Hell's Paradise Is An Explosive Mix Of Ninja Fantasy & Survival Horror (2024)

The much-awaited anime adaptation of Hell's Paradise has finally arrived, bringing to life Yuji Kaku's best-selling manga in a new series produced by MAPPA studios and directed by Kaori Makita. Screen Rant had the opportunity to watch an early screening of the first episode, which promises to bring fans a good dose of violent and gory action in a setting that mixes classic Edo-era shinobi and samurai themes with mystery and horror.

Hell's Paradise is based on the manga of the same name by Yuji Kaku, who previously worked as an assistant for Tatsuki Fujimoto's Fire Punch. The manga was serialized digitally on Shonen Jump+ from January 2018 to January 2021, and it quickly became the most popular series on the platform. The anime adaptation was announced in 2021, and it's produced by MAPPA studios, famous for Jujutsu Kaisen, Chainsaw Man, Attack on Titan, and Vinland Saga. The director is Kaori Makita, who also directed episodes #60 and #69 of Attack on Titan Final Season, with Chiaki Kobayashi and Yumiri Hanamori voicing the two main characters, Gabimaru and Yamada. The series debuts on April 1, 2023, on Tokyo TV, and it will be simulcast on Crunchyroll every Saturday.

Hell's Paradise's Protagonists Are A Ninja Sentenced To Death And His Executioner

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Episode #1 of Hell's Paradise, titled "Criminal and Executioner", focuses on introducing the male protagonist, Gabimaru the Hollow, a shinobi from the Iwagakure ninja village. Gabimaru gained his nickname from his lack of emotion and willingness to perform the most gruesome work, having been trained since birth to be the perfect assassin. However, when the story begins, Gabimaru has actually been captured by the Magistrate's Office after being betrayed by his own comrades. He is condemned to death but his shinobi skills and superhuman body allow him to survive the increasingly gruesome executions ordered by the Magistrate, from beheading to being boiled in hot oil.

Witnessing Gabimaru's trials is Yamada Asaemon Sagiri, a master swordswoman and executioner from the legendary Yamada Asaemon clan. She has been tasked by the Shogun with recruiting condemned criminals for a desperate mission in exchange for a full pardon. Recently, explorers found the fairytale land of Shinsekyo, where the fabled Exilir of Life is supposedly located. Five expeditions sent by the Shogun were lost, with only the bodies of the men returning, horribly mutated into flower hybrids. The Shogunate then decides to send "expendables" on the next mission, and Sagiri offers Gabimaru this chance, seeing the potential not just in his superhuman skills, but also in his desire to survive.

Gabimaru Puts An Original Spin On The "Emotionless Protagonist" Stereotype

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The most interesting aspect of this first episode is certainly Gabimaru's backstory. At the beginning, it appears that he is surviving the executions by virtue of his body's resilience, but in truth he is actually resisting willingly, despite his professed lack of desire to live. Throgh her investigation, Sagiri discovers that Gabimaru is married to the daughter of the village's chief, an unusually kind woman who rejects the cruel ways of the shinobi. As Gabimaru started to be swayed by his wife's kindness, he decided to abandon the village to live in peace, attracting the wrath of the chief and his punishment.

This backstory sets Gabimaru apart from the common stereotype of the emotionless manga and anime protagonist, which can be seen in the upcoming anime Solo Leveling, for example. While he has certainly deserved the nickname of "Hollow" for his actions and pretends to be such at the beginning of the episode, Gabimaru impresses Sagiri with his will to live, motivated by his love for his wife and the desire to save her from the village. While the typical emotionless protagonist usually changes during his journey, opening their heart little by little, Gabimaru already went through this process before the series started, which is a welcomed change in a genre that relies way too much on tropes and stereotypes.

Fans Of Naruto Will Appreciate The Mix Of Ninja And Fantasy Themes

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Hell's Paradise takes place in the Edo period of Japan, and like many stories set in that era, it is heavily influenced by samurai and ninja culture and themes. Besides his superhuman body, Gabimaru says he can use ninjutsu, and shows it at the end of the episode by setting his body on fire and then burning his opponents. Sagiri, on the other hand, appears to be "just" an incredibly skilled swordswoman, to the point that she could cut even Gabimaru's neck that resisted other executioners' swords.

It will be interesting to see how "realistic" the series will try to be in its fights. Gabimaru's abilities are not really explained besides a general "being raised by ninja to be the perfect assassin", and hopefully future episodes will establish a more detailed power system. The easiest comparison is, of course, with the most famous ninja-based series Naruto, whose early success derived in good part from the amount of detail and attention that went into explaining and establishing the chakra-based power system. The fact that Hell's Paradise is, for the most part, set on a mysterious, mystical island will work in favor of its suspension of disbelief, giving the series strong fantasy tones that will help ignore any issues with historical accuracy.

Hell's Paradise Takes Inspiration From Battle Royal, But With A Fundamental Difference

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In fact, after arriving in Shinsekyo, Gabimaru will have to compete not only with fellow convicts vying for the same prize but also with what the series synopsis describes as "demonic beasts lurking". This hints that Hell's Paradise will also borrow heavily from survival horror stories such as Alice in Borderland or the classic Battle Royale, which has often been mentioned by Yuji Kaku as an inspiration for his manga, with the key difference that, in this case, the protagonists are not hapless, common people but trained and skilled warriors, who however will still have to learn quickly how to survive in a hostile and mysterious world.

The production values of the first episode of Hell's Paradise seem to be up to MAPPA's usual standards, but not as impressive as those of the studio's best works such as Chainsaw Man and Attack on Titan. An honorable mention has to go to the character design by Kouji Hisaki, a veteran of the industry who has been the animation director for Attack on Titan Final Season, and is working on Hell's Paradise as chief animation director and key animator.

Overall, the first episode of Hell's Paradise captures viewers with two interesting main characters and the promise of a plot that will put an original spin on classic genres. Fans of survival horror, Battle Royale-style stories, but also of more mainstream products such as Naruto should definitively check out Hell's Paradise starting from April 1, 2023, every Saturday in simulcast on Crunchyroll.

Hell's Paradise Is An Explosive Mix Of Ninja Fantasy & Survival Horror (2024)

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