Hell Girl Vol. #5 - 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. #5

By Chris Beveridge     April 28, 2008
Release Date: April 08, 2008


Hell Girl Vol. #5
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
Beyond the veil of midnight lies a website, HellCorrespondence.com. Type in the name of one upon which you desire retribution... And it will be served.

If you truly desire to take revenge upon those who have wronged you, just untie the scarlet thread from the totem's neck. Pulling this thread will bind you into a covenant with Ai Enma, who will ferry the soul of your tormentor straight into the depths of Hell. However, once vengeance has been served, you will have to deliver on your end of the bargain. There always has to be a price to pay. When you die, your soul will also belong to Hell. You will never know the joys of Heaven. The decision rests with you.

The Review!
More background material filters into the show which begins to color perceptions of the characters and their motivations even more.

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 gradient issues from the early volumes have been minimized a bit here with some recent authoring changes so there aren't quite as many stark examples to work with. The increased bitrates have helped to smooth out some of the more active scenes but in general Hell Girl is still a show that doesn't have a ton of busy moments so the lower bitrates it does have at times doesn't hurt it too much.

Packaging:
With a black framed border with gold edges, the center piece of artwork is very haunting as it features Ai in the pool with dark shadows cast across her. The childlike nature of her is really pronounced here physically which adds to the creepiness. 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 as seen through a large window during rainy weather while hinting at something more in the background.

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 a view of a shrine set against a cool gray sky. 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, a new video extra here entitled "Top Secret Hell Conference" is included. This eleven minute feature has some amusing moments as various staff members talk about the show in a sort of in-theme mentality while playing with the material from the show, including a creepy doll visual right at the end. For the most part, the extra is about the staff having fun with each other and doing something goof which shines through, even with actresses going "meow" at an inappropriate age...

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In its fifth installment, Hell Girl introduces more background material to flesh out it's varied cast while also making sure to get back into some proper vengeance serving. Ai and her team have been denied a couple of times now and they're getting a bit antsy over it, as are the viewers in a way, so rather than play with implied acts of vengeance, we get a few direct ones to deal with. Working together in that manner, the script here is pretty tight as it teases you forward with more clues and hints.

The various requests to the Hell Link that get put through are fairly standard and again seem to revolve mostly around high school girls, though there is at least one twist this time around. The opening story is arguably the weakest of them all is it deals with a young woman who, as an orphaned girl, finds herself being married to a man whose family is successful because of his mothers doll making abilities. The young woman is coping with numerous issues in the household as she feels more like a guest than anything else and her mother in law treat her exactly like a doll, down to deciding her diet so that she doesn't gain weight. The control aspect of it and the way she feels has her reaching out for Ai and Hajime does his best to intercede into the decidedly odd situation. There's a really strange air to the episode because of the family relationship and it's hard to really say where things should go.

One of the better stories revolves around a father and daughter family that Hajime and Tsugumi know as the man used to work at the publishing firm that Hajime deals with. Tsugumi receives a vision about Yuko and her father which causes them to rush to where they now live in the countryside. He'd left his job to spend more time with his daughter on a farm he inherited from his uncle but things didn't work out well and Yuko is now alone. Her story is told in a slow fashion throughout as we see how things went so badly for them and the man that caused it all. The story is fairly standard but it's the way it creates more tension between Hajime and Tsugumi that makes it as engaging as it is.

Hajime's interest in the Hell Link story has been pushing him in numerous directions from the start but the involvement of Tsugumi gives it a unique twist. His uncertainty about involving her bothers him a great deal but she's also the only link to what's going on that he has. And even if he tries to not involve her, she'll still have the visions because of her strange connection to Ai. Tsugumi's youth is starting to work against Hajime though as she sees things in very black and white terms and believes that there are people that deserve what they're getting. Hajime's views are different because of his experiences and the understanding of how adult life works and needs to be dealt with. The rift between them is growing stronger during all of this, particularly with Yuko's receiving of the red string doll, and the time in which it's occurring is only exacerbating all of it.

While there are some very teasing moments about Ai and what's going on with her, notably the introduction of Gilles as "hell boy," I have to admit that the best things about this volume involved Hajime. He's an easy character to hate because in a way he's very simple, but the final episode on this volume finally delves into his past and with what happened to his wife, Ayumi. The relationship between Hajime and Tsugumi is good most of the time but the strain is stronger as the anniversary of her death has arrived. That, along with a new Hell Link discovery, provides a way for his past to be explored, starting with his school days where he met Ayumi and instantly fell in love with her. His path in this arc is terribly predictable yet still quite tragic and heart rending as you watch it play out. Both he and Tsugumi are very easy to sympathize with and it's just made my connection to each of them stronger.

In Summary:
This installment of Hell Girl works in a lot of background material and expands on the mythos a bit, in particular with the character who seems to die and come back to challenge Ai in her role as Hell Girl. The series does get back on track with a few more acts of vengeance which is a strong plus but it's the exploration of the relationship between Hajime and Tsugumi - strained by the Hell Link - that is the best draw. Watching these two play off of each other as their emotions start to come to the surface is engaging and entertaining while fitting into the mold of the show perfectly. My initial fears of the series are pretty much disproved by this point as it's only become more interesting as it plays out and new secrets and angles are revealed.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Top Secret Hell Conference

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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