Hello. I apologize for a delay. I didn’t feel well two days prior. But now, I’m back with reviewing the debut episode of one of my most anticipated anime this month, Hell’s Paradise or known as Jigokuraku in Japan. This anime is an adaptation of a seinen manga, that of course I’ve finished reading after seeing the hype about this series. I’m usually not a fan of seinen manga, especially one that is dark because sometimes it has disturbing theme and scenes. However, Jigokuraku somehow still managed to worm its way into my heart that urged me to follow the series.
Hell’s Paradise is set in Edo Period when chaos is pretty much a normal thing to happen on street of Japan. As if to emphasize this fact, it immediately opened up with bleak atmosphere with the scene of a criminal to be executed. Only that, the execution failed because the criminal’s neck was too hard to the point it broke the blade of the sword itself. The first episode focused on introducing the series’ two main leads and the titular characters of the episode’s title: the criminal Gabimaru and the executioner Yamada Asaemon Sagiri. Though I said introducing the two, this episode was more dedicated in exposition about Gabimaru and the world of Hell’s Paradise.
Hell’s Paradise is a bizzare place with beautiful nature when people first entered the island, only for them to return as grotesque remains of flesh in a boat filled with flowers. It was said that there’s an elixir of life that would grant immortality to those who drink it, so the Shogun ordered people to be dispatched and retrieve the elixir for him. Because of what happened to the people previous sent there, the Shogun and authorities decided to send criminals in their place to retrieve the elixir with reward of being pardoned. However, only one person is allowed to get the pardon, so it’s a match between the criminals to determine who’ll get the elixir first. They’re not alone, of course, each of them is paired with executioners who’ll observe their every moves.
At first glance, Gabimaru seemed like this dark edgy indifferent main character, especially with his background as a shinobi. His intention to leave his clan that raised him to become a cold-blooded killer was what led him to become a death row criminal he is now as his clan’s chief betrayed him. Yes, his attitude and background clearly screamed the edgy anti-hero type protagonist. Not to mention, he has this superpowered body that caused him to survive various attempts of executions ranging from the decapitation on the first scene, being burned alive, or even having his limbs tied and pulled by bulls. No matter what the method, Gabimaru didn’t die even if he wanted to.
However, the other main lead, Sagiri, was able to see through Gabimaru’s mask of indifference and what set Gabimaru apart from the initial impression of the edgy protagonist he appeared to be. It’s not that he couldn’t die, but he actually never wanted to die. All those failed execution attempts was actually because Gabimaru hardened his own body to make it impossible to be killed by normal methods. Sagiri managed to break Gabimaru’s mask by revealing his reason to live: his wife, Yui. Surprisingly, before his capture, Gabimaru was married to Yui, who was the clan’s chief’s daughter. While the chief was cruel and only cares for his clan’s prosperity through cruel deeds, Yui is the exact opposite of her father. She didn’t consider Gabimaru as a tool or a killer, she treated him as a person and love him unconditionally. It didn’t take long for Yui to melt Gabimaru’s heart and he return her love. His desire to live a peaceful normal life with Yui is what kept him from letting himself get killed.
The flashbacks of Gabimaru and Yui was truly endearing to watch. Through their actions and expressions, combined with the play of lightning and vibrant colors, you can tell that Gabimaru and Yui deeply loved each other even without it having to be spoken out. They both are kindred spirits, having suffered under the chief’s cruelty. Their shared hidden desire to live normally brought them together and it was through each other’s company that they found comfort. It was very cute to see the deadpan face Gabimaru being all shy and blushing mess when receiving affection from his wife. Thanks to this, I found myself liking Gabimaru as a protagonist. He is neither too serious nor he is naive. There’s a balance to both his power and vulnerability that makes him very human.
However, while this episode was mostly about Gabimaru, it doesn’t mean that Sagiri was forgettable. There has yet to be much explanation about Sagiri, but it’s evident that she’s not just an ordinary young woman. If you know Japanese history, Yamada Asaemon is the name of the family head of the Yamada family, who served as a sword trial slasher during the Edo period. However, there is a person who called himself Asaemon among successive family heads and also served as the executioner. In Hell’s Paradise, Yamada Asaemon is depicted as a title given to swordsmen who has fully trained into becoming a fully-fledged executioner, with Sagiri being one of them. Sagiri was the only person who’s able to figure out Gabimaru’s love for his wife and forced him to break his mask of indifference by making a cut on his neck despite his superhuman body. She remained calm throughout her questioning and watching the failed exection attempts, but the fact that she’s able to correctly deduce Gabimaru’s love for his wife and offering a chance for pardon, I know that Sagiri is similarly a kind-hearted person deep down, but her job required her to suppress her emotions.
Because Gabimaru already has a wife that he loves, it’s clear beyond doubt that whatever the relationship between Gabimaru and Sagiri won’t be romantic like many other stories that has male and female protagonists duo. The growing relationship between Gabimaru and Sagiri based on their uneasy partnership was one of the things that I enjoyed most when reading the manga.
The first episode of Hell’s Paradise does not disappoint in delivering the source material. Its stunning visual made me unable to turn away from the screen throughout watching the episode. Even the gory depiction of the mutilated human fleshes inside the floral boat was both disturbing and mesmerizing that I have to admit it’s amazingly done. For the OP song, unfortunately, it wasn’t much to my liking, but the ED is much better to listen to for me.
Remembering how MAPPA successfully animated Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack on Titan: The Final Season, I have expectation that they’ll keep the animation quality consistent.
Possibility of Blogging: Definitely