At times, we all have emotions we don’t want to feel or process. Apathy, or some sense of forced resignation, can be easier than actually being in the moment with your true, raw feelings. Maybe you think you are hollow; maybe you would rather be hollow. Perhaps you think you are unworthy for feeling fear and doubt. Or perhaps you’ve been taught that to feel love is weakness.
Welcome to Anime Rants. The ideas described above, and the theme of dealing with one’s inconvenient emotions, are riddled into the story of the popular new anime, Hell’s Paradise. If you’re interested in said themes, then buckle down for the emotional struggles of Gabimaru the Hollow and Sagiri Asaemon the Executioner in the first three episodes of Hell’s Paradise.
Episode 1: The Death Row Convict and The Executioner
Gabimaru is a Shinobi ninja with a superhuman body. He is a talented assassin whose victims are numerous. Because he seems to be emotionless and unattached, he is known as Gabimaru the Hollow. After he defied his chief by trying to leave the village, the young assassin was captured and sentenced to death. He decided to give up and accept his fate. However, none of the execution methods used on him work. Gabumari survives the sword, the fire, the hot oil, and more. The woman who is documenting Gabimaru’s case, Sagiri, observes that the boy has not yet truly given up. He still wants to live.
Though Gabimaru denies this at first, Sagiri is correct. In an interesting twist, it turns out that Sagiri is a respected royal executioner. She attempts to execute Gabimaru, who responds by dodging repeatedly. Finally, Sagiri guesses the truth: the Shinobi doesn’t want to die because he loves his wife. Gabimaru was actually planning to quit assassin work and live a peaceful life with her, but the village chief wouldn’t allow it.
Sagiri proposes a bizarre deal. Gabimaru will be pardoned of his crimes if he goes to a mysterious southern island to retrieve the legendary Elixir of Life. The island is rumored to be heaven on earth, but nobody returns from it alive. Adventurers are instead sent back dead, with parts of their bodies turned into flowers. Gabimaru will have to survive this dangerous, magical place and return alive. He will be sent there with a bunch of other criminals who are also working to be pardoned. Though it sounds like make-believe, Gabimaru accepts the deal. He vows to make back home to his beloved wife.
I have quite a few thoughts on this first episode, but I’ll go over them quickly. Simply put, this was a high-quality and impressive pilot episode. Not only is it well-structured and good at holding attention, but all the story concepts are interesting, from the loosely historical setting to the astounding superhuman abilities of Gabimaru. Both the Shinobi boy and the executioner woman seem like interesting characters. The music and artwork are also beautiful. Furthermore, the Japanese voice-acting was top-notch. I’m a big fan of Mamiko Noto, who voiced Gabimaru’s wife, Yui. The voices for Gabimaru and Sagiri were also good and well-fitting.
Since I traditionally love “survival game” anime series, it’s likely that Hell’s Paradise will be a real treat for me. Since it featured such a strong starting episode, I have high expectations for the rest of the series.
Episode 2: Screening and Choosing
Throughout the episode, we saw some personal history of Sagiri. Though she’s a good executioner, she has many doubts about the profession. She didn’t choose this lifestyle, but felt forced into it by her family. (That being said, she wishes to do well with it, and greatly admires her father’s skill.) Even as a woman, she would have had to work with death; so she chose the most direct path and took up the sword. Sagiri’s killing strikes are not perfect, and with every kill, she feels fear and doubt. It’s as if the hands of the dead are reaching out and angrily grabbing at her. It’s a terrifying psychological experience.
Putting Sagiri aside for now, the rest of the episode was about the “screening process” of criminals being sent to the island of Shinsenkyo. They are directed to “reduce their numbers.” A bloodbath then begins as the deadly criminals start killing each other off however they can. Although Gabimaru didn’t want to kill, he was forced to do that or be killed himself. Thus, he leaped into action and brutally slaughtered several of the criminals. The shogun and his handlers were shocked at the monstrous display.
