The manga Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku takes the premise of DC’s Suicide Squad and place it in ancient Japan, trading explosives for assassins.
The manga Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku asks what DC’s Suicide Squad would look like if Amanda Waller were a Shogunate during Japan’s Edo period and sought the elixir of life. The answer is a group of death row convicts who are shadowed by a clan that specializes in executions on missions where the few who return come back deformed. That same question will soon be answered in anime format as a series adaptation has already been announced.
In DC Comics, Amanda Waller controls the members of Suicide Squad with a deadly and ruthless fist. She doesn’t care about their wellbeing because she regards them as nothing more than the mere villains they are, whose sole purpose is to complete the missions that no one else dares attempt. Waller cares so little for them in fact that she implants into their necks explosive devices that she will and has detonated without hesitation should her pawns have the audacity to double-cross or not follow her instructions precisely. This morally questionable methodology has proven to be quite effective in forcing others to carry out her wishes.
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Unfortunately for rulers with no conscience during the Edo period, science is nowhere close to developing explosive devices, let alone ones that are small enough to be inserted into the necks of victims. So for the Shogunate in Hell’s Paradise, he has to improvise if he wants to force criminals to do his bidding and ensure they finish their tasks adequately. Like all cruel, tyrannical rules, the Shogunate endeavors to live forever, so when mankind stumbles upon a lush, heaven-like paradise known as Shinsenkyo, the otherworldliness of this realm is so profound that the Shogunate concludes that, if an elixir of life does exist, it would be in a place like Shinsenkyo. But while beautiful, Shinsenkyo proves to be quite deadly. Few men who venture there return and those who do come back deformed by a strange disease that causes flowers to erupt all over their body.
As a last ditch effort, the Shogunate forces the most ruthless men on death row to acquire his coveted elixir. The one who collects the elixir will have their records expunged and crimes pardoned. Those who refuse are immediately beheaded. To ensure they follow through, he pairs each convict with a member of the Asaemon family, a clan that specializes in executions and will kill them should they deviate from the plan. While similar to Waller’s Suicide Squad, the Shogunate proves to be much more ruthless. He decides that the best way to identify the most capable warriors is for them to fight to the death and allows the survivors to kill each other during the actual mission later on.
Although a compelling plot on its own, the true standout elements of Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku are the characteristics of the series’ protagonists: Ninja convict Gabimaru the Hollow and his assigned executioner, Yamada Asaemon Sagiri. Gabimaru is a man who struggles with his identity as an emotionless and ruthless killer, endeavoring to ensure that he remains and is perceived as such. He fervently needs to prove to himself that he is and always has been hollow and incapable of love, to the point where he will destroy all remnants of happiness in his life and put himself at risk if need be. Meanwhile, Yamada’s story delves into the morality of her grotesque profession and the effectiveness of her craft as she both attempts to get a handle on such a nerve-wracking trade and compares her methodology of killing to Gabimaru’s. Her comparisons are even artistically portrayed in a metaphysical sense by how dead corpses cling to each of their bodies in Yamada’s mind. Everyone enjoys a good Suicide Squad adaptation, especially one so creative as this. But it’s the unique characters who make this series worth the read.
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