- Posted: Fri, 30 Mar 2012 01:08:45 +0000
Have you ever hated someone so much that you seriously wished they would die? How far would you go to get revenge on or get rid of someone? Would you trade your soul just to send a person to hell?
There's a website called Hell Correspondence. You can access it only at the stroke of midnight. It's pretty straightforward. You write the name of someone you hate, and they get sent to hell. In return, when you die, your soul goes to hell as well.
Such is the premise of Jigoku Shoujo, or Hell Girl, a 9-volume series by Miyuki Eto that was based off an anime. You'd think that not many people will want to avail of Hell Correspondence's services, but there's definitely enough of them to fill about 9 manga volumes. And the concept is well-liked enough for Jigoku Shoujo to get a sequel.
Ai Enma is Hell Girl, and her job is to escort souls to hell. Shortly after you use the Hell Correspondence website, Ai appears before you to dispassionately verify that you indeed want to send your chosen person to hell. One of her trademark lines is "To curse someone is to dig a double grave," which emphasizes that the price for her service is to damn your soul to hell also. If you agree to the deal, Ai will appear before your chosen person. She expressionlessly utters another one of her trademark lines, "Do you want to see what death looks like?" and then carts the person to hell.
Hell appears to be unique to each individual. For the people whose names were entered in Hell Correspondence, hell consists of creatures who exact revenge for the terrible things that the people did when they were alive. For example, if you were a horrible vet who charged exorbitant amounts of money for your services and then left the animals in your care to suffer and die, your hell will look like a hospital overseen by animals who let you experience excruciating and unnecessary pain.
Hell Girl has a variety of clients. Most of the chapters--indeed, most of the series--are about the clients.
Some clients are good people who are backed in a corner, like Mari. Mari is framed by her classmate, Satsuki, for theft. Satsuki proceeds to blackmail Mari. Over time, the blackmails become more and more demanding, and Mari realizes with terror that Satsuki will never stop.
Some clients are witnesses to pain and suffering inflicted on others, and they take action on behalf of the victims. Yuka works as an assistant to Hiromi, a baker. And she has to watch with anger and frustration as Hiromi's former mentor, Morisaki, ruins Hiromi's career.
Some clients' lives have been irrevocably damaged. Maybe they can no longer live normal lives. Maybe they can no longer achieve the dreams that they have been working so hard for. Sakura is finally making it as an actress. But scandals and harassments begin to plague her, and she eventually gets into an accident that severs the ligaments in her legs and prevents her from walking again. She discovers that the scandals, harassments, and accident were orchestrated by another actress who wants her career for herself.
And some clients just want a good old eye for an eye. If a loved one has been killed, then the killer's payment is a one-way trip to hell.
The later chapters in the series are about Ai and her henchmen. They show Ai's past life and how she and her henchmen got involved in the business of carting off souls to hell. They depict Ai as someone more than an emotionless avatar who abides by the rules that were handed to her.
The chapters do get formulaic after a while. The good people win (until they die, long after the chapter has ended), the bad people go to hell, and Ai shows up somewhere in-between. Ms. Eto did get creative with the later chapters. What if the bad people use Hell Correspondence? What if a targeted person doesn't deserve to go to hell? Can you manipulate the rules of the Hell Correspondence website so that you can send someone to hell but not pay the price? What if you put in a request and then get cold feet? What if you put in a request based on wrong information? Does Ai ever decline a request? Am I asking too many questions? Why am I asking you all these questions?
Jigoku Shoujo's artwork is very cutesy, which is an interesting contrast with the whole business of sending people to hell. The characters look like they belong in a purehearted mahou shoujo manga. Well, it is a mahou shoujo manga series, I suppose, but it's definitely not about unicorns that fart rainbows. You'll probably like this series if you enjoy seeing people get their just desserts. Personally, I can't stand series where the protagonist experiences a great injustice that never gets remedied. So I found Jigoku Shoujo comforting: I know that the bad guys will get punished in the end, and the good guys will breathe a sigh of relief. I guess predictability can be good for a story.
Image courtesy of http://www.amazon.com.