When I read the synopsis for Tengoku Daimakyou, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Attack on Titan and The Promised Neverland; however, what we received was something far different. Even though the premise was enough to get me to watch the show, could this completely different story end up being as compelling or better than the shows I likened it to?
The story of Tengogku Daimakyou is split into two different stories. On the one hand, we have a hi-tech orphanage that seems to severely shelter its children. They do not know anything about the outside world and, instead, are brought up through the facilities’ education program. They also have a medical division that takes care of them; however, just like every single other hi-tech facility, this place has its secrets. While a lot of those secrets are revealed, we still don’t know exactly what their goals are or what they are even doing, to begin with. This part of the story has its own cast of characters and could be its own separate anime series!
The other half of the story follows a boy named Maru and a girl named Kiruko. Kiruko is a bodyguard who has been hired to take Maru to a place known as Heaven; however, the word Heaven is the only thing they have to go on. It’s up to them to scour the remains of Tokyo to try and find clues to bring Maru to his destination but it goes far beyond a search and escort mission.
We learn that Tokyo and possibly the world) was destroyed in a catastrophic event. What that event still remains to be answered; however, there are giant monsters known as man-eaters (or Hiruko) roaming the world, and Maru, unexplainably, has a special power that can kill these beasts. Since Kiruko is really bad at naming things, she refers to the power as Maru Touch. Just like she refers to her battery-operated laser pistol as the Killer Beam. Maru isn’t the only one searching for something, though… Kiruko is searching for a man named Robin… someone she held near and dear to her heart when growing up.
The rest of the story is filled in through its deep character development so let’s hop on over there.
I’m going to focus mainly on Maru and Kiurko here and then briefly touch upon the children at the orphanage because there are a lot more answers with Maru and Kiruko than there is with the rest of the cast.
Kiruko is the character with the biggest and deepest backstory. She was a go-kart racer earlier in her life. She also had a brother named Haruki. Her brother loved his sister more than anything and would do anything to protect her. He also idolized Robin who acted as the neighborhood watch. One day during a race, a Hiruko shows up so Haruki does his best to protect her and the other racers. Unfortunately, he fails. When Kiriko discovers her brother, the lights go out… if you know what I mean. When she wakes up, she somehow has Haruki’s mind inside of her body. Confused as to what happened, he blends his name (Haruki) with his sister’s name (Kiriko) and takes on the identity of Kiruko. He now wanders the post-calamity world in his sister’s body to find answers, hence why he took up a job as a mercenary for hire… hoping that one of the jobs he takes can lead him to the answers he seeks… aka… Robin.
I know that kind of spoiled a bit plot point of the series but it was necessary to talk about just how deep this character is. Of course, there are a lot of details I left out. Those omitted details really create one of the most diverse characters I have seen in a long time. You really feel for him and everything he has been through… the fact that he can’t see his sister again unless he looks in a mirror. The mental torture and anguish of not knowing how or why things ended up this way. All of it hits you right in the heart as you can’t help but sympathize with him.
Kiruko is also a different take on transgender people and/or characters. As we know a transgender person is either a male or female that feels as if they were meant to be the opposite sex that they were assigned a birth. One might say that, as one example, a female is trapped inside a male body. Well, in this case, a male is, quite literally, trapped inside of a female body. It’s a rather unique spin on it and is quite interesting.
Maru, on the other hand, is the blander of the two characters; however, he has a bit of mystery about him. All we know is that someone who knows Maru hired Kiruko to find and escort him to a place named Heaven. Maru simply travels with Kiruko; however, he’s not just some tag-along that needs to be babysat. Maru is quite skilled at fighting which is pretty evident from the moment they encounter some bandits. In a team effort, they easily dispatch them which showed that Maru is quite capable of protecting himself (and in the final episode, he REALLY shows how badass he can be!)
Despite his exceptional fighting skills, he’s kind of an idiot. He can’t critically think all too well and ends up saying things that are on his mind out loud. Over time, he develops a crush on Kiruko and that’s when he drops the bombshell news on Maru about what happened to him and his sister. Despite learning this, Maru continues to find himself attached to Kiruko.
Outside of his affection for her, as aforementioned, he has this unique ability to kill the Hiruko monsters by simply touching them. He can extend these vine-like threads of light into the monster’s body, reaching its very core. The vines can then destroy the core, thus killing the monster. We don’t know how Maru got these powers nor does Maru ever say anything about them… so that’s a question that was left unanswered during the series. It makes him a pretty interesting character, though and the go-to comic relief whenever we need a laugh.
