Content Warning: Heavy gore and violence against women.
What’s it about? Gabimaru is the most efficient ninja to come out of his home village, but after being betrayed by his comrades he’s given the death sentence. However, he gets the chance, along with other criminals, to earn his freedom by going to a mysterious and dangerous island on a mission to find a secret elixir of immortality for the shogun.
MAPPA seems awfully determined to work itself into the ground. It’s almost mind-boggling how many projects they have taken on for the next few years, and I don’t think it’s going to surprise anyone when their animation quality inevitably begins to suffer. If they somehow surpass any of our expectations, just know that animators are being worked to the bone to give anime fans a great viewing experience. It’s frustrating because animation is so much work and animators deserve to be compensated properly. It’s not just a MAPPA problem, but an industry-wide problem, and I hope by consistently bringing it up that something positive happens for the sake of the animators advocating for change.
That being said, this premiere has a lot of potential since it mainly teased the main plot along with its creative visuals. The manga is immensely popular and, based on the gore elements alone, I can see why folks are excited to see the supernatural narrative and action sequences in the upcoming weeks. The exposition dump during the first half wasn’t the most engaging aspect of the premiere, but in case anyone was curious about how brutal Edo-style executions were then prepare for a full-on gruesome history lesson, because the series doesn’t hold back on showing any of it. That’s going to be a big hurdle for many people that can’t handle blood nor gore, and if Chainsaw Man was a major turn off then you might want to skip Hell’s Paradise.
I’m not sure how I feel about Gabimaru just yet. While he isn’t particularly compelling, I do appreciate that he isn’t completely void of human emotions and avoids falling into the dark edgelord category that seems to be a popular archetype these days. Either way, it’s refreshing that despite all of the killings Gabimaru has done, he’s still held on to some semblance of his humanity; the fact his beloved wife, Yui, noticed that, is enough for him to see any value in his existence. In short, there isn’t much to say about Gabimaru except that he’s hella powerful and loves his wife, which isn’t a bad thing, but doesn’t garner much conversation either.
Honestly, I’m actually happy that for once the main protagonist in a shounen jump series is actually married, which means we can avoid the kind of unnecessary romantic subplots that usually hinder the development of women characters. Even though I have moderate expectations, I’m still hoping Yui will be characterized as more than just Gabimaru’s wife and the main motivator for his character development. Granted that might be unlikely, since most of the plot is mostly likely going to take place on the island, but it’ll be nice if we get some flashbacks about her and her defiance against her father. I should warn our readers that her father doesn’t hesitant to burn her face as a warning to anyone considering leaving the village, and if the village chief is willing to treat his own daughter like that then I can imagine the series isn’t going to hold back on depicting women in violent situations. I can only hope Hell’s Paradise pulls a Jujutsu Kaisen in the sense that it gives women agency in spite of living in a harsh world.
Another interesting character worth noting is the executioner and master swordswoman named Yamada Sagiri, since she’s being set up to be Gabimaru’s traveling companion. Normally, most shounen series set up two boys to go on an epic journey and become lifelong friends, so the idea that this show is willing to explore that men and women can equally have meaningful (hopefully) platonic relationships is intriguing and I hope it becomes more normalized in future shows.
Overall, it’s a good looking show and definitely deserves the three episode test to see if it’s worth all the hype.