Hell Girl Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Friday, August 01, 2008
Release Date: Monday, August 18, 2008

Ai's regular missions of vengeance continue, but one step behind her now is Hajime, who investigations into the Hell Girl – guided by Tsugumi's visions – are getting closer and closer to uncovering the truth.  So far, though, his common sense has yet to override the need for vengeance…

What They Say
What they say
Beyond the veil of midnight lies a website, HellCorrespondence.com. Type in the name of the one upon which you desire retribution...And it will be served. If you truly desire to take revenge upon those who have wronged you, just untie the scarlet thread from the totem's neck. Pulling the thread will bind you into a covenant with Ai Enma, who will ferry the soul of your tormentor straight into the depths of hell. However, once vengeance has been served, you will have to deliver your end of the bargain. There always has to be a price to pay.

Episodes Comprise
11 – Broken Threads
12 – Spilled Bits
13 – Purgatory Girl
14 – Beyond the Dead End

The Review!
Audio is presented in English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 versions. I listened to the Japanese track for this review. Hell Girl relies quite heavily on atmosphere for its appeal, and the soundtrack is used to good effect to help get that across, with good use of background effects and music helping to create a suitably ominous tone. There are a number of "stock" scenes (such as Ai's "Would you like to try dying?" speech) where particular effort has been spent on making them sound just right, but overall it's still a good soundtrack. There were no obvious encoding problems.

Video is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and as with the sound there's been a good amount of effort put in to make sure the gloomy atmosphere that the stories require comes across just right. The stock scenes again get the best treatment and really look the part - away from that the animation quality doesn't appear quite so good, with a lack of detail in some places, but overall there's not too much cause for complaint. There were no obvious problems with the encoding.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

The menu is a simple, static affair, an image of Ai in her ceremonial garb.  A piece of background music plays over the top, and options are provided for Play All, Episode Select, Audio and Extras. Different pieces of background art are used on each screen. There are no transition animations, so it's all quick and painless to use.

Along with the usual creditless opening and closing sequences, there's a round-table discussion video, with a number of the lead VAs discussing the role of their characters in the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Tsugumi's visions have been providing Hajime with a steady stream of clues – scenes seen through Ai's eyes, visions of her victims or those connected to them.  Never enough to make it exactly clear to him what's going to happen, but usually enough to give him enough pointers to contact those involved.  For all his efforts, though, it's an exercise in frustration for him – no matter what he says or what he does, he can never seem to dissuade those who have contacted Ai from following through on their desire for vengeance, and learns little of the Hell Girl in the process.  He finally makes progress, though, when he's able to contact an old man – one who made a contract with Ai when he was younger, and who is now close to having to fulfil his end of the bargain…

On the one hand, Hell Girl's formula is more-or-less intact – each episode, with the exception here of episode 13, sticks to the usual idea of a person with a grudge and a victim for Ai to deliver vengeance to.  So far, so much the same as before.  Hajime's ongoing investigations add a new layer to the formula though, as he makes his best efforts to prevent any more deaths, whether by helping the wronged to uncover the real truth behind what's troubling them or by trying to help them take vengeance in less permanent ways.  There are even a few points here where you think he's succeeded, that just for once Ai's client won't pull the fateful string, but much as I'd like to see how that sort of situation would play out we're not quite there yet.  You can almost feel his frustration at times – the longer his search goes on, the more frustrated he gets that he hasn't been able to make a difference.  While simply sticking to the formula would have grown repetitive by now, Hajime's interventions add a little bit extra to each episode and have helped keep the stories fresh enough that you don't really mind the underlying repetition.

Hajime's actions aren't going un-noticed, of course, with Ai's assistants full aware of what he's up to and standing ready to deal with him should he get too close to the truth.  That's bound to happen, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays out, but for now we're stuck with the steady drip-feed of hints and clues about Ai's history and background.  Even Hajime's meeting with Fukumoto, on the day his debt to Ai is called in, doesn't reveal much – although the episode itself is fascinating.  Now if only there were some surprising decisions by Ai's would-be clients, we'd be all set…

In summary:
For all that I enjoyed the disc, the repetitive nature of it does make it difficult to write a huge amount about it.  That formula still underpins the entire series, threatening to become a millstone around its neck at some point, but at the moment it's serving its purpose well as the foundation for some very entertaining stories.  The more I see of Hell Girl, the more I want to see – it's definitely worth a look.

Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 5.1, English Subtitles, Creditless Opening and Closing Sequences, Emergency Round-Table Talk

Review Equipment

Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 12+
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Revelation Films
MSRP: £15.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hell Girl