Hell Girl: Two Mirrors Collection 2 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, July 15, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Background stories slowly make their way out before the show deals with an intriguing multi-episode story.
What They Say
Whenever there has been Hell to pay, Ai Enma has been the collector. Now, however, the volatile emotions she has kept entombed are slowly beginning to exhume themselves, and as a monstrous cycle of reprisal and retribution wields its deadly scythe across the people of Lovely Hills, the Hell girl and her companions suddenly find themselves confronted with visions of their own mortality. Who were they, before becoming Hell's Collectors? And what will be their ultimate fate? As she seeks to cope with the ceaseless inhumanity of mortals consumed with vengeance, Ai Enma must take a journey she never expected, and answer the question she never dared to ask: When you're already in Hell, are you allowed to die?
This release contains only the Japanese language track which is in stereo and encoded at 224kbps. Like most shows of this nature, it’s almost entirely dialogue driven with a fair amount of music that blends into the background and isn’t overwhelming. The ambiance of the music utilizes a good full sound which adds a lot to numerous scenes while the dialogue itself is well placed when required, though often it's just a single character talking that's usually near the center of the screen. Overall, while there isn't anything that stands out here, this is a very solid track that represents the source material well that's free of problems. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and placement is spot on when required.
Originally airing in from late 2006 to early 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The release has thirteen episodes spread across two discs in a six/seven format. Hell Girl has a very strong visual design at times in each episode while the bulk of it plays in a real world setting. There's a lot of detail to be had here in the backgrounds which holds up well with little in the way of breakup or problems. Outside of a few areas where there's some line noise and some visible gradients, the transfer here looks really good. Colors are lush and vibrant when needed and dark scenes have the expected amount of noise to it that's pretty noticeable. Cross coloration is non-existent and line noise is very minimal overall.
Done up in a single sized keepcase, the cover artwork for this release is a good one in the overall line-up but it's not as good as the first half was. The artwork is of Ai again with a near full length shot of her in her elaborate kimono with a sword in hand set against a very otherworldly background that has the eye across it. It's a good shot of her and I like the creepy factor to it but it just doesn't really grab you. The black framing around it and the logo all give it a very solid feel overall though. The back cover has a similar framing and it has a strip of red through the middle where we get the listing that it’s the second season and the overall summary of what the show is about. The top half has a really neat piece of character artwork with Ai and Onna together that has a creepy look to it. The bottom has several shots from the show of different sizes that highlights the creepy factor. The remainder is given over to the usual production credit and a good clean technical grid that covers everything in an easy to read fashion.
The menus are fairly decent but they come across as a little misplaced by the somewhat upbeat and pop oriented vocal tracks associated with them. It conveys the wrong atmosphere after the first couple of seconds once it gets to the vocals themselves. The menu layout is decent with a strip through the middle similar to the logo on the front cover where it has a grid with the episodes that can be selected while the special features are accessible through a submenu below it. The strip is done in some nice shades of red with some black and white accents to it that gives it an ominous look. Behind it is the actual character animation that varies with each volume featuring different pieces. With this being a monolingual release, there’s little issue here with the player presets obviously. Everything is quick to access and the layout, while simple, is well laid out and easy to use.
The only extras included in this release are on the second volume with the clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The “Two Mirrors” season of Hell Girl has been a lot of fun so far but the first half of it lacked that underlying storyline that the first season had to help tie it all together. That investigative aspect with the reporter and his child felt a bit forced at times to be sure but it allowed for some continuity to help bring parts of it together in an engaging way. This season hasn't had all that much of it but it's been a lot of fun regardless but they do something a little different towards the end of this set that really improved my overall opinion of the show. While I've definitely liked Hell Girl a lot, the episodic nature of it made it difficult to watch in a half season set. Giving last several episodes a storyline that carries over with and has some import to it is very welcome.
A few episodes here focus on the basic stories where they stand alone as someone is getting a grudge taken care of. Interestingly, there's a greater focus this time around on adults getting involved in this as opposed to a horde of high school students causing murders. It's a welcome change in doing this since the situations have a bit more complexity to them since it doesn't revolve around petty high school situations. Not that we don't get a few of those, such as one where one girl inadvertently slights another that she's been friends with all of their high school lives and that turns her against her enough to want to have her banished to hell. At least when you have corporate theft, the ruining of lives in a real sense among adults, it feels like it all makes more sense and has some actual justifications in reality.
An interesting approach taken to several episodes here is that we do get some back story on those that work with Ai Enma. We've had hints of their pasts in different ways, but not a direct look at how they came to work with her. Ren's story as a weapon several hundred years prior, a sword used in quite a few brutal events no less, shows him taking on a role with Ai after finding nothing left for him to really do. Wanyudo's story takes us back to an area that we've seen him before as he goes on a familiar pass but it's new now that Ai is there and she draws him slowly over to her cause where he willingly serves her in her mission. And with Hone, she does much the same as we see her life as a geisha before she ended up dead with Ai helping her in the beyond to find a purpose. All three stories add some nice color and context to each of them as it shows who they were before to varying degrees while showing more reasons why they act as they do during various requests.
What really won me over with this part of the season are the last several episodes in which the story carries on throughout them, but not in a way that you'd expect. Instead of having a multiple episode story involving one complicated grudge request, it involves numerous characters and an escalating situation that ends the season in a way that was really striking, making you wonder exactly what was going to happen next. Unlike most seasons that end in a way that's clearly resolved, The focus is on a boy named Takuma whose mother has died and his father is now in the hospital. Because of what's happened to him, he's earned the name of the Devil's Child and people in the small town are afraid of him yet talk about him behind his back constantly.
With everyone following him and Ai and the others working in the town, every new death seems to be associated with him. It doesn't take long for people to get it into their head they can use the Hell Link themselves for their various grudges and have him blamed for it. His reputation and life sinks lower and lower as the townspeople take advantage of it more and more. It's a fascinating exploration of how a mass of people will deal with such things. Even more curious is that Ai is fulfilling all of these requests, though the others think she's doing it so it'll get her closer to being free of her commitment quicker than she would otherwise. But since she's been doing it for over found hundred years, it's a far fetched guess really.
A lot of the themes from previous episodes appear in here to help tie it all together, but the fact that it ends with an overall downer and with you wondering where they'll go from there is surprising. The first season ended with you having a simple idea of what they were going to do – more of the same. Here, it's akin to the Empire Strikes Back where it surprises you about what it does and you find yourself thinking about the culmination of events afterward. The only oddity in the series continues to be Kikuri. So many of her scenes in this season felt out of place, from her introduction to the numerous things she tweaked and played at throughout it. When we do get a hint at what her true role may be just towards the end, it really does color what you think of her but it's impossible to tell how much of what she's done was of her own will.
The second season of Hell Girl lacked some of the underlying elements of the first season that gave it a sense of continuity. What it did instead was focus on slowly expanding on the cast of characters in who they are and then going into a lengthy store that explores an intriguing idea about how people would handle the Hell Link if they thought they could get away with it in a more open way. I'm really interested in the third season now to see how they handle this change and where they go with it, though I'm also curious if there will ever be an exploration in the manga about whether there are other Hell Girls for other countries, religions and so forth as a sort of Hetalia of Hell Girl would be vastly entertaining and interesting. This season is a really good one when you look at it as a whole and this set caps it off with a surprising arc as it goes where you don't expect it to.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hell Girl