Episode 24 of Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae, “Mayfly”, begins with Yuzuki at home contemplating what Ai had said to her, that Yuzuki hated Ai and wanted to send her to hell. Yuzuki really does not want to think that Ai is right, so she decides to stop thinking about it and to worry about the results for her high school entrance exam instead. Her entrance exam slip is numbered 1215, and if her number is up on the board posting the results, she could at least hope for a normal life at a high school of her choice. However, Yuzuki catches a fleeting glimpse of Akie outside, but it could have just been her imagination for all she knows.
The next day, Yuzuki heads to the high school, nervous about whether she had passed the entrance exam. So she’s really happy when she finds her number on the board posting the list of accepted students. However, she is soon confused when she hears another girl exclaim that her number 1215 is up on the board, which can’t be right since 1215 is Yuzuki’s number. Or it would be if the girl didn’t show her own slip with the number 1215, or if Yuzuki could have found her own entrance exam slip on her or anywhere at home when she searches it in panic. Incidentally, the handprints in the drawer seen while Yuzuki searched her home caught my attention: I might be over-extrapolating that it might imply something dark about Yuzuki’s past, along with other things that were dredged up in the home and Yuzuki’s unreachable mother.
Outside, a couple of women talk about no one living in the apartment building Yuzuki lives in anymore and that it might finally be demolished. So they’re puzzled by Yuzuki who says that she’s living in the building, when they find her searching the trash for her entrance exam slip. Yuzuki doesn’t notice anything amiss about her fragile identity at this point, but she definitely does notice something very wrong when she gets to school in search of her missing entrance exam slip. None of her classmates recognizes Yuzuki, but she finally realizes what’s happening when her teacher does not recognize her, which is confirmed when her name is not on the class attendance list. Things take a surreal turn when she tries to approach her three closest friends she notices outside the teachers’ office, who aren’t there when she runs out of the room.
Now Yuzuki has a much more important issue than her missing entrance exam slip: everyone seems to have no idea who she is, no matter how much she asks around. Despondent, Yuzuki walks to the school gate to leave the school, which is where she sees Akie. But Akie disappears in front of her eyes, only to appear behind her and accuse her for not helping, and then disappearing again. This must be incredibly frightening to Yuzuki, and she calls out to Ai to show up and loudly reaffirms her intention to never become the Jigoku Shoujo. I don’t think it’s the doing of Ai or her assistants, however. Although the Jigoku Tsushin members are content to remain watching, there is still someone who remembers Yuzuki and approaches her in her grief: Tsugumi.
It’s somewhat of a relief for Yuzuki that at least someone other than the Jigoku Tsushin knows who she is. But when Yuzuki asks how Tsugumi escaped from the fate of becoming the Jigoku Shoujo, Tsugumi makes it quite clear that she was never meant to be the Jigoku Shoujo, not surprising since there was never any such indication and with how Ai was more focused on revenge against Tsugumi and Hajime in the first season rather than any inclination to prepare her successor. Tsugumi has seen so many people sending people to hell and being sent to hell, and for some odd reason, mentions Yuzuki as part of a separate category she has also watched. Tsugumi believes that it is her destiny to be a passive observer for the Jigoku Tsushin, although Yuzuki tries to convince her to help by pointing out the time when she did something other than just observe, when Tsugumi stopped Yuzuki from going through the gate to hell in episode 13.
After taking Yuzuki to her home, Tsugumi reveals more things she knows about the Jigoku Tsushin. We learn how her father eventually gave up trying to stop the Jigoku Tsushin when he finally realized that what he was doing was part of the Jigoku Tsushin system itself. Tsugumi thinks that the reason that she is sent the visions is to make her give up and accept the unjust and contradictory nature of the world as it is, where people actually want the world to be the way it is secretly, and that whatever is sending her the visions wants to maintain this order. Mentioning how some clients of the Jigoku Tsushin were saved, she uses this as a starting point to talk about how these people weren’t the target demographic for the Jigoku Tsushin. She believes the Jigoku Tsushin is supposed to save the people who don’t end up using it, who derive comfort from its very existence by having the thought of being able to send someone they really hate to hell if things get really bad.
