“Tengoku Daimakyo is a grim and gritty post-apocalyptic tale with striking worldbuilding.”
Tengoku Daimakyo is an anime series made by Production I.G. and based on the manga Heavenly Delusion. The 13 episodes of season 1 are now streaming on Disney +.
SEARCHING FOR “HEAVEN”
Tengoku Daimakyo is set several years after a disaster devastated Japan. The country is now plagued with dangerous monsters called Hiruko. Though, Maru has the power to destroy them and with the help of Kiruko, they are searching for a place called “Heaven.”
Kiruko and Maru’s story is basically a road movie in a series format, think The Last Of Us but in anime. They travel through Japan to find “Heaven” and on their path, they meet several characters whom they have to help against Hiruko or other humans. But it never feels repetitive. The series always keeps us entertained. You can feel the danger is all around the protagonists. It is a post-apocalyptic world. And as the episodes pass, the relationship between Kiruko and Maru gets fleshed out while they also get closer to their goals. It’s a story about friendship with a dash of romance.
Furthermore, Kiruko has her own goal too, she is searching for the doctor who performed an operation on her and Robin who was like a mentor for her. In fact, it does get complicated as Kiruko is actually Haruki, her brother. After Haruki was almost completely eaten by a Hiruko, somehow the doctor put Haruki in Kiruko’s body. Thus, Haruki in Kiruko’s body is searching for these men to know what happened to his sister. However, finding her mentor isn’t exactly the reunion she hoped to be. Kiruko/Haruki’s story hits hard with the feels, it is a gut-wrenching tragedy.
Concurrently, the series also follows the characters inside the walled town that is the so-called “Heaven” where kids are schooled by robots while adults watch them and make experiments on them. The story of the walled town is a different style. Tokio, a girl who looks like Maru, and her friends live a seemingly perfect life. Indeed, they go to school in what seems like a normal world. They are shielded from the post-apocalyptic world from out there. In this institute, they discover themselves there. Because of that, they slowly realize that life in “Heaven” isn’t exactly as it seems, while not knowing exactly to a full extent what is going on. There is definitely a creepy dimension to that storyline. And the more we learn about, the more horrible it becomes. It definitely is the contrary of heaven.
The story with these characters is about emancipating themselves from their fake bubble and discovering who they are and what the real world is. Tengoku Daimakyo may be extravagant with its scifi elements but it is a very grounded story that puts the focus on its characters.
However, the final episode of the season doesn’t feel like a finale. Indeed, it feels like a normal episode. It doesn’t conclude anything and as you left with a lot more questions. So I would say it is a bit underwhelming. It all depends on whether the series can secure a second season or not.
VISUALS & SOUNDTRACK
Moreover, this series is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it does get gory at times and quite uncomfortable. We do see two bodies without any arms or legs and a body being cut in pieces. So this is a warning if the story interests you, know that, there are gruesome scenes.
Beyond that, the post-apocalyptic Japan is really beautiful. Production I.G. designed a striking world. It is in ruins but it is still beautiful to look at. It does remind me of The Last of Us but set in Japan. There is also a contrast between that world in ruins and the walled town that has a clean scifi look. It is actually way too clean, way too perfect, you can tell there is something fishy with that town. On top of that, there are nice character designs. However, there are some unecessary nude scenes that don’t bring anything to the story.
Furthermore, Kensuke Ushio delivers a good score that knows how to give you chills during the scenes with the Hiruko or make you cry during the more emotional scenes.
OPENING AND END CREDITS
The opening theme is ‘Innocent Arrogance’ by Bish. It is a somber and rock song that sets the mood. The opening credits have an artsy feel that I really like. In fact, the characters are even sketchier than they are in the episodes. It definitely conveys the idea of this post-apocalyptic world. For me, this is a memorable opening and one of the best in recent years.
While the end theme is ‘Daremo Karemo Dokomo Nanimo Shiranai’ (誰も彼も何処も何も知らない) by Asobi. It is a different mood. Indeed, it is a lighter song and the end credits focus on the adventure side, it uses footage from the series. Even though, this is a good end credits, it is not as good as the opening.
Tengoku Daimakyo is a grim and gritty post-apocalyptic tale with striking worldbuilding. It is a mature series that can make you feel uncomfortable at times but at its heart it is a very grounded story that puts the focus on its characters.
Tengoku Daimakyo is now streaming on Disney Plus.
Collectables Editor at Future Of The Force.
Star Wars and Marvel specialist, anime expert