- Episodes :26 (season 1)
- Genre : Supernatural, Horror, Mystery, Drama
- Airing Date :October 2005 – April 2006
- Producers : Studio Deen, Aniplex
Jigoku Shoujo Preview / Plot (No Spoilers)
It is said that if one possesses true feelings of hatred and vengeance towards another individual and you access the website Hell Correspondence at exactly midnight, then you can ask Hell Girl to take revenge on that person for you.
Supposedly what happens next is hell girl appears, makes an offer, and your vengeance is served to the person whom you hate the most. However, is that all that really happens? Is there more to the story than we are led to believe? The show follows Enma Ai, the hell girl, and her three servants, an old man named Wanyuudo, a geisha looking like woman named Hone Onna, and a young man named Ren Ichimoku. Very little is known about Ai other than she has been doing this for a long time and she lives in a hut with her grandmother and her servants.
Who does Jigoku Shoujo cater to?
Jigoku Shoujo is a dark anime. It’s very dark considering the central theme is about exacting revenge on others. The show doesn’t flat line with that though. It has mystery, intrigue, a good healthy mix of supernatural, and very sad storylines sometimes.
It usually starts out with someone who has been hurt by someone else or bears a dark secret. Finally their hatred reaches a tipping point and they decide to call upon Jigoku Shoujo to take out revenge. After entering into a contract with her, they are given a straw doll with a red string tied around its neck. Before they can pull it though, she warns them should they go through will killing the other person, they will be cursed as well. Two holes will appear on their body and they too will go to hell, however, it will be when they die. Whenever that may be.
When a string is pulled however, the victim is whisked away into a fantasy world where Jigoku Shoujo and her servants torment the person going to hell. They do this to draw out sorrow or despair before rebuking the individual for the darkness in their souls and inviting them to die and go to hell.
What's so appealing about this piece of work.
First, there is the central plot. Anime after anime will focus on heaven or another world as the central plot. Jigoku Shoujo, however, focuses on hell which is a great turn towards a different, standout plot. The art! The art style is very well done and beautiful at some of the darkest moments. The soundtrack for this show is also very well done. Personally, I enjoy the mystery behind Jigoku Shoujo as well as the stories that unravel behind each character including the two human characters, the Shibatas.
Jigoku Shoujo is also a great look at the lies that people tell each other in society as well as the darkness that resides in people’s hearts. One might even be able to go far as to say that you might be able to find some of these people in real life… Jigoku Shoujo is another one that tends to draw you in and you begin to sympathize with some of the victims.
Jigoku Shoujo Main Characters List
Enma Ai (Hell Girl herself)
Voice Actor :Mamiko Noto
Ai is the protagonist of the series. A Japanese beauty by all standards, she is a beauty with long flowing black hair, pale skin, but she has piercing red eyes. She normally wears a black school uniform for most encounters, but when she sends people to hell, she wears a beautiful flowing kimino with floral patterns. She always speaks in a very soft tone. She serves the Lord of Hell as the hell girl, and she has been doing so for the past 400 years.
Ai tends to present herself as stoic and she doesn’t reveal her true feelings often. This way she stays in control. Her servants do notice it though, and will periodically comment on her actual feelings.
Voice Actor :Takayuki Sugo
Wanyuudo is the first of three servants that Ai has. In human form, Wanyuudo is an old man, and speaks like one, whose eyes look as if they are permanently shut. He wears traditional Japanese clothing. His doll form is that of a black doll with the red string around its neck. He also appears as the wheels on the flaming chariot that Ai rides when she is going to exact revenge.
He was saved by Ai first and is very loyal to her. He almost acts as a grandfather figure to Ai, but naturally he serves her so he cannot force his will onto her. He is very good at martial arts and controls fire. Interesting enough, his name means “a wheel that is entering a road.” A reference to his past as a chariot driver.
Voice Actor :Takako Honda
Hone Onna is the second servant of Ai. In human form, Hone Onna is dressed as a geisha with her obi tied in the front, the old sign of a prostitute. She tends to investigate people in the real world whom have had hits taken out on them and she will dress up in regular clothes. She is adorable and slightly vain because she gets flustered when people make jokes about her age. In doll form, she is the red straw doll with a red string tied around her neck.
She was saved by Ai second and she is also loyal. She is a bit immature sometimes which plays up to her cute factor with the age teasing as well. Her name literally means “bone woman” because she can make parts of her body disappear so all the victims see are bones. She can also summon skeletons to help her.
Voice Actor :Masaya Matsukaze
Ichimoku Ren is sometimes referred to as “moku,” or “Ishimoto Ren” is the third and final major servant of Ai. Ren is an attractive young guy who usually wears a green jacket and a black shirt. He constantly hide the left side of his face with his hair. He takes the form of the blue doll with a red string tied around it. Ren also investigates happenings in the real world with Hone Onna.
His power is appearing as a giant eye, usually on a wall or a ceiling as he watches humans. He can also shoot powerful bursts of light from his eye if need be. Ren’s name means “a one glance company” which is a reference to his eye powers.
Jigoku Shoujo Review
Jigoku Shoujo is good. Man I love this show. The art is great. The backstories are tragic and well done. The soundtrack is top notch. The characters are well done. The plot doesn’t get dry. I could keep going but let’s talk shop!
