Hell’s Paradise Episode 9, “God’s and People,” delivers the most breathtaking action sequences of the series thus far with graceful, annihilistic fervor. Perfecting the unison of narrative progression with sheer spectacle, we’re reunited with Gabimaru and his crew as they continue to learn more about the Tensen, Horai, and the mysteries of the island that continue to warp and contradict one another. Action-packed and possessing some of the finest disturbing images of the series, this week returns viewers to the main story, forgoing any rest time for the sake of landing the bruising blowers to greater effect.
For anyone who has watched any MAPPA property in the past, there’s little surprise regarding the superb quality of the animation especially in action scenes. That doesn’t make Gabimaru’s standoff with Zhu Jin any less startling. Taking up the majority of the episode’s runtime, part of the tension of the battle is amped up due to how unnecessary it is. Even if by the end it’s led Gabimaru to helpful lessons, we watch as he walks away from camp after being advised their levels of success will be better through thorough plans of action and we know that he’s only walking into trouble.
Despite the deep well of great characters, Gabimaru remains the highlight. This pint-sized, feral wife guy has so successfully become a charismatic, vital lead, making Hell’s Paradise Episode 9 even better. No, we’re not concerned about whether he’s able to make it out alive due to plot convention, but the trepidation crawls over us as he wanders through the overwhelming fog, encountering one intrigue after the other. From praying trees (which, later, we’ll discover were once people) to the seeming doors to Horai that appear man-made, rather than constructed of some magic, everything he sees is missing a piece of real-world logic. As he battles Zhu Jin and watches as they endure blow after blow and appear unphased by his ascetic blaze, he begins to wonder if this island they’re on is of the human world at all.
We’ve already borne witness to the wreckage Zhu Jin can deliver, making their fight with Gabimaru all the more thrilling. Despite the latter fairing well at the start, his thoughtful, two-steps-ahead style of combat allows him greater leeway, that advantage is immediately lessened as Zhu Jin continues to regenerate following any damage they suffer. Striking in the fluidity of the action as the direction never grows incoherent, each step and defense depicted with clarity, the scene leaves you breathless and mouth agape at the carnage inflicted upon one another. Even when we think Gabimaru is going to gain the upper hand as he pummels the other into pieces, allowing his rage for his situation and desperate need to get back to his wife to accelerate his abilities to the point of his body no longer being able to withstand the turmoil, the power levels are always imbalanced.
And when Zhu Jin does overpower him again, he does so with grizzly imagery, their body made up of pieces of flowers, and other life forms, transforming into a monstrous beast. Gabimaru’s last line of defense is to at least take his opponent down with him, as his limbs too begin to be covered in the landscape of the island. Mei steps in eventually, and, for the moment, he’s also respite, but similarly to Trigun Stampede’s season one finale, “God’s and People” leans into how environmental imagery conveys a thematic throughline. Images of life — the bugs and predators of the island, to the abundance of floral growth — and they’re a signal for decay and eventual death. This island is the light moths are drawn to, about to be extinguished once they touch the light.
All of this and we’re given greater backstory to the Tensen and the apocalyptic views on the world. We meet all seven of these so-called “hermits” and are granted pieces of their story and what makes them tick but they remain enigmatic in their nihilism.
Aided in part by the terrific score from composer Yoshiaki Dewa who utilizes symphonic choral chanting as Zhu Jin’s new form erupts from his own rot, the episode delivers on haunting atmosphere and widespread devastation. We’re reminded of all who have died already, who were doomed from the very start, as these all-powerful beings laugh at their expense and drink to the human’s deaths, giving new life from the droplets of their demise.
Hell’s Paradise Episode 9 is one of the best, if not the best, episodes of the series so far. Pulsating with dizzying action sequences and lore that prickles with suspense, “God’s and People” reverberates with the trepidation of the unknown. Gabimaru might be feeling optimistic by the end of the episode despite the blood that seeps out from his hairline as he believes these Tensen are simply monsters that can be beaten, but the audience is left to worry as the dangers they face increase.
Hell’s Paradise Episode 9
Hell’s Paradise Episode 9 is one of the best, if not the best, episodes of the series so far. Pulsating with dizzying action sequences and lore that prickles with suspense, “God’s and People” reverberates with the trepidation of the unknown.