Shortly after arriving on the island, Gabimaru is attacked by a fellow convict. Gabimaru kills him easily, despite the battle being prolonged by Sagiri’s insistence that he keep his hands tied. Afterwards, the dead convict’s assigned handler reveals that most of the group of convicts is likely already dead, and that the shogunate plans to send many more waves of them – in addition to calling up the Iwakakure, Gabimaru’s ninja clan, to complete the task. This lights a fire under Gabimaru, and he attacks Sagiri as an impediment to his efficient success, but cannot bring himself to kill her – his newly unlocked emotions stay his hand. The two team up again, just as the island sends new problems their way.
There’s clearly a lot of money behind Jigokuraku – the animation and backgrounds all look great – but there’s just as clearly not a lot of writing talent. While the whole episode is a mess of bad pacing, childish edgy posturing between characters, and casual gore, there are two things I want to call out in detail.
The first is the complete wasting of the audience’s time. About halfway through the episode, we’re shown a few quick scenes which establish that the majority of the convicts are already dead.
So episode two was a nearly complete waste of time. All that fighting, to introduce the ten strongest convicts and give them all some kind of title/nickname? Pointless. I think there are three of them left, counting Gabimaru himself. Beyond their title and the fact they (probably) killed a bunch of nameless mook convicts, we didn’t know anything about them, so it’s also not like we had any connection to them. With the revelation that an endless stream of convicts will be sent in, why did we bother with episode two at all? Just start episode two on the island and get on with it! How can a show with this much action feel like nothing is actually happening?!
My second big problem is with character motivations and behaviors. Clearly, given the above, the only characters that will matter for any length of time are Gabimaru and Sagiri, and they presumably will receive all of the character growth. Yet within the span of about an hour, Sagiri goes from this:
While Gabimaru goes from this:
To this, in about the span of 5 minutes:
I know I was complaining that nothing was happening, and I also know that we’ve gotta get this team established, but this is ridiculous. It also simply doesn’t hold much water. The show is telling us that memories and emotions from his wife are staying his hand… but why? What kind of strong emotional bond has he formed with Sagiri that prevents him from killing her, when he clearly still has the ability to kill, and kill easily (he did just finish impaling some monk guy with about a hundred of his own swords)? I’m just not buying it.
In short, I’m already equal parts bored and frustrated by this show, and it’s hard to imagine it getting any better. At least the backgrounds are pretty.
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