Gabimaru is now guaranteed to go to the island. Sagiri will go along to monitor him, with the understanding that she will execute him if he acts out or betrays the mission. Several other dangerous criminals were also chosen, each one supervised by a member of the Yamada executioner clan. At one point in the episode, Gabimaru made some remark about dealing with the burden of deaths on his hands. This remark shook Sagiri to the core, as she realized that what she needed wasn’t to conquer the fear of killing, but to develop the resolve to bear that fear. As the episode ends, we see Gabimaru and company arriving at the mysterious island of Shinsenkyo.
This second installment was fascinating and exciting. I loved seeing the history and personal struggles of Sagiri. She is definitely my favorite character, at least for the time being. (Several other characters, like Yuzuriha the female ninja, also look like they will prove interesting.) In addition to having a beautiful and hot character design, Sagiri is the kind of dutiful, honorable character type that I often find myself attracted to. I’m also interested in Gabimaru, given that he’s not naturally empathetic, but seems capable of love and morality. His fighting techniques were absolutely sick – and I mean that in both the cool way and the twisted way.
I’m eager to see more of this anime. The mystery of the heavenly island is intriguing, and I hope the supernatural side of it is explored to a satisfying degree. In addition, my vicariously bloodthirsty side is excited for some “survival game” chaos and creative character death. I already mentioned this in the review for the first episode, but the art and music are amazing. Studio MAPPA has really outdone itself so far. That’s all for the second episode.
Episode 3: Weakness and Strength
The criminals and their supervisors have split up to search the island of Shinsenkyo. One of the criminals, a huge man with a fetish for deadly weapons, attacks Gabimaru. Sagiri and the Asaemon supervisor for the other criminal agree to let the convicts fight to the death. Naturally, Gabimaru wins. Before leaving, the Asaemon supervisor gives a warning to Sagiri. He says the ninja people of Iwagure village are on their way to island to find the Elixir themselves. He also makes a prediction, saying that the situation on the island will change in a matter of hours, and nearly everyone will be killed off.
As soon as the other supervisor leaves, Gabimaru suddenly attacks Sagiri. The female executioner is hard-pressed to defend herself. Gabimaru’s reasoning is that, if his people are indeed coming to get the Elixir, he needs to hurry and get it first. Sagiri will only slow him down. Thus, she needs to die. But both Gabimaru and Sagiri feel hesitant to kill one another, and neither one really knows why. The ninja boy wins the fight and holds the woman down, but still can’t bring himself to deliver the death blow. Frustrated, he weeps at his perceived weakness.
This confirms for Sagiri that Gabimaru is not hollow, but a human with emotions. She tells him that he’s not weak, and that true courage is working your way through your emotions. This is the same sentiment that Gabimaru’s wife professed when they were together, so the Shinobi puts away his sword. Sagiri feels grateful to Gabimaru for helping her address her own emotions, so she says she won’t execute him and will overlook this instance of rule-breaking. Now firmly committed to traveling together, Sagiri and Gabimaru continue exploring. However, before long, they are greeted by a varfety of grotesque, otherworldly monsters. To be continued.
The emotional themes and character psychology in this episode were of great interest to me. I was on the edge of my seat as I watched Gabimaru struggle with his emotions. This is the kind of stuff I love to see in anime. On top of that, the beautiful art and visuals continue to impress me. I hope we learn more about Shinsenkyo and why it’s filled with monsters. On a final note, I hope that Asaemon supervisor was wrong about everybody being killed off early. I want to see more characters and their interactions before they die. With that, I think I’ve covered most of my immediate thoughts on the third episode.
Thank you for reading~
3 thoughts on “Hell’s Paradise: Episodes 1 to 3 Reviews”
I’m actually not really a fan of survival anime, but the characters are so compelling and the art work is so high quality and pretty, I couldn’t help but be interested in this anime! I first watched the trailer for this anime a couple months ago and I instantly knew that this was going to be something special! So far I’m really loving this series.
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Well, I love this series so far, from just watching the trailer I get so much excited to watch it
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