If post-apocalyptic stories are your jam, then you might want to check out the new anime dubbed Tengoku Daimakyou (Heavenly Delusion), a post-apocalyptic series that carries the vibes of A Quiet Place and The Last of Us that centers more on human dynamics rather than the monsters that roam the wasteland. With its adult themes, it is a welcome surprise that Disney+ is adding this insane, brutal, but unique offering to its streaming catalog.
Tengoku Daimakyou shows two sets of characters—children being taken care of inside a walled high-tech facility with robots; and outside, a duo of young travelers searching for a place called “Heaven” while fighting bandits and supernatural man-eating monsters called “Hiruko.”
What makes it more fun to watch is that in the first couple of episodes, we are still unsure if both are set in the same timelines and how these two groups of people are connected with each other. Whether the confusing chronology is by design or not, it adds to the intrigue of the mystery of what happened in Japan 15 years ago. I surmise manga readers would probably know the answers ahead but it’s best to stay away from spoilers to fully enjoy the anime.
Being adapted from a seinen manga, Japanese comics aimed at young male adults, Tengoku Daimakyou can be nitpicked for its male gaze. Expect some amount of female nudity in the series and subplots that involve non-consensual acts. It’s better to know ahead of what you’re getting into. While the series involves children and teens, this anime series is not for kids.
The series is also peppered with moments of innocence, especially between the “outside” team of Maru (Gen Sato) and his female bodyguard Kiruko (Sayaka Senbongi). These light-hearted scenes, however, feel like a calm before a storm. Pretty soon, the two would fight tooth and nail to survive.
Sexual tensions also arise between the young protagonists leading to a revelation that one’s gender is mismatched with his/her body. While switcheroos in anime have existed like in Ranma ½ and arguably, Sailor Moon (some say the Sailor Starlights only crossdress), Tengoku Daimakyou explores gender dysmorphia with serious care, and without queerbaiting audiences.
Tengoku Daimakyou is a well-made atmospheric anime, all thanks to the immersive animation by Production I.G., the studio behind Psycho-Pass and Ghost in the Shell. The anime series writer, Makoto Fukami, is no stranger to dystopian anime, having penned the AI-future world of Black Rock Shooter: Dawn Fall. Director Hirotaka Mori of Erased anime fame knows the assignment on how to keep the tone of eeriness and childlike wonder balanced throughout Tengoku Daimakyou.
An intense slow-burn anime, Tengoku Daimakyou deserves a spot on your watch list.
Tengoku Daimakyou has new episodes released every Saturday on Disney+.