Hidden Gem Anime Series to Enjoy: ‘Tengoku Daimakyou’

Here’s the next entry in ‘Hidden Gem Anime Series to Enjoy’ for you all to enjoy. As we’re officially in summer, let me introduce you to Tengoku Daimakyou. I picked up the first few volumes of the manga and learned that there was an anime adaptation already streaming, and I just felt that there wasn’t enough buzz about it. The more I watched the more I knew that outside of some of my faves this Spring Anime Season that this was a stunner that I had to keep watching. It had been described to me as “The Last of Us meets The Promised Neverland,” so I knew I had to tell all of my anime watching friends.

If you love your dystopian anime with a TV-MA (Mature Audience only) programming rating, this may be your jam. On a note of transparency and as I think trigger warnings are great tools, please take care as I link here for a later episode that might just make some viewers drop the show altogether. Spoilers aren’t great, but mental health takes precedence here in the house of BNP. Take care yourselves, friends.

What is it About:

In short, the world has gone to crap. Some fifteen years ago The Great Disaster befell Japan. Now in the year 2024, grotesque human-eating monsters lurk amongst the ruins of Japan, while the remaining population is scattered about eking out a living with the surviving technologies. The anime centers upon two groups of young adults: Kiruko and Maru who are traveling through Japan while Tokio and his classmates that he’s grown up with in an isolated facility protecting them from the harsh outside world. Kiruko, a young woman who works as a sort of travel guide who is incredibly resourceful, accepts a mysterious woman’s dying wish to take a teenager named Maru to a place called “Heaven.”

Maru is on a mission to find a place called Heaven with someone with a face like his, and Kiruko is searching for a few people connected to her past who have dabbled with some shady business. Far, far away from these two, Tokio is a teenager who has grown up safely and mostly happily with other children in a facility cut away from the madness and harsh realities of the current state of Japan. He, along with several of the children there, is starting to question this place with its nursery-style setting run mostly by robots. Puberty brings curiosity, discovery, and the desire for more which results in unearthing great secrets and terrifying truths. Tokio may be living in “Heaven,” but is it truly a paradise or someplace more sinister– like a prison?

Get in Loser, We’re Solving a Mystery:

Folks that Tengoku Daimakyou could appeal to include:

-Folks who are looking for anime with coming-of-age vibes

-Folks looking for anime based on ongoing manga series

-Folks who are looking for anime with a true psychological lean

-Folks who enjoy the action, adventure, sci-fi, and horror genres

-Folks looking to be shocked, surprised, happy, and just feel the full range of emotions

What Makes this Anime Standout:

The world building in Tengoku Daimakyou is glorious as it is detailed: in the ruined country Kiruko and Maru find scattered pockets of civilization, some more thriving than others. From a bursting farming area growing everything from crops like tomatoes to marijuana to small cities with shops dedicated to preserving arcade games and media like music and books, the journey takes the two to many places. With society surviving, brings politics and economics which differ from area to area of course. 


In one location, some local bandits prey on travelers seeking lodging, directions, and clean water. In another location, two different groups with conflicting ideologies fight for the rare working machinery with lots of opinions about human life and where science places a part in preserving or ending life. Kiruko and Maru find betrayal at every turn in every new place that they venture to: some tragedies avoided and some stumbled upon with greater heartbreak.

Tokio and his classmates that he’s grown up with and lived with have and mostly thrived in an isolated facility protecting them from the harsh outside world. But is this place a haven or a testing ground? This part of the narrative leans heavily into ethics and when, in this new world that has risen from the rumble, goes too far with its power and absolutes. As each episode brings us closer to the truth, we learn that the children are special, all have some kind of talent or capability–whether that be a talent for mechanical engineering, foresight, or just being extra flexible and loving physical activity. 


