Writer/Artist: Miyuki Eto
Translation: Gemma Collinge
Adaptation: Gemma Collinge
What They Say:
Revenge is sweet...and easy: Just visit the Hell Girl's website, and this goddess of damnation will drag your enemy into the inferno. And some people will do anything for revenge. There's the girl whose best friend is scheming to steal her boyfriend...and the innocent student trapped by her unsavory employer in a haunted house. But they had better think twice: Revenge may be sweet, but it isn't free!
What We Say:
The concept of revenge has been played with many times in the horror genre. There’s a girl underneath your couch, waiting to crawl out and kill you because the house you live in is cursed with her grudge, or your cell phone rings in the same ring tone that a murder victim was forced to listen to before dying. Hell Girl takes it a step further with a website that people can use to wish revenge on those who have harmed them, but it causes a double curse where the website user has to sacrifice their soul to hell if they agree to use Hell Girl’s services.
This is one of those series I found accidentally, something a friend was talking about and I found myself being sucked in after the first episode of the anime. Ten times out of ten the victims deserved to seek revenge, and their victims would be rightfully tortured and left screaming as they were sent to hell. The punishment was always sadistic with lots of powerful images (I still vividly remember the baseball episode and the hellish baseball field the boy was forced to play in), and despite the anime not have a very established plot (at first) it was still a great addition to the horror genre.
So when I found out there was a manga I was more than happy to pick it up.
I expected to see even more torturous scenes and even more bastardly characters who I would enjoy watching be punished. Unfortunately, the manga is worlds different from the anime. It’s surprising how un-scary something can be because of an art style, but the overly cute shoujo art completely kills any moment that could be considered creepy. The stories themselves are still interesting, but it’s hard to get past how cute Ai is with her huge eyes and school girl uniform. The random four-panel comic strips of Ai’s comical misadventures don’t help matters much, either. Not to mention author’s notes that say how a particular part of the story is supposed to be sad, so the comic strips are a way to lighten the mood. “Dear god,” I say to myself, “it’s supposed to be depressing, just let it be depressing and scary!” What bugs me most about the manga is that every single person seeking revenge is some girl whose heart has been broken, mainly because of a boy. This is probably to tie in with Ai’s hatred (which is revealed in this volume), but in the anime there’s way more diversity in the website users and it isn’t just a wide-eyed school girl whose crush stabbed her in the back.
The third volume of the manga still follows the formula of having random stories where people go onto the website to seek Hell Girl’s services. There’s three of them, but the final story is Ai’s back story. We learn that, like most other hellish characters in anime and horror in general, she too was scorned and betrayed by people she trusted. She was seen as a freak among the villagers she lived with. They would spread wild rumors about her being able to bring the dead back to life. As a child she only had one friend, a boy named Sentarou, and he always protected her from the other children who would throw rocks at her and call her names. One day, the villagers decided to sacrifice Ai to their mountain god in hopes of a good harvest. Every seventh year, the village had to sacrifice a seven-year-old girl to the mountain god, but instead of letting this happen Sentarou snuck over to where Ai was being held and took her to safety. The village suffered for it for six years, their crops failing and their food supply constantly running low. Sentarou continued to visit Ai during those years, but one day he decided to run away with Ai and leave the village forever. Before they could escape the villagers caught them and decided to redo the sacrifice, making Ai’s family a part of the sacrifice. To top it off, they also forced Sentarou to help bury them all alive. Instead of dying, Ai’s hatred fueled her to come back and seek revenge, her entire village being set on fire. Now, her revenge goes further, and she lets other people call on her to get revenge on those who have hurt them.
Out of all of the stories the second one is my favorite. This one is about a girl named Saori who is doing horribly in school. The class president, Hayasaka, decides to help her in her studies and as he does the two of them start to get closer to each other. As time progresses, Saori does better in her academics, even surpassing Hayasaka on one of the exams. Soon, bad things start happening to Saori, and she’s even accused of cheating off of Hayasaka. She learns that Hayasaka actually set it up so it looked like she was cheating since he’s now jealous of her good grades. His punishment is, to me, the most sadistic in this volume and definitely reminded me why I loved this series so much in the first place.
I can’t decide if I want to keep reading the manga. Part of me does, because of stories like the one with Saori and Hayasaka, and I also like Ai and I’m wondering what will happen to her overall. The other part of me wants to stick with the anime because I dislike the manga art so much. It’s not bad art, not at all, it just doesn’t fit the story. It doesn’t help that the anime has a completely different art style that fit’s the story better. Ai looks older; she looks like she’s been doing this for those 400 years and you can see the pain in her eyes. And when people are sent to hell they are definitely given a reason to scream and cry and beg for a forgiveness that they’ll never receive. It’s not that a cute art style can’t always fit with the horror genre (look at “When They Cry,” for example), but it’s hard to be scared of the situations in the manga when the cuteness overpowers the creepiness. In Ai’s back story she actually does look intimidating, but then we get four-panel chibi comic strips to “lighten the mood” and that intimidation is completely ruined. This doesn’t encourage me to read, because now I’m worried that every time something serious happens I’ll get a random story about how Ai oversleeps and misses her appointments in sending people to hell. Though nine times out of ten I’ll read volume four just to see if more plot is revealed, and I’ll want to see the different ways someone is sent to hell then get frustrated when another girl is heartbroken by a boy. Am I a glutton for punishment? Yeah, probably.