So the show does start out as an episodic format, which I am usually not a fan of. However, it does start to pick up steam as the Shibata family is introduced and they eventually talk about Ai’s past. The first 8-10 episodes follow a pattern for the most part. Something happens and someone is pissed at someone else, they access Hell Correspondence. Users must access the website at midnight with a heart full of vengeance. If they are successful, they are taken to a black screen and fire flashes. It fades away to reveal a box to write someone’s name, the submit button, and above it, it just says, “We will take vengeance on your behalf.” Ai appears, usually with a servant or two and explains the process and gives the person a straw voodoo doll. The process is that, if they pull the string, the other person will go to hell, no questions asked. However, they too are now cursed with a tattoo that looks like two rings and a flame. The tattoo means that when they die, whenever that may be, they too will go to hell. Hajime does meet someone who used Ai’s services long ago and he has lived his whole life obsessed with Ai and her beauty. When taking him to hell because he dies of old age, Ai pities him but must ferry him for fear of breaking the rules. Back to the contract though, people are told they must be the ones who choose. This always makes people reconsider and think about it. They hold on to the doll till their hatred hits breaking point and then they pull the string.
This is where each episode gets unique. Fantastic encounters tailored to each person make the sending to hell different each time, but as always, they are asked to die by Ai. Then, they wake up in a boat that Ai is ferrying on what is assumed to be the river Styx and they are sent to hell. After this beginning part of the season though, the plot opens up now that we have a feel for the cast, and shows Tsugumi and her connection to Ai. At first Tsugumi and Hajime are conflicted about whether they should intervene or not and stop from using Jigoku Shoujo. Eventually, Hajime starts chasing down people using his daughter Tsugumi and tries to talk them out of it. Usually he is too late and someone has already pulled the string. Hajime is acting, actually, as the hero in this series because Ai is actually an anti-hero. I mean yes, she’s the protagonist, but she also sends people to hell. That’s not very hero-like.
Ai lives in a small home/hut in hell that exists in eternal twilight. She is often shown as a child. Playing games, playing with toys, or even bathing in the river lined with beds of spider lilies. She has an old computer that requests come in on and her grandmother is spinning yarn behind a shoji (paper door). You will never see the grandmother. One character does eventually see what grandmother looks like in a later season, but I won’t spoil anything for you. Grandmother will always tell Ai that she has work when a request comes in.
It’s very interesting that one never actually does see what the real hell is. Ai gives people visions of hell when she explains the terms of the contract and them being damned. Other than that though, the glimpses of hell are the eternal sunset plain that people are transported to when Ai meets them and they form a contract, and the eternal twilight home that she lives in. It’s really cool also how they show how Hell Correspondence used to exist before the internet. Originally people wrote on wooden blocks used for shrines, then there was a blank ad in the newspaper, and then they evolved to the website.
Eventually towards the end of season one though, the rate at which people are being sent to hell is getting out of control and it happens so fast that Hajime is blown away. He does successfully stop one girl from using the doll after she has taken out the contract, but Hell Correspondence is very annoyed with him. Episode 25 tells the horrible backstory of Ai. Long ago she was abandoned in the mountains to be a sacrifice for the harvest. Her childhood best friend and cousin saves her and hides her. He periodically brings her food, but one day, she is discovered living in the mountains. They villagers gather around blaming her for not dying and decide to kill her there. They dig a hole and force the cousin, her only friend, to bury her alive. He throws the first pile of dirt on the grave and Ai dies. This is where her hatred comes from giving birth to the hell girl. She is given the power to come back by the Lord of Hell and she burns her whole village to the ground killing everyone. As payment though, she is now hell girl. Irritated by Hajime’s interference, the Hell Correspondence team and Ai try to get Tsugumi to send her father to hell by showing her half memories of what happened to her mother before she died. However, Hajime comes clean and tells her the rest of the half memories before Tsugumi has a chance to send him and she forgives him. Ai returns to hell and everything seems to pan out, but is it really ok?
That’s the end of season 1. Two and three provide more and I definitely recommend them!
1. Death Scenes/Ferry to Hell
Notably the best part of the series are the scenes right after someone has pulled the thread. You get to watch someone be sent to their death. This is what pulls the show out of its episodic format and makes each one unique. The revenge always takes a different form and is never the same. The one I can recall the best was the veterinarian one. That scene was really intense with the surgery drill and how they treated the doctor as if he was an animal who couldn’t speak. The scenes never stop either because on the boat they are also tortured again.
2. Twilight Hell
Hell in Jigoku Shoujo or rather that odd place between hell and earth where the characters exist is quite strange. As I said before, we get two glimpses of a place that seems to be stuck in eternal twilight. There is the plain where contracts are made, and the home which Ai, her grandmother, and her servants seem to live in. You never see more than the mountain range and the red sun in the plain scene. The house scenes showing what’s around the house show mountains and the red sun but there is a tree and the river with the spider lily patches. It leaves me with so many questions!!!! Why is it there? What purpose does it serve? How do they get there? It’s not purgatory, so what is it exactly???
3. The Three Servants
In no way shape or form am I saying that Ai is boring. These three characters however, are very much relatable to as a viewer. They all have fairly sad stories, they don’t quite seem to be in the know on what is exactly happening, and they give us a glimpse into the characters of the show when Ai isn’t present, i.e., tailing people to make sure that they use the doll while discovering things about them. Their powers are all cool. Wanyuudo doesn’t look like he’s a martial artist, or can he breathe fire, but surprise! And then of course there is Hone Onna’s daggers, and Ren’s strange light.
Whew! Here we go again! Well, how did I do? I really like Jigoku Shoujo. I think it’s a good staple and a great look at an actual horror show in the horror genre. I feel like some shows are labeled as horror without being remotely scary. The darkness in the people, the plot, and the existence of hell itself are pretty good for this show.
If I had to suggest a show like it, maybe, Death Parade or Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni? I should warn you that Higurashi is not only horror, but also a psychological thriller, so it’s rough on the mind.
How do you feel about Jigoku Shoujo? Did you like it? How about this, Hajime is always interfering with people using Hell Correspondence. He says that there is always a better path than revenge. What do you think? Would you side with Hajime or with Jigoku Shoujo? Let us know in the comments below!