In anime, every genre has a protagonist with particular quirks. For Shojou, that means having a plucky young teen with a healthy penchant for romance, or a lack thereof. For Seinen, it’s almost always a character that is mature and aware of the world they live in. For Shonen, however, the formula never changed. Here is your happy-go-lucky hero that has seen horrors but remains bright eyed. Oh also, romantic love doesn’t exist until the climax. And then Gabimaru (画眉丸) came along.
Am I saying Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku has done something remarkably different with its characters? Not quite. I mean, all of its elements combined make for an incredibly strong contender for Anime Of The Year to me. But more than that, I think Gabimaru The Hollow is one of those Shonen protagonists that require a deeper look. If only because his entire goal in life isn’t to be the strongest, or the best there ever was. No, his motivation is reuniting with his love.
Which, let’s be real, that’s not something you see in Shonen. Like, at all. Sure, Naruto Uzumaki gets together with Hinata Hyuuga by the end of Shippuden. And, yeah, Son Goku was always going to be in love with Chi Chi. But they are often supporting characters to the main narrative. Naruto’s goal was to save the village and bring back Sasuke Uchiha. Goku wanted to protect the world. Love was never a factor there. But then came Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku, and gave us a main character with genuine personal stakes.
And this protagonist, aka Gabimaru, requires a deep dive to truly understand. Because not only is he such a departure from what we’ve been used to in a story about survival, but it’s how intentions mark everything he does. Every step he takes, even unknowingly, leads him back to the love that was his only light in a bleak life. So today, let’s look beyond what a character wiki can tell us and discuss Gabimaru from Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku.
Who Is Gabimaru The Hollow?
Gabimaru the Hollow is the 16 year old main character of Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku. He is an infamous assassin that is feared all over Japan, hailing from the isolated village of Iwagakure. This is where he was trained from a child with raw talent to becoming a Shinobi, and eventually the Head Assassin.
But all that ruthless training and eventual servitude to the Iwagakure’s Chief led to an erosion of identity. After all, ‘Gabimaru The Hollow’ is nothing more than a title, passed down to numerous deadly Shinobi whenever the previous one dies. So, our Gabimaru is nothing more than a ghost, powering on by the whims of his owner. And power he gains, alongside a reputation amongst his peers of being known as one of the deadliest Shinobi to ever live, a weapon of mass destruction. Sentimentality, in the end, is nothing but a weakness.
So, when he is finally caught by the Shogunate, that should’ve been the end. A swift execution should’ve been Gabimaru’s fate. But because he proved much more resilient than imagined, they decided to recruit him, and others like him, to send away on a suicide mission to an uncharted island. Flanked by his future Executioner, Yamada Asaemon Saigiri, he agrees to go look for the rumored ‘Elixir of life’.
But on one condition: That Gabimaru would be reunited with his wife, Yui, when he returned. Because underneath the heinous facade, Gabimaru is so much more complex than a cold hearted killer.
A Specter That Lives Up To His Looks:
We don’t know who Gabimaru really is, considering his identity is more of a moniker than a reflection of him. So, his lineage is also lost to us. But we do know that everything about Gabimaru is set up to reflect his title.
The man even looks like a ghost, with his pale white hair and scarlet eyes, wild in the fight. He is meant to kill from the shadows, emerge from the dark when you least expect him. With his slightly smaller height, it makes him even more inconspicous. However, a huge chunk of his appearance had changed since his first arrival at Shinsenkyō, especially when he was influenced by Zhu Jin, one of the rulers of the island. This is where he started resembling the more grotesque side of the mysterious island, with flowers growing from his head and a dark mark ruining the left side of his face.
However, eventually he did get control over his Tao and the large blooms rescinded into being tiny pink blossoms. Even the mark on his face retracted to just being a small branch. However, it wasn’t until Sagiri freed him from the Aborification, that he returned to his original looks.
Gabimaru The Hollow: A Killer, Reformed
There is a reason why Gabimaru stands out amongst the protagonists we have seen so far. Part of that happens to be his sheer power. And no, not like when other Shonen protagonists have ‘untapped potential’ or what not. Thing is, Gabimaru is well aware of his strength. And that’s what makes him so formidable.
Gabimaru is not some green boy being thrust into a world of unspeakable horrors. For a while, he was one of those unspeakable horrors, a specter for everyone to fear in the dark. And he doesn’t hide the fact that he is aware of his reputation. But he is also calm in the face of danger, almost bordering on apathetic. He kills mercilessly and swiftly, only focusing on the task that’s been assigned to him. In that way, he’s the perfect soldier, because he never asked questions.
However, all of that started changing when he was put into an arranged marriage with Yui, the 8th daughter of Iwagakure’s Chief. Despite it being done so that Gabimaru and Yui’s mixed lineage could give the Iwagakure’s Chief with more soldiers, their marriage became one of quiet but transformative love. Gabimaru has no social skills prior, but Yui’s soft insistence and gentle nature coaxed out the humanity inside that he thought was long dead.
Yui had such conviction in her beliefs, that embracing emotions was true strength. And it affected Gabimaru, someone who was also told to hide himself behind a blank face. Instead, this cold assassin becomes a bumbling new husband around his wife, nervous and flustered. He actively tries not being as aloof, listening to her when she calls them to practice traditions like giving thanks before meals, or even praying.
Yui’s gentleness even bleeds into his job, where he still kills but also grieves for the lives lost. And eventually, Gabimaru realizes that he does deserve better, that there could be a life of happiness for him with Yui. A life where he wouldn’t have to kill for a living. He thinks that Iwagakure’s Chief would allow him that, allow his daughter true happiness.
But this is the same man that burned Yui for even trying to exist outside of their norms. So instead, Gabimaru finds himself captured and betrayed, with succeeding at the Shinsenkyō mission his only hope of meeting Yui again.
A Shinobi Feared Across The Land:
We keep talking about how scary and famous Gabimaru is. And that isn’t an exaggeration. By all means, Gabimaru was always competent from the start. His story isn’t one of gaining more strength, like Shonen manga tend to be. No, he’s always been infamous, as Yuzuriha would point out.
I mean, you could see his invulnerability to most traditional forms of execution in the very first episode. Gabimaru is almost indestructible, and can single handedly take on 20 men alone. And he does all of that without breaking a sweat, no cinch in his armor at all. Even his owner, Iwagakure’s Chief, is well aware of his strength, understanding that he is the strongest person to hold the ‘Gabimaru the Hollow’ title. And, well, of course he is. The man survived an ambush, at least 7 different types of executions, and then a massacre alongside his fellow Death Row inmates.
As a Shinobi, Gabimaru is well versed in the three types of Jutsu. Being from Iwagakure means he is already pretty excellent in Genjutsu, as illusions are one of the village’s fortes. But his Ninjutsu skills are not far off, as evidenced by his ‘Fire Monk’ transformation, which can incinerate anyone within his immediate radius. However, when he is down on his Tao, or spiritual energy, he can more than easily depend upon his Taijutsu to fight off hordes of enemies.
But perhaps Gabimaru’s most underrated asset is his intelligence, which tends to be overlooked due to his age and stature. But the man isn’t just getting by on power alone. You need serious intellect to deal with assassinations and the sort. However, Gabimaru takes it a bit forward and just happens to go into the tactics of battles. You could even say he’s a bit of a ‘Battle Nerd’. He also happens to adapt and learn ver quickly, thanks to Kinesthetic Learning.
All in all, Gabimaru, and Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku, are proving to be the breakout hits of this year. What does the story hold for him next?