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Hellboy Animated: Sword Of Storms (UK) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000092228
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 20/3/2007 18:04
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    Review of Hellboy Animated: Sword Of Storms

    7 / 10


    Let me begin this review by noting that I have never read the comic book, and never seen the movie. Mike Mignola`s creation has passed me by, and the movie came at a time when the market was being saturated with cinematic superheroes. Having just been burned by Hulk, I decided to give the genre a rest, so despite the Guillermo del Toro movie proving to be a surprise hit, this animation turns out to be my first encounter with the characters. What interests me is the tone of the animation, as it seems that US studios are beginning to move away from the `cartoons are for kids` generalisation. Sword Of Storms promises to be a little more uncompromising in tone and content as indicated by the age rating.

    Those pesky Nazis were always meddling with the occult, and in the dying days of the Second World War, they managed to call forth a demon child, with a stone fist for a right hand. Before they could put their nefarious plan into action, the allied invasion took place, and the good guys got their hands on Hellboy. Raised by his rescuers, he is eventually recruited into the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, where he battles the forces of the occult in an effort to keep the world safe and sound. With him in the fight are Abe Sapien, an amphibious humanoid and Liz Sherman, a human pyrotechnic, among others.

    As Sword Of Storms begins, the forces of darkness are being meddled with once more. Professor Sakai has got his hands on a rare scroll in Japan, one that relates a tragic tale of lost love. It also holds a couple of vengeful spirits, which quickly possess Professor Sakai. Soon he is hunting a mythical sword, which if broken will unleash two terrible demons who will summon a reign of dragons to end the human world. This is a job for the BPRD, and soon Hellboy is on his way to Japan. He`s also quick to find the sword, but it pulls him out of our world into a mystical one where he must relive a past tragic romance. He`s cast in the role of a samurai who defied his daimyo for the love of the daimyo`s daughter. If he isn`t careful, the sword will be broken, and the two demons unleashed to wreak havoc on the world.


    You get a nice clear 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer with no problems beyond the occasional digital banding. The animation is of consistently high quality, with some atmospherically framed scenes and kinetic action sequences. The character and world designs are simple but effective, if a tad generic. It isn`t quite theatrical quality, but is among the better television animations that come out of Hollywood these days.


    You have a choice between DD 5.1 and DD 2.0 English, although there are no subtitles. It is a punchy soundtrack, with good use of surrounds. The action sequences get appropriate placement of effects, and the film`s great dialogue is clear throughout.


    The disc may begin with an Anchor Bay logo, but it is a Manga Entertainment disc in all but name, especially with the typical circular menu design.

    If that isn`t enough, you`ll find trailers for Ghost In The Shell: Innocence, and Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig as well as Karas. Another cross-cultural project to look forward to is the Highlander anime, trailed here.

    This disc is certainly impressive for extra features, beginning with the audio commentary with Mike Mignola, supervising producer/director Tad Stones, and animation director Phil Weinstein. They talk about the story, the making of and the actors, and it is a useful informative track.

    Keepers Of Hellboy is the most prominent featurette, running to 43 minutes. It`s a Q&A session with the animation`s creative team along with the movie`s director Guillermo del Toro (who produced the cartoon). Filmed at the Seattle Comic Convention it provides a detailed look behind the scenes.

    To Hell & Back lasts 10 minutes and looks at how Mike Mignola created Hellboy. There are interviews with the man himself, along with the people he worked with.

    A New Breed lasts 5 minutes and looks at how Hellboy was redesigned for the animation, and how he differs from the comic and movie incarnations.

    View From The Top also lasts 5 minutes and looks specifically at the `heads` sequence from the film.

    Conquering Hellboy: The Actor`s Role lasts 7 minutes and takes us into the recording studio to see the actors at work. There are interviews with Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones and Peri Gilpin among others.

    Then there are four mini featurettes under the heading Hellboy Goes East. These are, Tail Spin, Prop Prefecture, Origins and Samurai Songs. They last around 3 minutes each and look at how Japanese folklore figures in the story, as well as a look at the film`s music as composed by Christopher Drake.

    It`s a decent selection of extra features, enjoyable to watch, although there is a bit of repetition. Unfortunately, just like the main feature, none of the extras are subtitled.


    I enjoyed Hellboy Animated considerably. It`s action packed, with a pleasing story. The characters are rounded, the dialogue is witty and sharp, and the animation is strong and of high quality throughout. It`s much more than the usual superhero cartoon as well, as there is a lot of thought gone into the narrative. It is an interesting plot, and there is also a degree of character development as well. I also appreciated the way Japanese folklore is entwined into the story, it certainly isn`t a token nod to another culture, and with my fascination for all things anime, I found myself charmed by familiar references, among them the trickster fox that guides the characters on their paths.

    This Hellboy animation is also not for children, at least not the littlest of children. There is a scene early on where a zombie gets stabbed in the eye that attests to that. Also with Hellboy`s catchphrase of, "Oh, crap!" there is more than a little mild profanity to be aware of. (The f-word gets a couple of airings in the Keepers Of Hellboy featurette, just in case you are the moral policeman of your household.) It`s nice to see that the animators have had a freer hand when it comes to bringing their story across, and aren`t limited by having to make it toddler friendly. Still, this Hellboy resolutely doesn`t smoke.

    The animation is also greatly enhanced by having the film cast return to reprise their roles. Apparently, while David Hyde Pierce voiced Abe Sapien in the film, the man in the suit was Doug Jones, who voices the character here, and I guess that for fans of the film, the voice cast will provide a degree of continuity. I must admit that I did find Selma Blair`s portrayal to be a little monotone, and she accepts as much in the extras.

    Still, despite the space to breathe and develop because of the long run time, and the more mature sensibilities, the animation stays true to its comic book roots. When all is said and done, the story is typical comic fare, with superhero battles, super powers and a hero/villain vibe to it. The story is never going to transcend that, nor should it, but it does mean that while Sword Of Storms does provide 78 minutes of entertainment, it doesn`t exactly challenge any preconceptions or bring anything new to the genre.

    Sword Of Storms is ideal fare for the tween-age audience. I would have loved this when I was twelve or thirteen. Given my slightly more adult sensibilities, I would have liked it to be even more uncompromising and much darker in tone. There were a few too many primary colours for my liking, and I was left scratching my head wondering just what was so hellish about Hellboy, other than the look. It should still appeal to fans of comic books in general though, as well as its intended younger audience. It also seems that the Hellboy franchise is going from strength to strength, with the second live action film in production, and the second animation, Blood and Iron due later this year. Great stuff if you like this sort of thing.

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