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HELL GIRL VOL. 1
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Takahiro Omori

Starring:
Mamiko Noto
Takayuki Sugo
Takako Honda
Eriko Matsushim

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about

Have a grudge with someone? Want revenge on those who've screwed you? Visit HellCorrespondence.com, type the name of said asshole, and you'll receive a straw doll with a red string around its neck, courtesy of Ai Enma aka the Hell Girl. If the person being tormented removes the string, then the Hell Girl and her companions will take revenge on that person's tormentor and send their ass to Hell. Unfortunately, after they die, the person granted retribution pays a hefty price of their own.

Is it good movie?

I'm not the biggest fan of anime, but I do love certain ones like GHOST IN THE SHELL, VAMPIRE HUNTER D, BLOOD and NINJA SCROLL. As for the first volume of HELL GIRL, it's a fun trip, even though it's another case of 'innocent characters being backed into a corner and resorting to something they'll end up paying for in the end' type of anime.

It feels hypocritical that Hell Girl tempts innocent souls with revenge on their transgressors and saving them in the process, then ends up punishing the innocent for it in the end. It screws with your morality for sure. Luckily, the majority of us don't have to deal with this sort of thing. Plus, it's entertaining to see the jerks pay for what they've done, as well as how the innocent characters eventually come to their decision.

Some of you keeners out there will scream and point out how HELL GIRL is all too similar to another revenge-type horror anime, DEATH NOTE. I'd have to agree that the idea of taking revenge on someone who's wronged you is there for both, but DEATH NOTE is done without a character like Ai, and without the high price involved with the retribution. Personally, I could go either way, since it's a morality play that begs to be explored.

Despite the variety of characters in the five episodes, the main character involved in all of this is Ai, who you have to wonder about, and just what her story is. Amongst her assignments of death and revenge, not much is explored about her life and the strange characters she's connected with. Despite appearing detached and quiet with regards to her position, you can't help but detect a subtle feeling of sadness with her position in life, and wonder what exactly she did to end up with it.

The design for the series is gorgeous. Ai is particularly striking, and damn creepy when she stares at the camera. She's also made that much more creepier with the superb jobs done by the two voice actors, Mamiko Noto for the Japanese track, and Brina Palencia for the English dub. Given a choice, I'd prefer the original Japanese track, since it seems more natural than the English, but that's just my opinion.

If there was anything negative about the five episodes, I'd have to say that you can kind of see this series running out of gas in short order with this sort of concept, unless of course the focus shifts from revenge-taking to character exploration in the form of just who/what Ai is. That, and the fact that it's not the gorebuster that I was hoping it would be, relying more on creepy situations than the red stuff.

Regardless, the series looks to be a great addition to any J-horror anime fan's library, especially if the idea of the innocent character being screwed for their salvation turns your crank. If you're not down with that, and are able to look past that whole morality thing, it's a fun trip.

Video / Audio

Video: Each of the five episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and showcase some great visuals. Colours are vibrant and show off great uses of contrast. There's some grain and compression the video in spots, but it's negligible. I know some folks might be turned off due to the video seeming a tad too bright and colourful for a horror-themed anime, but it's still some great eye candy.

Audio: Coming at you are three tracks: Japanese and English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0, and a Dolby Digital 5.1 English track. As I said, both the original Japanese and English dub are well done, so it's a matter of preference as to what language you want. From a technical standpoint, you really can't go wrong with the DD5.1 track, which offers so much more in terms of directionality and overall 'oomph'.

The Extras

Unfortunately, the extras for this first volume are kind of lacking, which is kind of surprising given the quality of the material. First up is a Promotional Video, which is more like a live action music video featuring Mamiko Noto, Ai Enma's Japanese voice actor. The video contains very haunting and similar images to the series, the set looks like a live version of Ai's home depicted in the show. It's an interesting extra, but it seems like fluff when you consider the following extra.

Next is the "Making Of" Promotional Video Shoot featurette, which consists of a short interview with Mamiko Noto on the set of the Promotional Video Shoot, talking about her experience doing a live shoot for a promotional video for the first time. She also discusses the story that unfolds in the video, and playing two characters. Again, it's interesting, but not what you'd want if you're looking for stuff regarding the anime itself.

Following that is Character Profiles, which takes a look at background info on Ai Enma and her servants. At four minutes, it's not exactly in-depth stuff, and is more of the stuff that is related to but doesn't delve into the actual anime.

Finally, we have some Textless Songs which are quite beautiful, Trailers and two Postcards depicting art from the series. Unfortunately, they appear to be larger than the clamshell case, so don't be surprised if you find they're crammed in there and are a little banged up when you take them out.

Last Call

An original and intriguing anime, HELL GIRL is both disturbing and delightful. Though the whole morality of punishing the innocent after the crap they've been through is kind of cruel, it serves up the question as to just how much you're willing to sacrifice to have some happiness perfectly. While the extras are interesting, they're lacking in the behind-the-scenes department of the actual anime. Here's hoping the other volumes contain something better in terms of supplements.

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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