Hello, my friends! 2019 has its share of anniversaries and the fine folks of Dark Horse Comics are celebrating a milestone with our featured property. In honor of its franchise reaching its 25th Anniversary, it’s time for me to shed some light on Red’s ventures within the small screen as I share a special two-part analysis called…
After making his proper debut in 1994 within the pages of his inaugural storyline called “Seed Of Destruction”, our favorite fighting devil wouldn’t make his big-screen debut until ten years later when famed Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro helmed his first Hellboy movie and loosely adapted said comic arc in it. It was a moderate success, grossing slightly less that $100 million on a $66 million budget and soon, a sequel to that film had begun its planning. During the four-year period between both live-action ventures (in which Revolution Studios saw the distribution rights go from Columbia Pictures to Universal Studios), a pair of animated movies were made, which is where we’re going to focus on. For this entry, we begin our journey with a venture called…
Making its debut on October 28, 2006 on Cartoon Network, it would eventually get its DVD release on February 6, 2007. Phil Weinstein would direct, Tad Stones would serve as supervising director & co-write the story alongside Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and pen the screenplay with Matt Wayne. Not only that, but Mignola and Del Toro were involved as Creative Producers. Believe it or not, it was actually nominated for an Emmy. As crazy as that sounds, it was in contention for the title of “Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or More)” at the 59th Emmy Awards, but lost out to the Camp Lazlo special “Where’s Lazlo?”. Anyway, what kind of supernatural crisis will our familiar trinity be forced to weather through? Well, let’s prepare for the otherworldly and find out.
We open on a brief introduction on how our titular hero came to Earth in the first place. In 1944, he was inadvertently summoned into our world in order to “wage war”. Fortunately, he was brought into an Allied Army where he would ultimately be taught his noble virtues. Those “scientists and researchers” within the group would go on to form the Bureau for Paranormal Research & Defense (B.P.R.D.) in order to protect the world from the supernaturally sinister and the evil oddities of the occult.
Following the opening title sequence, we truly begin within the depths of a Mayan temple as a pair of B.P.R.D. agents named Abraham “Abe” Sapien (voiced by Doug Jones) and Elizabeth “Liz” Sherman (voiced by Selma Blair) swim inside in order to investigate. After navigating through the slimy corridors, they ultimately arrive in the central chamber where they discover the cruel fate of another fellow comrade named Agent Hamilton.
Just then, Abe accidentally steps on a particular floor panel which activates and opens up several compartments containing mummified soldiers. He and Liz manage to arm themselves in defense, but their adversaries don’t even budge.
After coming across the statue of a giant bat, they hear a loud rumble as they once again raise their guns in defense. Just as Sherman wonders where their fellow comrade is, he suddenly bursts in while fighting the giant bat and thus signaling the arrival of Anung un Rama a.k.a. Hellboy (voiced by Ron Perlman).
Abe and Liz fire back at the giant bat, but he ultimately runs out of bullets and gets pinned down as a result. Fortunately, Hellboy jumps back into the fray and fights the massive beast. Unfortunately, it manages to summon the undead army as they come to life and begin to pursue our agents.
While Sapien and Sherman fend off the fighting corpses, Hellboy manages to ground his otherworldly adversary by ripping off the bat statue’s head and throw it right towards the creature. Despite a successful hit, it’s still able to rapidly move about. Fortunately, Anung is able to pummel the being with his signature Right Hand of Doom.
Meanwhile, Abe and Liz are getting overwhelmed by the undead soldiers. As such, she uses her pyrokinesis to incinerate the mummified foes. Afterwards, she then focuses her attack on the giant bat as it gets consumed by her flames and withers into bones. With their enemies defeated, Abe tells her to stop. However, she’s unable to comply. As such, Hellboy steps in and gets her to calm down as she brings her personal inferno to an end.
We then cut over to a personal office where Prof. Mitsuyasu Sakai (voiced by Paul Nakauchi) arrives and unwraps a package to reveal a Japanese box. After discovering an ancient scroll within it, he decides to check out what’s written upon it. He reads about the “Brothers of the Dragon” named Thunder and Lightning, two powerful entities who brought their wrath upon the land that was run by a Daimyō (a Japanese feudal lord).
