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Literature / The Girl from the Well

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The Girl From The Well is a young adult horror series by Rin Chupeco.

Okiku is dead, but not departed. After her murder, she lingered as a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl who inflicts gruesome vengeance on murderers of children. Though she frees the ghosts of other tormented souls to pass to the afterlife, the violent path she has chosen means that she herself can never move on. It is a lonely half-life, but saving others from the fate she suffered makes it worthwhile. Then she meets Tark, a boy who is being haunted by a dark and malevolent spirit. Though Okiku is driven to protect him, for the first time she finds herself up against not an easily killable human adversary, but a cruel ghost more vicious and powerful than herself.

The series consists of The Girl From The Well and The Suffering.

This series includes examples of:

  • Barred from the Afterlife: Okiku helps the ghosts of murder victims pass to the afterlife; but having chosen vengeance over peace, she is herself unable to pass on. She reluctantly passes on at the end of The Suffering, but Tark manages to bring her back.
  • Berserk Button: For Okiku, the number nine, which relates to the circumstances of her death. When confronted with a set of nine objects, she flies into an Unstoppable Rage until one of them is destroyed.
    Okiku: No nines. Not-nine, nevernine. NO NINES! No nines, no nines never, nines no, NINES NO, NINES, NO NINES!
  • Bloody Horror: When Okiku manifests, she has an influence on her surroundings, including on some occasions causing blood to drip from the walls.
  • Boy Meets Ghoul: In The Suffering, Tark realizes the true nature of his feelings for Okiku.
  • Bullying a Dragon: At school, some kids bully Tark because of his mixed-race heritage and involvement in the occult. Once Okiku places Tark under her protection, this becomes extremely hazardous to their health.
  • The Corruption: At the end of The Suffering, living with the malevolent energy of the hellgate inside him for 100 days makes Tark a lot more willing to hunt down serial killers than he was at the beginning.
  • Cute Ghost Girl: Okiku swings between this and Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl murder mode.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Yukiko Uchiyama's ghost scrawled phrases in blood on the walls of her house.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: In the beginning of The Suffering, some kids try performing a ritual to summon a ghost to harmlessly possess a doll. However, they make the mistake of taunting the ghost by nicknaming it "Dumbelina". This pisses it off, disrupts the ritual, and causes the doll its possessing to become a Killer Doll instead of a harmless one.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: Every ghost is aligned with one of the five Eastern elements. Because Okiku drowned in a well, she is a spirit of Water, making her strong against spirits of Fire but weak against those of Earth. The ghosts of Aitou Village are of Earth: strong against Water and thus Okiku, but weak to Wood, thus allowing Tark to exorcise them with wooden stakes. The Woman in Black is aligned with Fire, and Hiroshi Mikage is aligned with Wood.
  • Exorcist Head: Okiku broke her neck when she was thrown down a well, and as a ghost, sometimes manifests with her head tilted at a grotesque angle.
  • Game Face: When she is in a calm and contemplative mood, Okiku wears the appearance of the girl she was in life. When she is stalking a victim, however, her appearance becomes that of a drowned and decaying corpse.
  • Ghost Town: Aitou Village, a long-lost village rumored to be haunted which Kagura is interested in finding.
  • Ghostly Goals: The ghosts of murder victims are tethered to their murderer until he dies. This leads to some becoming vengeful spirits of murder, forsaking their own chance at passing on in order to grant release to other bound souls.
  • Go into the Light: In The Girl From The Well, when Callie sees other dead souls ascending into the light, she pleads for Okiku to go with them and achieve the peace she deserves. But having followed a path of vengeance and murder, Okiku cannot accompany them.
    Okiku: Where they go, I cannot follow.
  • Haunted Fetter: The ghosts of murdered children are bound to their murderer.
  • Hellgate: Aitou Village was the site of a ritual intended to open a hellgate, which resulted in its destruction and the entire surrounding forest becoming haunted.
  • Human Sacrifice: The villagers of Aitou ritually sacrificed young girls. Their high priest made them think it was necessary in order to hold shut a Hellgate, when in fact the sacrifices were intended to give him the power to control the hellgate.
  • Invisible to Normals: Ghosts cannot be seen by ordinary people. They become visible to those they are targeting and those who have had past encounters with them, and can also be seen by the spiritually sensitive.
  • I See Dead People: Sandra, a minor character from the first book, has no trouble seeing Okiku, and can see all the children the Smiling Man is dragging behind him.
  • Literal Split Personality: An echo of Okiku's original malice remains in the well where she died and occasionally manifests itself as the bloodthirsty wraith she once was.
  • Magic Is a Monster Magnet: The five magic seals which bind the Woman in Black to Tark have the side effect of drawing the attention of many lesser evil spirits.
