The anime universe is replete with many wonderful candidates for Halloween viewing, with its horror genre hosting a dizzying array of subgenres ranging from cutesy to downright macabre (looking at you, Junji Ito!). Hidden Remote’s holiday horror anime recommendation for 2023, the aptly named Hell’s Paradise kicks things up a notch by completely ignoring what’s typically expected of the Halloween genre.
Witchcraft, vampires and the undead are as synonymous with autumnal horror as is pumpkin spice but a new anime that launched earlier this year is taking the exact opposite of that and running lightyears with it. There’s no semblance of any dark saturation or foreboding in the series, nor does the promotional poster both for the anime and the manga give any indication that the viewer is about to experience an unnerving rendition of Eldritch horrors through a unique Asian lens.
Due to its very heavy and graphic themes, the anime has garnered an understandable rating of TV-MA, with IMDb citing nudity, gore, profanity and grotesque scenes as justification. Hell’s Paradise season 1 is currently available on Crunchyroll, with both dubbed and subtitled versions.
What’s the story behind Hell’s Paradise?
With the show’s backdrop being Japan in its feudal era, very little gives away that there will be horrors by the dozen. The story in and of itself, too, is relatively innocuous—Gabimaru the Hollow, a ninja condemned to the gallows, is offered a second chance by the almighty shogunate with one very simple stipulation… that he travel to the uncharted island of Kotaku, for the purpose of locating and securing the fabled Elixir of Youth. While it sounds like a fairly straightforward (albeit generic) plot for a dungeons-and-dragons type shounen adventure, neither the audience nor the reluctant protagonist Gabimaru could ever be ready for the atrocities that populate the beautiful floral paradise that is Kotaku.
What gruesome frights can be found in Hell’s Paradise?
Sure enough, it doesn’t take long for viewers to encounter varying degrees of body horror that look like creatures from Lovecraft’s imagination fused with a distinctly warped Taoist flair. Some look like overgrown centipedes, with human fingers in place of their limbs.
Others are female humanoid entities standing 16 feet high with extended arms coming out of their eye sockets, tongues extending past their ribcage and, most alarmingly, a giant Buddhist khakkara staff through their neck, unsettlingly reminiscent of massive bolts characterizing Frankenstein’s monster.
The 13-volume manga’s alarming body horror, gratuitous violence and sexual undertones are absolutely done justice by MAPPA, the animation house that made Jujutsu Kaisen and Chainsaw Man an undisputed viral phenomenon. The fantastical saturation of color brings the nirvana island of Kotaku to life, further underlying how genuinely repulsive Hell’s Paradise really is, going from feudal era Japan to an exotic environment that is very alive and murderous. Fans of the manga and casual viewers who are curious to know if the grisly adventures of Gabimaru are a Halloween-level of sickening will not be disappointed.