Hell’s Paradise: Why Mature Mystery Fans Will Love Studio MAPPA’s New Anime

Hell's Paradise by Yuji Kaku is a series that fans feel is underrated. On YouTube, searching for this title brings up videos about how it's "the best manga you've never read" and "the best upcoming anime you've never heard of." That may change, however, in the near future. On December 18, anime studio MAPPA released the first trailer for their adaptation of Kaku's work. Fans of the manga are elated at this news but, with so many highly-anticipated shows coming out next year, even this has been overshadowed.

This has happened despite the manga's pedigree. Originally published in Shonen Jump+ and serializing at the same time as the likes of Chainsaw Man and Spy x Family, it's in good company. So, what can those uninitiated with Hell's Paradise expect from the anime? Here are some spoiler-free highlights from the source material.

Hell's Paradise Gabimaru Boat

Hell's Paradise tells the story of ninja Gabimaru the Hollow, who has been captured and sentenced to death. His only chance at escaping his fate is a long shot. The shogun has learned about an uncharted island that's said to hold a substance that could make a man immortal: the Elixir of Life. Every military ship that's been sent to this island has either never returned or the men have come home as inhuman corpses. If Gabimaru or any of the other convicts sent on the next trip, returned with the Elixir, they would receive a formal pardon from the shogun for his crimes.

Right away, the series presented some fascinating mysteries. What happened to all of the soldiers? Does this island truly hold the key to immortality? If so, at what cost? As Gabimaru and the rest of the cast ventured forth into the unknown, the world that Kaku has created only becomes stranger by the chapter. The island they set foot on appeared unnatural despite its initial beauty, teeming with species of flower that can't be found together anywhere else. The bugs found there can be described the same way: they look fine at a glance but cause unease upon a closer look.

The allure of the unknown aside, anime fans looking for something more mature than the average shonen will find what they're looking for in Hell's Paradise. The manga was graphic, so much so that the English publication has explicit content warnings on every volume. Right from the premise, the concepts of life and death were prevalent. The characters pondered their own mortality, whether or not taking lives is a burden, and what exactly is worth fighting for their lives. All the while, no one is truly safe. It was bloody and brutal, regularly utilizing horror elements, particularly body horror, to make every chapter unnerving. It also didn't shy away from nudity, using it as a metaphor in some cases and titillation in others.

For those interested in action, the anime is also sure to please. Gabimaru and the other characters all got into plenty of fights on their journey. Whether it be against the creatures that inhabited the island or each other, it was rare to go more than a few chapters without some kind of scrap. In the hands of MAPPA, the studio responsible for action-packed shows like The God of High School and Jujutsu Kaisen, the fights are surely in good hands.

It's also a treat for history buffs. The manga took place during Japan's Edo Period, as such, Hell's Paradise provided glimpses at some interesting groups and professions that existed during this time. From shinobi ninjas and samurai executioners to an Ainu character who was arrested for solely political reasons, it had plenty of historical references despite taking place on a supernatural island. It also took its time to delve into different religions and had a particular interest in Chinese beliefs.

With a year of anime as packed with hits as 2022 is shaping up to be, it's hard to keep track of everything that will be worth a watch. That said, Hell's Paradise should definitely be added to the list. It's not going to be to everyone's taste, but it's a treasure trove for those who want to watch a mature mystery unravel.


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