Seeing the preview in episode 9, I didn’t have a good feeling about this episode. However, it’s nice to be proven wrong every so often, as this is one of the better episodes of this season. A non-idiotic and actually believable situation contributes quite a bit, I suppose. With that said, I’m still at a loss as to why Yuzuki is not featured as a central character. Poor girl is literally a Jigoku canister, and that’s about it.
Yuzuki often sees Ichimura Kazuya as he works his morning rounds delivering the newspaper. Although coming from a rich family, Kazuya sees the job as a chance to gain some experience working. After getting home, Kazuya is greeted by his kind father, who completely ignores his wife in order to get closer to his son. She sees them off as Akie and Yuzuki pass by, the latter hearing a soft song being sung as she waves. At school, the Jigoku Tsuushin all note how Kazuya has the straw doll but hasn’t pulled the string for a while. Consider the research he’s been doing in the library, he’s probably afraid of what the ‘endless vista of Hell’ is like.
Returning home, Kazuya finds his mother trying on a new and rather expensive looking kimono from a door to door salesman who looks like he’s taken a liking to her. His mother asks for his opinion, but Kazuya leaves for the sanctity of his room, where the straw doll (Yamawaro) lies on the bed untouched. In the other room, the merchant compliments Kazuya’s mother on her beauty and how much the kimono suits her. Taken in by his words, she decides to purchase it without much further thought, and the salesman, Saito, grins in triumph at his latest victory.
The next shift, Kazuya gets his paycheck, and starts going home when he runs into Yuzuki. The two walk together for a while, and Kazuya asks if Yuzuki’s parents get along well with each other. Although she lives alone, Yuzuki has never noticed an issue between her mother and father; when she asks how Kazuya’s family is, however, the boy is simply silent.
Having arrived home, Kazuya finds his mother already wearing her new kimono, and begs her to stop letting Saito into the house to sell her clothes. However, his mother cannot help but think Saito is a nice person, and Kazuya’s words go unheeded. Kazuya’s father returns home and doesn’t take notice of the new kimono; instead he complains that his wife isn’t doing her duties by preparing dinner, and decides to go out to eat. He is visibly distressed when his son refuses to go out with him, causing him to storm out. Soon after, Saito returns, and Kazuya’s mother snaps up an obi he offers without even seeing it, while Kazuya himself struggles to pull the string off of the straw doll. In the evening, Ren finds Kazuya has been donating his pay to his mother to support her, and can only conclude that while he does not agree with her buying from Saito, Kazuya is simply too scared of Hell to pull the string himself.
The next day, Kazuya’s mother excitedly tells her son that she found more money in her wallet, meaning that Kazuya’s father had accepted her buying the new kimono, and even thought it looked good. She quickly decides to purchase more kimonos with her newfound wealth as Kazuya simply looks on before going to school. It’s the day of the school marathon, so everybody’s out in PE clothes and running around the city. Kazuya is off running by himself when he finds Saito commenting over the phone how easy it is to convince his mother to buy things. He never finshes the race, instead going home to find Saito selling even more stuff to his mother; he finally accepts his fate and pulls the string, damning the salesman to Hell, where he continues to spew fire even as Ai takes him through the gates.
The next day, Sone-sensei finds Kazuya in the library, and the boy apologizes for never making it to the finish line. Flashbacks reveal that a new salesman has found his way to the Ichimura residence, and his mother continues to make idiotic purchases. As he flips through a book describing Hell, the place he will eventually go to, he asks his teacher what is it that women want to hear the most. Sone-sensei cannot give a good answer, and Kazuya can only think that his mother is easily convinced when she hears that she is called ‘beautiful’.
- The maddening part of this is that I’ve seen some idiot door-to-door salesmen before. In fact, our house now has a ‘no soliciting’ sign on top of the door bell to ward them off, but some of them just don’t learn. So I’m really not surprised about the premise of this episode. In their profession they have to be able to manipulate the buyer’s emotions and really make the ‘sell’, and more often than not, there’s a sucker out there who will take anything just for a good word. So can you really fault them for making a living out of it? It’s not an honest job, but one nonetheless, and certainly not something to be sent to Hell for. Perhaps my viewpoint is clouded by the poor job conditions of today, where people really have to scrape to survive. And this point is a little less relevant considering that Saito gloated over how easy it was to pilfer money out of the Ichimuras.
- I really like having a character like Kazuya in this series, and it’s a shame it’s a one time deal. For the first time in I don’t remember how long, we have a character that actually considers the ramifications of the Jigoku Shoujo contract. A high school kid who actually cares about his future – who knew? To me, he’s the best character to embody “self sacrifice”, as he finds himself willing to go to Hell to save his mother from an endless cycle of buying that would lead the family to financial ruin. With that said, it’s still the case that not everything is best solved by cursing the villain to Hell. As the end of the episode points out, there are plenty more to take one evil’s place.
- The entire episode pretty much stems from having a dysfunctional family. The wife doesn’t feel she has the husband’s attention, and dresses up more and takes more drastic actions in order to get that attention. Unfortunately, the man of the house is busy with work, etc., and never notices her, leading her to get that attention from outside sources. The shameful truth of society, unfortunately. From what I hear, it’s especially prevalent in Japanese families, where the head of the house is still a salaryman and is beset by stress and the onslaught of work. To think this could’ve all been avoided with a simple “You look beautiful” or something is really quite depressing.
- There are three main symbols in the episode – the goldfish, the mirror, and the dragon. We can look at each of them in a little more detail.
- GOLDFISH – The classic symbol of money and wealth (though these days, you have those humongous silver dragonfish swimming around in Chinese restaurants). I find it somewhat ironic that as the salesman went to Hell, the goldfish in Kazuya’s room upended itself. Perhaps that goldfish is more linked with the prosperity in Kazuya’s future, and how it’s now all for naught as he will descend to Hell when he dies.
- MIRROR – Mirrors can represent a lot of things, but to me, the mirror in this episode is an exclamation of vanity and superficial beauty. Notice how much time Kazuya’s mother spends in front of one and you’ll see it pretty quickly.
- DRAGON – I’m going to go away from the Asian symbol of the dragon and adopt a more Western approach. Classical Western mythology has the dragon beeing the strongest symbol of evil, a sign of temptations and sins. Therefore, it was considered an honor to slay the dragon in name of justice and of all that is good in the kingdom. Think King Arthur times on this one. Anyway, the focus isn’t on the dragon itself, but on the dragon’s forked tongue and the “fire” it breathes. It really does symbolize a salesman very well, doesn’t it? It does in my head.
- Whew, if you couldn’t tell, I really liked this episode. Haven’t written this much on Jigoku Shoujo in quite a few episodes. Maybe ever.
Kikuri isn’t so happy anymore 😦