Rating: 3/5 – Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be.
Let’s be honest, literature is fascinated with Hell. From the Bible to Dante’s Inferno to Marlowe’s Faust to Palahniuk’s Damned, there’s plenty of interpretations out there of the place the wicked are destined to see when they shuffle off this mortal coil. Theologians and scholars have also debated the merits and fallacies of what Hell actually is: A permanent place of eternal torment, or a way-station to eventual salvation? Reiji Suzumaru has a pretty solid idea of a Hell that might actually settle all arguments on the matter. It’s a Hell that has logic, sensibility, and shows the creator took some time in figuring out the vast intricacies of the nether region. That it’s packed into a book full of gratuitous T&A and fanservice only adds to the fun of reading it, as it attempts to stir the inner demons of lust within you, ensuring you a window seat to eventually visit the realm you’re reading about.
Senkara Rintaro has a bad night and wakes up dead in Hell. He’s not sure why he’s there…he wasn’t that bad of a human (think of that old “We’re all innocent in here” argument most prisoners give), but the cute, perky demon assigned to him convinces him that he most definitely has a place there. Koyori, the aforementioned demon, is a recent appointee and Rintaro is her first assignment. Determined not to screw things up, she still finds this perpetually horny human under her charge to be more than a handful.
As mentioned before, there’s a lot…a lot…of nudity, sexual situations, and more nudity in this book. Normally that’d be enough to put it on the ‘for pervy otakus only’ review stack (yes, I have one of those…don’t all reviewers?), but what saves it is the rest of the story. Suzumaru has crafted a “fun” kind of Hell – if such a phrase can be coined – where the damned work off their sins through pain, overseen by their demon keepers. There are rules to this place, but they’re rules that make sense. You’re not supposed to like it there – in fact there are steep penalties if you do – but you can survive there, and eventually leave once your sentence is served. Hell, as AC/DC used to sing, ain’t a bad place to be.
There’s a lot of humor to be found in the book as well, and plenty of pop-culture references for the astute reader (particularly if they’re fans of metal or King Crimson). In addition, Suzumaru separates each chapter with sketchbook pages to show how particular characters evolved from the initial pencil work to the printed page. The craziness comes at a frenetic pace (this is Hell, after all), which adds to the book’s charm. Storied manga-fans can think of it as Excel Saga meets Detroit Metal City, maybe turned down one notch on the volume control.
This book won’t be for everyone. There’s tons of fanservice and nudity, which will certainly attract some readers, but it’d take more than that to keep me interested in picking up volume two. Fortunately, it delivers, giving me a hilarious yet strangely rational view of the afterlife. Whatever your belief system, even if you don’t believe in anything at all…you’ll find something in this book to make you smile.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow – firstname.lastname@example.org
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