Genres: Mystery, Horror, Supernatural, Psychological
Episodes: 26 + 26 + 26
Personal Rating: 9/10
As much as I hate episodic anime, I must say this one is an exception. I found this anime when I was searching for a psychological show on MAL. I saw the ratings, and they all seemed pretty decent, so I gave it a shot. And I´m glad I did…
It´s not that easy to like shows like these, since at first sight there isn´t any sign of a linear plot, its just a bunch of different stories thrown together to make a 26 episode anime. Because of this, many people tend to drop this show before the really good episodes come around. I must say I was pretty close to drop it myself, but fortunately I kept going, and Im glad I did. Don´t expect happy endings for all the arcs, since you wont get many of those in this show. So, is it worth watching or not? Let´s find out!
Story (9/10): As stated before, each episode brings a new story, but a basic plot still exists: there´s a website on the internet called the “Hell Link”, which can only be accessed at midnight.
Besides that, the website can only be accessed by someone who holds alot of hatred in their hearts. When someone writes the name of a person here, the Hell Girl (named Enma Ai) appears and gives them what looks like a voodoo doll with a scarlet thread tied in its neck.
She then says that if the thread is untied, the person whose name was written in the website gets sent straight to hell. After that, the person who untied the thread receives a mark, and whenever that person dies, he or she will also go to hell. Usually, Enma vanishes after this speech, leaving only the words “The decision rests with you”. Most people don´t untie the thread right away, but try to fix their problems without resorting to the powers of the doll, but usually they end up pulling it in the end. The problem is that some problems don´t get fixed even after the person is banished to hell, which results in someone offering their lives to hell after they die, and still live a bad life.
What I described is what happens in EVERY episode, though some of them skip some parts. What´s funny about this is that the story is based on a japanese urban legend. Anyway, the plot might seem a little cliche at first, and you might think “How can they make 72 episodes with 3 seasons all with different stories and characters?”. Well, the answer is quite simple, it works. Not only its fun to watch and think “Would I pull the thread if I were in his/her situation?”, but also because of the emotional stories you get to watch. All in all, most of the arcs are well written and make sense, so I´ll give a 9/10 to the story department.
Art (7/10): The art isn´t the worst I´ve seen, but it feels kinda old. One thing I noticed is that most of the earlier 2000´s psychological anime have art similar to this. It´s overall decent, and the enjoyment factor isn´t at all affected by it. The animation is quite good to be honest, though there aren´t really many action scenes where the animation can be easily evaluated, one can still be aware of it, and its much better than most anime from that time. The character designs are a letdown though: alot of them look the same, just with different hair color or some other facial feature, but there are some good ones, like Enma´s design, which is obviously the most important one, and that can also be noticed, because she has the most unique one.
I usually try to take into account the year in which the anime aired before judging this, because obviously something like Rose of Versailles can´t have top notch art/animation quality when it was aired back in 1979. But anything from 2000+ has to be treated equally, and in that regard, there are too many shows with better art and animation than Jigoku Shoujo, so I can´t really say it fares well today. All taken into account, I can´t give a higher score than a 7/10 to this one.
Soundtracks (8/10): There aren´t really too many original soundtracks in this show, there´s only a few. However, they are used as they should, and a wide variety of them can be found. What´s really good about this show are the sound effects. Seriously, they are amazing. They make the experience SO much better, its actually unbeleivable at first. And this is the hardest part to explain, because you have to hear them for yourself. On another note, the opening themes are superb, and fit a psychological show like this, but the ending themes arent really anything to brag about, they are decent and fun to hear when watching the anime, but they aren´t as memorable as the opening themes.
I rarely take into account the Sound when rating an anime, but I must say this really did leave an impression on me, and I think its amazing how simple things like sound effects can improve the experience so much. Some shows try to take advantage of computer generated art or amazing and epic soundtracks to the same thing Jigoku Shoujo can accomplish with simple sound effects, while most of the others fail. Being one of the few shows to have three excellent openings makes up for the lowsy ending themes and the lack of insert musics, so a well-deserved 8/10 is appropriated.
Characters (9/10): Now, I wont talk about every character, with each new arc there are at least 6 new characters, and all the episodes introduce a new arc, so I´m only going to talk about four of them. Enma Ai is the obvious main character, she´s a black haired girl with red eyes (just how I like ´em), she´s also relatively short. She seems emotionless at first, as she banishes people to hell without any kind of remorse or anything, but you´ll eventually notice some emotions that she rarely displays. Her past is also revealed later on, which only makes it better. Enma´s lines are almost always the same, but MUCH later on, you´ll notice some changes, aswell as some other dialogues.
As for the other three, they are Enma´s assistants that help her in her mission to banish people to hell. There are all people that were saved by her in the past, and feel like they owe her their lives. Their past is also revealed in the second season. There three characters usually conduct an investigation before banishing people to hell, in order to find out if that person is truly bad enough to be sent to hell. Wanyuudou is an old man that usually wears a hat and is almost always smiling. He was the first to join Enma, and he´s also what allows Enma to travel, because he has the ability to turn into a fire wheel that can fly and carry her. Ichimoku Ren was the second to join Enma, he´s a handsome young man that can use an ability that allows him to spy anything he wishes by creating a third eye somewhere, and he can see everything around that eye as if he was there. He uses this to spy on people that access the Hell Link, the victims, etc. Finally, Hone Onna is a woman that usually wears a kimono, and she is known for her countless costumes, which she uses to spy on people. She hates when people call her Oba-san (which mean old lady), and usually reacts badly to it.
As I stated above, each arc brings new characters, but these four appear in EVERY SINGLE episode, and are never left out. All the three assistants are used to make the dolls that Enma gives to the people who write a name in the Hell Link. As for other characters, they are depicted as humane and realistic characters, much like in Monster, there aren´t really moe or unrealistic people in this anime. Considering the amount of characters that this anime has, plus the fact that many of them are good or decent enough, the Character department deserves an almost perfect 9/10. A job really well done here.
Enjoyment (9/10): Very rarely I find an anime like this, because it starts off slow and cliche, but gets really good later on. Most shows start off amazing, and then get weaker and weaker throughout the episodes, but its indeed interesting to watch an anime get gradually better, until it hits its climax. I really enjoyed the ride, and I wish more episodes existed, I really do. You´ll find yourself craving for more if this is your type of show. Its the only episodic show that I watched that I consider “good”, and its definitelty an exception in that regard. It really comes down to whether you´re easily entretained or not, and your basic standards. Maybe experienced anime viewers wont like this anime as much, and will find a cliche and boring show instead of what I described earlier. Personally, I loved the anime, and there wasn´t a single episode that was a complete letdown, so I´ll rate a 9/10 to this department.
Overall (9/10): All things considered, this anime IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. Non-psychological/horror fans will have a hard time enjoying this, because it does have some gore (but not too much), and the psychological part is easily what sells the anime. This said, even people who hate episodic shows should give this a chance. It really stands out among a handful of episodic anime, and in my opinion, its worth taking a look for yourself, and if you decide you don´t really like it, then you should drop it. Its hard to judge an anime without actually watching it, and one should not stay away from a show because of its genre. Since this is all about personal opinions, Ill end off things with a 9/10. I dont think the show was perfect, it did have some flaws (probably many more than the ones I mentioned), but its still highly enjoyable and fun to watch. So, go give this show a try, its definitely worth it, and you might find a show that´ll entretain you for 72 episodes!
Thanks for reading!