「天国と地獄」 (Tengoku to Jigoku)
“Heaven and Hell”

Spring 2023 hasn’t hit the ground running, it’s hit screaming like a Bugati Chrion Supersport 300+. Possibly my top 2 series (#1 for sure, and #2 is a tossup) are right at the gun, and Mix was pretty high up my list, too. We’re in for a hell of a ride this season – and with Tengoku Daimakyou specifically. Like BokuYaba, this is a series which presents serious blogging challenges for me as a manga reader. The reasons are quite different – much more conventional in this case – but the essential conundrum of what and what not to say is very much a common thread.

It says something about what kind of season this is – and what kind of series Boku no Kokoro is – that Heavenly Delusion isn’t flat-out my top pick. Nothing stokes the fires of fandom like seeing a beloved manga adapted, and I’ve been a big fan of this one since the beginning. And it’s been clear since the first teasers that Production I.G. is pulling out all the stops here. Director Mori Hirotaka is a relative unknown, but the visuals don’t lie. And the rest of the staff is stellar, most especially Art Director Kaneko Yuuji, one of the absolute legends in the business.

This premiere is, in a word, great. I fully expected that, but it’s nice to see the reality match the hype. Ishiguro Masakazu’s manga is full of mysteries but it’s no slow starter – it fascinated me right from the very beginning. Ishiguro-sensei is one of those mangaka other mangaka revere, which is a tell if ever there was one. His Soredemo Machi wa Matteiru is by far his most famous work (it was so good even Shaft couldn’t ruin it), but in Tengoku Daimakyou he’s gone off in a very different direction. To say the least. And the least is probably all I should say, though I can’t resist noting that this series is very, very weird.

In many ways Tengoku reminds me a fair bit of the legendary sci-fi anime of the 90’s and noughties. It even puts me in mind of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou a little – a post-apocalyptic series by a genius mangaka which presents a gorgeous vision of our own world through the lens of decay and decline. But it carves its own path, in no small part because of Ishiguro’s unique sensibility. His offbeat sense of humor pervades the work, no matter how bizarre and graphically disturbing it gets (and it gets). The end product is as close to unique as you’ll find in a medium that’s inherently and unavoidably derivative.

There are two main threads followed here, as the premiere lays out. There are a bunch of kids living “inside” – in a school of some sort, with robot teachers and no overt connection to the outside world. And there are a pair of teenagers roaming that outside world, an indeterminate time after “the collapse”, when most of the trappings of modern civilization seem to have, well- collapsed. Maru (Satou Gen), appears to be a pretty normal 15 year-old boy apart from some unreal combat skills. Kiruko (Senbongi Sayaka) is a little older (“18 – no, 2o”), a little more cautious, and carries a battery-powered gun which doesn’t shoot bullets.

I would love to discuss the plot further, but again, it gets very difficult to do so safely. Think about what you see, I’ll say that much – and enjoy being swept along by the majesty of it all as you do so. One of my favorite moments in the premiere comes when the innkeeper (the kids are amazed to find an inn still operating) makes a faulty assumption sabout Kiruko and Maru, because it’s such a classic Ishiguro moment in a context we’re so unused to seeing them. That disconnect goes a long way towards driving the charm of Heavenly Delusion, at least for me..

All the pieces click here. The music by Ushio Kensuke (who also does the soundtrack for BokuYaba) complements the material nicely, the animation (the CGI is not minimal, but well-integrated) and choreography are excellent. And most especially the world created by Kaneko is as beautiful as it is unsettling, immediately burning itself into the brain. This is Production I.G. at their best, which is some of the best in the industry. It’s surprising to me that this relatively obscure manga is getting such a first class treatment, but it deserves it – between Ishiguro’s writing and the fantastic production this will certainly wind up as one of 2023’s best series.


  1. It’s pretty clear there’s a very deep rabbit hole here because how else are you going to connect Maru and Kiruko with the goings on in the school (if that’s what it is).

    The thing I found most refreshing about it was that at no time did any character say, “As you know…” and then launch into an extended exposition. But by the end it subverts “show, don’t tell” entirely by making you too scared to look at the damn screen!

    It’s early days yet, but I think this season’s other shows are going to have a hard time knocking this one off the top of my watch list.

  2. Too bad it’s Heavenly censored compared to the manga, even even cut few small parts ;/

    Disny seems to be bad for animes so far if they have the final in shows that appears in their VOD

    1. Although it’s always a shame if an anime adaptation of a manga is toned down, it still feels odd to me that Disney, the studio that was once synonymous with squeaky-clean family entertainment, now has no problem with showing almost all of a girl’s naked body.

  3. Man, every time I consume a piece of content from video, literature, or games about an apocalyptic scenario, I can’t help but wonder. Will we, the people, engineer the apocalypse by accident because we consumed too much media on the topic by getting curious and experimenting with something dangerous?

    That said, Kiruko and Maru walked around fearless while civilization had been copletely uprooted. Is only possible because there are some known facts 1) the kids can defend themselves with or without a bean gun. 2) those men don’t look like thugs. In real life if people have needs they want met they could engineer sinister ways to snatch the Kiruko.

    Those scars that Kiruko has on her body, I can’t imagine she wouldn’t hold grudges on who gave her those old wounes. I wonder if Kiruko feels a sense of happiness seeing civilization at its worst, like how she probably felt when she was in the mud.


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