Episode 21 of Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae, “Front of the Back”, begins with Yuzuki walking in the rain and contemplating her possible destiny as a future Jigoku Shoujo, hoping that Tsugumi not having become the next Jigoku Shoujo also bodes well for herself. This is when she hears a bell ringing, and she finds a little kid in the playground crying alone, who loses consciousness when she goes to find out what’s wrong. To get the boy out of the rain, Yuzuki brings him to her apartment, where she notices the bruises on his body while taking care of him. The boy gets better in a few hours and heads back to home, which is when Yuzuki asks for an exchange of cellphone numbers under the pretext of wanting to have someone to talk to. Of course, it’s really so that she can have a way to contact the boy in order to get him out of using the Jigoku Tsushin.
Kikuchi Kaito, the boy in question, returns home to his father, Yukihiko, and pregnant mother, Nanami. The mother is pregnant with her first soon-to-be-born baby, obviously making her a stepmother for Kaito, and she is very much absorbed with Mao, the baby girl that is soon to be born, and does not believe Kaito when he says he was late because he was sick earlier in the day. Yukihiko is aware that Nanami isn’t being fair to Kaito, and he tries to get Kaito to be optimistic by saying that everything should get back to normal when the baby is born. However, Nanami also doesn’t seem to take well to Kaito talking over his cellphone when Yuzuki calls while reading a story to her baby.
Some time later, it seems that Nanami had thrown out Kaito’s cellphone, since Yuzuki has to visit Kaito in person because he wasn’t responding with his cellphone. Kaito claims that he must have lost it somewhere, though. Kaito is supposed to take care of the groceries, so Yuzuki accompanies him, where she learns about his soon to be born sister. However, a couple of eggs have been cracked when Kaito brings the groceries home, which Nanami uses as an excuse to punish Kaito physically. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nanami cracked the eggs deliberately in order to manufacture an excuse. When Kaito goes out to cool his wounds, he thinks back to when he had met his stepmother for the first time, where his father introduced her as an old student of his and where she was so nice. In fact, this was when she had given Kaito a hat that he really wanted, which is also the same hat that he’s always wearing now.
The Jigoku Tsushin assistants, who are watching Kaito, wonder why he doesn’t tell the father what the mother is doing to him. I would say that the fact that Kaito keeps wearing the hat Nanami gave him is an indication of his feelings for his stepmother. He probably craves affection from his stepmother and doesn’t like what the baby did to their relationship. Meanwhile, back at Yuzuki’s apartment, Kikuri appears to suggest that she ask her parents for advice, which Yuzuki accepts to be a nice idea, although she probably wonders why a Jigoku Tsushin member would give her useful advice. Outside, Ai seems to be angry with Kikuri, who wants to be the next Jigoku Shoujo, and unwinds Kikuri as punishment. Inside, Yuzuki calls her mother, who isn’t receiving the call.
At Kaito’s home, Nanami had just thrown away his hat, supposedly because neighbors had talked about him always wearing the same hat. This really hurts Kaito emotionally given how much the hat means to him, but at least he manages to retrieve it from the trash heap. If it hasn’t been obvious by now, then this time it should be really apparent that there is something very wrong with Nanami’s mental state given how her eyes doesn’t really seem to focus on other things except for the baby, while we also continue to see how Yukihiko keeps on acquiescing to Nanami’s mood. This latest event finally pushes Kaito into accessing the Jigoku Tsushin, which is witnessed by Yuzuki in her dream.
This drives Yuzuki to confront Kaito directly about the Jigoku Tsushin. Not having seen as much about Kaito as we have, Yuzuki thinks that the target is Nanami, the stepmother. But at least she manages to get Kaito to open up a bit, who recalls how happy the family was before Nanami got pregnant. We also get to see a memory from happier times, where the family went on a camping trip in a forest, where Nanami kept Kaito from dropping into a somewhat deep stream where he could have drowned. It’s also the time when Kaito first called Nanami his mother, which had made her really happy at the time. Yuzuki manages to extract a promise from Kaito not to go through the Jigoku Tsushin, saying that she will find some other way.
The way that Yuzuki chooses to try out is to tell the father how Kaito was being abused by the mother. However, the father flatly refuses to believe her, and Yuzuki only gets an angry response from the father when she tells him about feeling the pain in Kaito’s heart. When Yukihiko leaves, the Jigoku Tsushin assistants, who were sitting at the neighboring table, informs Yuzuki that the father already knows about how Kaito is suffering under his mother, that he is deliberately ignoring what is happening. In fact, we get to see Yukihiko waiting outside the home while Kaito is being hit over and over again by Nanami. That night, Yuzuki is desperate to find some other way to help Kaito, but her single remaining source of possible advice is not reachable as her mother still does not receive her calls.
The next day, Nanami heads out for a checkup at the hospital alone, and Yukihiko suggests that father and son use this chance to go out to the forest from Kaito’s flashback earlier in this episode. Kaito probably senses something that is not quite right with his father’s suggestion. Meanwhile, Yuzuki is walking outside, wracking her brain trying to find a solution, which is when she hears a bell ringing right at the same time a car with Yukihiko and Kaito passes by. This gives Yuzuki a new sense of urgency, which makes her head to a nearby temple, hoping that she would be able to summon Ai. It actually works, and Yuzuki demands that Ai take her to Kaito. But Ai says that Yuzuki would not be able to stop what is going to happen, citing that the real hell resides within each person, including Yuzuki. And Ai takes Yuzuki to show her what will happen with Kaito.
Yuzuki appears above the stream in the forest that Kaito and Yukihiko have come to, where we see her reflection on the surface of the water not being an image of herself but Ai’s. Yuzuki is not corporeal as neither Kaito or Yukihiko notices her despite her calling out. The father and son are playing frisbee, and Yukihiko gathers his resolve and deliberately throws the frisbee into the stream. When Kaito heads to the stream to pick up the frisbee, Yukihiko talks about not wanting to see Nanami break down emotionally even further and thinks that taking care of two children is too much for her, and he is about to drown Kaito within the stream. Kaito actually agrees with his father’s assessment about two children being too much for Nanami, and he pulls off the red string off the voodoo doll. At that moment, Nanami loses her baby, and only now does it dawn on Yukihiko what terrible thing he was about to do.
In the aftermath, Kaito has a happy family again, which is at least a small consolation for Yuzuki as she watches them care of Ai. This episode gives me more food for thought. The fact that Yuzuki kept on failing to reach her mother by phone is giving life again to my theory that “Mikage Yuzuki” is a manufactured identity, which had flatlined during the previous episode. And the way Yuzuki’s reflection was an image of Ai suggests a very close relationship between the two, more than I would expect if Yuzuki was just supposed to be Ai’s successor. What did Ai mean when she talked about hell residing in each person?
Too bad for Kikuri, although probably good for us, that she’s almost certainly disqualified to be the next Jigoku Shoujo: Kikuri actually wants to be the Jigoku Shoujo. There’s also a lesson to be gleaned from this episode: don’t name a baby before it’s born. And as always, I keep on wondering why some people never try out counseling instead of sending people to hell or trying to drown their own child.