  • Many Spirits Inside of One: The Woman in Black is revealed to be not a single ghost, but an amalgamation of hundreds of evil spirits into a single form.
  • Miko: Yoko was a miko in her youth, and the Woman in Black is the ghost of a miko as well. Tark ends up seeking out a group of mikos to help free him from the Woman in Black's possession.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: In The Suffering, one of the ghosts Tark fights is a hoso-de, a spirit which has seven arms.
  • Mystical 108: Yoko, a former Miko, has one hundred and eight porcelain dolls in her room at the mental hospital.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Okiku holds off on murdering the Smiling Man because she wants to wait until night, when she can have more fun. Unfortunately, that gives him the chance to kidnap Tark and Callie, which means Callie's blood gets on one of the seals holding down the Woman in Black, weakening it, and ultimately leads to the exorcism going wrong.
  • Paper Talisman: While trapped in Aitou Village in The Suffering, Kagura uses ofuda to ward rooms against intrusion by the hostile ghosts.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Okiku only kills people who have killed others.
  • Perverse Puppet: Ghosts are often bound into dolls to render them harmless until they can be exorcised. However, The Suffering opens with some amateurs who did the ritual improperly (by giving the ghost a degrading nickname), resulting in it becoming a dangerous killer doll until Tark can finish the job.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Callie neglects to tell the mikos that it was her blood that got on one of the seals holding the Woman in Black inside Tark. This causes the exorcism to go wildly wrong, giving the Woman a chance to kill several of the mikos.
  • Power Tattoo: Tark has five tattoos which serve to seal the Woman in Black. To those with supernatural sight, they seem to glow and writhe with power.
  • Prehensile Hair: Okiku's hair moves of its own accord while she sleeps, often wrapping around Tark's bed.
  • Public Domain Character: Okiku originates from the traditional Japanese folk story Bancho Sarayashiki. Oiwa, Japan's other most famous onryō, is mentioned in the first book.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Tark and Kagura find one in Aitou village. Yukiko Uchiyama's ghost, driven mad by death, has scrawled phrases in blood on the walls of her house: "Don't drink the tea", "Beware the beautiful death", and "The monsters are here". Though Tark initially ignores it as the crazed ramblings of deranged spirit, he later realizes what Yukiko meant: she was given poisoned tea containing Belladonna, "the beautiful death".
  • Sealed Inside a Person-Shaped Can: The Woman in Black is sealed within Tark's body by five mystic tattoos, and must murder five people to free herself. The miko Chiyo had also habitually used herself as a person-shaped can for evil spirits, and ended up becoming the Woman in Black when they overwhelmed her.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: Okiku hunts and kills serial killers who murder children. She drags a reluctant Tark along by the beginning of The Suffering. By the end, he's not so unwilling anymore.
  • Spooky Photographs: The foreboding type appears in The Suffering. Kagura sends Tark a photo before heading to Aitou village. When Tark gets the photo, Kagura's face is distorted and her companions are headless.
  • Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: At one point, Tark threatens the Woman in Black to stop or he'll kill himself, as he's realized that if he dies before she manages to break the five seals binding her to him, then she'll die right along with him.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl:
    • Okiku is stated in-universe to be the inspiration for the trope, her folktale being the Ur-Example and inspiration for The Ring. She's also said to be the most famous onryō in Japan aside from Oiwa.
    • In The Girl From The Well, Okiku targets a group of young men who brutally murdered a young woman. Rather than pass on, the young woman's ghost opts to come back as an onryō and helps Okiku slaughter them.
    • The Woman in Black, the main antagonist of the first book, is a powerful onryō formed from the merger of many evil spirits inside a human host.
    • Seven of the eight sacrificed brides in The Suffering come back as vengeful spirits and slaughter the village's populace, along with everyone unlucky enough to stumble across their hidden village.
  • Supernatural-Proof Father: Tark's father is the one member of his family who never notices he's being haunted.
  • Symbiotic Possession: One of Okiku's powers is to possess people who are close to death, or who have known death intimately but escaped. At the end of The Girl From The Well, Tark is dying from the Woman in Black draining his spiritual energy, and Okiku possesses him to save his life by filling the spiritual void in him with her own energy. They're able to coexist mostly amicably, though Okiku's compulsive drive to seek out and murder serial killers causes some tension in The Suffering.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: All of the onryō encountered in the series used to be normal humans, but dying in traumatic fashions and marinating in negative emotions and spiritual corruption transformed them into bloodthirsty wraiths. This is especially notable in Okiku's case, and that of the seven ghost-brides in The Suffering.
  • Wall Crawl: Due to dying upside-down in a well, Okiku often manifests upside-down, clinging to walls or the ceiling.
  • White Mask of Doom: The Woman in Black has one. It deteriorating is a bad sign.