“Jigokuraku,” is a new anime series, based on a manga. It is set in the Edo period of Japanese history and revolves around dangerous prisoners who are sent on a voyage to inspect a mysterious island in exchange for freedom. The first episode lays out the main characters and takes the viewer on a bloody journey.
Episode 1: Recap – The Death Row Convict And The Executioner
The episode begins by showing us a failed execution. In the Edo period, prisoners were executed by beheading. The executioner uses a sword, but the prisoner survives several blows to his neck with his sharp sword, and yet his neck is not severed. The authority figures watch this miracle unfold and wait for the executioner to behead the man, but the sword breaks, leaving the executioner dumbfounded. The prisoner is then shown to have no attachments to life and to have killed hundreds of men in his life so far, proving he is no ordinary man.
A woman keeps a note of the events in the prison. She asks him about his background. It is revealed to us that the prisoner is of the Shinobi tribe from the village of Iwagakure and is known as Gabimaru. As a Shinobi, he had learned assassination techniques that make it easy for the flesh to break a sword. Gabimaru told her he could use ninjutsu to do that but didn’t. The sword broke on its own because of poor use. The woman taking notes asks him to demonstrate it, but Gabimaru declines.
Later, as the beheading fails, Gabimaru’s execution is processed using a different method: burning at the stake. The flames that could have pulverized any other man on earth fail to damage Gabimaru even a little bit, frustrating the jailor.
At night, Gabimaru confesses to the note-taking woman that he has no will to live and is not resisting death. He would rather be killed. The woman asks him to tell her about his past. Gabimaru tells her that his parents were killed by the village chief, and after growing up, he was used as an assassin by him. He was arrested when he was betrayed by his cohorts.
The woman asks him why the chief did so, to which he replies that it might have been because he tried to leave the village, which is forbidden. In the morning, officials try executing Gabimaru using bulls, where bulls run in opposite directions with the prisoner’s legs tied to them, resulting in a painful death. Gabimaru escapes death once again, as the bulls are unable to move his legs even an inch. The woman notices Gabimaru resisting death. She asks him why he tried leaving the village in the first place.
Gabimaru resists at first but then tells her it is because he was married to the chief’s daughter and couldn’t stand her stupidity, and wanted to live alone outside the village. He even told the chief he was going to leave the village, but the chief asked him to do one last assassination for him before he did so, which is when he got caught. He even suspects that it was the chief who set him up.
A fellow jailor warns the woman not to be involved with Gabimaru. The jailor tells her that he is also known as Gabimaru, ‘The Hollow’, for he has no blood or tears in him and killed 20 men before getting arrested. He suspects he cannot be killed as he comes from Iwagakure, and Shinobi hailing from that village are known to consume the elixir of life, making them immortal. The woman looks at him with a deadpan look, after which he realizes the dumb superstition he was spewing and apologized.
Meanwhile, Gabimaru is contemplating the woman’s observations about him resisting death. He then remembers all the moments earlier where, even when he thought he had no attachments to life, he actually resisted death. He resolves not to resist again. The following morning, an execution is ordered. This time, it’s execution by boiling. To his surprise, Gabimaru survives the boiling cauldron as well and reflects on the reason behind his enduring the suffering even though he thinks he wants to die. He is taken to a dungeon and finds the woman ready to battle him. Perplexed by this, Gabimaru is made aware that the woman is no ordinary person but is Yamada Asaemon Sagiri, an assassin for the Edo empire, making her one of the best in the world.
She attacks Gabimaru, and even though he deflects, he gets nicked by the sword, making him bleed. This makes him realise two things: she can easily kill him, and he doesn’t want to die. Unable to figure out the reason behind his unwillingness to die, he lashes out at her. She makes him aware of the lie he keeps telling himself: that of having no attachments. She tells him he wants to live because he loves his wife and still has feelings for her. Sagiri helps him escape the prison.
‘Jigokuraku’ Episode 1: Ending Explained: Why Does Sagiri Help Gabimaru?
Gabimaru feels helpless as he thinks he cannot go back to reunite with his wife in peace. Sagiri stops him from lashing out by showing him an official pardon, where not only will he reunite with his wife but also be provided lifelong security from the Edo empire. The only thing expected from Gabimaru in return for the official pardon is that he visits a mysterious but deadly place called Shinsenkyo, a land known for providing the Elixir of Life. Sagiri’s main motive behind visiting prisons was precisely to find expendable criminals with a fierce desire to live so that they could bring back the elixir, and she saw in Gabimaru a prime candidate for this quest. This is why Sagiri helped Gabimaru escape.
“Jigokuraku” is another great series for anime lovers, providing them with kickass characters and an engaging storyline. Its first episode is available now.