Hashimoto Mayumi becomes the victim of bullying after she loses some fund-raising money and has to rely on another girl, Kuroda Aya, for help. While fetching drinks for Aya, Mayumi hears of a dangerous website called the 地獄通信 (Jigoku Tsuushin, or Hell Communication). Mayumi visits the site that night at midnight, and it prompts her to enter the name of the one she has a grudge against. She types in Aya’s name, but is too afraid to click the submit button. The next day, after being physically abused by Aya, Mayumi actually submits the name. She immediately gets a confirmation message on her cell phone from the Hell Girl. Nothing happens to Aya though, and the bullying continues. Aya forces Mayumi to hit on guys for money, but Mayumi back away from it though not before Aya gets an incriminating photo. At wits end, Mayumi decides to commit suicide by jumping off a building. However, on the way down, she is met by a girl who takes her to an alternate red world. The Hell Girl identifies herself as Enma Ai. She gives Mayumi a straw doll, and tells Mayumi that pulling the red string off the doll will take care of the person that she hates. However, there is a price to pay: when the string puller dies, his or her soul will also go to hell, forever to be in pain and anguish. The next day at school, Mayumi experiences the final straw in the form of her teacher getting the picture Aya took of Mayumi the night before. Mayumi goes to the rooftop and pulls off the string. A strong wind immediately blows the doll out of her hand, and it disintegrates. That night, Aya, who gets called to school, sees Mayumi. She chases her inside, but loses sight of her. As she searches from room to room, she sees several horrors, from a faceless classroom to her friends being swallowed up by the wall. She finally ends in a classroom where she meets several creepy looking characters, including Ai. The flower pattern on Ai’s kimono knocks her out, and she wakes up in a boat, being rowed through the gates of Hell by Ai. The next day, Mayumi seems a lot happier, but she is forever branded with a symbol on her chest that serves to remind her of her eventual fate.
OP: 「逆さまの蝶」 by SNoW
ED: 「かりぬい」 by Noto Mamiko
No OP for this first episode, but there is an ending song sung by Noto Mamiko herself (she plays the title character). I really like the way the music sounds, but the song itself is still growing on me. The singing starts out rather soft, but Noto-san makes full use of her vocal talents.
Jigoku Shoujo is turning out to be a very interesting show. It bears some resemblances to Death Note in the kill your foes kind of way, but the similarities end there. Instead of a notebook, there’s a website. And killing your enemies comes with a price: eternal torment in Hell once you die. And yet Mayumi pays it anyway. It’ll be interesting to see how other characters deal with it. Based on what the preview shows, I can only conclude that this series will take an episodic approach, with the only recurring cast being Enma Ai and her companions. But it’s still too early to tell where the story is ultimately going, since this episode only introduces us to the concepts and people being the Jigoku Tsuushin and the Jigoku Shoujo.
Production-wise, this show has pretty good animation, but incredible music. The background music, which comes on quite strong at times, sets a very mysterious and even horror-like mood, capturing the mood quite nicely. The character designs are actually somewhat shoujoish, though the series is far from it. But like I said, the animation seems to be really good; however, the raw I watched made everything look rather gritty, making it hard to judge the quality.
I’ll keep watching this raw for a few more episodes, but there’s a good chance I’ll put this on Subbed status if and when a group decides to do it (not because I don’t like the series, but because I’ve got too much on my plate)..