Hell Girl (Jigoku Shoujo) is a TV anime series that sheds light upon human nature and sins through Ai Enma, the Hell Girl, who settle scores for people who hold grudges. After the first season of the series was released in 2005, the second season Two Mirrors (Futakomori) and the third season Three Vessels (Mitsuganae) aired one after another, and the fourth season Fourth Twilight (Yoi no Togi) aired from July to September 2017.
There was an 8-year gap between the 3rd and 4th seasons, and the original staff members including director Takahiro Oomori, got back together much to the delight of fans. It features a mysterious girl named Michiru, who shows up on Ai’s doorstep, and the story revolves around her mysterious past.
Now that the fourth season of 6 new episodes and 6 recap episodes has been released, we interviewed original creator Hiroshi Watanabe and the series producer Ai Abe and had them tell us their inside stories that can be now revealed since the series has finished airing.
[Interviewed and organized by Yukihiko Yamada]
‘It had become a series full of history before I even realized’
— The fourth season Hell Girl: The Fourth Twilight was released 8 years after the third series Hell Girl: Three Vessels. Could you please tell us about the circumstances behind it and its start?
Ai Abe (hereinafter referred to as Abe)
It indeed took 8 years to release Fourth Twilight after Three Vessels, but we kept on working on the project itself with video productions for game machines and such after the third season. After releasing 78 episodes in total from the first to third season, we kind of felt that we had made enough for the TV series. But as we kept on working on other Hell Girl projects, it was quite spontaneous that we started wanting to create a new series and carried it out as the fourth season Hell Girl: Fourth Twilight.
The series is composed of 6 new episodes and 6 recap episodes from the previous series, and the recap episodes were put together for those who were watching the series for the first time, so they could enjoy the depth of the whole series.
— The reminiscent episodes used the special ‘Geki-mation’ technique with papercut art as well as using the old footage.
[NB: Geki-mation: Animation using still images and papercut art. By moving papercut characters like puppets in front of a still picture as background, it creates a retro and nostalgic air.]
Geki-mation was originally used as an extra in the Three Vessels DVD. To tell you the truth, we didn’t have enough budget back then and we actually recorded it inside a conference room. Luckily, we received positive reactions from fans as its cheapness added a certain unique taste and created a Hell Girl air. With such reception and in order to add more to the old footage for the reminiscent episodes, we decided to insert Geki-mation into it. Watanabe made the storyboard for us.
Hiroshi Watanabe (hereinafter referred to as Watanabe)
I love Kazuo Umezu’s anime series Youkai-den Nekome Kozou (Cat Eyed Boy) released in 1976, and have always wanted to create an anime series like that. It was structured with flat images, but used clever set-up to look solid and stereoscopic, and its plasticity and depth made it very enticing. With that in mind, I wanted to utilize this Geki-mation technique. Of course, I also focused on reducing load on the production side and made sure to devise a better process for the storyboard.
— Mr. Watanabe, you have been a major part of the production since the first season as an original creator. What did you think when you first heard about the fourth season?
I was honestly glad when I first heard about the new season being planned. When I saw the finished series, I was again pleased to find its universality to be shared by different generations as well as feeling nostalgia. Even if I do say so myself, I pause to realize how awesome it is. [laugh]
Indeed. Compared to other popular anime series, its uniqueness stands out in a good way. It was no different back when the first season aired too. [laugh] It is entertaining but the story is more dramatic, serious and very dark. Some viewers must have wondered, ‘Did the production side really want to go this far?’ Such reaction has always been the typical and unchanging nature of Hell Girl.
So, I didn’t feel the passage of time at first, but when Misaki Watada who voiced Michiru said ‘I was watching it when I was an elementary school student!’, it really drove me to feel it. [laugh]
Agreed. We had a completion party the other day, and the cast members told me that they were honored to be part of the historic series. I didn’t know how to respond. [laugh] But as I looked back and realized, I’ve actually spent one third of my life with the Hell Girl series. I’m deeply moved that people recognized the series as ‘historic’.