Overwhelmed by the overly-powerful demons, the Daimyō asked them to cease their attack. As payment, he would give them the one thing he cherished most of all: his daughter. Unbeknownst to Thunder and Lightning, the Daimyō also had a samurai under his servitude who also deeply-cared for her as well.
Knowing of her father’s intent of sacrificing her to a pair of otherworldly beings, the samurai hid her within the sanctity of a shrine and promised to return once the conflict ended. From there, he confronts Thunder and Lightning as he proceeds to engage them in lethal combat.
The battle would rage as the two brothers unleashed their wrath upon the samurai. As he continues to read the tale, Thunder & Lightning suddenly attack Prof. Sakai and manage to take possession of him. Afterwards, they let him return to the scroll and finish the initial tale.
The samurai wielded an enchanted katana called the Sword of Storms as he manages to plunge his blade into the foul beings and trap them within it for all eternity. Despite helping him get rid of the weather-controlling demons, the Daimyō was angry due to his promise towards those monsters getting shattered. Afterwards, the samurai headed towards the shrine in order to pick up the fair lady so that they can run off together.
Because his own warrior had unintentionally left a sense of dishonor upon him, the Daimyō would call upon the gods and ask for retribution. As such, a curse was placed upon the samurai as he ended up getting encased in stone, thus bringing the tale to an end.
Later, Sakai makes his way over to the humble abode of Toshiro Hiramatsu who collects antique swords. Just as he’s about to present one of the many blades within his set, he suddenly finds the professor walking over to a particular case and reveals that he’s currently possessed. It turns out that Toshiro has the Sword of Storms within his collection as Sakai uses a newfound ability to shatter the display case in order to claim the famed weapon. However, the katana is under the protection of the samurai’s spirit as it proceeds to fend him off.
We then cut to a B.P.R.D. helicopter as our three heroes are flying back to base. Despite the successful mission, Elizabeth is upset with herself for the lack of self-control over her power. Hellboy and Abe assure her that they weren’t badly harmed by her flames, but she expresses the difficulty that she has when using her pyrokinesis on a larger scale. She even wishes that the bureau would lock her up, since she feels like “a monster”. Afterwards, her fellow compatriots laugh at her ironic statement as Hellboy assures her that the world still needs them since they’re still “good guys”.
Afterwards, they arrive back at B.P.R.D. headquarters where they’re met upon by Katherine “Kate” Corrigan (voiced by Roz Doyle herself, Peri Gilpin), a professor who’s recently returned from a supernatural studies trip in Prague. She then informs our heroes about a brand new mission that’s popped up. While Abe and Liz head inside to recoup, Kate enlists Hellboy for their upcoming assignment in Japan.
We then cut to sometime later at Hiramatsu’s home where a group of B.P.R.D. agents are hard at work with their investigation. One of those particular members is Russell Thorn (voiced by Mitchell Whitfield), the team’s resident psychic who proceeds to mentally scan the room. Meanwhile, Toshiro gives Kate a disc containing recent footage from his security cameras. As she looks over the video and comes across Mitsuyasu Sakai, she informs Hellboy that she previously met him in a past conference. Afterwards, she reaches a crucial part of the security footage and zooms in to discover that the good professor has become possessed.
Just then, a minor struggle breaks out between Thorn and Hiramatsu as they look to wrangle an antique sword out of each other’s grasp, causing Kate to step in and break it up.
Meanwhile, Hellboy proceeds to look around the room when he suddenly sees a fox sitting next to a sword. He gets distracted for just one moment before looking back to discover that the animal has disappeared. From there, he picks up the blade (which turns out to be the Sword of Storms) before he’s suddenly teleported to another dimension. As he sees the fox and proceeds to follow it into the forest, Kate suddenly notices that Hellboy has vanished.
After a short stroll, the fox displays its ability to dissolve itself before appearing in front of Anung himself. It turns out that this supernatural being is Kitsune (voiced by Gwendoline Yeo) as Hellboy asks her why he’s been brought here. However, all she tells him is that he wields the Sword of Storms and that it has slained many demons in the past. From there, she transforms into a series of floating fire balls and guides him towards an abandoned shrine.
