Hell Girl Vol. #3 - 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
  • 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. #3

By Chris Beveridge     January 18, 2008
Release Date: January 15, 2008


Hell Girl Vol. #3
© 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...

A journalist rife with dirty dealing, a young girl isolated from the world. Vengeance from the past and vengeance blind to the truth, and a reporter who wants to stop the pointless deaths. All will come within Hell Girl's domain...

Contains episodes 11-14.
Broken Threads
Spilled Bits
Purgatory Girl
Beyond the Dead End

The Review!
Hajime becomes the central character more and more as his investigations brings him to meeting more people affected and influenced by Ai Enma.

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:
With a black framed border with gold edges, the center piece of artwork of Ai in her kimono with a painted background behind her is just highly alluring. Even more so with this volume as she's given a very white skin color that lets the other colors become starker. 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 stunning. 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 sitting in her house as the sun sets while she looks up. Both pieces are beautiful and it's really hard to decide which one is more appealing.

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:
In addition to the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, this volume provides a new "emergency round" table talk edition as the principle cast from the series gathers together to talk about the show and their impressions of it. The actors all have a good bit of fun with each other and are certainly comfortable in talking about the show. The roundtable approach works well as the cover things from the episodes to date but it is all told relatively light as would be expected.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hell Girl was a series that while visually beautiful, it left me unsure of how it would progress considering how formulaic they approached things in the first volume or so. With the second volume and the introduction of Hajime and his daughter, the formula has been kept but it's been widened in the approach used to tell the tale. Things are expected to happen, but now they're becoming a bit less sure and they start in different places. This growth isn't exactly huge, but it allows for the stories to be done in a far more engaging manner and with a semblance of continuity to it.

Hajime's role as an observer/investigator during this gives us some new insights into the scope of what Hell Girl is all about. The inclusion of a link that his daughter Tusugmi has with Ai is a really interesting wrinkle as she seemingly treats Tsugumi as a friend of sorts and is giving her some kind of insight into what's happening. Whether this is known to those that work with Ai isn't clear, nor whether it's actually allowed, but it's a wrinkle that throws off the careful balance we had seen in the first few episodes of the series. The link gives Hajime some clues about what's about to happen which helps him get to the scene in time to at least get an idea of what happened. He's getting closer and closer to being able to try and stop people from following through with such covenants though, which will be when the show could potentially make another twist.

Most of the stories in this volume play to similar things about people that call forth for vengeance about some grievance they have. One of them is very fascinating however in that we start to see just how far back this really goes. Through the help of Tsugumi, Hajime comes across a used book store that deals with old erotic works where Tsugumi had seen Ai walking into and reading. This is a really strange store not because it deals with vintage pornography, but because the man who runs it apparently has a parakeet that can read peoples minds and talk to them rather easily. Discovering this store leads Hajime to find out a story from 1950 called Purgatory Girl that reads exactly like Hell Link, just in postal form.

This sets him on a journey to find the original author and artist of the story, which in turn leads us to learning about how Hell Girl operated in the past and just how far back her stories may actually go. As a mythology building episode, it's beautiful on several levels. The first is that we get to see a story that takes place over fifty years ago that doesn't seem as outright bloody or violent as we get in modern days, but we also see through the artists eyes his vision of Ai Enma. With his last days near, he's spent years painting portraits of her that take up a huge amount of his life. We've seen so many kids and young people that have taken the path to vengeance, but with this storyline, we see someone who had taken that path, how they lived their life and what happens at the end. Or at least close to the end. There's still some missing payoff there, but I suspect it's a door that the show may never go through.

When it comes to the rest of the stories, there continues to be a certain amount of predictability to all of them. Someone is wronged in some way, vengeance is called out for an Ai offers them the chance at it easily enough. The conflict in whether they go that route or not is becoming more common however and Hajime is able to get in touch with some of them before they make their choice. His interactions help to give him a more complete view of what's going on, but he's still somewhat out of the loop on the specifics of the covenants until it's too late. Now that he's seen how things end and that no matter how life is lived, once you seek vengeance and make the deal there is no turning, he's all the more intent on trying to reveal what's going on and stop it from happening to more people. It's a worthy goal to be sure, but one that simply doesn't seem like he'll ever have a chance in succeeding in. This is too big and has gone on too long for one man to have an impact on. But watching him trying to do so is certainly enjoyable.

In Summary:
Hell Girl has been an interesting series as it initially started out in a way that screamed episodic and formulaic with no end in sight. Yet after only a little bit they brought in a way to give it more continuity and a larger storyline to work with all while dealing with the smaller stories. The growth in the storytelling is a large component in making this work long term, or at least for this particular season, and these episodes provide some great material, both in the standalone story pieces and that larger arc. Hell Girl isn't exactly an acquired taste, but it's one that once whetted, is needed regularly. The initial trepidation over the series is gone and each volume is very much eagerly looked forward to.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Emergency Roundtable Talk,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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