Now let’s switch gears to the orphanage.
Here we have a much much larger cast of characters and rather than make this review 10,000 pages long, I’ll just say that the Director of the orphanage has something up her sleeve and while we do get some pretty big clues as to what this facility really is, it’s neither hard confirmed or is their true goals fully fleshed out. We only get bits and pieces of it.
We do end up getting some nice stories with the characters such as Shiro’s budding relationship with Mimihime, or when Tokio ends up giving birth to a baby after a romantic encounter with Kona. I bring that up because it was oddly stated by the Director that the children know nothing of love and shouldn’t be able to comprehend such emotions… so a sexual encounter seems like an unplanned outlier for them.
There’s also a girl named Ouma who has a weird eye power as well. Despite that, we also have characters such as the Doctor, Teruhiko, and the Assistant Director, Aoshima who are looking to execute their own plans to protect the children… but still… we don’t know exactly what they need to be protected from (well we do kind of know but again, it’s not fully explained).
Art, Animation, and Sound
Production I.G. took a gamble here with the artwork. The character designs don’t look like the typical anime style that you’re used to but that’s not a bad thing. While some of the designs do take some getting used to, it seems fresh and unique at the same time. In other words, it has its own style but it’s the type of style that you will either love or hate. It doesn’t seem to have a middle ground here. If you don’t believe me, check out the opening of the show. It gives you an excellent sense of the experimentation that was used here for the show… despite the fact that all of that experimentation in the opening was a bit muted in the actual show itself.
Still, despite that, the art direction for the show really makes it stand out and look unique. The animation, on the other hand, was fine in most parts but where it really shined were some of the early action scenes. When I talked about Maru and Kiruko’s run-in with the bandits, that fight scene alone was enough to hook people onto the show. The fight was well-choreographed and executed. It really showed what we were in for with the rest of the show; however, the real shame is that we didn’t get much more in the sense of well-choreographed action scenes. Sure, we had some battles with the Hiurko monsters, but it wasn’t anything super over-the-top. Still, the animation helped accent the unique art style and really helped bring this show to life.
As for sound, this is where the show kind of falters. There really wasn’t much in the way of a soundtrack and if there was, it wasn’t all that memorable. Then again, to help with the gravity of a post-calamity world, a lot of scenes let the ambiance of a dead environment take the place of the soundtrack… so be prepared to let the silence do the talking in a lot of the scenes. It’s not a bad thing, mind you… just wish there was more here to help really drive home some of the scenes.
The OP is an absolute banger and a half, though. Even if you don’t watch the show, go out of your way to listen to the full version of the song. It’s called “innocent arrogance” by BISH. Go YouTube it now if you haven’t heard it yet.
Where do I even begin to talk about my feelings on this show? Having two stories being told side-by-side was quite the challenge because once you got into one story, the episode would switch over to the other… then you’d get invested in that story and either it would switch back or the episode would end. Fitting all of this lore into just 13 episodes is an impossible task and, unfortunately, the show ended on a non-ending. It was left wide open for a second season but, as of the time of this review, there is no second season announced.
The character development is VERY well done in this show. Even if the orphans didn’t get their stories finished, their slow burn makes you want to know more. We still have the mystery behind Maru… why he needs to go to Heaven… why he can kill the Hiruko… if Kiruko will ever find the answers he needs about his sister… there’s just so much left on the table that it would be a massive crime against humanity to not continue this series with another season. Let’s hope and pray that the Blu-ray sales are strong for this so Production I.G. can produce more. Either that or I can just add another manga series to my pile to read.
I mean… anime is just a giant ad for the source material, after all…
I will say that this is one of those shows that truly hooked me. Every episode felt like an emotional rollercoaster. The highs made you smile and the lows brought a tear to your eye. There are even some moments in the final episode which made you pump your fist in the air, thus condoning violence in a justified way.
The story is gripping, and the characters are amazing.
In short, this show was awesome!
Blending excellent character development with two separate stories running parallel to one another, Tengoku Daimakyou (Heavenly Delusion) offers up joy, sadness, suspense, drama, action, excitement, and everything that would expect to find from an incredible anime series!
- Excellent character development
- Two unique and interesting stories
- Banger of an opening theme song
- Unique animation and art style
- Unique animation and art style (might turn people off)
- Lack of a memorable OST