This week’s episode of Hell’s Paradise, “Screening and Choosing,” proved exactly how much of a banger this first season is going to be. While last week’s episode set the stage for the anime adaptation, episode two blew away any expectations I had for it. We’re introduced to the convicts that will be headed to Shinsenkyo, the reason for why they were picked is expanded upon, and the weight of Sagiri’s history is revealed.
As a more general observation for this week’s episode, but MAPPA’s animation team didn’t hold back on anything. They put as much effort as possible into translating manga chapters into an episode and it almost works flawlessly. The team behind Hell’s Paradise shows yet again that the hype surrounding MAPPA is worth it. With this, the studio certainly has another Anime of the Year nomination, if not a win, on their hands.
“Screening and Choosing” expands the cast
Where “The Death Row Convict and the Executioner” focused mainly on Gabimaru, “Screening and Choosing” shows us Sagiri’s story and this is the main highlight for me. First, we learn about the emotional toll she went through as a result of being an executioner’s daughter and how that shaped her into who she currently is. Then we witness the complicated dynamic between Sagiri and her own mentor, Yamada Asaemon Eizen. While he is someone to respect, it’s impossible to not notice the sexist actions from him in both the way he speaks and acts toward her.
Yet, we also see Sagiri work through that and stay firm in her desire to be an executioner. Not only that, we learn about her relationship with death. We get a firsthand look at the way being surrounded by death from a young age shaped her mindset and resolve—and how she deals with other kids bullying her. Because of this, Sagiri views death as something from her other Asaemon and it makes all the difference when it comes to killing. This complex relationship is the driving force of who she is as a person, how it affects the way she wields a blade, and what she sees in her blade after using it. This parallels how Gabimaru views life and death and establishes the dynamic that makes these two characters so impressive in the manga.
Just like the title implies, “Screening and Choosing” also introduces the ensemble cast of criminals en route for Shinsenkyo. These introductions are the other highlights of this episode. The criminals are forced into a bloody and violent fight to the death in order to reduce their numbers to ten. What ensues is a massacre while the Asaemon watch from the sidelines, not getting their hands bloody after Asaemon Eizen’s initial action.
Gabimaru is still the standout
The audience now knows each criminal taking the trip with our Gabimaru and Sagiri and who to watch out for from this initial battle. The criminals that make up the expedition team end up being: Yuzuriha of Keishu, The Giant of Bizen Rokurōta, Nurugai, The Apostate Moro Makiya, Hunter of the Hundred Warped Keiun, Killing Buddha Hōrubō, Blade Dragon Tamiya Gantetsusai, the Bandit King Aza Chōbei, Cannibal Courtesan Akaginu, and, of course, Gabimaru the Hollow. These titles alone are imposing and set very high expectations for the voyage to come.
By focusing the later part of the episode on demonstrating exactly why Gabimaru is a living legend, “Screening and Choosing” reminds the condemned, the shogun’s own party, and even Sagiri that he is here for a reason. His merciless nature when killing others in these moments prove that killing is second nature to him and that part of him is certainly hollow when killing.
Overall, “Screening and Choosing”proves that MAPPA knows exactly what they’re doing with Hell’s Paradise. This was an episode filled with violence, but that didn’t overwhelm the emotional parallels being built between Sagiri and Gabimaru. Despite being only the second episode, this one definitely showcased the theme of the season as well as highlighting the intricate character dynamics at play. Not only that, the pacing of this episode served as the perfect jumping off point for episode three, giving the arrival to Shinsenkyo the room it needs in order to make the impact it deserves.
Hell’s Paradise airs Saturdays on Crunchyroll during the Spring 2023 anime season.
Featured image ©YUJI SHAKA/SHUEISHA, TWIN ENGINE, MAPPA
Hell’s Paradise - “Screening and Choosing” - 9.5/10