CompanionsAi's companions obviously care very much for her and display nothing less than extreme loyalty. Their Hell is literally existing without her. Ai's feelings for them, however, are much harder to get a firm grasp on. She is never shown casually interacting with them, but I would assume that at the very least she believes they are dependable. She has been working with all of them (with the exception of Yamawaro) for hundreds of years. While I don't think she feels they are disposable per say, she has attacked them for getting in her way in the past. I don't think Ai cherishes them as a result of closing herself off from relations of any kind, but they probably are important to her. They are all she has to return to at the end of the day, so I wouldn't be surprised if she thought of them as family. She probably doesn't consciously think that way and just feels it without realizing it. They are the people she knows she can depend on for anything. At the end of Futakomori, Ai's grandmother conveys a simple "thank you" to Wanyuudo, Ichimokuren and Hone Onna for her. Therefore, I think it is probably safe to say that she at least appreciates their hard work and devotion even if she doesn't mention it.
Though I can't elaborate much on her feelings for the four of them, I do think a connection can be drawn as to why she bothered saving them from despair to begin with. Putting aside the fact that it would be hard to accomplish her job by herself, Ai can see that they were alone. They suffered greatly before death and ended up by themselves. All of them were isolated from their surroundings, whether they had been outright rejected, didn't know kindness or were left behind. She knows very well what it is like to be and feel alone. Picking up four wandering souls out of compassion could show not only that Ai feels bad for those who are alone, but also that she hates feeling lonely herself.
Each of Ai's companions could quite possibly represent different aspects of her own feelings and story as well in the following ways:
WANYUUDO (black straw doll) was once a carriage for a princess and her family. While being pursued, he goes over a cliff in flames with the princess in it; resulting in all of their deaths. Ever since, his spirit haunted the mountain path where he slipped in the form of a giant flaming head on a wheel. He purposely scared all the people who passed. Ai, who happens to be traveling through the mountain, is not startled by him at all. Wanyuudo is intrigued by her lack of reaction and chooses to follow her and see what she does. Because Ai is always walking everywhere, he ultimately decides to become her "feet" by transforming into a flaming carriage for her to ride in instead.
Wanyuudo's story represents the despair and rage that Ai feels in her heart. Her killing everyone in the village can be drawn to Wanyuudo's weakness killing the princess in flames. Though she "chooses" to do it unlike it being an accident for him, they both supposedly lost the people they cared about. Wanyuudo's despair and rage is displayed by his spirit taking the form of a giant flaming wheel terrorizing innocent people who walked by. This can be paralleled to Ai's own rage when she remembers the past and tries to kill Hajime and Tsugumi, who really had nothing to do with her despair either.
ICHIMOKUREN (blue straw doll) was once a powerful sword. He absolutely hated his existence because no matter what he wanted or didn't, he would always be at the mercy of his master. He had to cut down innocent people, was used for greed, power and other selfish desires that were not his own. Ai comes across Ichimokuren stuck in a rock and offers for him to come along with Wanyuudo and herself. He eventually agrees, stating that he is looking for something and that the rock he was abandoned on was becoming boring. Once she pulls him out of the rock, he changes into a human form.
Ichimokuren's story represents Ai's current state of being. Despite not wanting to hurt others or send innocent people to Hell, she has no choice. Her "master" is the boss of Hell, and therefore she has to continue her job even if it goes against her personal values or feelings. I'm sure she feels just as much frustration as he did when he had no say in what he cut down.
HONE ONNA (red straw doll) was a woman named Tsuyu, who was betrayed by a man she loved and sold to a brothel. Much later she is betrayed once more by her sister Kiyo, killed by a yakuza, and tossed into a river. Her soul merges with the bones of women who were also thrown into the river and becomes the demon that she is in present time. Ai finds her on the side of the road begging someone for help and asks her to come along with her. Hone Onna is confused, but takes her hand as it is the first she had received since before she died.
Hone Onna's story represents Sentarou's betrayal. Like Hone Onna, Ai was betrayed by the guy that she loved and trusted. Instead of being tossed into a river, she was buried alive. Either way, she was ultimately "disposed" of, even if Sentarou didn't actually want to hurt her. Ai "rises" from the dead as a result of her restless soul in a similar fashion to Hone Onna. They both carry the grief of being betrayed and killed even though they did nothing wrong.
YAMAWARO (green straw doll) was some kind of non-human creature that stumbles across a family of two living in the forest. The woman mistakes Yamawaro for her son and he doesn't have the heart to tell her that he is not who she thinks he is. Her husband is obsessed with finding a way to stay young forever and uses his body to grow a fungus that he needs for his experiments. After realizing what was going on, she insisted that Yamawaro run away so he wouldn't have to suffer anymore. Afterwards, he lives by himself in the forest. Because of the fungus growing all over his body, people are afraid of him and therefore reject him when he is seen. Ai comes across him while walking by and tells him he can come with her since he is lonely. He declines and she simply tells him he can always change his mind. It's not actually shown when he actually does decide to join her.
Lastly, Yamawaro's story represents Ai being outright rejected by everyone for being "different." Though Ai never was responsible for the things she was accused of, people were afraid of her and therefore ultimately wanted nothing to do with her. Though the situation made her sad, she really didn't have memory of it ever being better. Despite having Sentarou, she still had to spend a lot of time living alone in the forest, hiding from others.
b a c k . c l e a r . f o r w a r d Heaven's a Lie and its contents are © Samantha, however Ai and Jigoku Shoujo are © Aniplex, Studio Deen and other rightful owners. Heaven's a Lie is a part of AFTER-DEATH.ORG.