Hell Girl Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: TV MA
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Hell Girl

Hell Girl Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     October 22, 2007
Release Date: October 23, 2007


Hell Girl Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
According to rumor, a mysterious message board exists, accessible only at midnight. Those who find the site have the ability to post a grudge they harbor against someone, and the Jigoku Shojo (Hell Girl) will carry out the revenge and then transport that person's soul to hell.

Of course, vengeance comes with a hefty price. Those who seek revenge must accept the fact that when they die, their souls will also be taken to hell...

The Review!
The stroke of midnight is when the time of vengeance can be had, all for the click of a mouse.

Audio:
FUNimation’s release of Hell Girl is done in a fairly standard configuration for shows they have some faith in. The English language is presented in both a 5.1 and 2.0 mix while the Japanese is the original 2.0 mix. Both of the stereo mixes are done at a basic 192 kbps while the 5.1 mix gets nicely done at 448 kbps. The series isn’t one that is overly dynamic for the most part but it is atmospheric and the sound mix conveys is pretty well. The big moments get the most attention but there are some good quiet moments where the incidental music and background sounds work rather well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The production values for the series, even with the numerous repeated moments, is very strong with lots of great colors and a real sense of style with it. The series has a lot of quiet simple moments where there isn’t a lot of movement and these come off wonderfully, but the transfer is a mixed bag with what it’s presenting. The series does suffer from a lot of color gradients to it and some scenes show them very strongly across all aspects of it. That, in combination with some general noise, brings about some scenes that don’t have as strong of a look to them as they should. It’s also little surprise that these scenes tend to run under 3mbps while the 7mbps scenes look quite good. There is a lot to like here but an equal part that makes you question it.

Packaging:
Hell Girl’s cover design is one that will really appeal yet likely be hard to sell. With a black framed border with gold edges, the center piece of artwork of Ai in her school uniform while kimono threads start wrapping around her, it has a very classy and almost elegant feel to it. The logo is solid as well as it features the English version surrounding the Japanese version with a lot of gold to it. It’s highly attractive but it may not sell to a more general audience. The back cover is similar with its simplicity The overall background image has the lanterns on the water in the night which is really striking with the gold foil that’s used around various areas. There are some good, if small, shots from the show and the summary covers the basic of the premise in a clean and readable fashion. The discs episode numbers and titles are clearly listed while the bottom is pretty tightly packed with the legalese and tiny technical grid. The reverse side cover uses the same artwork as the front cover but is expanded across both panels and looks wonderful.

In addition to the disc only release, there is a disc+box starter set as well. The box follows the cover artwork in its simplicity and elegance but in a different direction. The box, a not quite so heavy chipboard, is done in all red which stands out. The two main panels are essentially just blank red pieces where the logo is in the center while the spine has a full length shot of Ai in her luxurious kimono with the logo across the middle of it. The logos are all god embossed and it really is striking when taken in total. One really nice change to the packaging is that the technical information the volume in the box is kept to the cardboard insert and isn’t on the box itself. I’ve complained about this with other releases across multiple studios recently so it’s good to see this one done right. In the box there’s also an art card that’s not included with the disc only edition. That release has two art cards and this third one is just as striking as those.

Menu:
The menus for the release, though simple, set the mood right visually but come across as bit too big and loud due to the music used. The overall design is that of a white letterbox piece where in the middle we get the river view with the floating lanterns across it. It's dark and eerie with the colors for it and it has the series logo and navigation in white on top of it. It provides some good contrast to the white letterbox bars along the top and bottom. The music is just too strong for what should be a quiet and creepy piece. The layout is well done as it flows well and submenus are quick to load and easy to access. As is usual, due to the use of multiple angles, we didn't bother with player presets for our language selection and forced it via the menus.

