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Hell’s Paradise Episode 1: Favorites

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Hell’s Paradise Episode 1 – Quick Summary

In Hell’s Paradise Episode 1, “Criminal and Executioner,” Gabimaru found himself condemned to death. The magistrate attempted to have him beheaded. That did not work as intended; the executioner’s sword broke against Gabimaru’s neck. An observer from the shogunate, Sagiri Yamada Asaemon, watched impassively and took copious notes. Why can’t the magistrate manage to execute Gabimaru? Why does he say he wants to die? And how many more times will the magistrate try?

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.

Favorite Quote from Hell’s Paradise Episode 1

She hid it well. Almost got away with it, too! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Sagiri Yamada Asaemon has become my favorite character for the Spring 2023 season. Of course, this is the first of the spring shows I’ve watched. It might be more accurate to say she has an early lead.

The bottom line is that she impressed me with her calm strength. Nothing Gabimaru said disturbed her calm (well, until the end… and then it was understandable!). Nothing the magistrate said even prompted her to raise an eyebrow. But there was one thing – a minor thing – that threw her off her stride.

The magistrate tried to have Gabimaru burned at the stake. Of course, you know that didn’t work. He lived through it. But his clothes didn’t. That night, when Sagiri Yamada Asaemon interrogated him, she sat with her back to him.

He remarked on that. In fact, he said if it bothered her, she could ask them to get him some clothes.

“My job is to record events, and your nudity is no obstacle,” she said (05:05). But she kept her back to him.

I thought it was a commendable attempt, but I think Gabimaru saw through it as easily I did!

Favorite Moment from Hell’s Paradise Episode 1

Looks like we need to file pissing off Gabimaru on the “Do not do” list. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Setup: Winds of History…

How real is too real?

That question was on my mind as I watched this episode. From the moment we got the motorcycle engine closeup during MAPPA’s muscle-flexing opening to the last frame, the episode screamed WATCH ME! Truthfully, everything about it captured my attention. But something bothered me nonetheless. Quite a bit, actually.

I went to high school in the late 1970s. Special interests had already begun to re-cast the civil rights movement in the late 1960s as the product of drug culture, or radicals, or < insert your derogatory population here >. The trouble was, I liked history, and I remembered. I remembered what happened in World War II. Not only that, but I knew humans treated other humans poorly. I knew that we needed to band together as a society to change things.

Every time we make progress to limit the harm these people can do, they figure a way to continue their fun – at the expense of others. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

And guess what? In a civilized world, “band together as a society” means research and enact legislation. To me, growing up when I did, I witnessed, first hand, the explosion of creativity and even corporate productivity as women entered the workforce with legal protections. I saw the benefits of equal rights legislation as it ate away at the societal frameworks for injustice — and the barriers to human expression those injustices represented.

And I thought – I kid you not – that maybe as humans we had turned a corner. It felt good that we were on the right track. That’s the mindset I took into early adulthood.

What a child I was…

Setup: Too Often Suck instead of Blow

I hate admitting I’m wrong. But, well, you have seen the political gains certain elements have made in the US. The first thing those people did when they got a little power was start to whittle away at the rights of others. I feel like a complete newb for thinking we were getting better. The better angels might have prevailed for a time, but the darkness returns. 

So now I’m busily trying to look for ways to push it back. And worse, I’m trying to deal with the thought that we’ve run the race. That democracy was only a passing, brief glimpse of what could be, before night returns. And with the level of technology we have now? The level of surveillance those people seizing power could bring to bear?

The trouble is, most folks don’t have Gabimaru’s particular skill set. So they’re easy targets without the protection of the law. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

They’re already enticing doctors to inform on female patients who have a late menstrual cycle. So, you tell me where we’re heading.

And into my life waltzes this show.

The magistrate’s attempts to execute Gabimaru were too real to me. They reminded me of where humans have been. We actually did those things to people. But wait, you might say. It’s okay. Why? Because we just did those things to criminals!

Yeah, and I got a bridge in New York I’d like to lease to you, too.

That magistrate reminded me of too much of what I’ve come to recognize in our society: the brutality, the intense joy of causing suffering, even the willingness to disobey orders if it interferes with their fun. This show threw all of that in my face, at a time when I’m trying to figure out how not to say “See ya!” to the USA and immigrate to Canada.

Delivery: Art Demands What Art Demands

But this show snagged me. It shot right through my inner despair and said, “No, you’re going to watch this, you’re going to stop being such a baby, and you’re going to review this.” And do you know what did it then?

It culminated in my favorite moment. Revealing that Gabimaru didn’t just like his wife, he adored her, completely disarmed me. He adored how she made him aspire to be more. And he loved her enough to hold death at bay.