It turns out that this was the same building from the tale that hid the beautiful daughter as her ghost form weeps for her beloved before vanishing. Hellboy heads inside before he’s confronted by the ghostly young lady who asks him why he never came back. Obviously, he’s befuddled by her statement. During a flashback, she explains that she was hidden here until the demons were slayed, thus freeing her from her father’s promise to those supernatural monsters and allowing her to flee with her samurai boyfriend. However, her dad arrived having already been stripped of his honor due to Thunder and Lightning’s defeat. From there, he proceeds to kill his own daughter as a response.
After she vanishes again, Anung heads out as Kitsune tells him to guard the sword and head East before taking her leave.
Back in the main reality, Kate contacts B.P.R.D. headquarters and informs them about Hellboy’s sudden disappearance. Over at the bureau, Liz and Abe oversee their fellow agents as they all learn that there’s no technical malfunctions of any kind with their global scanners, but Hellboy’s tracker has vanished. Afterwards, Kate informs her fellow agents that Prof. Sakai’s research into Japan’s supernatural side has led him on a dangerous path involving the collection of various artifacts. Just then, she notices a scroll on the desk as she informs Russell about a ritual that’s hidden “in the prose”. Within the tale of the samurai’s defeat over Thunder and Lightning, the two otherworldly beings were destined to bring their brothers known as “The Dragons” into our world. She then connects this to the security footage as she tells Thorn that Mitsuyasu has been possessed into helping the two spiritual demons escape from the Sword of Storms.
Meanwhile, the possessed Sakai is hanging out in an alley before he’s discovered by a restaurant cook who was taking out the trash. He tells the disheveled man to get out, but Mitsuyasu ends up summoning some lightning as he manages to chase the cook away before he begins to set his plan in motion.
Back in the alternate dimension, Hellboy continues on his trek before he comes across three separate paths. Unsure of which direction to go, he decides to sleep and wait for sunlight before resuming his quest. After a while, he’s woken up by a elderly man who pokes him with his walking stick and says that it’s not safe for him to doze off there. After getting offered a place to rest back at the man’s house, Hellboy decides to go along as he proceeds to follow the individual.
They ultimately arrive at his home where the guy is already playing host to a few other guests. After listening in on a bizarre story, Hellboy gets shown to his room where he proceeds to rest.
Just then, he wakes up after hearing a swooshing sound as he arms himself for potential danger. When he reaches the central room, he discovers the upright bodies of his fellow occupants but without their heads. After noticing that there’s no bloodied remains, he decides to tie them to a stone lantern and proceeds to throw it into the lake.
As Hellboy walks through the woods, he suddenly hears a nearby commotion. He proceeds to listen in on the disembodied floating heads (known in Japanese folklore as “Nukekubi”) who plan to devour their guest before retrieving the Sword of Storms in order to free Thunder & Lightning. Just then, one of their fellow hovering craniums tells the group that their bodies have disappeared along with their visitor. As such, light proceeds to shine from their eyes as they head out to find our hero. However, Hellboy isn’t interested in hiding as he proceeds to fight back.
A struggle ensues as the heads bite all over him and demand to know where he’s hid their bodies. After a while, the sun proceeds to rise as they end up incinerated in the morning glow before Hellboy heads out. Back in the main reality, the possessed Sakai is mad that his first plan failed.
Over at B.P.R.D. headquarters, Abe & Liz are informed by the head agent that they’ve suddenly picked up “tectonic anomalies” that aren’t near any fault lines. As she worries for Kate’s safety due to Hellboy’s disappearance, Sherman tells Sapien that they’ve got to get to Japan. Back in the alleyway, the possessed Sakai sets up his next plan.
Meanwhile in the alternate reality, Hellboy is walking though a forest where its trees have already shed its leaves. Just then, he comes across a woman playing music upon a instrument known as a Koto who offers him to relax and listen to her song. However, he declines and heads on his way. Suddenly, the colorful mood fades away as he notices that the musical strings have becomes soaked in blood.
Things get even worse when Hellboy suddenly notices that he’s become entrapped within some webbing as he gets pulled upward by a group of spiders. Not only that, but several more arachnids manage to take the Sword of Storms from Anung.
The woman then reveals her true form as it turns out that she’s a Jorōgumo before allowing her “children” to begin their vicious eating upon him. Fortunately, Hellboy manages to break free and retrieve the Sword of Storms before getting chased by the otherworldly arachnid.
