Hell Girl Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Art Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Del Rey
  • MSRP: 10.95
  • Pages: 208
  • ISBN: 0-345-49747-3
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Hell Girl

Hell Girl Vol. #01

By Greg Hackmann     March 21, 2008
Release Date: January 30, 2008


Hell Girl Vol.#01
© Del Rey


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Miyuki Eto
Translated by:Gemma Collinge
Adapted by:Gemma Collinge

What They Say
SHE'S COMING FOR YOU. . . .

When you thirst for revenge, there's a surefire way to get it: Simply go to the strange website that appears only at midnight, and enter the name of your enemy. The Hell Girl will appear to drag your tormentor to eternal damnation. But you will have to pay a price . . . your soul!


The Review
The artwork looks nice, but the quality of storytelling just doesn't live up to the hype.

Packaging:

The cover artwork is dark but attractive, featuring a full-body portrait of the titular anti-hero standing alongside a vertical title bar. The use of vivid colors on a black background really makes the colors pop, and overall it's a very nice looking packaging. Inside, the print quality is about average for paperback manga in its price range, with slightly off-white paper stock and respectably sharp line art.

This volume includes Del Rey's standard line of extras: an honorifics glossary, an "About the Creator" section, a handful of translator's notes, and a few untranslated preview pages from the forthcoming Volume 2 of Hell Girl.

Artwork:

The artwork is technically very well done, with elaborate detailing and a good use of perspective and shading to give extra depth to the foreground objects and scenery. Being a very talky manga, there's not a lot of motion in Hell Girl, but Eto handles these transitions fluidly when they pop up. As a matter of personal taste, I'm not sure Eto's character designs fit in with the story's overall tone: the female protagonists' grotesquely huge eyes and constant blushing typically denote innocence, an effect that hardly fits with the hellish pacts these girls enter into with Enma. To be fair, Eto could using this visual style in an ironic fashion, although I don't really get that sense from the story.

Text/SFX:

The English translation reads just fine, with no awkward wording and (as far as I could tell) no grammatical or spelling errors. Signs are printed in English, and SFX translations are given alongside their Japanese counterparts. Honorifics are preserved in the text, and Del Rey includes their standard honorifics guide up-front. (Strangely, one of the honorifics used in Hell Girl is explained in the translator's notes section rather than the honorifics guide.)

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

High-school student Ai Enma, better known by her alter ego Hell Girl, is the stuff of urban legends. Rumor has it she is responsible for the Web site Hell Correspondence, which is only open at midnight and is known for offering the ultimate revenge service. Of course, this being a fantasy manga, all rumors and legends are 100% true: those who register the names of their persecutors with Hell Correspondence are eventually visited by Hell Girl, who agrees to take their tormentors' souls into Hell. In exchange, the downtrodden victims must agree to let Hell Girl claim their souls when they die.

Each chapter is a stand-alone entity featuring the struggles of one Enma's clients. "From Within the Darkness" introduces the reader to Enma as she exacts revenge on the bully tormenting high-school student Mari Shimizu over a trumped-up shoplifting accusation. "Sweet Trap" follows with a similar premise: the award-winning baker Hiromi Kasuga is forced to helplessly watch her newly-opened bakery's customer base collapse due to lies being spread by a business rival. In "Fallen Idol", the rumors of Hell Girl have even reached movie studio executives, drumming up interest in a live-action Hell Girl film; the lead actress in the project finds herself crossing paths with the real deal after being stalked and attacked by a disturbed fan. "The Inaudible Scream" builds off the recent loss of Junko, a girl whose dog Lucky was taken in by the highly-regarded Honj˘ Animal Hospital and then neglected. Finally, "Dangerous Extracurricular Activities" closes the book with the story of a struggling student and a chemistry teacher who has begun making advances on her.

Comments
Although Hell Girl's basic premise sounds like it could generate some really creative and colorful revenge tales, I'm disappointed by how repetitive this first volume has turned out in the end. Each chapter is essentially a carbon copy of the ones that came before it, with small variations in the lead characters' plights but virtually identical outcomes. The protagonist is taken advantage of and driven into a proverbial corner; out of desperation, she visits Hell Correspondence and offers up the name of her tormentor; she's rescued from suicide by Hell Girl and agrees to exchange her soul for revenge; and the tormentor is forced to see the error of his or her ways in an ironic (and predictable) Twilight Zone-style vision, and is sucked into Hell shortly thereafter. Eto goes so far as to repeat key phrases -- the rumors about Hell Correspondence, the contract between Enma and her customer, Enma's admonitions to the newly-damned, etc. -- almost word-for-word between each chapter.

Even among the situations that these girls are unwittingly driven into, there's not much variety to be found. Of the five stories presented here, four share especially similar premises and story structures: one has to do with a high-school student being bullied by a classmate; two are about students who are the victims of vindictive teachers; and one is about a student being pushed around by a veterinarian. I really had a hard time getting involved with any of these stories, in large part because I felt like I was just reading the same thing over and over. The basic structure and flow of Hell Girl probably works out a lot better when doled out in the small, individual-chapter doses that it originally received when serialized in Japan. But with five chapters printed back-to-back in this collection, it becomes obvious how much content Eto recycles as she moves from episode to episode.

Once these redundancies are trimmed away, Hell Girl's core content is disappointingly shallow, especially in light of the unique premise. Even as a pure revenge tale, the vicarious thrills of witnessing someone getting their karmic comeuppance is tinged here by the heavy price the protagonists had to pay to get their vengeance -- a fact that Eto mercilessly beats into the reader's head at the end of every chapter. Admittedly, Eto's artistic prowess does offset these issues to a point; but from what I've read of Hell Girl so far, it's still difficult to recommend it on anything other than pure visual appeal.

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