Anime review: Hell Girl

Status: abandoned after 5 episodes (of 26)

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Rating: star3.gif

Synopsis
Let’s say your life really sucks. Ok, more than really sucks, it’s a living hell and some asshole is making it that way. What if, at exactly the stroke of midnight, you could log onto a web site, ask for revenge and a dark angel would grant you your wish? As easy as shopping on Amazon. But there’s one hitch: while this angel will send your enemy to hell immediately, when you eventually die, you will join them there. Add to shopping cart?

Reactions
Two things about Hell Girl gave off a serious “wow” factor. The concept that divine retribution comes at the price of the victim’s soul is both original and reminiscent of classic folk tales. The other thing that blew me away – before I’d even watched an episode – was the design. The DVD box, from Funimation, is gorgeous – bright red with stunning artwork that even includes four 5″x7″ full colour art cards. I thought I was in store for Mushishi, Death Note and Gurren Lagann all rolled into one.

But Hell Girl is just an ordinary show wrapped in a glamorous kimono.

It’s a series of formulaic and two dimensional morality tales. The good guys are good. The bad guys are bad. And not always that bad. In episode 4, the bad guy is an irresponsible veterinarian. Really? Four episodes in and the best you can come up with is a dude who’d rather make money than save people’s pets?

Worse than the occasional lack of motivation in the characters, however, is the sad fact that for a horror show, Hell Girl is not very scary. Plus, none of the retributions cooked up by Hell Girl are really all that hellish. In fact, they are often predictable and ham fisted.

Things only start to get interesting in episode 5 when the formula shifts slightly, as Hell Girl’s otherworldly posse becomes investigators. And in a refreshing twist, one of the human characters, who gave up her eternal soul for revenge, even figures out that if she’s going to hell anyway, she might as well enjoy the ride. Will she become Hell Girl’s nemesis? Who really is Hell Girl?

I don’t really care. The show took too long to do anything interesting and there’s far too much good anime – and other pleasures in life – to keep hoping that Hell Girl will turn itself around.

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