She tries to shoot green fire from her mouth in her attempt to stop him, but she’s ultimately foiled by the thick trees of the forest as Hellboy uses his opportunity to escape.
Despite another plan getting foiled, the possessed Sakai notices the sound of a familiar plane taking off and thus decides to alter his scheme.
On said plane that’s bound for Japan, the pilots learn that there’s an impassable storm on their flight plan. Despite that, they decide to soar above it in order to continue on their way as Abe rejoins Liz. Meanwhile, the possessed Sakai proceeds to unleash the storm’s wrath upon the aircraft.
The pilots try to maneuver their way around the terrible tempest, but the plane ultimately gets struck by lightning as the aviators get horribly shocked and an engine gets damaged. As such, the aircraft plummets into the ocean and sinks towards a rock bottomed grave.
Fortunately, Abe regains his consciousness as he unbuckles himself and swims over to Liz. Unfortunately for her, she’s not able to unfasten her seat belt as she finds herself running out of air. Fortunately, Sapien is able to provide mouth-to-mouth support and transfer clean air into her before ripping her free. As they swim towards the surface, Abraham gives her one last batch of fresh air before they ultimately get topside, but not before they notice the ocean floor starting to open up as tentacles begins to emerge from the fissure.
They manage to reach a rocky spit of land before noticing that the undersea creature is on its way as Abe says that they must get away from the shoreline, but Liz tells him that there’s hardly any inner land for them to get to.
Back in the other dimension, Hellboy makes his way to a lush riverside where he comes across a man tossing cucumbers into the water. After Anung approaches him, the guy tells him that he’s already lost several of his family members. As such, he carves out the names of his surviving kin onto the fruity vegetable and tosses it into the river in order for the Kappa to leave them alone for an entire year.
Just then, the titular monster grabs Hellboy by his tail and drags him into the water. An underwater struggle ensues as the aquatic beast grabs the Sword of Storms, but Anung is able to quickly reclaim it before getting topside. From there, the two sides clash as the river carries them over a series of waterfalls before they reach the shallows.
At that moment, the elderly man tells Hellboy to “spill his water”. He notices the dish upon the beast’s head and finally sees how to take the fiend out. From there, the Kappa leaps towards our hero. Fortunately, Anung starts to beat the beast up and toss it towards land, even preventing its attempts to return to the river. Afterwards, Hellboy grabs the Kappa by its legs and proceeds to shake its bodily water out through its head. As it starts to shrivel up, the man informs our hero that it’s able to answer his questions since he emerged victorious. As such, Anung demands to know why the Sword of Storms is important, to which the dying beast says that “it holds the demons” and that it can also get him back to his dimension. If he breaks the blade, then he can go home. However, it would also mean that Thunder and Lightning would be freed as well. Before our hero can ask how he can stop the two beings, the Kappa completely shrivels up as Hellboy gives the deceased being to the man and heads out.
Back in reality, Abe and Liz manage to find a cave on the rocky island in order to shelter themselves from the pouring rain. She then proceeds to thank him for helping her escape a watery grave, to which Abe hilariously admits that he “burped” excess air into her lungs and that it was an ability that he wasn’t entirely sure of. Just then, Sapien is contacted by headquarters as a fellow agent hears about their rocky landing. He then informs our agents that a U.S. submarine is within striking distance and he’ll get the undersea crew to pick them up. Sherman then asks if there’s been any further seismic anomalies, to which she and Abraham learn that more have popped up, including the one they just saw. She then tells their comrade to have Tom Manning send heavily-armed agents towards the tectonic events since there could be “weird crap” nearby.
Afterwards, they notice the familiar fox Kitsune as it proceeds to lead them to a particular cave before subtly disappearing. They venture inside before coming across an otherworldly realm where an elderly lady informs them that their “friend” is safe.
Afterwards, she informs them that two demonic “sons of the storm” called Thunder and Lightning are looking to enter their world. Even though their spirits have already begun to seep though, the severe squalls are only the beginning. She then warns them that once the otherworldly beings reach their realm, they’ll summon their brothers called “The Dragons” and it would bring about apocalyptic dread upon the world. As seen in various parts of the globe, more supernatural seismic activity is stirring as vicious tentacles and beings are emerging from beneath the surface.
