After Tsugumi has a vision through Ai’s eyes of a secondhand bookstore, Hajime goes to investigate. He eventually finds the store, staffed by a gap-toothed owner and his parrot. An old magazine there has a story titled “Rengoku Shoujo” (Purgatory Girl). Hajime reads the article, published in 1950, and it turns out to be very similar to what he’s been told thus far about the Jigoku Shoujo, except that it refers to mailing a letter instead of using the Internet. Since the article is written under a pen name, Hajime tracks down the editor and learns that the real author is named Fukumoto – a man whose wife apparently committed suicide and his friend also died. Hajime is also given a drawing that Fukumoto originally did, one that looks exactly like Enma Ai.
On the outskirts of town, Hajime finds Fukumoto’s apartment, but Fukumoto lets Hajime in only after he mentions the Rengoku Shoujo and slides the picture under the door. Fukumoto, who’s grown old and doesn’t have much time left, tells Hajime that back then, the system used a blank space in the newspaper and people with a strong grudge could see what was in it. Only after his friend Ookouchi assaulted his wife, which led to her suicide, did he develop a grudge that allowed him to see those words. The Jigoku Shoujo showed up as soon as he mailed his letter and told him the usual conditions. Fukumoto then shows Hajime that he still bears the mark today. He tried everything to forget about his fate, but couldn’t. Instead, he ended up devoting himself to drawing Enma Ai, including a mural of her. Fukumoto tells Hajime that the only thing that he’s looking forward to is meeting Ai again because she is the one he’s thankful towards. When Hajime wonders what the Jigoku Shoujo is, Fukumoto notes that there have been texts about her dating back to the Edo period, though he thinks that it probably goes as far back as the Azuchi-Momoyama Era (late Sengoku Period, which is the late 1500s). To top it off, Hajime and Fukumoto realize that the reason he wrote about the Jigoku Shoujo, which he attributes to Ai’s will, was to convey the information to someone, and that someone is Hajime.
After Fukumoto touches up Ai’s eyes in the mural, he steps back and realizes that the painting has started to cry for him. His own candle soon burns out and he dies. When he opens his eyes again, he finds himself on Enma Ai’s boat and notes that Ai hasn’t changed since he last saw her. He then asks her if he’ll meet Ookouchi again, and Ai replies that hell is quite big.
This is an important episode about Ai and the system in the past, though I have to say that I’m a slightly disappointed because I was hoping for an episode about Tsugumi and Ai’s relationship or about Ai’s own past. Still, there’s a lot revealed this episode, starting with how the system worked back then and how Ai’s probably been around for hundreds of years. What I’m curious about is why Ai is wearing her special kimono in the flashback when she gives Fukumoto the doll. Isn’t that the kimono she dons to send people to hell? And if she’s been around for so long, then why is she normally always wearing the school sailor uniform? I’ve always attributed that to having something to do with her past.
They’re giving more and more hints that maybe Ai isn’t so happy doing this and/or is looking for a way out. With the revelation that the intent of the story Fukumoto wrote was for Hajime, we’re led to believe that perhaps Ai had planned this long ago and has been waiting for someone to figure it out. And then there are the tears from the mural, which I think is a really nice touch. Ai, who normally doesn’t show emotion, is indirectly crying for the victim (of a crime and of her system).
So, there are a lot of questions raised, but we don’t learn much about Ai’s past – which I assume is going to be left for a later episode. Next week seems to return to the normal format, though I’m wondering what they’re going to do for the next thirteen episodes if Hajime knows so much already. I guess we’ll have to wait and find out…