Hell's Paradise | Full Review
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
"Captured during an assassination mission, Gabimaru the Hollow is sentenced to be executed, but nothing seems to kill him due to his superhuman body.
Believing his love for his wife to be subconsciously keeping him alive, executioner Yamada Asaemon Sagiri offers him the chance to be pardoned of all crimes by the Shogunate if he finds the elixir of life on Shinsenkyo, a legendary realm recently discovered southwest of the Ryuku Kingdom.
After losing five expedition teams sent to the island, this time the Shogunate sends a group of death row convicts. The convicts are each given a Yamada Asaemon executioner, who they must return with in order to obtain the pardon."
Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku is a shonen manga series by Yuji Kaku.
In my review of the first arc, I said that I had no idea what to expect going into this, and I really didn't. I had certain expectations that made me brace myself because I was expecting this to be more on the brutal side as it is considered to be part of the 'dark trio'.
What I wasn't expecting, though, was an emotional story full of characters and relationships that you end up really caring for. On the whole, I really enjoyed the story as everything was executed well, but the characters are what sold it to me.
I have written reviews for the individual arcs, so if you want to read them I will have them listed down below.
Now, let's get into the details.
Honestly, you can never go wrong with the art when it comes to manga because it is always a feast for the eyes. This series in particular though I found to be rather unique, due to the use of flora within the world. I also found the use of thin lines to be rather visually appealing, and I thought that the panels that depicted the use of Tao were extraordinary.
As for the writing, I usually don't have much to say about it because the use of text is minimal in the manga, but there were some really impactful lines in it as well as some good humour as well. I did find though that sometimes words were used that people don't commonly say, and I did find a spelling mistake or two.
Coming in at 126 chapters with four arcs, this isn't the shortest series ever but is by no means difficult to get through. I found myself flying through this series because the way each volume ended made you want to keep going to find out what happened next.
In essence, the plot for this manga is rather simple as you are given the overall objective right off the bat. In execution though, you end up getting so much more out of it. You follow the characters as they learn more about the island and the people inhabiting it. You follow them as they quickly realize that their mission is not going to be as simple as they thought it would be as they would face a lot of tribulation on their journey to complete their goal and make it back home safe and sound.
The journey to their end goal was crafted extremely well as it leaves you hanging on by a thread because you don't fully know what could happen next. The format in which the story is told is pretty formulaic as they encounter something new, learn more from it and get stronger, encounter something stronger and so on and so forth. This doesn't mean that its predictability is boring in any way though, because of the way the story raises the stakes each time, and because of the way you become more invested in it and the characters as time goes on.
As we moved more towards the end, however, the story started to lose its steady pace (just a bit). The pace picked up because there were only so many chapters left, and the story needed to be kicked into overdrive in order to build up to the climax. What resulted out of that was the weakest arc and a weaker ending, but one that I still enjoyed nonetheless.
As for what to expect in terms of content warnings, there is nudity in this (quite a lot actually). You mainly just see a lot of women topless if that bothers you, but I am more curious as to how rated the anime is going to be as a result. There is also, this goes without saying, a lot of violence and gore. As this is historical as well, we do get a fair bit of misogyny as well due to the status and views of women at the time.
In all honesty, I don't have much to talk about when it comes to world-building. There are only two things that I really have to talk about in some detail: the setting and the magic systems. This is primarily set on an isolated island so it is not the most expansive world ever, but it works perfectly due to the nature of the plot.
This is also set in the Edo period, which I can either take or leave. The time period didn't have the most prominent influence on the story, aside from the organizations and views on women. It was a nice way to fine-tune some of the smaller details, but it wasn't something I paid too much attention to.
There are two magic systems implemented in this series, for lack of a better word. Characters like Gabimaru and Yuzuriha use ninpo which is a pretty standard system commonly seen in manga (especially if you have read Naruto).
To balance that though, and to mix things up a bit, there is also Tao. I won't delve too deep into this as this doesn't show up until a bit later on in the series, but it is the primary ability used by the Tensen, the major antagonists. This system is a lot more complex compared to ninpo as it involves different attributes, but it is explained rather well in the manga so it is easy to grasp.
We follow a rather large cast of characters as they constantly separate into smaller groups and join together. The transitions between switching which group you are following though are flawless.
Both the individual characters as well as the bonds that form between them over time are executed extremely well and are one of my favourite aspects of the series. While the story doesn't delve too deep into their backstories, I found myself really coming to care about all of them. There was not one single character who I thought was underdeveloped or uninteresting.
There waere some characters who I wished we got to see more of, such as Jikka and Kiyomaru, but overall the author did a really good job at fully fleshing out all of the characters, and not just the main ones.
This was serialized from 2018-2021, and even now with an anime adaptation on the way, this series still remains underrated. It has fallen a bit on the wayside with releases like Chainsaw Man and Jujutsu Kaisen, but as someone currently reading both of them, I think this more than deserves more attention. I even liked this better than Chainsaw Man, which people are singing praises for.
If you are someone who liked Annihilation but are looking for something with a bit more action then this is the perfect recommendation.
If you are thinking about reading this, you can access it through the Viz Media website if you have a subscription.
If you want to check out my reviews for the individual arcs, you can click on the pink links below!