Hell Girl: Two Mirrors
Ai Enma (Hell Girl) continues her job of banisher-to-Hell-for-hire, with a couple of new developments: a mysterious terrible tot named Kikuri joins her entourage, and Ai suddenly finds her services way overbooked when banishment to Hell becomes the "in" thing in the ironically-named community of Lovely Hills.
Hell Girl has always been a kind of lesser Tales From the Crypt. In Tales and its ilk, there were always awful people who would always meet their comeuppance in some gruesome and usually ironic manner. Hell Girl has the awful people, and the comeuppances, but the comeuppances usually aren't particularly gruesome; and while Ai and her entourage do like to "play" with the victims a bit, ultimately the banishments aren't usually particularly ironic for the bad guy- in Hell Girl, they're usually much more ironic for the banisher than for the banishee.
The first season of this show started with this formula, but then started working on some interesting perturbations of it, and before too long segued into a kind of philosophical consideration of revenge versus forgiveness. This time, unfortunately, the formula rules (with one exception) until the final three or four episodes
There's some new stuff here, but it seems mainly there to leaven the deadening effect of the formula. Kikuri is somewhat interesting, in an annoying way- a younger child than Ai, with enormous blue eyes instead of Ai's enormous red ones, she is the "bratty kid sister" stereotype with more sinister overtones than usual, and while I WAS surprised at what she actually turned out to be, I shouldn't have been. Second Season also provides backstories for the three members of Ai's "posse"- Khimokuren (the young one with the "Eye"), Wanyuudou (the old one, whose "wheel" connection is explained here), and Hone Onna (the lady who, except when interacting with humans, usually appears in traditional Japanese dress).
Hone Onna is the "star" of the one bright spot before the last few episodes. In "Anna Sone's Intimate Holiday", we're introduced to Tetsuro, a ne'r-do'-well's ne'r-do-well, the kind of guy who, when he's literally handed everything he needs to make his dream come true, still can't (or more precisely, WON'T) make it happen. Despite his loser status as far as careers go, Tetsuro nevertheless has a certain charm with the ladies, and eventually accumulates an unlikely entourage that includes his abandoned wife; one of his later mistresses; and- of all people- Hone Onna, here taking the name "Anna Sone". Of course this is a Hell Girl episode, so ultimately it can't escape its pedigree, but until near the end it plays more like a French comedy than like Tales From the Crypt, and is a welcome bit of lightness in a mostly dark and dreary sea.
The other bright spot is the last few episodes, where one typical revenge tale actually becomes a springboard for something at least different: a kid named Tamura gets unjustly accused of causing a disappearance (as well as the murder of his mom and the near-murder of his dad), and since he's already become a scapegoat, other folks with "grievances" rush to take advantage of that fact. People start vanishing in public, chaos ensues, and Tamura's universally blamed, though why nobody tries to banish him right away is unexplained (except as a plot convenience, of course). Late in the story, someone who'd actually sworn to protect Tamura is driven over the edge (figuratively AND literally), and does try to banish him- and the outcome of this sets up the ending of the season.
Of the ending I'll only say that it seemed to me that it made the 400 years of Ai's post-life a kind of detour from her destiny, and it would have been a good ending for the series, if it had BEEN the actual end of the series. (Cue Season Three)
Another problem with the show is its inconsistencies. For example, Ai makes a great deal of saying, late in the show, that she never turns down a request- when we've SEEN her do this at times during the season. Ai's entourage is not supposed to try to influence a "customer's" decision on whether to banish- but they occasionally do that, too.
I have to admit I did kind of like the closing song this time (a melancholy thing called Dyeing Indigo). Like most Sentai Filmworks releases, this one has no dub track.
I REALLY wanted to go three stars on this one, but the math wouldn't work out; too many 2-star episodes, only about 4 4-star ones. A blatant case of too little, too late. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: There's some technically "underage" nudity late in the show, as well as a character with some unhealthy designs on his own sister. Cruelty to animals is still present also. Older teens and adults only.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Hell Girl: Two Mirrors © 2006 Studio DEEN
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