In a recent interview with Crunchyroll, Jigokuraku: Hell’s Paradise author Yuji Kaku spilled the secret behind the origins of the manga and also revealed how the setting and characters of the plot developed over time.
Yuji Kaku originally started the story of Jigokuraku with a basic framework, where several pair of people whose interests aren’t aligned are thrown into an enclosed space and forced to work together. He chose this as he loved the intricacies of human relationships and how they change over time.
The author added that the setting of the story in its initial stages involved children sent to youth detention center and lawyers fighting for them. But after discussions with his editor, he decided to drop the setting but keep the framework.
“I don’t often start with the setting. For this work, I started with “several pairs of people whose interests aren’t aligned are thrown into an enclosed space and forced to work together.” That’s the framework. In the very beginning, the story was about children sent to a youth detention center and the lawyers fighting for them. From there, through discussions with my editor, we dropped that setting but kept the framework and applied different characters to it. We kept the framework because I’ve always liked the way human relationships change and wanted to write a story about it.“
He eventually came down to ‘Shinsenkyo’ setting, as he felt that it would be easier to work with.
And once the new setting was finalized, he decided to delve deep into the characters. While developing the “battle royal in a closed space” framework, he thought that having a character who “isn’t supposed to die but suddenly finds themselves in a near-death situation” would elevate it further.
That is how he came up with Gabimaru, a ninja who doesn’t die no matter how many times he’s executed.
“I thought the Shinsenkyo setting would work with any type of story and be easy to write. Developing the characters was a different process. Simply put, an immortal and powerful ninja is a cool concept. After returning to the “battle royal in a closed space” framework and while developing the idea, in a life-or-death scenario, I thought it would be more interesting if a character who isn’t supposed to die finds themselves in a near-death situation. When considering how to clearly convey that to the reader, we came up with a ninja who doesn’t die no matter how many times he’s executed.“
In order to make the audience empathise with the characters, Yuji Kaku made sure that Gabimaru and Sagiri would have the same values as someone from the 2020s, whilst living during the late Edo period.
“This is something I imagined from the start of publication. Both Gabimaru and Sagiri have the same values as someone living in the 2020s. This is also the reason the story is set in the distant past during the late Edo period. The people of that time had totally different ideas about ethics and human rights. Despite condemned criminals and executioners being difficult characters to empathize with, if they share our perspective, then we feel close to them, and they stand out as unique characters in an Edo Period setting. From the very start, I felt that made Gabimaru and Sagiri unique.“
He also went on to reveal that he expressed the character’s personality through their designs, and that he gives strong designs to important characters.
Jigokuraku anime, produced by MAPPA and directed by Kaori Makita, started airing on April 1, 2023.
Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Yuji Kaku. Set in the Edo period of Japan, it follows the ninja Gabimaru and the executioner Yamada Asaemon Sagiri as they search for the elixir of immortality.
It was serialized weekly for free on the Shonen Jump+ application and website from Jan 22, 2018, to Jan 25, 2021. The chapters were collected and published into 13 tankobon volumes by Shueisha. Viz Media has licensed the series for English release in North America.
MyAnimeList describes the plot of Jigokuraku as:
Gabimaru the Hollow, a ninja of Iwagakure Village known for being cold and emotionless, was set up by his fellow ninja and is now on death row. Tired of killing and betrayal, he wants to die. However, no method of execution works on him because as much as the seemingly apathetic Gabimaru refuses to admit it, he does have a reason to live. He wants to return to his wife, who was the reason why he softened up and failed to be an effective assassin. Thus, he refuses to die.
Asaemon the Decapitator, a famous executioner, sees this and has a proposal for the ninja. She wants Gabimaru to join an expedition to an island south of Japan in search of the elixir of life in exchange for a full pardon by the Shogunate. However, this island isn’t a normal island: it’s believed to be Paradise.
However the island is full of mysteries, and the exploring team—consisting of those marked for death—might not be fully prepared to handle them.