Friday, October 23, 2020

#IReadsYou Review: HELL'S PARADISE: Jigokuraku Volume 3


MANGAKA: Juji Kaku
LETTERS: Mark McMurray
EDITOR: David Brothers
ISBN: 978-1-9747-1322-6; paperback (July 2020); Rated “M” for “Mature”
216pp, B&W, $12.99 U.S., $17.99 CAN, £9.99 U.K.

Jigokuraku is a manga series written and illustrated by Yuji Kaku.  It has been serialized weekly for free on the Shōnen Jump+ application (app) and website since January 22, 2018.  VIZ Media is publishing an English-language edition of the manga as a paperback graphic novel series, entitled Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku, under its “VIZ Signature” imprint.

Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku is set in Japan during the “Edo period” (specifically between 1773 and 1841 for this story).  The ninja, “Gabimaru the Hollow,” is sentenced to death, but no method of execution can kill him due to his superhuman body.  Lord Tokugawa Nariyoshi, the 11th Shogun, offers Gabimaru and other monstrous killers sentenced to death a chance at a pardon.  They will travel to a strange island, known as “Shinsenkyo,” where they must find “the elixir of life,” which will make the shogun immortal.  The executioner, Yamada Asaemon Sagiri, and others of her clan will accompany these criminals to an island where “Heaven” and “Hell” are said to be practically the same thing.

As Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku, Vol. 3 (Chapters 17 to 26) opens, Gabimaru and Sagiri are joined by Yuzuriha of Keishu, (a “kunoichi” or female ninja), and her executioner, Yamada Asaemon Senta (a highly-learned swordsman and Sagiri's clansman).  They have just encountered what looks like a small human girl, but they also meet her guardian (of sorts).  He is “Hoko” the tree man, and he names the girl as “Mei.”

From him, Gabimaru and company learn that Shinsenkyo, which he calls “Kotaku,” is divided into three regions.  It is the center region, known as, “Horai,” where they will find the elixir of life, which the island's denizens call “Tan.”  Hoko also warns them of sinister beings roaming the island, the immortal “Lord Tenzen,” that do not allow anyone to leave the island.

However, Gabimaru believes that he does not have time to waste, and sets off on his own to the center of the island.  He is unaware of the fate of the other convicts and their executioners who have already met the Lord Tenzen with disastrous results.

[This volume includes miscellaneous art, bonus comics, and “Translation Notes.”]

THE LOWDOWN:  I have described the Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku manga as an Edo-period, samurai drama that is also firmly entrenched in the horror genre.  I think its English title, “Hell's Paradise,” aptly fits the series' repugnant-attractive elements, a mix of beautiful and imaginative beings and creatures that are really monsters.

Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku Graphic Novel Volume 3 is the first volume in which the lead characters get answers to their questions.  I thought that Vol. 2 was one best second volumes of a manga tankobon/graphic novel that I had ever read, just as Vol. 1 was one of the best first volumes.  Creator Yuji Kaku does not miss a beat as he reveals more of about the island and about its mysterious inhabitants.  If you have already started reading Hell's Paradise, don't stop now, dear readers.  If you have not started reading, you don't have far to go back to get in on the ground floor of this utterly fantastic dark fantasy manga.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:   Fans of “VIZ Signature” titles will want Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku.

9.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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