The sublime interplay between Sagiri and Gabimaru sold it. She figured it out – she figured out that he really loved Mrs. Gabimaru. She pushed him and pushed him until he realized it, too. And in doing so, she earned my favorite moment.

When she’d become convinced he was the kind of warrior she sought, she literally shoved the pardon in his face. This was just after she forced him to confess he still wanted to live – for his wife. And that’s when the magistrate said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Nah, girl, he’s gonna have to die ecause I’ve got a hard on to see someone die, and he’s the criminal here. Though you can interfere and join him.”

Sagiri could not have timed the moment more perfectly. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I might have written that down wrong.

Flame springing to life on his back – strange, red and white and magenta flames – he said (21:37), “You said you wanted to see ninjutsu.” He was referring to one of their interrogation sessions. “If this’ll do, then watch this. Ninpo: Ascetic Blaze.”

And that was the end of the execution farce. It was also the only time that we got to see Sagiri surprised – and that alone was worth the price of admission! 

The show tricked me into watching it. It tricked me into confronting that which I do not want to confront. But hey – maybe that’s a good thing.

What did you think of the attempts to execute Gabimaru? What were your favorite moments in the show? Feel free to let me know in the comments!

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10 thoughts on “Hell’s Paradise Episode 1: Favorites

  1. From the trailers I watched, I had a feeling this was going to be something special, and I wasn’t disappointed. This was soooo good! I don’t watch a ton of ninja anime, so if I’m going to watch an anime from that genre, it really has to be good, with likable characters and a great story. And this anime is definitely one that I’m going to stick with!

    1. The characters Gabimaru and Sagiri are among my favorite of the season so far, and that’s counting Dr. Stone and The Ancient Magus’ Bride — and they’re both packed with great characters!

  2. Pendulums swing in both directions.

    The right wing-nuts surged precisely because they are on their way out. Religiosity is at an all time low. Nothing spurs on fanaticism like seeing it all slip away. That’s maybe 20% of the electorate. Another 20% are yellow dog republicans, who vote purely on party line, regardless of their specific positions. (Both of these are mirrored on the left.) And another 40% are totally apathetic about civil liberties and national policy and couldn’t care less as long as their personal lives don’t get interfered with.

    Elections are battles for the apathetic because every other vote is predetermined.

    1. That’s actually more hopeful than I feared — the “on their way out” part.

      I just don’t get how they think. The USA is supposed to be about liberty. The laws against state involvement in religion were deliberate — we know what happens when intolerant folk seize power. Those people should be fighting to shore up the protections so that when they become a decided minority, they’ll have legal protections.

      Because reminding everyone how bad an idea it is to mix religion and state power is just going to inconvenience that 40% you mentioned. I think that’s what happened in the 2022 elections.

      Kind of sad the fate of the US lies with the apathetic. Or, maybe it’s actually a good thing. I can’t tell!

        1. Man, that guy has an amazing voice.

          Part of me applauds his insights, at least in the near term.

          “All he has to do is not die.”

          I guess in the short term, that’s good news!

          Thing is, all of the issues about government being out of sync with the people are still in play. All of the problems that government could be helping solve are still there.

          Sometimes, I wonder if that’s just how democracy is. Sometimes, I wonder if we can just push through this tainted attempt to turn the USA into a theocracy, we’ll make it. Or at least get back to a more sane level of discourse.

          And maybe I just have to accept that my time is largely past.

          Thanks for the video link! It gave me a lot to think about.

      1. Social conservatives and progressives both view the struggle as existential. Win or die, and nobody sees “live and let live” as being acceptable. Neither can allow the other to exist – or at least to have significant political power. Each side would have to agree to allow the other to commit sin. If your objective is a world without sin, compromise itself is a sin.

        Check out this article. The most important graph, IMHO, is “Large generation gap in American religion.” As you get younger, look at the huge generation gap developing. That’s the future.

        Another graph to look for is “Among Protestants, share who say they are ‘born-again or evangelical’ Christians is as high as or higher than a decade ago.” As the population of religious people shrinks, religious conservatives become a larger part of those who remain religious. They are no longer diluted, and fewer are left to moderate them. Even as the religious component shrinks, the remaining religious population becomes more extreme in their opinions.

        Of course, the progressives model is just as extreme and problematic as the social conservatives. For one thing, the numbers do not add up, and you can’t just tax your way back into balance. For another, the progressive movement is moving closer to becoming a secular religion, intolerant of different perspectives. The far left is just as big a threat to free speech as the right.

Please let me know what you think!

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