#1 A novel take on hell
Love in Hell, as the name implies, is a manga set in the afterlife, and not the pleasant version of it. Sinners who are banished to hell must endure suffering and torment until the deficit between their good and evil deeds is balanced out. And I use financial terms there, because suffering is quite literally currency in this manga.
Love in Hell puts a significant amount of effort into world-building and turns hell into a surprisingly developed and interesting place. Rather than being chaotic monsters, the demons of hell look very human-like and have their own society that sinners integrate into. Demons work jobs, man stores, and some of them make a living torturing people. The dead arrive in hell completely naked and earn money by enduring pain & suffering, which also goes towards their redemption. Sadly, the exchange rate is rubbish and getting skinned alive multiple times a day will just barely net you enough to buy some underpants to wear.
There are so many details to this world and there is so much going on that it’s a shame both Love in Hell and its sequel Death Life are as short as they are. I wouldn’t want to spend a day in its version of hell, but I sure wish I could read more about it.
#2 Torture and fan-service?
So what kind of torture is going on in hell? How about getting your skin peeled off and being pinned to a rock like a fleshy little art display? How about having your eyes poked out with sticks and fed back to you like an oversized olive? Did your demon catch you flirting with another sinner? He’ll chop off your breasts until you learn to behave.
Love in Hell is in very poor taste and mixes extreme depictions of torture with a raunchy romcom tone straight out of an ecchi manga. You get scenes like main character Rintaro walking in on his demon Koyori while she is changing, an ecchi manga classic, but in retaliation she boils him alive in oil. That’s quite a lot more extreme than your average gag routine.
The mix of full, uncensored nudity, ecchi comedy, and ultra-violence is a bizarre one, but it’s something I could greatly appreciate. It lends the manga a unique tone and should appeal to people who are into stuff like Elfen Lied, but wish it was a tad more extreme and a lot funnier.
#3 Interesting sinners
What causes a person to commit sins in their life? Sure, some people may not believe in heaven & hell, but even then, there have to be reasons. Despite being so vulgar and violent, Love in Hell does a good job of developing the sinners who fell into hell and gradually revealing what led them to live such deplorable lives.
The original manga stars Rintaro Senkawa, a 27-year-old, lecherous manchild who dies in a drunken accident. He was a NEET in life and doesn’t understand why he ended up in hell. Fair enough, hell seems pretty quick to label something sinful, but the demons who do know seem to avoid the topic as well. Was his sin something so bad? If so, how could he have forgotten? Death Life’s Sousuke is a lot younger than Rintaro and is booted to hell because he committed suicide to spite his parents. He is very self-important and confrontational, but also a wimp that can’t bear the torture at all. You really see how hell humbles him over time and it’s fascinating to see him retroactively come to regret his suicide.
Besides these two, there is a host of other sinners out there. Old people who try to use their age and sob stories to garner sympathy, a warehouse worker that was fired and forced into petty crime because a love confession was poorly received, a little girl that went to hell for shoving her friend just before getting hit by a car, an aging businessman who neglected his family to focus on his work, there are so many stories to tell here and so many more that could be told.
#4 Cute character designs
Suzumaru Reiji has a very cool style of drawing and I am very fond of his/her sense of character design. The demon characters of the story are very diverse, with main characters like Koyori getting especially cute designs. Other demons are given more monstrous looks, such as oversized humanoids in increasingly absurd fetish gear, or phobia stuff like clown torturers. It’s said that sinners assigned to demons are predetermined by fate and I feel sorry for whoever was destined to end up with some of these guys.
The manga even dabbles in a bit of cosmic horror with The Abyss, a lower ring of hell reserved only for the foulest of sinners. It’s populated with the more beastly demons that only vaguely resemble anything human-like, who show no remorse in their torture and have not a shred of interest in the eventual redemption of the sinners scurrying about their lair.
Yeah, I’d rather be in the care of someone like Sanagi. You might get your legs cut off or be put on fire for hours, but at least you’re getting murdered by someone cute.