- Mangaka : Story and Art by Yuji Kaku
- Publisher : VIZ Signature
- Genre : Fantasy, Period, Samurai
- Published : March 2020
Introduction (No Spoilers)
Gabimaru is a ninja. Gabimaru is considered one of the best assassins. You can gain problems by being the best simply killing who you're told to kill, especially when it’s not your choice. When Gabimaru tries to make it his choice the elders of the ninja village of Iwagaure turn on him, take him prisoner and send him to be executed. The shogun gives him one chance of gaining his freedom. He needs to join a motley crew of convicts and journey to a flower-filled paradise and return with the elixir of life. The whole time under the watchful eye of samurai who will carry out their death sentence. Oh, one more thing, the flowers and every other thing on the island are trying to kill you.
Who wants to live forever?
We first are first introduced to Gabimaru down on his knees head bowed ready to die, almost wishing to die. The unfortunate thing for him is his body is so well trained only the greatest of experts could hope of cutting his skin with a sword. The executioner standing over him is not an expert swordsman and simply shatters his blade on Gabimaru’s neck. He then recounts the many attempted executions to a scribe who sits on the other side of the bars from him who says she is an inspector. We soon find in reality that she is a samurai named, Yamada Asaemon Sagiri: The Decapitator, who was sent from Edo to recruit Gabimaru for a mission that may lead to clemency and freedom. He is given the choice, live, serve the shogun and take on a suicide mission, or die. It is in the brief struggle with someone who has the skill to take his life that he realizes the reason he can’t seem to die- he has something; someone to live for, his wife a woman he was forced to marry but had grown to love.
The mission is for Gabimaru and the other convicts is simple journey to the Reversed Holy Land of Shinsenkyo and find the elixir of life. The survivor, if he can be called that, from the previous mission to Sinsenkyo returned to Edo looking more like a grotesque humanoid plant rambling incoherently. It seems on this island nature itself is trying to kill you. Gabimaru and Sagiri seem to have more they need to be cautious of than the island and its parasitic plants, the shogunate just released a large number of killers with nothing to lose in a scramble to see who can win a pardon and not all the samurai are as sticklers for the rules as Sagiri. The story can be summed up as two people whose career is to peddle death must find the elixir of life in order to truly live.
Love is a Powerful Thing
Gabimaru is known as Gabimaru the Hollow. He earned the nickname because of his ruthless efficiency in doing what he was trained to do-kill. Gabimaru had done so well the chief of the ninja village had him marry his daughter. The emotionless ninja simply considered the girl a nuisance or a “doll in a box”. She eventually shows him, through persistent compassion, that he still deserves things like peace, kindness, and especially Love.
The love, that he didn’t even realize he had for his wife was literally strong enough to break folded steel. It is this love that becomes his motivation to move forward, to survive, to live so he could be reunited with his gentle wife. He reminds us that love, as they say, conquers all. We need reminders that we can be motivated to accomplish almost anything in the name of love.
Sword-Swinging Samurai Girls are Sexy
Yamada Asaemon Sagiri is a kimono wearing, katana-wielding, ponytailed, executioner with a beautiful face and a sense for justice, even if it's severe. She grew up in a family whose trade was punishment and death. The men spent their time training and dispensing capital punishment and the women rendering the corpses of the dead into medicines. Sagiri lived side by side with death at the Yamada family homestead and at first, tried to ignore the meaning of the family trade before realizing she should simply embrace it. But, not as like a vulture dealing with the corpses of the dead but by being death incarnate dealing out sentences with one clean stroke of a blade.
She is a tall slender woman, raven hair tied back in a ponytail. Sagiri has a stern look and cool attitude as she follows the rules even when it's disadvantageous. She isn’t without compassion, though she acts dispassionately when it comes to her duties. Sagiri is the one that realizes that the reason Gabimaru wants to live is that he loves his wife. We also think, at this point in the story, she identifies with Gabimaru as someone else who’s life and actions were defined by their family. A person who simply could not escape their fate as defined by others. We haven’t gotten to see her in a large-scale combat situation but believe that even with soaked in blood she will still carry an element of elegance.
The Impossible Quest
The plot in many ways reminds some of us of the 1967 war film starring Lee Marvin called the Dirty Dozen. The plot of this World War II film takes place just before D-Day 1944. The US Army recruits some of its worst prisoners for a suicide mission behind enemy lines. The choice they’re given; accomplish the mission and get a pardon or die at the hands of the Nazi’s. We love these stories of impossible missions behind enemy lines where the smallest slip up could mean death. The manga Hells Paradise is a lot like the Dirty Dozen. A group of convicts and some jailors go behind enemy lines to accomplish a mission. If you don’t think traveling to Sinsenkyo Island isn’t behind enemy lines you might be forgetting the island itself is trying to kill you along with the other convicts on the same mission as you. The suspense of who might be killed next and how is great especially in a world where we don’t even know how you might get infected with a deadly plant born parasite.
We haven’t seen more than the first volume of this release by VIZ Signature, but it has amazing potential. The art is fantastic and the really conveys the abstract internal struggles of the two hero’s well. You really want both Sagiri and Gabimaru to survive this dangerous mission. You want to see the ninja soaked in blood be able to wash his hands clean of the life he leads and embrace his wife. We want to see if Sagiri decides that bending the rules is ever an option especially when that rule-bending could mean life or death. We really think spending a few hours in Hell's Paradise won’t kill you and you should download your copy today.