Gabimaru the Hollow is now tasked with searching for the elixir of immortality in exchange for his life, and a chance at returning home to see his wife.
So, we’re going to Tamoanchan, huh?
Jigokuraku: Hell’s Paradise Episode 1 Review
What is the Jigokuraku Anime About?
Jigokuraku: Hell’s Paradise tells the story of Gabimaru the Hollow, a shinobi from the historic Iwagakure Village where the assassin clans live. After being sentenced to death for attempting to run away from the village, Gabimaru makes a deal with Yamada Asaemon Sagiri, an executioner who brought an official pardon from the shogunate.
In exchange for his pardon, Gabimaru is now tasked with venturing to the mythological Shinsenkyo in search of the elixir of immortality.
The Search for Immortality in Jigokuraku
Wow, wow, wow!Jigokuraku: Hell’s Paradise is right up my alley! It was already on my radar because it was a samurai and shinobi-era period drama and since I really like those (see my Dororo and Blade of the Immortal reviews) I was already going to watch.
Then as I read the synopsis AND NOW watched the episode, I am 100% on board with the anime exploring the concept of Horai Island. Or Penglai Island, set a distance across the Ryukyu Kingdom lay an island on the back of a giant turtle inhabited by eight immortals.
(The Ryukyu Islands should be familiar to anybody who has seen Samurai Champloo, and giant turtles should be familiar to fans of Avatar: the Last Airbender.)
Or at least, that’s what historical accounts note when the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (or “Chin the Conqueror” in ATLA’s world) sent a small expedition party with 100 virgins to claim the Elixir of Immortality.
History states that the party did find the island, and carved a note into either a tree or stone (I have it somewhere in my records I need to go back and look) and disappeared – never to return. Scholars from centuries earlier speculated on whether or not the people from the Qin Dynasty simply discovered Cipangu – now known presently as “Japan”.
Given the fickle nature of the Immortals and the moving island, other antiquarian scholars believed the expedition party simply had found the elixir of life, and chose to stay in paradise. There are other islands of legend out there (Hy-Brasil, Avalon, Bensalem, Lost City Z, etc.) where explorers go and never return. Or islands like Queen Califia’s Isle of California where men were actively hunted down and murdered by her Amazonian warriors.
Hell, Estabancito the Moor was chased out of Cibola in historical accounts by the entire town.
But, I think I’m veering off slightly too much. ☺
Reality Mixed with Fiction in Anime
I just always find myself pleasantly surprised by just how much real-life history and historical accounts make it into our present-day media under the guise of fable and superstition. You don’t have to believe a word I am saying and I’m not putting many sources in this review right now because I don’t have anything to prove just yet – I just want to mention it; put it out there.
The Immortality Experiments in Blade of the Immortal, Manji (meaning immortality) is sustained by sacred blood worms. Those same blood worms make an appearance in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, a video game heavily inspired by old Japanese and Chinese histories and folklore.
Eren Yeager used hallucigenia sparsa to retain his immortality in a tree. Yes, mangaka and authors are writing these stories, but that doesn’t mean everything is based on their imaginations or pure fantasy.
The Elixir of Life in Shinsenkyo
Now, we have an anime where a group of criminals is going to find the elixir of life.
Judging by the drawing of what looks to be a fruit shown onscreen while Sagiri was talking, it seems the group might be looking for a tree of sorts and not the traditional mochi or pounded rice.
There are legends stating that a man wandered the earth, searching for kindness. A rabbit offered his life up for sustenance and was rewarded by being flown to the moon where a kind woman looked after it.
Today, that is known as the legend of the moon rabbit, or the jade rabbit. The woman who looks after the rabbit as it pounds the elixir of life is called Chang-o.
(This is actually what my website banner depicts, in the Japanese context of ‘Tsukimi’ 月見or moon viewing. I need to update it soon to another scene related to the moon rabbit.)
In American mythology, the old man is often attributed to Quetzalcoatl while the woman who cares for the pulque elixir-making rabbit is known as Mayahuel. This legend is echoed in Yue’s role of becoming the moon in Avatar: the Last Airbender.
If it is indeed a tree Gabimaru will have to look for, that may be in line with the legends of immortality groves that feature 9 trees – similar to the popular Celtic (& Norse) concept of Yggdrasil trees found at the base of a well and surrounded by rivers on all sides. In my own culture (Aboriginal American/American Indian) the underworld is always associated with beauty, and life.
Sure there are terrible things, but it is where all souls are reborn and monsters are only there to keep the balance. I’m really curious to see which way Jigokuraku decides to go and how Shinsenkyo/Horai/Penglai/ Tamoanchan will be depicted.
Man, now I wish I read the manga in anticipation for the anime adaptation. I’m really excited to see what happens next.
Anyway, tell me your thoughts.
What legends have you heard surrounding immortality and the elixir of life?
Are you familiar with the moon rabbit?
And…do you think Gabimaru will survive finding Shinsenkyo?
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