At the end of the last episode, the proverbial sh*t has hit the fan. The vibrant island has revealed its true self with terrifying insects and kaiju-like religious statues coming to violent life. Monstrous and beautiful, Hell’s Paradise Episode 4, “Hell and Paradise,” hones the story in on the ensemble cast we’re going to be following for the rest of the series. With nearly half of the Yamada Asaemons and the condemned killed by each other, the island is here to do the rest.
Hell’s Paradise Episode 4 is as important to showcasing the skills of each character as it is to show the true violence of the island. As Sagiri says, everything has changed since house ago. The way that MAPPA has brought to life mangaka Yuji Kaku’s vision of horror that uses religious imagery and body horror is perfect. But like the last episodes, the violence is an exciting element of the series, but the characters are still the focus.
Taking time to build up the context for choices and circumstances around each of the remaining condemned works extremely well in the manga and carries even more weight in the series. That said, it is also my only point of contention with the story. While on their own, each story holds weight to the larger narrative, moving between them creates a pacing that sometimes feels jagged.
Still, even with that, Hell’s Paradise Episode 4 sets the stage further without feeling like a constant exposition dump. Instead, we get the time with new characters that help make them feel dynamic. Audiences get action this episode, but the truth is, this is a character-building episode first, without much progression in the series’ main narrative. But that doesn’t make it bad. Instead, MAPPA has chosen to set the foundation for each character first before the cascading effects of the island are felt. While we still have one pair left to be really explored. Hell’s Paradise Episode 4 allows the audience to understand each character to build impact when the larger narrative choices begin to happen.
First, we get to see a small bit of Gantetsusai Tamiya, his skill, and his reasons for seeking a pardon. But the larger secondary characters we get in Hell’s Paradise Episode 4 are Yuzuriha, Chobe Aza, and Asaemon Toma. As an anime watcher who has read the manga, MAPPA’s handling of Yuzuriha is stellar. At first appearance, it’s clear that her body is central to her identity, and when she tries to seduce Gabimaru immediately upon meeting him, that’s solidified. However, that sexuality isn’t all she is, but rather an understanding of using tools as much as learning any shinobi arts to fight. As we spend more time with her and she explains the island, the audience is clued into who she is at her core. Yuzuriha is curious.
That curiosity is what keeps her alive as she details how she tested the island’s insects on a condemned killer she seduced. While the section isn’t large, it perfectly explains how important Yuzuriha will be later on and shows her worth to Gabimaru and Sagiri. The balance of ingenuity and curiosity with her sexuality makes her a character that isn’t defined by her body, even with it explicitly on display. That balance is something anime as a medium has struggled with, and MAPPA has in the past, but here, it’s achieved.
In an episode with depth, audiences also get to meet and learn about Chobe Aza and Asaemon Toma. Two brothers on opposite ends of the law but still held together by their bond, the episode humanizes them much more than Kaku does at this point in the story. It’s a choice that pays off. Chobe is the gruff Bandit King who can change as soon as any situation calls for it. Toma is his younger brother, pushed to survive but reliant on his brother to learn. Given the violence we’ve seen Chobe reap so far and his declaration that he is a god to himself and unrestrained by the island’s gods, the care he shows Toma is unexpected. This establishes a caring groundwork that adds depth to the vicious Chobe.
It feels awkward to call Hell’s Paradise Episode 4 another foundation-building episode, but that’s what it does while still managing to add enough action and storytelling to make it interesting. The episode manages to detail the island’s dangers and add more life to each of the charismatic characters we’ve been introduced to so far. Building on itself continually, Hell’s Paradise is fantastic at capturing not just the core of Yuji Kaku’s work that its based on, but honoring elements while changing progression order.
Hell’s Paradise Episode 4 is streaming exclusively on Crunchyroll, with new episodes every Saturday.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.