Manga: Shut Hell

Shut Hell (also known as Shuto Heru, or more accurately Shutohel) is an ongoing Seinen manga by Itoh Yu.

The story opens in present-day Japan, where a boy called Sudou is plagued with vivid recurring dreams of a battle in which a young woman and her comrades defend their doomed fortress. While meeting friends, Sudou is approached by Suzuki, an apparently shy and quiet schoolgirl who has sought him out for some reason. Sudou's family made musical instruments, and when Suzuki visits his apartment she feels compelled to play one he made. As she plays, Sudou is mystically transported to a faraway land, where he awakes to find he is now in the body of a woman named "Shut Hell". In the place of Suzuki is Yurul, a young Mongol prince who has come to rescue Shut Hell, from the gallows.

From there, Sudou is treated to an explanation of what led to this.

It is the beginning of the 13th century, in what is now North-western China. Genghis Khan has united the Mongol clans, and sent his forces to attack the territory of Western Xia (here called the Tangut Empire). Sudou learns that the dreams he had been having were of Shut Hell's memories: Once a simple Tangut soldier nicknamed "Little Sparrow", she was the sole survivor of a fortress massacred by forces led by Yurul's brother Harabal. Though she came close to death several times, she found in herself a supernatural strength. Driven by vengeance, she became feared by the Mongols as "the Evil One" for how she mercilessly and brutally slaughtered them.

On the other side of things, Yurul fled his tribe in an attempt to preserve a vital collection of jade tablets containing Tangut writings, known as the 'Voice of Jade'. Knowing that Harabal will follow him and give her a chance to kill him, Shut Hell accompanies Yurul as he flees, and the two establish a strange connection.

This series has examples of:

  • Burn the Witch!: Veronika's friend Shakira was burnt at the stake for being a) a gypsy, b) a herbalist, and c) a lesbian.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: In spite of the story's rough art, Itoh Yu manages to impressively keep very different designs for all characters. One can distinguish all the different characters by looks alone, even those who never have speaking lines or are named in-universe. This includes random mooks who wear the same uniforms, making it even more impressive.
  • Doomed Hometown: It isn't probably isn't actually the heroine's hometown (we don't really know), but all the same the fortress she and her comrades defended has the makings of the trope: Her friends are killed there, she seems to be the only survivor, and it starts off her epic journey.
  • Dream Sequence: The story starts with one, but in truth it's Sudou seeing Shut Hell's memories as Little Sparrow.
  • Due to the Dead: The reason Yurul goes to get Shut Hell's body, after her execution - to at least hold a proper funeral for her.
  • Exotic Eye Designs: The Khan and his children's eyes have concentric circles between the pupil and the iris. It's pretty damn eerie.
  • First Episode Resurrection: A variation - not only did Sudou's connection with the supernatural precede the resurrection, but it is Shut Hell who comes back from the dead, not he himself.
  • Flash Back: Most of the story through the first few volumes is told through an extended flashback.
  • Friend or Idol Decision: Played with. After he fails to prevent Shut Hell's execution, Yurul is accused by Harabal of choosing his 'nice words' over Shut Hell's life, as he might have been able to save her if he had actually killed anyone.
  • Foregone Conclusion/How We Got Here: The first three volumes are mostly flashbacks to explain how Shut Hell died, so we know from chapter 1 that she ends up hanged, without managing to kill Harabal, and that Yurul is guaranteed to survive until the flashback ends.
  • Gender Bender: Not that it really invokes any of the genre's tropes, just that the two characters' genders are the opposite of what they used to be.
  • Genre-Busting: It's an action/adventure Historical Fiction manga which also features a Reincarnation Friendship by way of Mental Time Travel as a major plot point. And as mentioned, a result of the reincarnation is a Gender Bender, but it's barely paid any attention.
  • Historical Fiction: Specifically concerning the Song Dynasty, Jin and Western Xia in China.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Shut Hell and Yurul. Shut Hell is among the strongest characters in the series, a berserker warrior bent on revenge. Yurul is a Non-Action Guy whose skills are focused on the scholarly, like music and calligraphy.
  • Mook Horror Show: It's not easy to be a mook in this series. The sheer brutality of multiple characters killing mooks in their way is practically a spectacle.
  • Public Execution/Dead Guy on Display: Shut Hell's execution via hanging. As mentioned, a few volumes of the story lead to explaining how she got there in the first place.
    • Shoot the Rope: Yurul attempts this with his bow, but Harabal notes that he'd be able to save Shut Hell more easily if he'd actually shoot the people pulling the rope.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: Harabal's fight with Gulshan ends up on top of the burning Academy's roof. Fittingly, it ends up being a close match for both of them.
  • Trapped in Another World/Mental Time Travel: It becomes apparent that this is what Sudou is doing in the past, in Shut Hell's body. Worse, if he doesn't stay there and protect Yurul, Suzuki and the Tangut language will disappear forever.