Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku is a forthcoming manga series set to begin publication in the US in March of 2020. There are currently 8 volumes in Japan, but the series is ongoing.
Gabimaru is a reluctant but skilled and nearly indestructible ninja. He is sentenced to be executed, which is no easy thing. They try boiling him, burning at the stake, and various other tactics, before he gets recruited for a suicide mission: to find the Elixir of Life on a mysterious island. So far, all missions the shogunate has sent to the island have resulted in total loss of life, so why not send a rag-tag, cutthroat group of murderers on death row? Each criminal is assigned a baby-sitter in the form of elite executioners, just to keep them from wandering off. The prize for the one who finds the Elixir? A full pardon!
The first half of this story had so much promise. I appreciated the speed at which details of Gabimaru's life were revealed. Gabimaru and his executioner, Sagiri, are such an interesting pair. But, in what seems like a missed opportunity, we jump from the Shogunate making the deal to, "hey look, we're all already on the island!" The mangaka is clearly setting up the story to be a type of Hunger Games where murderers are pitted against each other. So why miss the opportunity to show the adventure of sailing to this supposedly hard to reach place, with potential for murderers to cause other shenanigans? My other major disappointment was that, of the two criminals we meet first on the island, both monologue the exact same evil plan: to eliminate the competition so they can take their time looking for the elixir. Almost word for word!
While the art style is heavily detailed, the action sequences leave much to be desired. Given that the criminals and their executioners are all skilled killers, the fight scenes are supposed to convey a quickness and lethal talent. Thus, many are quick and have large jumps in movements between panels, which can be difficult for readers unskilled in filling in their own choreography. However, my biggest frustration was the size of the sound effect words! Many of them covered a majority of the art in the action scenes, making it difficult to see details like who is holding what sword, what direction weapons/people move, and so forth.
VIZ Media rates this title as Mature (suitable for adults), and this seems fitting. The detailed depiction of the violence and gore, extreme amounts of violence, nudity, and the details of the murderer's crimes makes this one I wouldn't put on a high school shelf.
Sara's Rating: 4/10
Suitability level: Adult
This review was made possible with an advanced reader copy from the publisher through Edelweiss.
Tags: Rating: 4/10, Suitability: Adult, Manga, Action Adventure, Demons
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