Wednesday, November 8

Vengeance Online

Lately, the anime series Girl from Hell or Jigoku Shoujo has started showing on Animax. This supernatural/drama series is based on the overall idea that there is a website which allows the wronged, the bullied and the oppressed to send their tormentors to HELL. The website, which can only be accessed at midnight (and only once by any person) has a very simple interface- all you need to is input the name of the guilty party in the blank space. In a flash, the titular Girl from Hell, Enma Ai, will appear and give the 'client' a small straw doll with a red string wound around its neck. To seal the contract, the client must untie the string. Immediately after, the tormentor will be sent to hell.

Unfortunately, all isn't wine and roses. As Enma Ai says, "Whenever a person is condemned, two graves are dug." That means that while the accused is immediately consigned to Hell, the accuser him/herself will follow as well, once he or she dies. To mark their inevitable fate, a black mark appears on the breast of the person who contracted the services of the Jigoku Shoujo. Better think before you act, I guess.

Animax has been promoting the... well, the hell out of this series, and perhaps the hype was a bit too much as when I finally got to watch an episode or two, I was kinda disappointed. The episodes are all stand-alone stories of some person being wronged and how his or her plight escalates to the point where they can't stands no more... and the only recourse is to contract the services of Enma Ai.
After that, like the Lazer Sword of Voltez V, it's all academic as Enma and her cohorts- which include a young man, a geisha girl and an old geezer- give a little payback by confronting the guilty party with their sins. In the end, Ai takes the condemned person to hell on a boat, and that's that. After a few episodes it all gets kinda repetitious, and I can't say that I am particularly impressed by how the 'punishments' are dished out. The guilty don't seem to ever reach the point where they are overly terrorized or are driven to repent or remorse, which makes the part where they are being confronted kind of empty and hollow- or just unsatisfying. Plus, I don't find it clear- what happens to these people? Do they disappear as if they are physically dragged into Hell? Or do their physical bodies die? The series seems a bit vague on these points.
I have to say as well that some of the situations make me angry more at the ones being tormented, rather than the tormentors. There simply HAS to be other ways to resolve some of these problems, without condemning yourself to a hellish afterlife, right?

It doesn't help either that the viewings of GFH have so far been with Animax's less-than-excellent english dubs (ah, Animax and their vast complement of five voices). The stories are very Japanese and perhaps would benefit from more authentic vocal performances.

Still, lovers of drama anime (dranime?) will probably get absorbed in the masochistic pleasure of watching poor saps get hammered before lashing out in revenge with supernatural aid. The series already has proven popular enough for a Second Season, as well as a live-action series. For me, this kind of vengeance doesn't really cut it. I'll hire Golgo 13 over Enma Ai any day of the week. Beats going to Hell, I think.

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