Back in the other dimension, Hellboy is venturing through a foggy bamboo forest before he comes across a small group of giggling women who calmly ask him to relinquish the Sword of Storms. The three ladies then reveal themselves to be Rokurokubi as they stretch their necks out to impossible lengths and proceed to wrap around Anung as they continue their demand for him to shatter the fabled blade. He gets himself free, but is ultimately forced off of a nearby cliff as he stumbles his way onto the ground. Afterwards, the scene ends with him discovering an abandoned graveyard.
We then have a quick scene at B.P.R.D. headquarters as the agents discuss about the recent paranormal activities from around the world. However, they’ve been unable to contact Sherman for the past half-hour.
Back with her and Abe, the elderly lady tells them that they have their own challenge to face. The nearby dragon isn’t fully-awaken yet, but they can’t allow it to meet its fellow brothers. When Liz tries to ask her how they can take it down, she and the surrounding realm vanish instead as they proceed to head out.
Back at Sakai’s office, Kate is trying to get Russell to use his psychic power in order to located the possessed professor. He manages to locate their subject, but mentions that he’s “too close”. Right outside the building, Sakai is standing nearby with some objects that he’s about to use.
Suddenly, Kate and Russell hear a noise as she peaks out into the hall to investigate. She suddenly finds a pair of sandals that come to life and follow her into the office. Soon, other sentient objects head inside as well as Kate recognizes them as Tsukumogami. They start out as playful with Russell deciding to dance with them, but they end up becoming mischievous beings as they attack our agents with the majority of the Tsukumogami swarming Russell while the scarf wraps itself around Kate’s mouth and causes her to pass out from a lack of oxygen.
Back in the alternate dimension, Hellboy continues to stroll through the cemetery before he once again comes across the ghostly daughter who continues to weep. Kitsune also appears and informs him that she’ll wait forever “until the unfinished business is settled”, to which Anung knows that it involves slaying Thunder & Lightning. Kitsune then informs him that the necessary players are present for the ultimate “play” to once again commence. As Hellboy knows that he can’t break the sword since it’ll release the demons from their imprisonment, he tries asking the fox how he can get out. However, the scene ends with Kitsune disappearing once again.
Back in reality, Abe in doing some undersea reconnaissance before he’s discovered by a shark. Just before our aquatic agent gets attacked, the subversive dragon grabs the shark with its tentacles and proceeds to eat it up while Sapien manages to escape back to the rocky island. He informs Liz that their adversarial creature is massive and that their resources are very slim outside of her fire-based ability. As such, Abraham decides to head into the water and lure the being out.
However, he doesn’t have to search too far as he and Sherman are forced into hiding by the arrival of their underseas dragon.
Meanwhile, the possessed Sakai sets the stage for the final part of his plan. Back in the otherworldly dimension, Hellboy is met upon by a giant skeleton (known as a Gashadokuro) that emerges from the ground and proceeds to attack him.
As it drags its fingers across the dirt, it manages to open up several chasms with various ghouls and zombies emerging as Hellboy manages to fend them off before he’s forced to run for his life.
The chase makes its way to a small bridge before he gets surrounded on both sides. He tries to use the Sword of Storms and fight back, but he ends up getting swarmed by the undead beings.
Back on the main plane of reality, Liz proceeds to use her pyrokinesis on the underseas dragon. It manages to head back under the water to cool off before re-emerging to fight back, but Sherman is unwilling to yield as she cranks up her flames for another go-around.
Over at Sakai’s office, Kate and Russell have finally managed to defeat the Tsukumogami before he uses his psychic power to find the possessed professor. He manages to locate their target heading right for the same shrine from the tale as Sakai walks past the stoned samurai.
Back in the otherworldly dimension, Hellboy manages to fight off the various ghouls before the possessed Sakai sends in one gigantic beast (called an Oni) to deal with our hero. Not only that, but it’s also armed with a broken blade.
Anung proceeds to run into the foggy landscape before he ultimately takes out the Sword of Storms in order to engage the being. A sword fight ensues as they swap strikes for a bit before Hellboy starts to turn the battle in his favor. Using a key block with his Right Hand of Doom, he manages to slash the Oni’s leg as it stumbles back onto the ground.
