Hell (Girl) Isn't So Bad

Hell Girl
by Miyuki Eto; Original Story by The Jigoku Shoujo Project
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Genre: Horror/Shoujo
Rating: OT 16+ (Teen 13+)
Price: $10.95

Rating: ★★★★½

I don’t get it. Someone really needs to explain this to me. What was so bad about Hell Girl Volume 1 from Del Rey? I just finished reading it, and can’t see any of the problems so many other reviewers seemed to have with it.

I’ve seen the anime this manga is based on, and, on the whole, the first volume follows the first 4-5 episodes in it. There are some minor changes, such as Enma Ai is seen as a student at the schools the girls go to, instead of always waiting in her home with her “Grandmother” for a request to come through the computer. And in the anime, those that ask for Ai’s help get a straw doll with a red string around it’s neck. If they decide to make the contract with Ai, all they have to do is pull the string. Ai also gives those looking to make the contract a taste of what they will be getting after they die and go to hell. Other than those small changes, this volume follows the beginning of the anime fairly faithfully.

First, to get one thing straight. I don’t know what happened, but the age rating on this volume is wrong. It’s marked OT (16+) on the book, but the Del Rey website has it at Teen (13+) . I really hope this was an oversight on Del Rey’s part, and not a concession to any groups that may have been upset with the title or the subject. I will be very disappointed with Del Rey if it was the latter. This is definitely a title for a younger audience than 16.

So, working with the premise that this is actually a Teen rated book, everything else about it would make sense. The art style, with the big eyes fits in with Del Rey’s other Teen titles for girls, Pichi Pichi Pitch: Mermaid Melody and Mamotte! Lollipop. The stories are very shoujo with young girls as the protagonists and lots of drama to drive them to the desperate action of seeking out Hell Girl. But, what really clinched it for me was when I got to the end of the veterinarian story, as he was being tormented before being taken to hell.

About 10 years ago there was a series of horror stories written for teen readers called R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps that were really popular. I’ve come to know these books very well. My oldest daughter was hooked on them for quite a while, and my youngest daughter has been watching the tv specials that were made from the books. And Hell Girl plays just like one of these stories. An innocent kid who gets sucked in by the normal looking person who turns out to be a demon, and has to find a way to defeat it. This is Hell Girl’s formula to a tee, with the only difference that the girls go to an external source to find their answer, and even though they win in the end, they have a consequence to bear for the rest of their life. It’s a Japanese style of horror, but it’s still teen horror. Once that hit me, the book just fell into place.

That said, this is a terrific book for teens that like things on the dark side. Not necessarily goth, but like to be scared every now and then. The stories may seem to be disturbing at times. The veterinarian story is hard for pet lovers to read, but you can’t deny he didn’t deserve it. They can also seem overly dramatic, but that’s just shojo. The teacher that is able to turn not only all of the protagonist’s friends against her, but also her whole family might seem a little unrealistic to grown adults. But to a 12-13 year old girl who thinks her parents are already against her, this might not seem so. The point is, sometimes you have to look at things from their perspective.

The only thing I wish was kept from the anime is the straw doll each requester was given. In the anime, making the choice to make the contract with Ai Enma was emphasized strongly. It was shown to be a big decision, and it almost seemed like Ai wished the people would change their minds, though she would never try to persuade. In the manga, the choice doesn’t seem as important. Ai does ask once more before completing the contract, but it doesn’t get that same emphasis.

Over all, Hell Girl is good horror for teen girls. This is one of those titles where I say ignore the age rating. Del Rey blew it on this one. Hell Girl fits in perfectly with a teen audience, and will appeal to them if they are given the chance to read it. Sometimes, demographics does matter.

7 thoughts on “Hell (Girl) Isn't So Bad”

  1. I agree for the most part that this is a 13+ and not 16+ title, but I found the last two stories (the evil vet and the horny teacher) might be a little much for the too young. Maybe I am not giving kids enough credit…

  2. The youngest I would take this series done to is 10. That the age of my oldest daughter, and I know she could take all of these stories with no problem. (But then, she’s a Daddy’s Girl, and Daddy loves horror stuff). I don’t think going any younger would really understand what was going on (at least I hope not!) The evil vet is difficult for ANY age (it was difficult for me!) But with all the news stories coming out about teachers and students, I can unfortunately imagine the horny teacher…

  3. I think your points about age and audience are well-taken–it’s very easy to dismiss storylines and artwork that don’t appeal to adult sensibilities. I haven’t had a chance to read Hell Girl, but your spirited defense of it has piqued my curiosity!

  4. It’s not the greatest manga in the world, but it is definitely not the worse! I just really don’t think it deserved all the bad press it got, when most of the people reviewing it wasn’t the target audience. I do think about it sometimes, as I’m reading things like Mermaid Melody, which is for the same audience. And I think a lot of people forget what it was like being a teenage girl. If you weren’t in one of the popular cliques, you probably were wishing there was someone like Hell Girl to come and help you.

    Sometime it helps to get in touch with your inner child when reviewing some of this manga. It also helps to *have* a child or two. 🙂 I’m gonna have Jenny review this and really get a kid’s view.

  5. I really feel that teens can absorb that’s going on in hell girl. The age factor matters a lot when a story has to be understood deeply, but hell girl’s not too complicated. It can actually be best understood by the teens because usually it’s them whom Ai Enma is helping in the series and it is the teens’ stories that are being featured. Believe it or not teens are so obssessed with the troubles in their daily life that they can actually send anyone – who has offended them – to go to hell. So there is nothing wrong in what is being shown in the hell girl. Moreover the scenes that are depicted, actually take place somewhere sometime. So this reality cannot be made untrue. In fact I belive that the Jigoku Shoujo series are not quite violating to be not understood by a person of 13.

  6. I am 13, I’ve read the book, I understand everything. The Story is quite good actually. I liked every liltle short in the book, the perverted teacher one was also quite good. Hell Girl is really awesome, really easy to follow and really addicting.

  7. I’m 15 and i understand it completly. I’m also a BOY ,so its not just a girl thing! I <3 the dvd’s .. Even though i watched the flaying cart with the skeliton head on wheal heaps of times, i still get scared every time i see that part. Ai Enma is soooo cool. If only she was my wife! I really wanna read the books tooo. I think religous people would hate this movie / books because it has hell and stuff. im bringing the DVD’s and stuff over to my religous granma’s house soon , I hope she doesn’t call it shit or else ill have to cry ;(

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