Tengoku Daimakyou or Heavenly Delusion is a manga series authored by Masakazu Ishiguro and adapted into anime in Spring 2023 by studio Production I.G. It started airing on April 1. While it almost seems like a typical post-apocalyptic, survival show with lots of blood & deaths, it manages to captivate the audience with its story direction. It has beautifully animated action scenes, mysteries & hints toward some answers, and acutely intricate world-building.
Once the world was ravaged by a calamity that brought about man-eating monsters that destroyed everything. The population is nearly extinct, the structures are ruined, people are forced to live in hiding, and some learned to fight those monsters. Away from all of these, a facility is created for children, completely sealed off from the rest of the world. There, they attend classes, play in the open fields, indulge in their own perversion, and have access to fresh food. A happy place for children to grow safely, the complete opposite of the outside world. A girl named Tokio suspiciously receives a massage during class that says, “Do you want to go beyond outside?”, that makes her curious. Then the director of the school tells her that the outside is “Hell”.
On the outside, a boy & a girl named Maru & Kiruko respectively travel through devasted Japan in search of a place called “Heaven”, which might be referring to that facility. Apparently, Kiruko is hired to be Maru’s escort in searching the place whilst having her own objectives, making this adventure of theirs kind of like The Last of Us. They try to find things to help them survive, places to spend the night safely and run into some troubles as well. There are other people who are trying to make ends meet and try to attack the duo. But they are capable of defending themselves with their wits & strengths. They have to play mind games with the people and struggle physically with the man-eaters. They also meet some people who are helpful at first but have ulterior motives. Some people grouped together to make things easier, protect each other, make sources of food & shelter, and even entertain themselves. Society still seems to be functioning in a ragtag way. Wherever the duo goes, they ask about the place called heaven and often think that this place might be heaven due to how people are content with what they have. Even though it is referred to as “Hell”.
As I said, the adventure through the post-apocalyptic world makes this almost like The Last of Us game but with its own twists & turns. Every encounter the duo has is layered with a mystery which is hinted to us via the visuals even from the moment before the encounter. Every place they go to has its own lore to explore and ponder. For example, they break into a house that was locked from the inside. Then they found out that a married couple (which is hinted by the ring they were wearing) used to live here and couldn’t go outside to find food because of the monsters hence they both died starving holding each other’s hands. Then they stop by an inn which is still open & run by a lady who is really nice. But from the start we see her with a sickle, hinting that something is a bit off. And the events that follow that night will roll your head around. That’s just the first episode and there’s more to come. It’s not something totally new or impressive, we’ve seen a lot of crazy plot twists in many other shows like Attack on Titan, Made in Abyss, etc. But it’s the deliverance of the story in the proper way. Everything feels quiet, atmospheric, and surreal, then it torments you with what comes next. We can appreciate this calmness with a bit of insanity. Not to mention the mysteries & theories to come along with it.
The visuals perfectly fit this depiction of the world. Everything looks vibrant & atmospheric. With vast open skies with flooded cityscapes, lush green scenery, mount fuji, and lonely nights, the artists did not disappoint to fit the premise. The fight scenes are also well animated, as how you expected from Production I.G.
The OP & ED are unskippable due to how good they are. The OP (Innocent Arrogance by BiSH) starts with a somber tone with equal visuals then drowns you in craziness with the metal band music and editing tricks like the character’s arcade game, abstract art, low angle camera from behind the fence with sun’s glare, etc. It’s a banger OP in a word to fit the world we’re experiencing. The ED (Daremo Karemo Dokomo Nanimo Shiranai by ASOBI) has a carefree and optimistic tone with the lyrics and the visuals. The main duo doing their usual stuff, crafting, cooking, exploring, etc. Then doing some goofy stuff to lighten up the mood. It also shows the kinds from the facility in their usual selves. Then the drawings from Kona’s sketchbook come to life with this oil-panting-like animation. Then it transitions from one to another (inside a place to outside) and ends with the duo going to sleep by saying, “Let’s go”. It shows the fun part of the world.
This is a must-watch for this season. It gets mundane sometimes, but with its twists & surprises, it pulls us back in for more. We began to make theories based on what we’ve seen. Who exactly runs the facility & what’s its purpose? Are they behind the man-eaters showing up? How did they manage to even kill them? Why’s that boy’s drawings seem to depict reality? And there’s a lot more. People from both sides are also curious about each other’s world without even knowing, making it a story from two perspectives. It has an adventure like The Last of Us, serenity like Girl’s Last Tour, mysteries like The Promised Neverland, and insanity like Made in Abyss (Made in Abyss is definitely a lot more crazier). It’s something to look forward to but you don’t wanna because of its brutality. I hope the anime doesn’t disappoint like most other seasonals and only be an advertisement for the manga.