Hell Girl Book 2

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.

Hell Girl Book 2 cover
Hell Girl Book 2
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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.)

9 Comments

  1. I know everyone likes to pick on this series for the big eyes, but it’s intended audience (13+) actually likes them. I had my oldest daughter (10) read the first volume. She loved the art, but didn’t like the concept of taking revenge. (I’ll post her full review on my blog later this week.) Pre-teen/Teens really do have a different way of looking at things, and this title is a prime example of that.

  2. I don’t care as much about the huge eyes as the hard-to-follow storytelling. That’s a very interesting observation, about the younger audience. I’m not sure I’d want too-young kids seeing the message “if you get in a tough situation, your only way out is supernatural curses” over and over. Few characters in these books ask for help from a responsible authority (and the occasional time when they do, no one believes them).

  3. […] Johanna Draper Carlson finds that she doesn’t like vol. 2 of Hell Girl any more than she liked vol. 1, at Comics Worth Reading. At Comics-and-More, Dave Ferraro finds […]

  4. The manga doesn’t sound much better than the anime series (I reviewed vols. 1-4 at http://news.toonzone.net/article.php?ID=22121), The stories of the stalker and the schoolgirl hazing sound like stories from the anime, and the abusive teacher story might have been a translation as well. One difference is that the storytelling is clear in the anime. It’s just repetitive and gets really, really boring after a while.

    That being said, volume 5 of the anime moved to “OK” (reviewed at http://news.toonzone.net/article.php?ID=23037), and the just-released volume 6 was the first one that I really liked, largely because it eschewed the usual Very Very Good people calling righteous vengeance on Very Very Bad people, and finally introduced ethical ambiguities and moral dilemmas. Still, my final recommendation on the anime is to throw away more than half of it, which isn’t ever a good sign.

  5. There’s an author’s note that one of the stories, I think the schoolgirl hazing, was adapted from the anime.

    I think you could use this premise to do deeper, more challenging stories, but then, as Lori suggests, you’d be losing the target audience.

  6. Yes, unfortunately, stories for younger audiences are more repetitive. How many times in Pokemon does Ash challenge someone to a pokemon duel, lose the first time and then win before the end of the episode? Kids can watch the same movie or episode of a show over and over and it doesn’t bother them (Trust me).

    I think the message of Hell Girl is more of a “Don’t let this happen to you”. The situations are over the top, and the characters overly dramatic, almost to the point of hyperbola. I’m glad that the doll has been introduced. It does bring in the themes of choice and second chances. I know the first volume didn’t show this either, but in the anime, it seemed like Ai wanted to discourage the people from taking their revenge, but wasn’t able to for some reason. I’d like to see that component in the manga.

  7. I can get on board with the idea that the younger audience for Hell Girl can deal with the repetition, but where I think it differs from Pokemon is that the message that it ultimately sends is terrible. Pokemon’s repetition is teaching about perseverance. As far as I can tell, Hell Girl’s repetition is saying that revenge is easy and a good thing to do, and that the only way to deal with people who are giving you problems is to kill them and condemn them to Hell. The covenant might be stated, but we never see its consequences except for a tattoo and maybe someone looking sad for a second before they get back to their now-torment-free lives. Frankly, that comes off looking like a deal you’d be crazy NOT to take.

    Those are terrible lessons to reinforce through repetition, IMO. There was exactly one episode of the anime that talked about the consequences of the covenant, and I thought it was one of the best episodes the show did.

    Using the doll may also suggest the theme of choice and second chances, but the anime undermines that theme because the antagonists are so comically, horrifically, unbelievably bad that, eventually, everybody pulls the thread. Do that three or four or a dozen times in a row and the theme of choice gets buried because it becomes, “When is this horrible, awful person going to be sent to Hell?”

    Really, if the show is aiming at the young teen audience, that’s the age when kids realize that adults don’t know everything and they start recognizing shades of gray in the world. Hell Girl could have been a way to introduce them to those shades of gray and talk about ethical dilemmas indirectly, but it opts instead for a pure black-and-white morality, which I find very disappointing.

  8. I like the anime much more than the manga. The anime loves to make the situations so that the viewer feels like screaming at the scream and telling the person being tormented that there are other options than contacting Jigoku Shoujo. The person gets lost in the moment and pulls the string. I love the episodes that speak of Ai’s past. It is so tragic and heart-Breaking. Futakomori is better than the first season because it shows Ai with more emotions. Also the repeating is the series trademark I think.

  9. […] Hell Girl can’t even get a simple morality tale about revenge right. It’s best to avoid Hell Girl in all her incarnations. Johanna previously reviewed volumes one and two. […]

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