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‘Hell’s Paradise’ review: “The Samurai and the Woman” explores gender

By May 3, 2023No Comments4 min read
Nurugai as she appears in the past as explored in “The Samurai and the Woman”

Hell’s Paradise episode four, “The Samurai and the Woman” seamlessly picks up exactly where last week’s episode left off – with Sagiri waking up after passing out at the end of last week’s episode. The episode starts with the ragtag team discussing the Elixir of Life and all of the information they have gathered while Sagiri rested. But, the episode doesn’t only center on our main Suicide Squad. We also get a look into another Asaemon and prisoner team fighting for their lives. 

It’s safe to say that the focus of “The Samurai and the Woman” was on gender. We already know from episode two that the other Asaemon look down on Sagiri for being a samurai. But, we see just how deep that sexism runs when Asaemon Genji talks to Sagiri after she wakes up. After Sagiri rejects his offer of watching after Gabimaru for her so she can take the boat back to the mainland, his supposed concern turns to anger. He would rather fight Sagiri to the death than allow her to live her own life as an Asaemon. 

Not only is this is the first time we get to see how strong Sagiri’s resolve is, but we also get a glimpse at how dedicated she is to living her truth. Her commitment to all of the choices she has made leading up to now shines through when she doesn’t back down from Genji. If that doesn’t make you love Sagiri, I don’t know what will. We also get to experience the satisfaction of Genji realizing just how wrong he is to assume that all Sagiri – and by extension, any woman in the Yamada clan- is good for is becoming a wife. 

“The Samurai and the Woman” also explored Nurugai’s background. Nurugai is introduced as Asaemon Tenza’s criminal who he believes is innocent after being arrested for being a Sanka, an indigenous group of people who do not follow the Shogunate’s rule. Because of this, Tenza wants to protect Nurugai by bringing both of back to the mainland and petitioning for a pardon. Things don’t exactly go as planned though. 

While wading through the fog and water, Tenza and Nurugai realize that they have come across a ship graveyard instead of the boat them came in on. When they realize that they’re not alone. Tenza naturally pulls out his sword only to incite the monster waiting in the fog – much to Nurugai’s annoyance since Tenza didn’t listen to her warning. This is where Tenza shows what he’s made of. Not only that, we get to see just dedicated he is to keeping Nurugai alive so that both of them make it back to the mainland. 

With all of the exposition happening in this episode, the action scenes were well placed and gave the heavier moments the breathing room they needed. The boat scene with Tenza and Nurugai executed this perfectly. Nurugai battles with her survivors’ guilt as her and Tenza are attacked by a Lovecraftian kraken of the deep, but the way the action is choreographed with her inner monologue works flawlessly. After surviving the their fight, the two clean up on the beach and much to Tenza’s surprise, it’s revealed that Nurugai is a girl. Up until this moment, her gender is left up to the audiences -and Tenza’s-  interpretation. Tenza’s assumption of her gender due to the androgyny in her appearance shows just how deep sexism runs in this world. It’s a wonderful nod to the title of the episode, as well as an expansion on the theme of the episode itself. 

“The Samurai and the Woman” spends the time it needs to flesh out its characters even more. With the action scenes interspersed between the heavier plot moments, the episode feels balanced in a way that doesn’t help overwhelming. The exploration of what gender means in this time period didn’t overtake the episode either. It was just enough to learn more about Sagiri and Nurugai without feeling like a loose end. Plus, there are plenty of moments where the monsters of the island get their time to shine. It’s another strong episode for a banger of a first season and proves once again that the hype surrounding it is worth it. 

Hell’s Paradise airs Saturdays on Crunchyroll during the Spring 2023 anime season.


Featured image ©YUJI SHAKA/SHUEISHA, TWIN ENGINE, MAPPA

  • ‘Hell’s Paradise’ - “The Samurai and the Woman” - 9/10
    9/10
Kayla Chu

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