Afterwards, Anung leaps in to finish it off. However, the being managed to trick our hero as it vanishes while he strikes the stoned samurai and accidentally breaks the blade. As blood proceeds to pour out of the shattered sword, Hellboy sees reality setting in around him as he finds himself back in his own dimension.
As he notices that he’s in Japan, he’s met upon by Kate who’s relieved to see him once again. Just as Russell manages to catch up, our group sees the broken Sword of Storms as blood continues to pour from it before they’re met upon by the possessed Sakai.
With the task complete, Thunder & Lightning relinquish their hold over the professor and emerge onto the world once again while Sakai is reverted back into his regular form.
Back with Abe and Liz, she continues to assault the underseas dragon with her pyrokinesis as her flames have become too hot for even water to cool off.
Over in Japan, Thunder & Lightning proceed to create an ever-growing thunderstorm before they prepare to head out and awaken their “brothers”. Fortunately, Hellboy gets their attention as they find little in their foe to be afraid of. From there, Anung engages them in a climatic battle.
Meanwhile, Kate and Russell manage to get Mitsuyasu over to the shrine before he regains consciousness. Back on the battleground, Hellboy has engaged Thunder in combat before he takes possession of its hammer and tosses it into the building, hilariously telling the demon to go after his weapon.
From there, Anung is able to focus his attention upon Lightning as they struggle for a while before Thunder rejoins the battle. Though Hellboy does his best to hold his own, Lightning’s electric prowess is proving to be too much for him to handle.
Back on the rocky island, Liz continues to exert her ever-growing flames upon the underseas dragon. It attempts to gain an advantage as it captures Abe and tries to eat him, but Sherman ramps up her flames and proceeds to incinerate it from the inside out as it’s ultimately forced to retreat back underwater.
Over in Japan, Hellboy continues to get pummeled by both Thunder and Lightning. Just as they’re about to finish him off, Anung manages to grab the shattered Sword of Storms and stab the broken blades into the beings as they end up trapped inside once again and the storm cloud manages to dissipate.
Back with Abe and Liz, they’re being pursued by the underseas dragon as it looks to enact its wrath upon it. Fortunately, Thunder & Lightning’s defeat is felt across the Pacific as it gets sucked into the water and back into the crevasse from which it came.
Meanwhile, Hellboy’s job isn’t completed yet since the ghostly daughter has now taken possession of Kate as Kitsune informs him that “the play has begun” with him realizing that this is becoming a recreation of the moment in time when the samurai wasn’t able to arrive and save his beloved from her father’s dishonored wrath. With the Daimyō taking possession of Russell and looking to repeat his grim slaying, Anung chucks the stoned samurai towards his general area. The statue shatters and knocks out Russell, thus freeing him from the Daimyō’s control. In a surprising moment, it turns out that this freed the samurai’s spirit from his eternal imprisonment as he’s able to reunite with his one true love. However, the Daimyō still isn’t willing to let this stand as he prepares his sword for a slaying strike. Fortunately, Hellboy steps in and tells him to forgive them so that this vicious cycle can finally end. As such, the Daimyō finds it within himself to offer sympathy for the samurai and allows him to be with his daughter.
After their souls proceed to depart, our group starts to head out in order to have some breakfast. From there, Hellboy looks back at the shrine as the elderly lady winks her approval to him before revealing herself as the fox Kitsune. And so, the film ends with her disappearing as Anung heads out to rejoin his fellow agents.
With our plot synopsis out of the way, let’s head into my character analysis and kick things off with ol’ Red himself: Hellboy. For this tale, he’s somewhat of a reluctant hero since two key figures (Kate & Kitsune) are the ones who place him in his situation. Though the latter does somewhat guide him throughout his venture, he’s still on his own for the majority of the film as he fights various creatures from Japanese myth. As such, he’s most likely content with looking for a way back to his original dimension without accidentally releasing Thunder & Lightning. Of course, that doesn’t happen since we wouldn’t have a climatic fight in the end. Because of his good-natured upbringing within the B.P.R.D., he’s still willing to get the job done with no questions asked. Throughout various points of his quest, his enemies either look to steal the Sword of Storms from him or either convince him to smash it. Between this and and how Hellboy ultimately ends up on his journey, I feel like some character arc could have been forged here where his Earthly lessons of humanity gets tested due to him being in adulthood and that the situations he faces are more complex than what he was used to facing in his younger years. If it somehow parellels with the heroic samurai in some way, then that would have been interesting. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still fun to watch throughout and Ron Perlman continues to be a joy listening to in his signature superheroic role. He’s still a good reason to check this out, even if he doesn’t have much of a character arc here.
