Hell Girl Vol. #2 - 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: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • 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. #2

By Chris Beveridge     December 12, 2007
Release Date: December 04, 2007


Hell Girl Vol. #2
© 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 structure of the episodes starts to become more flexible which in turn leads to more interesting stories of vengeance served.

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, are 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:
Not unlike the first volume, I really adore how this looks. It's all very high class in its feel and design. With a black framed border with gold edges, the center piece of artwork of Ai in her kimono with sakura blossoms coming down from the tree around her. 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. Two postcards are included as well, at least in first pressing versions. One of them is the reverse side artwork which looks even better on the heavier cardstock while the other is of Ai leaning across a railing as snow falls around her. It's hauntingly beautiful and looks great here.

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 second volume has a lengthy extra to it but it's a surprisingly strange one. In addition to the clean opening and closing sequence, we're treated to a "Montage Episode" through which we see most of the episodes to date shown in a very brief form. The episode is in Japanese only with subtitles and is done in 1.78:1 widescreen letterbox. It's a curious extra since it gives away a lot of the stories in very condensed form as it tries to tease you with the samples.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hell Girl thankfully starts to break the chain of repetition that made the first volume somewhat problematic in viewing it. It also likely helped that instead of watching all five episodes at once, we broke it up over a couple of days in order to retain the impact of each story. These episodes start changing the dynamic of the show a bit by creating tales of vengeance that aren't quite so cleanly cut as what we saw in the first volume while still retaining the thrill of said vengeance.

Some of the stories are still fairly traditional, such as the first one on the volume in which we find a family in a corporate community undergoing a great deal of stress. The mother has accidentally seen the branch manager's wife having an affair in her home and that has led said wife to sowing distrust and rumor among the other wives about her. This spreads to her husbands workplace as well where he now finds himself subjected to strange demands by the branch manager. Even their daughter is called out by others over it and they're all given the dark label of being from the country and unable to adapt to the city. It's little surprise that the Hell Link site is discovered and that the daughter investigates it, particularly when her mother is essentially attacked by a boy toy the managers wife sends over in order to incriminate her instead. There's a bit more sexuality to all of this than usual and it's more interesting simply because it doesn't really dally heavily in the realm of school kids, but rather the adults and their social pressures.

Another story that deals with the adult world involves an orphan who was discovered by a famous actress and has since been adopted by her. Her talent drew her to the famous actress who in turn hopes to turn over her studio and inheritance to her some day. As that day actually nears due to the final performance being lined up, the younger actress finds that she's having a difficult time really living up to what's expected of her. Her need for fame and success are keeping her from really achieving her acting potential and she doesn't really see her adoptive mother as anything more than a means to an end. And she uses some unsavory means to achieve those ends both before and after she learns she's being passed over for the lead in the final performance. Some of the story is a bit weak, as the young actress certainly doesn't seem like she's capable of acting at times, but that her adoptive mother sees right through her quite plainly is a lot of fun to watch.

Where the series takes a pleasant turn is in the introduction of a pair of characters, the father and daughter team of Hajime and Tsugumi. Hajime is a former journalist who now deals in exposing the world of celebrities for his own gain. Blackmailing them with photos he gets of them, he's able to build a decent life for him and his daughter. That starts to change though as he finds himself hearing about the Hell Link site and begins to investigate it. One item leads to another and he starts to believe there's really something to it. Hajime is brought into several episodes here, often as just a background character that sometimes gets lightly involved, but he has a direct tie to events as well.

As it turns out Tsugumi is connected to Ai in a way that's unclear as of yet. When he talks to Tsugumi about his investigation, her eyes glaze over and she almost takes on a part of Ai's personality and tries to warn him off. And at other times, she sees things that helps Hajime in his attempts to figure out what's going on, almost as if she's a conduit to that world that isn't quite focused yet. Hajime's introduction in the series is very welcome since it brings more of an outside perspective on things and keeps the formula of the show a bit looser. The stories start at different periods from the structure we saw in the first volume and his involvement sometimes provides a bit more clarity on the results afterwards. Tsugumi's role isn't as clear yet and she's not used as much as Hajime, but between the two of them we now have someone that's starting to put it all together.

In Summary:
Hell Girl had me concerned with the first volume about whether its story structure could really hold up well over the course of twenty-six episodes. Thankfully, these episodes have begun to slowly explore a bit more of the premise by introducing some good third party observers and working in some stories where things aren't quite so clearly defined. There is still a good deal of vengeance served and the repeated animation moments drop off considerably, all of which helps to make this a far more enjoyable experience overall. While there are still concerns about how well it will hold up over time, what's in this volume builds quite well on the first and gives a good idea of how the rest of the series will work out, making me quite interested in seeing much more of it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Montage Episode,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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