The second volume of Hell Girl has started to correct, however tentatively, my biggest complaint about the series: they spent entirely too much time just running through the core premise of the show without expanding on it. Now that they’ve started to do something with the idea, I feel thatHell Girl is shaping up to be pretty worthwhile — just really slow in its payoffs. If you’re impatient, you’re liable to be squirming in your chair and growling “Get on with it!” before disc 1 is even over — never mind whether or not you make it to disc 2.
The first volume was entirely setup — in fact, it consisted of little more than the show’s core premise repeated over the course of five episodes. Log into the Hell Correspondence website at midnight, type in the name of someone you want to get revenge on, and within the day Hell Girl herself, Enma Ai, will appear and offer you the opportunity to send that person straight to hell. There’s just one catch: do that and you yourself will be cursed to enter hell upon your death as well. Many of the people who take the offer feel they’re already in hell from the torments they’ve been suffering at the hands of others, so how much worse can it get?
And so now in Volume 2, a cache of new elements creep into the picture. A journalist who normally specializes in sleazy scandals, Hajime, catches wind of the Hell Correspondence site, and he becomes (correctly) convinced that something far from normal is afoot. His first run-in with Hell Girl’s hijinks comes when another woman prepares to engineer revenge on a crooked co-worker at a hamburger shop where she worked. Said woman gets her revenge, as you can imagine, but not without Hajime catching a glimpse of said revenge in action. And there are even odder things happening: Hajime’s daughter has visions of things that should not be — and at one point Hell Girl herself runs into the girl and murmurs “Something about her seemed familiar.” This is the first hint we get about Ai herself as a character instead of something a notch above a piece of scenery.
Disc two also shows some changes in the types of people seeking revenge. Originally, they had fairly unimpeachable reasons for wanting to get even; now, that’s not as clear. This comes though most clearly in the second episode on the disc, “Shattered Mask,” where a young actress suffers under the regime of her adoptive mother, the head of a drama troupe. There’s at least as much blame to go around on both sides: her mother may be strict and unyielding, but the girl makes a bad thing worse by trying to engineer one underhanded end-run after another. Then there’s a final twist, where we realize more than one person has been seeking vengeance. The last episode on the disk also bends the basic premise in another direction, when a girl entertains getting a revenge on a classmate, then recants — and discovers the real danger with this type of revenge is not from the afterlife alone but from what your fellow men may do.
As slow as Hell Girl develops overall, the more I like what comes to the surface as I watch it. It’s finally starting to introduce the kinds of elements I was hoping we would see as early as the first volume, and to good if limited effect. Better late than never, I suppose?