HomeAnimeANIME REVIEW | Beautiful Carnage in "Hell’s Paradise"

ANIME REVIEW | Beautiful Carnage in "Hell’s Paradise"

ANIME REVIEW | Beautiful Carnage in "Hell’s Paradise"

How far would you go to live a peaceful life? Would you travel to Hell and back just so that you can see your beloved again? Is death a far better option than stepping foot in a place no person has returned from? These thoughts spins through the mind of Gabimaru (Chiaki Kobayashi), a ninja who was originally put to death by Village Chief for wanting to sever his ties. But when master swordswoman Sagiri (Yumiri Hanamori) arrives with a pardon, it comes with a stipulation: seek eternal life in Hell’s Paradise, or suffer the consequences.

The latest series by MAPPA (Chainsaw Man, PUNCH LINE) and based on the manga by Yuji Kaku, Hell’s Paradise sends Gabimaru and a bunch of convicts to Shinsenkyo. On this island is said to be two things: the elixir of life and brutally impending death. With Sagiri keeping watch on Gabimaru, the two seek the key to immortality in order to earn that pardon. Because despite his “Hollow” nickname, all Gabimaru wants to do is spend the rest of his life by the side of his beautiful wife Yui (Mamako Noto), who also just so happens to be the eighth daughter of the Village Chief.

Gabimaru’s not the only one on this island, with other Death Row criminals aiming to earn their pardons. From the sultry Yuzuriha (Rie Takahashi) and the large brute Rokurota to the criminal and executioner brothers Aza & Toma (Ryohei Kimura & Kensho Ono), every person on this island has a reason to grab that elixir for themselves. Despite the level of danger these people all present, they pale in comparison to the biggest threat of all: the island itself. After all, there’s a reason why no one’s every returned alive from this place.

Hell’s Paradise takes its time with getting to the meat of the story. Its first episode solely focuses on Gabimaru, who is put through one execution after another. From burning him alive to a good ole decapitation, Gabimaru’s body & soul just won’t succumb to human hands. It’s kind of funny seeing everyone surrounding Gabimaru quiver in fear, with his will and strength making him appear invulnerable. Only when Sagiri appears with the pardon do we start seeing what the narrative has in store.

Basically, the island of Shinsenkyo is terrifyingly beautiful. While it has some gorgeous nature, it also plays hosts to monsters and god-like creatures that kill any human they see. In a way, the island acts like a Venus flytrap; it lures anyone in with a feast, and then promptly snuffs them out at the precise moment. But the pardon that hangs over Gabimaru and the rest of the inmates is too good to not try for. Besides, they were going to die anyway, so why not go for it?

Everyone quickly realizes that they’ve bitten off more than they can chew, as Inmates and Executioners start dying one after another. While they may have tough exteriors, it’s what’s running through most of their brains that makes them far weaken than they claim to be. From Sagiri’s troubles acting as a proper Executioner to Nurugai (Makoto Koichi) having no real combat skills with the guilt of accidentally causing her village’s slaughter over her head, these folks all have some issues that need to be worked with. Even Rokurota, who seems like a full-fledged killer, is actually just a severely disabled man who just wants some kind of love.

These doubts are showcased with a good sympathetic light, as even the most bloodthirsty of killers has some sort of soul deep within them. But it’s Gabimaru who is sincerely the one who deserves the most sympathy. Here’s a guy who was a hired ninja, finds himself with a bride, and — despite his nickname of “Gabimaru the Hallow” — manages to discover new feelings thanks to his newlywed. And the moment he wants out, Gabimaru is put to death, only to be forced onto an island to continue the slaughter. Cruel, right?

Thankfully, he starts to bond with the likes of Sagiri, Yuzuriha, and executioner Senta (Daiki Yamashita), who decide to work together to find the elixir of life. Although Yuzuriha has a very untrustworthy side to her, she’s kind of got a Fujiko Mine sort of mentality. Be it for a good cause or for something profitable, Yuzuriha will stay the course for any well-thought out plan. It’s this sort of mentality that helps these four focus on the plan at hand, on top of deal with the behemoths that aim to snuff out their lives.

And when those creatures appear, Hell’s Paradise starts running on all of its motorbike-sized cylinders. The action on this show is presented with a level of gorgeousness we’ve come to expect from MAPPA. From slick decapitations to the oceans of blood that spew from severed appendages, every attack is brought to the forefront with precise timing and beauty. Even the creatures they face have an artful hideousness to them, from giant insects and deity-like monsters to flowery beasts that are as pretty as they are deadly.

With that being said, there is a pacing issue that I have with this show. I get that there are multiple characters to focus on here, and I am glad to see these back stories. However, they always seem to switch from Gabimaru to the other inmates kind of at the worst time. As such, it takes the wind out of the sails of the main plot, resulting in full stops on the narrative all for the sake to see what the other guys are doing. (Perhaps the anime adaptation should’ve just focused on the main four characters, and have the other characters’ stories and time on the island presented as OVA episodes.)

Vocally, the cast performs their characters well. Kobayashi is perfect as Gabimaru, with his soft voice matching well with both his killer instinct and his kinder side. Hanamori is stern as Sagiri, but showcases plenty of fear due to her holding back her true strength. It’s odd hearing Takahashi sounding seductive as Yuzuriha, but she manages to make her scenes a delight with both a humorous and exciting flare. Although she’s not in the series much, Noto acts strongly as Gabimaru’s voice of reason in her role of wife Yui.

Yoshiaki Dewa (Call of the Night, Flying Witch) understands getting the atmosphere right in his soundtrack, with the melodies during the fights and flashbacks having a flawless presentation. The team-up of Millennium Parade and Ringo Sheena has brought forth “Work”, one of this season’s catchiest and vibrant openings in anime. Uru’s “Kamihitoe” is a quieter end theme, but does a good job helping calm the viewers after the violence that’s on display.

Despite its pacing issue, Hell’s Paradise is still a worthy watch. The action is as top-notched as we’ve come to expect from MAPPA, and the main characters are both relatable and fun to watch. But the real eye candy is on the visual department, with Hell’s Paradise showcasing how terrifying a beautiful world can truly get. It may have its hazards, but this anime is proof enough of why it’s worth going through Hell to seek the ultimate prize.

Voice Acting: (Japanese dub)
Final Grade (not an average):

Hell’s Paradise can be viewed on Crunchyroll, and has been licensed by Crunchyroll. Episodes 1-9 were observed for this review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll.

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The J-POP king of America, Evan has been bringing the hottest sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun to the English-speaking public since his college radio days. He's also an expert in the gaming, anime, & manga realms, never afraid to get critical when the times call for it. Born & bred in Boston, he achieved his biggest dream yet by making the big move to Tokyo, Japan in Summer 2023! For personal inquiries, contact Evan at evan@b3crew.com. For press/band inquiries, write to us at thebastards@bostonbastardbrigade.com. (Drawing by AFLM of Wicked Anime)