I love horror comic books, and in that same vein, I love horror manga. This is largely because of the art on the pages, and how much skill it takes to craft pages that are as beautiful as they are disturbing and in some cases violent. Beautiful and disturbing are the two best words to describe mangaka Yuji Kaku’s Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku. Published for English-speaking audiences by VIZ Media and serialized in Shonen Jump, Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku is an 18+ title that is filled with action, bloodshed, monsters, body horror, religious symbolism, and characters you immediately latch on to.
In the first volume, we met Gabimaru the Hollow, one of the most vicious ninja assassins ever to come out of the village of Iwagakur. We learn about him, the world he inhabits, and the executioners set to take the heads of people like him. But, instead of facing execution, Gabimaru is given one hope of returning to his wife and possibly living a normal life: finding the Elixir of Life. If he can travel to a long-hidden island and recover the elixir that will make the shogun immortal, he will regain his freedom. But if he doesn’t, he dies.
In Hell’s Paradise: Jigouraku Volume 2, chapters 11 through the dangers of the island become even more apparent and as he and his executioner, Sagiri, are hit with attacks from the environment and convicts alike. As Gabimaru and his executioner explore the island, they come under attack from creatures that resemble gods but behave like devils, causing them and other convicts/executioner pairs to question if the island is the paradise they were promised or if its hell.
Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku Volume 2 is devastatingly beautiful. The monster designs present the holiness while the dynamic action sequences showcase their capability of intense violence. Additionally, the corpses that have turned into flowerbeds remains one of the most beautiful elements of body horror in any series. Kaku’s artwork is unparalleled as he creates a hostile and beautiful world filled with uniquely drawn characters with elements that cause them to stick in your mind.
Beyond their images, Yaku’s character writing is top-notch, weaving a story by adding backgrounds to the remaining convicts and showing the pressures they’re under. From being the last member of their tribe, a woman in a man’s profession, to two brothers reconnected, each character has become multifaceted, the criminals have the depth and the executioners have sins.
But its perhaps Sagiri’s story that has gripped me, as we see more of the prejudice she faces for wielding a blade, even on an island of death. The only thing the samurai around her see is her gender. While she holds herself up, she also draws strength from her relationship with Gabimaru. While the blade reflects the soul, he has helped reflect hers.
Finally, the closing act of Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku Volume 2 is top tier action. As one of the last remaining convicts, Rokurota, the Giant of Bizen, turns his eyes to eating those remaining, we get to see our protagonist truly up against an unbeatable foe. After watching Gabimaru quickly kill humans and monsters alike, this volume allow us to see his vulnerability and the depth of his skill. It’s a fast-paced and intense battle that kept me at the edge of my seat.
If I were to describe Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku to people, I would compare it to Gantz in terms of competition, violence, and monsters. That said, this title is unlike what I’ve seen before in terms of style, which makes its recognizable themes all the more interesting. Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku Volume 2 seals the deal on this incredible story. While the first volume caught my attention, the second one has hooked me so much, I’ve pushed the series to the top of my Shonen Jump reading queue.
Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku Volume 2 is available May 5, 2020 from online book sellers.
Images compliments of VIZ Media.
Hell's Paradise: Jigouraku, Volume 2
Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku Volume 2 seals the deal on this incredible story. While the first volume caught my attention, the second one has hooked me so much, I’ve pushed the series to the top of my Shonen Jump reading queue.