Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku isn’t lacking in its violence, not even with characters like Mei with the scar on her back. Despite her being in the form of a child when everything goes down, she is still touched by the atrocities that are her origins. Gender, age, race — none of that matters when it comes to this manga, with death touching nearly every character in it at least once. And of course, Mei is no exception to that rule.
Mei has an interesting origin story. The scar on Mei’s back is actually something she got from when she defied Rien and ran away, at least a 1000 years before the main story started. She was the first of the Lord Tensens created, so naturally she was supposed to follow every order laid out by Rien. But when Mei realized that the Hōkos, an immortal race, were being sacrificed for their training, she rebelled and was scarred by Rien in the process. Mei also regressed into the body of a child, forced to run away, eventually being hidden away by Hōko.
The reason why this matters is because Mei was the first of her kind, she even helped guide others like Mu Dan and the rest throughout their own training. But when she realized that she was being deceived, that her actions were hurting others, and she couldn’t take that. Up until now, we were made to believe that all Lord Tensens were malevolent, with no regard for anything beyond reviving Jofoku. But Mei didn’t participate in the same cruelty they did, choosing to live her life, her way.
This idea of rebelling against a norm, and nature vs nurture, are both actually recurring themes in Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku. In a way, it’s the core of the series conflict. Would you risk it all for love? Or for a chance at immortality? Or would you live your days away in peace, away from the violence you’ve grown up in. So, in today’s Lore Analysis, let’s discuss why Mei carries the scars she does, and why she still chooses peace.
The Scars That Shape Mei:
Already, seeing a child on the hostile island of Shinsenkyō, with its beautiful facade hiding its intricate monstrosities, was an unexpected thing. What is this little girl doing in a place where the mightiest of warriors have come back from as nothing more than blooming corpses?
Well, turns out, she was part of the problem. Kind of. So, Mei is merely one part of all the Lord Tensens that were created in the wake of Jofoku dying. But she was the first one, and so was more of an experiment than a fully fledged being that was under Rien’s control. Mei is softer and kinder than her family, more gentle with humanity than anyone else, which meant she could raise the other Lord Tensens with care that Rien couldn’t provide. But when Mei discovered that Rien was sacrificing the lives of Hōkos for the Outer Way Of Tan method of achieving immortality, that was the last straw.
But Rien punished her for her insolence, breaking the plant ovule that helped regulate her powers which made her body regress into that of a child. That is where the scar on Mei’s back comes from. And then, she was banished to Hōrai, made to fight the Dōshi using only Bōchū Jutsu. It wasn’t until she was rescued by Hōko, that she got a chance to experience something akin to a genuine family. And that’s how she lived, for a while.
Mei: An Unlikely Ally?
Mei lived a simple but happy existence in the same village as Hōko, posing as his daughter, However, she was discovered by Gabimaru The Hollow and his gang. She had already noticed them looking at her home, but was frightened when Gabimaru captured her, reducing her to tears. It took Yamada Asaemon Sagiri to calm her down enough to be taken back to the group.
Eventually, Hōko invites them over and they discuss the ‘Elixir Of Life’. With Yuzuriha and Senta present as well, Mei sits down and discusses the island (now revealed to be Kotaku island) and the Lord Tensens. But during their interactions afterwards, she shows fear and panic at confrontations. She eventually reveals that their collective powers come from something called Tao. And while Gabimaru could just let her die when she is attacked by others, he decides to protect her instead.
When the Dōshi explain that she is part of their training, forcing themselves on her, Mei’s apprehensions to strangers suddenly makes sense. They reveal her past of being a Lord Tensen. But instead of fighting her, Gabimaru still chooses to care for her and keep her from harm. From then on, Mei became their guide on the island, proving herself as an ally rather than an enemy to be feared.
Rebelling Against Violence With Love:
There are some similar themes to Gabimaru’s and Mei’s origins. Both were engineered to be weapons of war, and were good at it too. But they always had something nagging at the back of their head, about how their methods weren’t okay, that inflicting harm isn’t normal. And they would have lived their lives in the same violent way.
But they were exposed to love. With Mei, it was her adoptive father. Gabimaru was married to Yui, the daughter of the Iwagakure Chief. Mei was treated like the child she was, raised and nurtured with kindness instead of harshness. And Gabimaru was finally treated to a life where he wasn’t alone, where bloodshed wasn’t the only thing that existed. So, naturally, both Mei and Gabimaru decided to rebel against the system that kept them stuck, all in the name of love.
But both were punished for questioning the status quo. And now, Mei and Gabimaru meet on this mysterious island, working together despite coming from opposing sides. Yui’s love carries scars, just like Mei’s scar on her back. Even amongst all the blood and gore of their circumstances, they persevere in the name of their love. And that is why their dynamic is so interesting to see.
In the end, Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku is a Shounen, so optimism wins above all. But seeing love be so intrinsically tied to the main plot, which is very much psychedelic horror at its finest, has been so intriguing to see.
However, that’s what makes the series stand out, and Mei will only continue to grow as a character within it.