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Manga / Shut Hell

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Shut Hell (also known as Shutoheru) is a historical fantasy Seinen manga by Itoh Yu, which ran from 2008 to 2017.

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 nicknamed "Shut Hell", after the Mongolian word for "demon". 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:

  • The Archer: Harabal is known as 'God's Arrow.' Guess why
  • Broken Bird: Veronika is an impressively dark example. After what she has endured, she's cold, empty, eerily serene and dedicated to burning the western land in revenge for Shakira...who would undoubtedly be horrified at the cold shell of herself Veronika has become.
  • Burn the Witch!: Veronika's friend and love interest Shakira was burnt at the stake for being a) a gypsy, b) a herbalist, and c) a lesbian.
  • Bury Your Gays: Shakira, the lesbian gypsy herbalist, is killed rather horrifically in Veronika's flashback.
  • 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.
  • The Dreaded: Everyone shivers when The Khan is mentioned, and for good reason.
  • 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: 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: The main two characters' minds are sent back in time and into bodies of the opposite sex as their original ones.
  • Historical Fiction: Specifically concerning the Song Dynasty, Jin and Western Xia in China.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Moments before his death, Gulshan learns that the man who had just killed him (Harabal) was his grandson.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: 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. She gets better though, somehow through her connection with Sudou.
    • 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.
  • Spell My Name With An S: The heroine's name and thus the very title of the manga. It's supposed to be a nickname given by the Mongols meaning "demon" or "devil". In Japanese it's given as シュトヘル, phonetically "Shutoheru". "Shut Hell" is the scanlation's rendering, but a Japanese manga awards page in English gives it as "Shutohel". In actual (modern) Mongolian, "Demon" is Chêtgêr or Chötgör, spelled Чєтгєр or Чөтгөр in Cyrillic (when capitalized). Given the Japanese rendering as "Shutoheru", it seems the author was going for something like "Chötgêr". So "Shutoheru" could at least be semi-converted as "Shuther", and not written as "Shut Hell" in any case.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Veronika and The Khan are both incredibly fucked up people who think nothing of destroying entire lands to achieve their goals, but the two of them have an extremely strong bond over their awful pasts and their scars. Notable that a sizable chunk of their interactions are the two having sex, which both seem to enjoy.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Nalan