Next in line, we have our resident aquatic: Abe Sapien. Throughout the majority of the film, he’s paired up with Elizabeth and serves as a straight-man of sorts to her. He has his moments of wit and he does display some unique aquatic talents at certain moments, but he and Sherman are mainly separated from their main comrade after arriving back from the opening mission. Sure, he does help out Liz at several moments throughout the movie and Doug Jones gets to finally voice the character that he actually played in ’04 (who was dubbed by an uncredited David Hyde Pierce a.k.a. Dr. Niles Crane, another Frasier connection to this property, yea) in order to turn in a nice performance, but it’s ultimately Liz who takes out the underseas dragon with her fire powers. Because of his physique, I’m sure that he’s more of the tactician and brains of the group. Also, the gigantic size of his otherworldly adversary would mean that their wouldn’t be too much for him to do. As a result, there’s only so much he gets to work with for this outing.
Now, we move onto our our lovely flame in Elizabeth Sherman. It was an interesting choice to make this version of the character appear to be in her late teens/early twenties, thus making Hellboy more of a teammate and a mentor to her. Throughout the film, she mentions about how much she’s able to control her own power. She mentions how she’s able to handle it on a small scale, but bigger situations are more tricky for her. At first glance, I didn’t feel like this was paid off in some grand way. The more I ponder on it though, I guess it comes into play when she’s fighting off the underseas dragon and tries to ignite it. From the looks of it, I assume that it’s able to partially resist her flames for so long before she pushes her own limits and saves Abe from getting eaten does she manage to finally break through. At the time that I’m writing this review, I haven’t seen the animated follow-up so maybe this character trait will be further explored next time. Either way, she does grow a bit more confident following this venture. Just like her live-action portrayals, Selma Blair is also a delight to hear throughout even though she’s voicing a younger version of herself. The tone in her voice was never a distraction and she delivers some nice wit of her own, not to mention that she was a good representation for superheroines in film for this outing. I look forward to seeing her in the next film.
Briefly, let’s get into Kate Corrigan. When I was preparing to see the newest Hellboy movie (a.k.a. the Neil Marshall-directed, R-Rated venture with David Harbour in the title role) by brushing up on its source material, I had no idea that there was another notable woman within the B.P.R.D., though the 2019 flick did give us Sasha Lane’s Alice Monaghan. Upon finally getting into this entry, we do get a woman who’s mainly competent throughout and does display some command in order to get the job done while in Japan. While she’s spunky and caring towards Hellboy, she mainly displays her hard-edged determination when she’s alone with Russell. It’s understandable that given whom the final foes are that they would be way out of her punching weight if she ever decided to take them on. Because she’s mostly separated from our three main heroes, she doesn’t get too much to do. Thankfully, she’s in the follow-up so maybe this problem will be rectified there. Either way, it was nice to hear Peri Gilpin in the role since she still did a good job with what she was given.
Going from our heroes to an unintended pawn, we have Mitsuyasu Sakai. He’s established as a professor of Japanese folklore, so his vast studies have culminated in this unfortunate circumstance being thrusted upon him. During the few moments when we see him under his own control, he’s good-natured, caring and somewhat soft-spoken. However, there’s not much to say about him since he’s under Thunder & Lightning’s control throughout the majority of the film. He is essential to the plot, but he’s ultimately a minor character who’s forced into playing a major role for our antagonists. Apparently, this character was named after Stan Sakai, the guy who created the anthropomorphic ronin rabbit Miyamoto Usagi from Usagi Yojimbo. Nice! To wrap up my thoughts on this character, I initially didn’t know that it was Paul Nakauchi who voiced Prof. Sakai. While he is among the many voice actors who took part in this, he’s in the group of people listed under “Additional Voices”. Thankfully, a superhero connection helped me link up with his identity. It turns out Nakauchi would go on to voice Wong in “Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme” and a little experiment which had me play certain scenes from both films with both characters helped me pick him out. Either way, I’m glad that I could pick him out and have the world wide web bring some more recognition to this wondrous man.
