Hell Girl Vol. 3 (Del Rey)

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Miyuki Eto’s revenge fantasy—based on the hit anime franchise of the same name—continues.

 

 

192 pgs., B&W; $10.95

(W / A: Miyuki Eto)

What if it were really easy to take revenge on your enemies, but there was a big catch? All you have to do is to go to a particular web site at midnight and enter the person’s name: that summons Hell Girl, who has the power to send your enemies straight to hell. No muss, no fuss, except for the catch: you are also damned to hell, although the sentence is deferred until you die.

The cover to Hell Girl Vol. 3. Click for a larger image.That’s the setup for the Hell Girl franchise, which originated as a television anime series in Japan and now has manga and live-action spinoffs. The eponymous Hell Girl began life as Ai, an ordinary girl growing up in a rural village, until selected by the village elders to be sacrificed to the mountain gods.  Not surprisingly, Ai is none too keen on being a ritual sacrifice and manages to survive for a time, but after the crops fail the villagers realize something’s wrong and finish the job properly. I guess it doesn’t pay to fool with Japanese folk traditions, because besides being dead Hell Girl is sentenced to 400 years of sending other people to hell, at the end of which she will have paid for her crimes.

There’s another twist in the process: the wronged person has to take the final step to complete the contract, giving them the opportunity to reconsider. Hell Girl hands them a wara ningyo (straw doll) with a thread around its neck: revenge is not enacted until they remove the string. It’s a great premise, with lots of opportunity for philosophical considerations of justice, vengeance and forgiveness, but unfortunately the stories are pretty ordinary and superficial.

Each episode in the manga has the same structure: a girl is wronged and summons up Hell Girl to exact revenge, which may or may not be executed. In "A Gloomy Job," a middle school girl lies about her age to get a job at an amusement park, and her bishonen supervisor takes advantage of the situation. In "The Cheat" a boy first helps a girl with her studies, then frames her as a cheat. In "Love Betrayed," a girl is bullied at school. In the bonus manga "Tacking Stitches" we get some of the back-story of Hell Girl.

Most of the art in Hell Girl is basic shoujo, with huge eyes, expressive hair, and lots of screened backgrounds. The flashback sequences offer an interesting contrast as they are drawn in a simpler, more realistic style, and Hell Girl is properly fierce (especially when she appears in color on the covers, giving the artist a chance to emphasize her red eyes and yurei-like black hair.

Extras include the standard Del Rey explanation of Japanese honorifics, several four-panel strips, one page of early rough sketches, and two pages of translation notes.  Hell Girl is rated OT for Older Teen, intended for ages 16+. Further information is available from the Del Rey site here. | Sarah Boslaugh

 

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