Otaku USA Magazine
Hell Girl – Volume 4

Brutal lessons continue to be doled out in the fourth volume of Miyuki Eto’s take on the Hell Girl anime. As always, lives are lost in the process, sentenced forever to roam the fiery beyond, and even the poor souls victimized in each chapter have to face the fact that they, too, will eventually be joining them.

The first tale revolves around an aspiring pianist named Yui who receives an offer to accompany her school’s choir at a singing contest. This sounds like a great opportunity to develop her skills and really pursue the instrument with full attention, but there’s one thing standing in her path. Her father, his ire stoked by her announcement, forbids her to go and demands that she stop wasting her time with the piano. It’s not a light punishment either; this guy’s taking it to the level of “I’ll make sure you never touch a piano again.”

He locks her in her room and practically starves her just to keep her away from the contest, and then goes even further down the ladder of madness, so you know it’s time for Ai Enma to run a not-so-divine intervention as Hell Girl. Sending your old man to Hell seems pretty extreme, but considering his final actions, it’s a pretty justified route for Yui to take. Such is the world of Hell Girl.

The following stories offer similarly bleak situations with only one real solution to the problem. From a woman whose actions would make PETA send us a letter to the darker side of squandered friendships, there isn’t a light at the end of these tunnels unless someone ends up in Hell. The series rarely asks the reader to balance their own morals against a grey-area conflict; it’s all very black and white for the most part. The most interesting story in this volume involves a fake Hell Correspondence site that was set up to pin the act of the curse on someone else. This is probably the least straightforward tale with the most “guilty” players that should all technically be cursed for eternity.

The punishments in Hell Girl are still one of the highlights. It’s very Freddy Kreuger of her to, say, bind the aforementioned father’s hands to a piano with oozing tendrils so he has to play in Hell for eternity. In the chapter with the fake Hell Correspondence site, the party to blame for everything ends up trapped inside of a computer, assaulted by a virus until her screams are digitally drowned out forever. I almost wish she would dwell on these endings for longer, but that’s the horror fan in me speaking. While the real tragedy is the fact that the protagonist of each story will eventually be sent to Hell themselves, it’s much easier to focus on the immediate punishments of evil since it’s unlikely you’ll ever see the good soul in question again.

Anyone that enjoyed the first few volumes (or the anime) of Hell Girl will dig this one, as it’s really more of the same. One could pick up pretty much any volume and start from any point in the series and still have a very clear idea of the formula that fuels it. It can get a little repetitive if you’re barreling through chapter after chapter, and the rules of cursing people to Hell are constantly echoed, but it’s not a bad episodic dose of light horror, and Eto’s artwork is far from repellent. That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but like I said, such is the world of Hell Girl.

Publisher: DelRey
Story & Art: Miyuki Eto
Rating: OT 16+

Images © 2008 by Miyuki Eto/Jigoku Shoujo Project


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