Extras:
The opening volume of the series has some good extras to it that showcase how the series was sold early on. In addition to the always welcome standard of the clean opening and closing sequences, we also get a main characters profile section. Unlike most shows that do this, it's actually a four and a half minute video piece that uses part of the opening sequence before going into a brief overview of the premise and highlighting a couple of the leads and their role in the show. One of the more interesting extras included is a five minute promotional video that's done in live action form. It's essentially a music video and it does a good job of bringing the creepy atmosphere of the show to life, even if the quality does suffer heavily at times from background noise. A making of featurette which runs longer than the video itself is included. It covers the basics and lets the lead talk about her experiences with it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Known as Jigoku Shoujo in its Japanese form, Hell Girl is an interesting series as it's spawned not only this twenty-six episode series but a second season, a manga spin-off and even a live action TV series. The series is one that is entirely captivating to watch, providing you watch it spread out and not all at once due to the heavily structured style of it in this first volume. At its core, Hell Girl is an update on basic horror themes for the modern day.

The concept is fairly straightforward as it revolves around a young girl named Ai Enma. Though it's not clear where she truly resides, she lives with her grandmother that is never seen in a traditional home far away from everything, presumably in her own particular world/dimension. Her role is that of vengeance for those that seek it. That vengeance is sought after in the form of a webpage that is available only at midnight and only to certain people. These people tend to overhear about it from others during times of great personal stress and a near frantic desire for something to happen to someone who is causing them grief. When all the elements come together and the page loads, the person simply keys in the name of those they want vengeance on and Ai will come to seal the contract.

The devil's in the details of course and in each case Ai informs them that vengeance can be theirs but it comes at a price. And that price is that they too will go to Hell some day when they die. Those they seek vengeance on will go right away in a very cruel and appropriate manner, but the accuser will find themselves marked as owned as they go about their lives. The choice is given to them freely and Ai doesn't pressure them in any way beyond offering a straw figurine with a red string that they can untie to seal the covenant. Of course, as most of the people she ends up coming into contact with are teenagers in states of high distress, they aren't exactly thinking clearly or capable of making true long term decisions like this properly.

The first five episodes of the series are very well done as they present a truly wonderful sense of atmosphere to them that's tied to some beautiful visuals. Ai, along with a few helpers she has, takes vengeance by inserting themselves into the real world and interacting with the person they're taking down. They fill an array of positions throughout this, from teachers to coworkers or just average people on the street before they take whatever the person was cruelly doing and applying it to them. A veterinarian who has little love for animals themselves and focuses only on rich owners finds himself subjected to the same casual treatment he gave many animals. A female student that is tormented by her peers has the tables turned and the girls find themselves falling into a similar trap. It's all admittedly very predictable in terms of the Hell that the tormenters are taken into and that's where the show runs into trouble.

Taken on a weekly basis, Hell Girl is not unlike most TV series that deal with a virtual reset at the end of the episode. It's not exactly a murder of the week show, but it fits into the same mold as we're introduced to a particular setting and cast of characters which leads to one of them overhearing about the Hell Link site. Once vengeance is called for, the same scenes play out with Ai making the offer, or journeying to reality, and then the real fun begins. Each of the episodes is highly formulaic which is far more apparent in collected form. After watching the first three episodes we had to take a break since it was just so strong and we ended up taking in the last two episodes on separate nights. In single form, they gain a lot more impact since you're not following up an episode with what is really more of the same, just with different trappings.

That is not to say the trappings aren't appealing. While predictable, the show is executed with such a strong sense of style, color and detail that each storyline comes together beautifully. You can see where it's all going but the journey through it is staged well. The rotating cast of characters means we do run into repetition in terms of having each act of vengeance get underway, which is really the only bad part of each episode since everyone takes the string off, but seeing the reactions of everyone and watching the vengeance itself play out is almost intoxicating at times. When watched late at night and in the dark, Hell Girl reaches deep inside and grips you with its atmosphere and design.

In Summary:
At the end of the first volume, I'm really left wondering how they can keep this going for twenty-six episodes without it getting too repetitive. The show is facing that problem already and I'm hoping that there are episodes where people don't take the string off and things change in some way. There are some good concepts in here and the execution is wonderful, but it is at the moment very much a vengeance of the week series. There is obviously far more here that they can play with, but based on these episodes it hasn't really shown us anything yet. Taken in single form, Hell Girl is a strong show for what it's trying to accomplish and it wins in that regard. Some may not be able to take in multiple episodes at a time without becoming aggravated at the shortcuts that are taken as well as the repetitive and structure nature of it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Promotional Video,Making Of Promotional Video Featurette,Main Character Profiles Video,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
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.

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