This nursery style facility seems to be raising children–but to what end? To whose benefit and to what goal? Their lives and care push the boundaries for what is proper and what could be against the law; the few adults and robots tasked with protecting these children have agendas that bring up the importance for reasoning and consent. With Tokio, Kona, Mimihime, Shiro, Anzu, and Taka find that there’s more to just surviving as they been to question what and when is too far and too much in the pursuit to save a life? To save mankind? When the narrative introduced a huge reveal regarding Tokio, I love that I started questioning who played God when it came to medical care and what is appropriate for those most vulnerable–minors and children? 

Perhaps what I love most about Tengoku Daimakyou is the coming-of-age approach to growing up and living in a dystopia–it is not a simple one at all. The complexities of puberty and adolescence play a big hand in not just the storytelling but how these characters, the young adults at least, face the world. Kiruko’s backstory with Asakusa, Robin, and Haruki featured a heart-wrenching foundation story wise where Haruki’s feelings of being in the wrong body feels at home in an anime about children and teenagers. Her complicated feelings about womanhood and body dysphoria come across as truly searing as she’s figuring out what life is now, without family as she has to rebuild her life and find purpose. The reveal behind her new start at life is the first big reveal of the series that threw me for a loop and had me scrambling trying to think back on all that I knew about this character and how her traumas were multi-fold.

When I think about Tokio and the gang’s lives, far from Kiruko and Maru, isolated and protected–at a cost for nefarious reasons, I am again lost for words. When I started Tengoku Daimakyou, I thought the place where they lived and studied was a sort of paradise, perhaps to help protect the sanctity of life in a ruined world. A place to raise up the next generation and to keep civilization going, and yet as I kept watching all I could see it as cells in a petri dish, ready to switch out of the experiment to sate curiosity and satisfaction for others. First loves, exploring emotions, and bodies and questioning the outside of the outside all sound like typical wanderings of adolescence. Yet, it is all intensified here in this place where these young adults have a different kind of upbringing. Tokio’s storyline takes a turn in questioning when does childhood end as gender also colors the experiences in this place and a surprising medical checkup shocks the facility. 

Tengoku Daimakyou’s anime adaptation produced by Production I.G. does not disappoint on the visual side that fans have come to love and associate with the animation powerhouse. From the philosophical yet high energy opening sequence (with an aptly named opening song titled, “innocent arrogance”  by BiSH) to the quiet moments of characters attempting to voice the troubling swell of emotions when real life happens, this series can be praised for being a visual treat. I really, really appreciated the smoothness of the action sequences, the dive into the body horror, the emphasis on the dreams and foreboding, and symbolism. As someone who read a few volumes of the manga first before starting the anime adaptation, I really found the attention to detail on the dreams of certain characters a plus to the storytelling that further scenes from the original material and made certain episodes stand out more. Later, more startling scenes are masterfully enhanced or masked in a way that make them a bit more bearable to watch later towards the end of the thirteen episodes slot of anime that we received. 

Tengoku Daimakyou certainly pushes the envelope on adapting a manga with an incredible story about dreams, adolescents, and reality. Moving through all the genres of science fiction, action, and thriller made for a thrilling and damning narrative centering children and young adults pressing forward in a broken world leaning on limited experience, but it was full of heart and huge reveals that challenge viewers thoughts on gender, family–found and blood-,and purpose. This is an anime series that I would recommend watching for those who can stomach the psychological dive into the darkness of the lives of children and teenagers being fodder for adults for their own selfish and nefarious plans. While there is certainly a conversation to be had about the later episodes and if they successfully wrap up this leg of the story or undo most of the foundation of it, the series as a whole is mostly solid. The anime is also an animated offering that serves as a reminder that life can and is manufactured and to what end can those individuals involved break free and create their own realities, their own versions of heaven?

Tengoku Daimakyou , better known in English as Heavenly Delusion is based on manga created by Masakazu Ishiguro, published through Denpa.

You can find Tengoku Daimakyou currently streaming on Hulu for U.S. based watchers.

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  • Carrie McClain is writer, editor and media scholar. Other times she's known as a Starfleet Communications Officer, Comics Auntie, and Golden Saucer Frequenter. Nowadays you can usually find her avoiding Truck-kun and forgetting her magical girl transformation device. She/Her

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