Finally, let’s get to our main villains: Thunder & Lightning. Just like Dormammu, they’re an omnipresent terror that’s greatly limited while imprisoned and can only offer minor influences to the outside world in order for certain pieces to come together so that their escape can happen. They’re not the deepest of foes, since they’re essentially demons that can create thunderstorms and emit certain degrees of electrical attacks. Still, their voices give them some personality in their evilness. While Dee Bradley Baker is credited as Lightning (in addition with the Kappa and as one of the airplane pilots), it’s not really known who voiced Thunder since the true identity is buried among the several people listed under “Additional Voices”. Either way, they’re able to make some noise during the climax and present a competent level of villainy.
The plot was easy to follow and it moves at a decent clip, allowing our main agents to have their moments to shine throughout. It’s far from the deepest of tales, yet it’s a bit understandable given when it came out. After all, this was between Sam Raimi’s inaugural Spider-Man (2002) and the one-two punch of Iron Man & The Dark Knight (2008) when more comic book properties were given a chance with having their own movie. It was an experimental time and Del Toro’s first film with the character leans more towards the successful (even though it wasn’t a runaway success financially), thus why we have this movie and its follow-up. Getting back to analyzing the present narrative, it’s straightforward enough so that it won’t confuse its audience. It weaves Japanese folklore into its narrative in a pleasant way, though most entities (outside of the Kappa and the Tsukumogami) aren’t named. Thankfully, I was able to look up the rest of the mythical monsters and find out what they were called. I guess that kind of detail wasn’t entirely important since Thunder & Lightning are the main baddies while the creatures were looking to help them out, but it was a tiny form of ignorance that partially bugged me. Despite that, one particular scene actually came from a good source. When Hellboy ultimately confronts the Nukekubi, it’s essentially an adaptation of an actual short story that Mignola himself worked on called “Heads” (originally included in the 1998 one-shot called “Abe Sapien: Drums of the Dead”). With that food-for-thought out of that way, let’s focus on what else the story had to offer. Because the titular weapon also serves as our main plot device, it makes Hellboy a target for all supernatural entities from the land of the Rising Sun. Though the Japanese creatures look to help Thunder & Lightning escape from their sharp imprisonment, it also gets used to take care of those demons in the end. It’s one of the better uses of a plot device since the villains aren’t in need of it. However, I wish that a strong theme was pulsating throughout the narrative since I couldn’t find one during the movie. There was a sense of honor that I detected between the samurai and the Daimyō. Had a parallel between those two figures and Hellboy existed, then a stronger narrative could have emerged. Despite that, the plot itself is coupled with some good things around it. In addition to likable characters backed by pleasantly good performances, the animation is mainly solid overall. While there are a few stutter-ish moments, its mainly fluent throughout and supports the color scheme (no matter how bright or dark it gets). I only noticed one moment of unfinished animation and it’s when Thunder & Lightning have finally returned. As Sakai is let go and falls over, it seems like he doesn’t fall completely to the ground. It’s a bit brief, but it’s there. Other than that, there’s hardly much to complain about the film’s fluidity.
Overall, this is entertaining flick that’s light on themes but exciting with its action. The characters are likable, the animation is mainly good throughout and the fights have their thrilling moments. While the story is only basic at best without any powerful themes pulsating throughout the narrative, it’s still an entertaining venture for teenagers and above (due to some mile cursing) and it’s still a must-watch for Hellboy fans, comic book fans, those who love Del Toro’s live-action entries and for those who’re keen on Japanese folklore. Even though this isn’t Red’s finest outing outside of the comics, he’s still able to hold his own and give an honorable good time to all.
Next Time: Now that the Land of the Rising Sun is through with its own terrors, it’s time for B.P.R.D.’s finest to delve into some classic supernatural horror. What grave threat awaits them within this setup? See for yourself as we delve into “Hellboy: Blood & Iron”.
Hellboy (created by Mike Mignola) is owned by Dark Horse Comics.