On a certain level JS made me think of Pet Shop of Horrors, which I read a while back and liked the focus on human nature. However, the incidents in PSoH kind of left me cold. I found it didn't really click with me - too moralistic in some ways, though some of the fantasy elements were rather interesting.
On the other hand, Jigoku Shoujo came off instead as...chilling. I think the pets/monstors in PSoH made it easier to distance myself from the story, but in every single Hell Girl situation, the people involved are very much...human. Even Enma Ai and her assistants to an extent.
The kicker is probably that the victim with the grudge who performs the curse, ends up just as damned as the person they send to hell. And yet, knowing this, nearly everybody pulls the string. It's frightenning to see it all happen in a span of half an hour; seeing people pushed to the brink and then make the leap willingly. What's worse is I don't know which is more scary: that people could do it for such petty reasons at times or in the case of others, that their lives feel so awful that Hell itself is a better alternative than continuing with the current situation.
And then there were the endings where the victim realises they sent the wrong person to hell/that the person was innocent/that their situation hasn't changed one iota. Or perversely, when there was a plot twist and the victim ends up being the one sent to hell by someone else. 'Cause things are never clear cut with relationships and society.
There were so many moments that make me go "ooooh, fuck." Ultimately, I didn't find it to be scary in the traditional horror sense of ghosts, demons etc. but frightening when it comes to what regular (in most cases) people are capable of doing. And substitute the concept of the Hell Girl for a knife or a gun and I'm betting there are people who've actually probably taken vengence for similar past wrongs. Its not so much the fantasy/horror elements that scared me, as it was the plausibility of the scenarios.
Anyway, unique anime that uses the horror/fantasy genre to tell some rather human stories - though with most parties headed for hell, the Downer ending is pretty much the rule rather than the exception.
I think my favorite season is probably the second (Jigoku Shoujo Futakomori) though the third (Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae) had its moments too. Still, the second season was definitely my fave overall especially with the way they changed up scenarios so much more and the increased backstory on Enma Ai and the assistants at times.
My icon feels approriate for this anime XD