Love in Hell, Vol. 1

By Reiji Suzumaru. Released in Japan as “Jigokuren” by Futabasha, serialized in the online magazine Web comic High!. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

Everyone discusses how difficult it is to write comedy, and the same applies to the person who is trying to review it. One person’s subtle satire is another’s amazingly offensive insult, and one person’s tasteless bodily function joke is another’s “BUT FARTING IS HILARIOUS!”. There are almost as many types of humor in the world as there are people, and sadly I am only allowed to use my own here. So I have to note that Love in Hell just didn’t quite gel for me, despite an interesting premise. Indeed, the author came up with the premise and setting first, which shows, as I think it’s a lot more fleshed out than the characters.


The use of Hell here is interesting. It seems throughout the volume like your typical city, only with suffering and pain added to every equation. You need to get jobs, earn money, etc. But the way you earn money is by, well, atoning for your sins. Usually in the form of having your head chopped off, being boiled to death, etc. Being hell it’s quite nonlethal, but the pain hurts the same. In fact, we’re even told at one point that this is one of the nicer bits of hell, and we see a hole that goes down to a lower level where they keep the adulterers and murderers.

Our hero is not an adulterer or murderer, and indeed is somewhat surprised to find that he’s in hell, as he can’t quite think what he did that was bad enough. He seems to be fairly shiftless and thoughtless throughout, but by the end of the volume we’re not quite sure how he ended up here either. Rintaro is nice enough so that you’re rooting for him in the book, but he’s not really possessed of any good virtues because… well, he needs to be someone who’s believably sent to hell. He’s just a dumb manga romantic comedy schmuck, only here instead of getting punched into the sky Love Hina-style, he gets maimed and brutalized.

The girl on the cover, our heroine, is Kiyori. Like the hero, she comes from a certain ‘cliched romantic comedy manga’ background: easily embarrassed, neophyte who’s trying hard but bad things keep happening to her. The first bad thing that happens to her in Rintaro, as her promotion prospects are tied to him actually putting in repentance time in hell, and so far it’s not going well. We also have him walking in on her naked, and seeing she pads her bra, something which didn’t need hell to be one of the oldest manga cliches.

In the end, while the premise is interesting, and there’s promise of a more serious plot in the 2nd volume, the characters simply didn’t grab me enough to make this rise above ‘serviceable’. I smiled a couple of times, and I’m sure the couple will eventually be cute and moe (there’s only 3 volumes, so this shouldn’t get too drawn out). I wonder if it wouldn’t have been funnier in a 4-koma style. As it is, though, Rintaro and Koyori just can’t quite manage to carry this title on their backs.

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  1. The one thing that concerns me is the Mangaka said he (in so many words) had the idea in his mind for a long time so it could end up being a well-built world but again the characters could be underdeveloped since these where not his original idea for the series not to mention at only three volumes the characterization may never get any better.

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