SymbolismThe color RED is the most heavily used symbolism involving Ai's character. She has red eyes, lives in a place with eternal sunset that drenches everything in a red color and has a garden of red amaryllis flowers and is often associated with fire. Because it is a color representing fire and blood, it stands for danger, passion, desire and destruction. It is a very intense color that stimulates a lot of emotion. A more likely and obvious reason red was chosen was in order to represent her association with Hell, which usually is imagined with fire. Eyes are supposedly windows to the soul, so Ai's eyes being a blood-red color could have been used to symbolize the internal rage as well as the blood and destruction Ai caused in the past; something that does not show on her face at all. The color red also can symbolize a primitive state in which people are concerned with their physical or emotional self-preservation. This can fit Ai in two ways. Firstly, as Ai is being buried alive, her eyes turn red. This change symbolizes the hatred in her heart growing immensely. Her pure hatred causes her to live on despite being buried alive--physical self-preservation. Secondly, the people who use Jigoku Tsuushin are almost always concerned with self-preservation in one way or another, so it could be connected back to her role as Jigoku Shoujo as well.
Ai's home is a dimension that has an ETERNAL SUNSET. While sunrises usually represent birth or a new life, sunsets can symbolize death or an end of a phase in one's life. For Ai, I believe this can connect to the end of living a normal life; the "death" of her being an individual. Sunrises seem to have more of a positive connotation while sunsets have a slightly negative one as well. A sunrise suggests that a new day is beginning, while a sunset shows that the day is almost over. Because she lives in an eternal sunset, however, the day is always almost over. It never ends. Eternity in one stage of the day represents something in itself. The day never ending and therefore Ai never being able to rest can symbolize that hatred will never disappear from the human race and therefore Ai's job will never be over. Time doesn't apply to her anymore because she will never be free of being Jigoku Shoujo. While sunrises are associated with hope, sunsets are the opposite. Everything is almost over, there is almost no time left in the day. Therefore, the sunset could possibly represent Ai's lack of hope as well.
Though the only actual reference to Ai being anything like a DOLL is saying she looks beautiful just like one, I still believe the connotation is there. Ai does not do what she wants to do and she doesn't actually live. Usually she shows no emotion and lies on the floor motionlessly like a doll that a child drops when they either lose interest or because it was left behind. She may be more likened to a puppet, though, as Ai only acts when a request is submitted or when someone pulls the string. Dolls are also designed to look like humans that are un-animated. Ai, who often acts like she has no life left in her, looks just like a doll. She is all dressed up for her role but has no emotion behind it.
I thought it was interesting to discover that in Japanese mythology, CHERRIES are not only a symbolism of blood, but also self-sacrifice. After Ai sacrifices herself to save Takuma, Kikuri is shown on a boat back to the gates of Hell twirling a cherry around. She talks to it like she is talking to Ai. She tells it that her answer was exemplary and thanks her for all of her hard work. Coincidentally (probably more ironically), cherries can also represent paradise in Christianity. They symbolize the paradise waiting for those after they complete good deeds. Therefore, it is probably safe to say that because of her self-sacrifice, which was also a good deed of saving someone from death, she was represented by a cherry. When Hell sends Ai a body as a gift during the Six-mon Lantern Festival, the small boat holds a cherry. I believe this symbolizes Ai's true self-sacrificing character. Despite all the destruction and pain around her, it is still in her nature to help others.
In Greek mythology, AMARYLLIS was thought to be a shy nymph who fell in love with a Shepard that did not return her feelings. Every night for thirty nights, she pierced her heart with an arrow in front of his home. When he opened his door he found a beautiful crimson flower that was born from the blood that poured from her heart. Today it is often associated with extreme physical beauty, inner beauty and determination. Throughout the series, many people comment on how beautiful Ai is for one reason or another. I think the flowers represent more of her inner beauty and determination, though. Despite outward appearance of being cold and detached, Ai truly does empathize with people and shows compassion. She sacrifices herself and her happiness for others. Even though one might think her soul is tainted from her job, I think it shines brightly because of the displays of compassion she shows. Lastly, the crimson color of the flower being associated with blood and determination can be linked back to her past much like the color red.
The symbol that is most used in relation to Ai's story and past would be SAKURA PETALS. In Japanese tradition, they represent traditional values of purity and innocence. The flowers symbolize the fleeting nature of life because they do not last very long. They also symbolize drops of blood. Therefore, I think the sakura represent Ai's innocence. Her childhood does not last very long because she is forced to grow up at the age of seven. She knows what hatred in it's purest form is like by age eleven. As they begin to fall, she slowly loses what innocent feelings she has. They begin to change to their other symbolism of blood, representing the development of Ai's pain as time progresses.
In Mitsuganae, Ai is literally represented as a BUTTERFLY before she goes inside of Yuzuki. Butterflies have a number of different meanings. In Japan, butterflies are sometimes seen as the personification of someone's soul. They also represent coming change or progress. Butterflies can represent a rebirth into a new life as well. Considering the timing of when Ai possesses a butterfly, all of this makes sense. She was supposed to be dead for a few years already but then returns. A new life for her is beginning. Things are changing because of this and because she does not have a body of her own, her soul is being personified through the butterfly. I thought it was interesting that she was a blue butterfly as opposed to being red. As I mentioned here while talking about the color indigo, I think red represents Ai's outer layer. Her involvement with Hell, rage, hatred and blood. I do believe, however, that in terms of her own personality that was shoved down, blue is a better color. And since the butterfly represents her soul, I thought blue was a fitting color.
1. Color Wheel Pro: Color Meaning
→ Insight into what the color red symbolizes
2. Meaning of Red Color Symbolism
→ More insight into what the color read symbolizes
3. Meaning of Gifts
→ Cherry symbolism
4. Symbolism of the Amaryllis
→ Mythology behind the flower
5. Cherry Blossoms in Japanese Art and Culture
→ Importance and meaning of sakura petals
6. Butterfly: Symbolism
→ A few points on butterfly symbolism
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.