「カガミジゴク 其の一」 (Kagamijigoku sono ichi)
“Hell of Mirrors Part I”
Another week, another skipped arc (or in this case, a couple) for Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun. That never thrills me, though since there are really no inferior arcs in the manga the material in the anime is always going to be strong. I’m trying not to read much into this skip as regards implications for a sequel (or a split cour). The reasons why the staff wanted to squeeze “Hell of Mirrors” in should be pretty obvious considering what (and who) it’s about – obviously that was something they felt needed to be included in the first (hopefully) season.
This episode was really all hands on deck in more ways than one, and it’s nice to see all of the main trio feature together again. Spirit photography (like blood types) is a bigger deal in Japan than in the West, and it’s obvious to Aoi when she sees what’s been showing up in the gardening club’s photos of Nene that something weird is going on. The hands in the photographs aren’t limited to 2-D imagery – Nene’s been seeing them in person, too. And even if they don’t try anything funny, it’s easy to see why a person would be unnerved by that.
It’s impossible for Kou not to notice the name of the photographer, written in the back of the club’s photo album. But reality intrudes before he has a chance to dwell on it. Kou’s answer when the hands show up in the girl’s bathroom is very Kou – arm wrestling. Anything to defend Nene from the hands would would defile her – but sadly, he’s no match for spirit power. It seems as if the hands just want a little attention, but the very last one has a trick up its non-existent sleeve – it pulls Nene into the mirror.
The Hell of Mirrors is very much what it sounds like, and another marvelously surrealistic Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun creation. Nene has no idea at first that the boy she meets there is Mitsuba, never having met him before. But she instantly falls for his princely and delicate charms – even when he makes note of her fat ankles and calls her Daikon-chan. One thing is perfectly clear from Nene’s type chart – she’s attracted to boys (or spirits of boys) that are bad for her, and not boys (or spirits) that are nice to her. Mitsuba it was who sent the hands to find someone to lend him a… you know. Since he’s trapped in this fresh Hell, after all.
What is Mitsuba – who seemed very much dead even by ghost standards – doing in this place, and why does he have almost no memories? He knows his own name, and that this is the domain of Mystery #3 – but not much else. In fact Nene knows a lot more about these sorts of places than Mitsuba does, which places her in a sempai role she rather enjoys. But the calling card of this mystery is that it targets the dark places in your mind and attacks them. And in her case, that’s her daikon legs – and it’s an apparition of Aoi, no less, who delivers the bad news.
The particular challenge of this domain for Hanako is that it targets the darkness in one’s mind – and he knows that he brings a great deal for it to draw strength from. As for poor Mitsuba, what’s targeted with him really illuminates his tragedy – in the mirrors, he sees nothing. Being alone and invisible is the worst terror he can imagine (even worse than only being a “7”), and he felt like he was experiencing it even when he was alive. It’s not nice being called “Daikon-chan” but on an existential level, Mitsuba’s Hell is a hell of a lot more harrowing.
That it’s Tsukasa rather than Amane who arrives to “help” is rather a jolt, and the last few moments of the episode are among the darkest the series has offered yet. Number 3 doesn’t seem an especially sympathetic figure, but what Tsukasa does to him is shockingly brutal. And the grip of terror he has over Mitsuba is clear in the little spirit’s reaction on seeing him, memories or no – some memories are deeper than our conscious mind. Tsukasa clearly isn’t through playing with him yet – and we’ve seen enough to know that’s not a good position to be in.