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‘Hell’s Paradise’ review: The season’s final fight straddles “Dreams and Reality”

By July 4, 2023July 5th, 2023No Comments4 min read
“Dreams and Reality” showcases Mu Dan’s flower form towering in the sky.

After a thrilling eleven episodes, Hell’s Paradise was always more likely than not to stick the landing of its first season. Not only did “Dreams and Reality” do just that with the juiciest sakuga of the series so far, but also left some of the remaining explorers in the most dangerous position they’ve been in yet. Not in a long time has a season finale left me on such pins and needles.

Resuming right after the reveal of Mu Dan’s true self last week, “Dreams and Reality” starts with Sagiri on the back foot but quickly the battle shifts as Shion and Nurugai arrive at the last moment. Shion buys the others time to get distance and cut Senta free of the flowers growing out of his dying body. Most of “Dreams and Reality” focuses here as Shion puts his tao practice to work fighting Mu Dan as Sagiri uses what resources Yuzihara is willing to share to treat Senta. This really allows MAPPA and Twin Engine to show off their excellent sakuga work one more time this season as Shion manages to match Mu Dan’s tao and land some hits that Mu Dan can’t recover from. 

Shion isn’t a hard counter himself though and before long has flowers springing forth and is forced to severely injure himself to stop the growth. Sagiri decides to re-enter the battle alongside Nurugai and the action really hits off as the three devise a plan to get Shion close enough to Mu Dan’s weakness in their two torsos. This battle is genuinely the best Hell’s Paradise has offered so far. Not once during it does the sense of place feel off scale or we lose sight of where all three humans are as they fight the massive creature above them. These kinds of fights are hard to track at the best of times, to say nothing of the surreal designs that Yuji Kaku has used for the Tensen. It’s a testament to the talent that has been working on Hell’s Paradise that this has never been an issue, especially now with more combatants. 

Surprisingly, while most of “Dreams and Reality” does focus on this group, their fight only comprises half the episode. The plan does work, giving Shion the opportunity to focus his tao and setting up a final strike but everything almost fails. It takes the last breath of Senta, leveraging his floral knowledge, to point Shion to the actual weak point of Mu Dan. It’s a great way to close Senta’s story and this fight, giving the team the win. In the aftermath, Senta’s life is slipping further away as Sagiri pleads for Yuzihara to try to stabilize him. Yuzihara balks at this, explaining to Sagiri that shinobi can tell the difference between wounds that can heal (noting Shion) and those whose pain should not be extended. In a surprising show of kindness, Yuzihara then comforts Senta as he breathes his last, encouraging him to think of the things he loves and have a comforting final thought. It’s a touching moment that helps slow things down after the brutal fight. 

That slow down buys “Dreams and Reality” a chance to have Shion and Sagiri’s groups catch up – but at the same time this catch up helps set up something just as terrifying as the Tensen. As Shion explains what he believes the consequences of tao overuse could be, Gabimaru awakes in a cave, still with Mei, Fuchi, and Gantetsusai. However, Gabimaru seems to have overused his own tao and has lost a significant amount of his memory – confirmed by Mei able to see a part of his tao missing. What’s more, Gabimaru didn’t just lose recent memories. Not only is he not sure who these people are or where he is, he also doesn’t remember Yui. 

This means that Gabimaru has lost his wife guy status and has fully reverted into “the Hollow.” As a result, it means his companions are now in truly dangerous company as any bad vibe could set Gabimaru off and currently he has no reason to even think he needs the others. As scary as the Tensen have been, the idea of an unshackled and inhumane Gabimaru is significantly more terrifying. Naturally, this is where “Dreams and Reality” chooses to close the season – and it could not have been more of a fascinating and tense place to leave Hell’s Paradise

Thankfully, a second season has been confirmed, so “Dreams and Reality” will not be the last of Hell’s Paradise. However, the desire to have more of it right now is very strong. After spending all season showing Gabimaru’s ability to change and grow due to love, the idea of now having to see a version missing that is too tantalizing to not want immediately. This has been a spectacular showing for this anime of the year contender, from the first moments we met our wife guy shinobi to seeing Tensen get toppled. Here’s to you, Hell’s Paradise. Don’t stay away too long. 

Hell’s Paradise season one is available on Crunchyroll.


  • ‘Hell’s Paradise’ - “Dreams and Reality” - 10/10
Travis Hymas

Travis Hymas is a freelance writer and self appointed Pokémon historian out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Known to be regularly obessive over pop culture topics and gaming discourse, he is a published Rotten Tomatoes critic and has been featured on sites such as Uppercut and The Young Folks

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