Given how the Jigoku Tsushin seems to be inextricably linked to the mess that is the world, and with no idea of how to even start fixing things, Hajime gave up trying to stop the Jigoku Tsushin, and Tsugumi herselve eventually gave up and accepted its existence. In fact, Tsugumi believes that the same is true for Ai. But Yuzuki can’t accept their approach: even simply attempting to ignore what was happening with the Jigoku Tsushin was too painful, actively accepting what they do may be too much.
Yuzuki tries to convince Tsugumi that she hasn’t really given up, again talking about how she had stopped Yuzuki from going through the gates of hell and how Tsugumi came to live in Saigawara City where the Jigoku Tsushin resumed their activities. In response, Tsugumi talks about how passionate her father was in his quest, and how disappointed she was with him when he gave up, only to come around to his point of view when she grew up. It was simply too exhausting for both of them. It’s no surprise: I think their attempts to stop Ai doing her Jigoku Shoujo duties were futile considering that it was probably not something Ai herself wanted in the first place. Much of what Tsugumi says is just her own theories, but given her experiences with the Jigoku Tsushin, I think that much of what she believes is true.
When Yuzuki asks Tsugumi for advice on what she should do, Tsugumi tries to make Yuzuki promise that she would not pass through the gate to hell. Yuzuki obviously wants to know what’s actually beyond the gate, so Tsugumi tries to prepare Yuzuki to accept whatever terrible truth there might be. For Yuzuki, it is a terrible truth indeed. Tsugumi had watched other girls who were meant to become the next Jigoku Shoujo, but they did not become one nor did they accept their fate and are wandering between life and death even now. She talks about how they could try to deceive themselves into believing that things could go back to the way they were by building an illusion of a normal life with parents and school. And Tsugumi finally clues Yuzuki into the truth that the world without Yuzuki is the real world, that the one she had lived in was an illusion, and that Yuzuki was in fact dead.
Yuzuki simply cannot accept what Tsugumi is saying, despite Tsugumi’s attempt to prepare her emotionally and subsequent attempt to make her accept the truth and hold strong. As she runs through the streets to her home, she doesn’t notice that no one sees her even when she runs right in front of them. But she definitely cannot help but notice the ruins that is her home, not to mention her own skeletal body lying dead in her room as confirmed by Ai.
This was an incredible episode, which is all the more impressive considering that I expected half of what was generally going to happen. Some of Tsugumi’s dialogue was confusing, though, with how she segues into other subjects without expounding on the previous topic, such as when she started talking about how she thinks her visions are meant to make her give up in her attempts to stop the Jigoku Tsushin after talking about how Hajime gave up in his own attempts after realizing that his attempts were all part of the system, without expounding on how he realized it or how it’s part of the system. But she is very adamant about Yuzuki not going through the gate to hell: Tsugumi may have not given up entirely, and perhaps Yuzuki passing through the gate is supposed to be what makes her the Jigoku Shoujo.
Now faced with almost incontrovertible proof that she is no longer among the living, unless she somehow convinces herself that it’s just an illusion cast by Ai, Yuzuki is probably going to remember what had really happened in the past. And I suspect her mother to be more than just a hint that Yuzuki’s life was slipping away and an integral part of the tragic event in the past that ended up with Yuzuki dead, and I have a feeling that Akie is also an important part of it. Akie accusing Yuzuki of not helping her in the middle of the episode might not have been about Akie having been sent to hell: it may have been about Yuzuki not having helped Akie in the past.
I still have no clue as to what Ai is trying to accomplish. Is she trying to subvert the Jigoku Tsushin system by influencing Yuzuki into doing something that she cannot bring herself to do, taking another approach than the one Hajime and Tsugumi attempted? Or is she simply trying to activate the next Jigoku Shoujo just so she doesn’t have to be the fallback Jigoku Shoujo by default? Or more likely, something that I have not thought of at all?