by Miyuki Eto; adapted by Gemma Collinge
published by Del Rey Manga; $10.95 US
After finding Book 1 repetitive, I thought I’d give the series one more shot to see if it got any fresher. Not so much. Each chapter is still a short, sometimes abrupt, tale of how a deserving victim is sent to hell, and the only new element here was inserted to bring the stories closer to the anime series.
The first chapter stars an ice skater who wants to eliminate her higher-ranking competition. She thinks she’s outsmarted Hell Girl, figuring out a way to send two people, not just one, to hell, but she instead gets what she deserves, thanks to an important story fact unrevealed until the end. (Plus, anyone who chortles to themselves, “I’m so smart!” is automatically not in stories like these.)
The art short-cuts wherever possible. Instead of showing a skater falling, for example, we’re just shown her sitting on the ice. The only thing different between angry Azusa and shocked Azusa are that her single-line eyebrows tilt in a different direction. I kept confusing her with her competition since they have the same face, all huge eyes. Her hell, the reveal of which should have been a slow build to creepy, was more told than shown, and what we did see was confusing.
The second story, about an abusive housekeeper who wants to marry the man of the house, ends as you’d expect. This is one of the most difficult elements of the series concept for me — innocents who have no other way out of a difficult situation other than to call Hell Girl are told they’re cursed as well. It doesn’t seem to bother them much, but it’s disturbing to be told that seeking help will send you to hell. What else were they supposed to do?
Other tales include dealing with a stalker, an abusive teacher, and schoolgirl hazing. The item from the anime series is a straw doll. After entering a name at midnight in the Hell Girl’s website, the requestor is given one. The named person is taken to hell only if the doll’s string is untied. This gives the requestor a second chance to back out, although no one ever takes it. It also pushes Hell Girl even further away from the victims; I’d like to see a lot more interaction, but her presence is almost rubber-stamped.
The notes from the author come in handy, because without them, I wouldn’t have known what some of the scary things she drew were supposed to be. Also, at the end of this book are a set of four-panel humor strips starring Hell Girl as an extra. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)