gorgeous animation do not a good anime make. An engaging storyline and likeable characters are also required. So it’s kind of sad when a show you know could have been great merely reaches the acceptable level.

Such is the case with the second season of Hell Girl which is actually called “Jigoku Shoujo Futakamori”. Enma Ai is back with her three assistants as they offer a hellish bargain to those who want to have others dragged unceremoniously to Hell. If you’re willing to enter a contract with Ai, the bane of your existence gets whisked off pronto. The price remains a steep one. You go to Hell as well when you die because as Ai says, two graves are dug when a curse is placed.

Like the first season, this one features beautiful character designs and backgrounds plus the same hohum way of telling its stories.

Each episode focuses on Ai’s client of the week and how she deals with their requests. Some of her clients are a waste of molecules, so to speak, while a few deserve to get dispatched to the underworld themselves. There is a little boy who undergoes personal tragedies one upon the other that you wonder how Ai can just sit there and do nothing for him. He is actually a key in resolving Ai’s end and mirrors the persecution she faced in her earlier human form four hundred years ago.

That’s another problem. The director assumes you know Ai’s back story or have seen the first season. Go watch the first season. It helps explain certains things in the second season.

This time around, we learn more about the history of Ai’s three assistants and why they’re working for her now. We also meet a rather unpleasant hell spawn masquerading as a little girl who could double as the Japanese version of the “Bad Seed.” She’s called Kikuri I think. She tags along with the gang and tries to muck up their work.

After sitting through all the episodes even the crummy ones the ending comes as a major disappointment. Aaaargh! It was a let down to be sure. Is that how Hell Girl is supposed to end? I am so tempted to spoil it for the rest of y’all but I won’t be a party pooper.

How to take a one way trip to Hell

So you’re living a hellish existence thanks to a certain someone. Do you want that bully/blackmailer/cheater/evil person to vanish from your life? Then wait for midnight and maybe you’ll see Hell Girl’s Web site which takes such requests. You put in the name of the person you want taken straight to Hell and if she accepts it, Enma Ai, will soon appear before you with a straw doll tied with a red string.

Pulling the string means sealing the bargain with Ai who is Jigoku Shoujo or Hell Girl. But your request comes with a price. When you curse someone, Ai tells you two graves are dug. Then she explains her price – you will also go to Hell when you die. If you accept the deal, a mark will appear on you as a sign of the contract with Hell Girl.

The target is put through a harrowing experience and sometimes asked if they have realized what they did wrong. They never do. Ai gives a spiel and the flowers from her kimono leap from her outfit and take over your TV screen. The next scene shows the target being ferried to Hell by Ai. She’s sort of a Charon at this point. (In Greek mythology, Charon is the boatman who takes souls across the river Styx provided they have the fare.)

“Jigoku Shoujo” ended earlier this year. The series was very episodic in nature. And it’s not until midway through the show where it becomes interesting. Ai starts appearing to a little girl whose father is a reporter out to unravel the mystery of Hell Girl. There’s a reason why she does this though and it’s tied to her origin.

Ai is more than a teen who spends her days in an old house wearing a uniform waiting for requests to cart off people to Hell. There’s a granny who constantly spins and occasionally talks to her. We don’t see Granny though but we get to see a spider who hangs around the place. She also has three assistants who help her carry out the client’s request.

But not everyone who gets taken to Hell deserves such a fate. Ai sometimes hauls off a decent man or woman simply because the wrong person put in the request to the Web site.

The animation is sharp and well done, the opening song is catchy but I don’t much care for the closing song. I really liked “Jigoku Shoujo” the first time I saw it but subsequent viewings have dampened my enthusiasm. Some of the episodes dragged.

The second season started airing in Japan last month. I haven’t seen it though so I can’t say if the show has improved.