When I watched this episode, the first thing that popped into my head was “oh wow, you’d have to be BLIND not to see this ending coming”. It honestly seemed primed for yet another failed attempt to pique my interest, and you know what? I saw the ending coming, and enjoyed it anyway. This may seem a bit odd, I know, but the final part was the clincher for me, regardless of the painfully transparent happenings that are occurring throughout the episode. Had a real Lola Rennt -esque feel to it all (thankfully, though, they don’t go through the entire thing three times before deciding ‘okay move on now’.)
With practically everybody around her using their cell phones to contact the Jigoku Tsuushin, Yuzuki finally begins to realize the enormity of the task in front of her. As she walks along the river, she passes a single person that she identifies as someone who will use the Jigoku Tsuushin. Having made up her mind to stop him, Yuzuki runs for the bridge, but is stopped by Enma Ai and watches helplessly as the factory worker pulls the red string, sending yet another person to Hell. The factory worker is identified as Akihiro Nawa, and when he returns to the factory the next day, his coworkers question in about a coworker who has mysteriously disappeared. Feigning innocence, Nawa does his best to hide the seal he bears on his chest.
Although his coworkers invite Nawa to a goukon (i.e. a matchmaking party), he politely refuses and instead goes to play with little Kaya-chan. Although he has good intentions, his coworkers look down on his interests and treat him as a lolicon. Meanwhile, members of the Jigoku Tsuushin look on, seemingly confused by how social standards have changed in modern society so much that it’s strange to see 20 year old men playing with little girls. Nawa returns home and eats dinner by himself, and another day passes.
The next day marks the arrival of a new clerk at the factory, a young woman named Miyajima Yuki. She’s an instant hit with the younger guys, who are fed up with all the older women in the factory, but she doesn’t seem to take kindly to all the noise. Instead, Yuki quickly latches on to Nawa, and although he doesn’t accept her offer to go out to dinner together because of his promise to Kaya-chan, he does agree to have lunch. The next day, Nawa is unsure of what to do, so Yuki ends up asking him all kinds of questions that seem to indicate strong feelings for him, and although still hesitant on what to do, Nawa grows increasingly comfortable around her. Kaya notices that Nawa is much happier than before, and Kikuri, who has become one of Kaya’s friends, attributes it to Nawa’s sudden awakening to members of the opposite sex.
One evening Yuki decides to pay Nawa an unannounced visit and cook dinner. However, the guilt that had been tearing away at Nawa finally gets the better of him, and Nawa asks Yuki to leave. She consents, but only if he tells her why she feels he doesn’t deserve to be with her. With this, Nawa explains everything that had happened. Nakajima, the missing coworker, had until recently gotten along very well with Nawa and Kaya. However, Nawa noticed that Nakajima seemed to be more of a dangerous lolicon than anything else, even taking some rather odd pictures of the little girl. When Nawa confronts Nakajima, he simply brushes him off and blackmails Nawa into silence. With Kaya’s safety in mind, Nawa bites the bullet and uses Jigoku Tsuushin to send him to Hell.
The next day, Yuki still wonders why Nawa cannot be happy in this life just because of his actions. After all, she reasoned, look how happy Kaya was! She asks Nawa to stay by her side forever, and Nawa, finally realizing that he loves Yuki, agrees. Later in the evening, Nawa apologizes to Kaya that he can’t play because of an initial appointment with Yuki, but does a pinky promise to return tomorrow. That evening in Yuki’s apartment, however, reveals that Yuki was Nakajima’s girlfriend, and although she knew of his hobbies, it did not ever come between him. Now understanding what had happened to her boyfriend, Yuki sends Nawa to Hell with her own straw doll…
Or so one would think. Yuzuki snaps back to reality, and Ai explains that the vision is of Nawa’s unchanging future. Yuzuki continues to argue that she can help in some way, even going to far as to try and convince Yuki out of her plan to curse Nawa to Hell. Ai relents and lets go of Yuzuki, allowing her to chase Nawa into the city with no avail. Night falls on the city, and Yuzuki continues her frantic search…
- If left to its own devices (i.e. Yuzuki never appears in this episode), this would be an otherwise normal Jigoku Shoujo episode, with only a slight twist where the curser gets cursed at the end. Then again, we’ve seen this before already (remember the writer from a few episodes ago?), so it’s not really groundbreaking in its own right. Plus, it becomes painfully obvious that Yuki had something with Nakajima, and already suspected Nawa of wrongdoing. Why else would she come on so ridiculously strong for him? After that little sequence, the pieces all fall into place very neatly, and leaves nothing to imagination.
- What is really nice about this episode is the ‘flashback’ format. It’s a very cinema-like tactic that can represent ‘What if?’ situations really well. I’m impressed how quickly it got my attention snapped back after I kind of lulled off once I recognized where the subplot was going. However, the flashback sequence was incredibly effective for me, and works really well in a series that relies so much on ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’.
- You could have all sorts of social critiques with this episode (much like the rest of the series), including a particular discussion on how no human being is created perfect, and is bound to have some grudge at some point in their lives. Having the flashback and watching the helpless Yuzuki struggle against the Jigoku Tsuushin does have me feeling much more sympathetic for the poor girl.
- Even though the plot was so transparent, you really do get a sense of attachment with Nawa. I don’t know why – maybe it’s his nondescript nature, his innocence, something about his character just calls out to the viewer. At least the viewer is spared from seeing him suffer through whatever random torture the Jigoku Tsuushin team put him through. It’s worth mentioning here that there was no torture scene this time around, for either victim. I’m thinking that it’s done on purpose to really push the seriousness of this episode. Having some amusing torture scene would detract from the heaviness that the series is trying to push forward with.
Waro-waro: real boy, or figment of the human imagination? I wonder….