Hell’s Paradise | OFFICIAL TRAILER

The anime starts off incredibly dreary-looking. The local official is trying and failing to execute Gabimaru. Not for a lack of will, but a lack of a viable method. Executioners break their swords on his neck. Bulls can’t tear his body apart. He can’t even be burned at the stake. In between these gruesome execution attempts, he’s recounting his life story to a shogunate official in a bored and detached tone. He’s a ninja who was forced to marry the daughter of the clan chief, a woman he finds bothersome. Over and over, he claims that he has no attachment to living. The colors of every frame are flat and dull. Somehow, Studio MAPPA has managed to make execution look like an ordinary and dreary occurrence of everyday feudal life.


The episode only truly comes to life when Yamada Asaemon Sagiri reveals Gabimaru’s secret: He wants to live for the sake of his beloved wife. Gabimaru denies it, but the animation tells a drastically different story. Compared to the lifeless flashbacks he recounted to Sagiri, his true domestic memories are soft. There are no hard lines between shadow and light. For a few moments, the assassin is beautiful. And when he uses his fire-based powers, we see some of the most beautiful flames in recent anime. The animation definitely surpasses the manga in how it deftly controls the emotional texture of each scene. The artist Yuji Kaku uses a lot of bold line work in his drawings—it’s little wonder that he was an assistant to the creator of Chainsaw Man. But because he’s constantly heavy-handed with his illustrations, it’s hard in the manga to differentiate between the parts of the story with actual stakes and those just evoking the regular tension of being a criminal in feudal Japan. The anime, by contrast, doesn’t just show us what the story of Shinsenkyo is, but how personal it could feel. As long as it maintains the momentum of its pilot episode, Hell’s Paradise will be a thrilling series.

Hell’s Paradise is a lot like a carnivorous plant. It tries to lure you in with the beauty of friendship and justice, and then cruelly snatches away both as the audience draws close. What I’m excited about the most isn’t actually the horror. It’s the beautiful flowers that this show might offer me—before tearing them all to pieces.

The anime will be available for streaming on Crunchyroll on April 1.