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There is a place between the worlds of the living and the dead, where the sunset has been stopped. A beautiful girl with haunting red eyes lives in a straw, wood, and rice paper cottage with her grandmother on this realm. Perhaps you have heard of her? The urban legend says that a webpage called the “Hell correspondence” opens just at midnight. If you have enough hatred towards someone, you can request for revenge and the girl will appear to make a contract to send your enemy to hell.
Yes, it is time to talk about the popular Enma Ai, better known as Hell Girl. Created as an anime by the producer Takahiro Omori and the writer Hiroshi Watanabe, it was later adapted to manga, video game and a live action. The adventures of Hell Girl have been successful due to their links with traditional and modern Japanese ghost tales. Nevertheless, this characteristic alone wouldn’t have been enough. So, how about a journey towards the gates of hell to meet Ai? Let’s see if we survive to tell the tale. Let’s go!
- Episodes :26
- Genre :Horror, Mystery, Psychological, Supernatural
- Airing Date : Oct 4, 2004 to Apr 5, 2005
- Producers :Aniplex, SKY Perfect Well Think
Enma Ai Preview (No Spoilers)
The main theme in Hell Girl is vengeance. Most of the stories are self-contained chapters about how one desperate human being is pushed towards the Hell Correspondence website. Upon receiving the request, Ai and her helpers will appear to make the contract with the client and later keep an eye upon them. Nevertheless, a journalist called Hajime Shibata starts noticing a pattern on some particular disappearances and ends up following Hell Girl. Will he survive the encounter? You have to watch the series to find out 😉
Enma Ai Bio
Ai usually appears as a 13 year old schoolgirl in Sailor uniform when she is at her home or following clients. Nevertheless, when it is time to ferry someone to Hell, she changes her clothes to a beautiful black kimono with colorful traditional patterns. Then Ai flies towards the human world on her fire carriage, Wanyuudo. Mysterious, serene and slightly creepy, this over 400 year old spirit will make sure that the punished soul remember their crimes before being sent to Hell.
But where did Enma Ai come from? Has she always been doing this peculiar job? If you want to find out by watching the anime show, you can stop reading now. If not, let’s proceed.
Enma Ai Highlights
1. Ghostly appearance
We can notice that Ai is a supernatural being the very instant we see her. Hell Girl’s long, silky black hair and pale features are part of a very old legacy of character’s cannons in Japanese culture. The concept of vengeful spirits (called Onryo) has been accounted since at least the 8th century. It was not until the 1700’s that such spirits had a surge of popularity in female form. Nevertheless, it was the character of Oiwa in the kabuki play Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (Ghost tale of the Yotsuya Road) which gave birth to the pale female spirit with long hair and expressive eyes seeking vengeance. From that point on, vengeful spirits were not only limited to the houses of the nobles, but also haunted the commoners on daily life situations. Hell Girl’s adventures involve very common situations pleading for vengeance not only in the Japanese society, but also in the world. Her striking ghostly appearance, red eyes and elegant demeanor, make Ai absolutely remarkable at first sight.
2. Human origin with a creepy twist
We don’t discover Ai’s former life until the last episodes of the first season. It turns out that Hell Girl used to be a normal child living in a small poor village in the 1600’s. She was hassled by the children because they thought she was a monster with strange powers. The only ones that loved Ai were her family, especially her cousin Sentarou. When it was decided that she would be sacrificed to the village God in exchange for a good harvest, Ai is hidden in the mountains where Sentarou is the only one who visits her. But they are eventually discovered, so Ai and her parents are beaten up and buried alive to appease the God. Pressured by the villagers, Sentarou also helps bury her, causing Ai’s brown eyes to turn red while she screams out her hatred. Later, Ai would dramatically get out of the grave and burn the entire village while singing a nursery rhyme she used to sing along with Sentarou. So yes, if that does not qualify you for a creepy backstory, nothing will.
3. Job after death
We have said before that the main topic of Hell Girl is revenge. This means all bad actions will have consequences. And there is someone out there to make sure the payment is done: the Master of Hell, who appears as a spider most of the time. He took the souls of Ai’s parents as hostages and obliges her to become the Hell Girl. Thus, Ai is not free to die. She keeps her 13 year old appearance and spends her time playing with traditional toys in the perpetual sunset realm (thread balls and dolls have been shown on occasion). Ai waits until a client contacts her through the Hell Correspondence and then meets them along with one of her helpers, who change their form into that of a straw doll, which is then given to the client. After explaining how the contract works, Ai leaves them to decide whether they consummate their revenge. In the mid-time, Ai and the other helpers keep an eye on the client and on the subject of the revenge. In sum, we can consider Hell Girl as an antihero whose job is simply to take people to hell.
4. Lack of emotional expression
The fun part of this anime starts when the clients decide to consummate their revenge. They pull out the string attached to the straw doll and Ai’s helper flies torment the person who will be sent to hell. The interesting and spooky part is that Ai’s face rarely shows emotion during the process. She even mocks them and delivers her phrase “Would you like to see what death is like?” with a straight face, which adds to the horror. And how about those rare times where Ai has been hit? Ai does not even pronounce a sound. And talking about her voice, this is also a peculiarity in a world of anime full with high-pitched voices. In contrast with what we may expect, Ai has a soft, mature voice which also lacks emotional expression.
It is eventually revealed that Ai does have emotions, but the Master of Hell ordered her to close her heart. Otherwise, she would not be able to perform her job as Hell Girl properly. So yes, this is a job where compassion is not highly valued. But in a way that is good, as the rare times Ai is shown angry she is scary as Hell (bad pun intended).
5. Family bond
We mentioned before that there is a journalist called Hajime Shibata tracking down Ai and her comrades. Well, it turns out that this is no coincidence. The journalist and his daughter Tsugumi are the last descendants of Ai’s cousin Sentaro, who ran away from the burned village and established himself somewhere else. So, since the first encounter of Ai and Tsugumi, a bond is born between the two. Tsugumi is capable of watching what Ai is watching at the same moment, so she helps her father chase Hell Girl. At first, the father and daughter had divided opinions on Ai’s nature. Tsugumi thought she was doing something good, while Hajime thought it was bad. Nevertheless, they eventually agreed that they wanted to stop her and get badly involved in one of Ai’s contracts. Ai and her blood relatives are pursued by revenge, creating a curious bond between them.
The fascination of the Japanese for ghost stories will probably never end. If we look at the character of Enma Ai closely, we will notice that she has everything to be one of the most popular supernatural characters ever. She knows how to combine her scary features with a esthetic taste. With Ai, even death can be beautiful. Nevertheless, perhaps the most remarkable factor of her character development is how Ai was a victim of her village’s prejudices, which ended up transforming her into the very menace they feared she was. Thus, a cycle of revenge was set in motion, one that is very difficult to stop or even revert. If Ai succeeds in something, is in showing us human nature from both the inside and outside without judging. And that is how she will carry on performing her Hell Girl job.
Which other remarkable characteristic does Ai have? Which is your favorite scene with her? Remember that we are open to all your comments and suggestions. See you soon!