Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms (PG)
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Note: this aired on Toonami in October 2006. I have seen conflicting information as to whether it was released on DVD before the TV premiere, in February 2006, or after it, in February 2007. Over the years I have occasionally wondered whether I should move the review from its original place in my movies section to my TV section, but unless I learn for a certainty that it aired on TV before it came out on DVD, I'm going to keep the review in the movies section. (I probably did know for sure which it was when I first wrote this review, but now I can't remember, and don't really have faith in my own memory or the information on any websites.)
Anyway, it's based on Dark Horse comic books, which I've never read. But I've always kind of felt that Hellboy is a pretty cool character. I guess the movie is meant to share continuity with the live-action movie Hellboy, which came out a couple years before this, and the main characters (Hellboy, Liz, and Abe) are voiced by the same actors that played them in that movie. Anyway, I thought the animation in this film was pretty good, and I loved all the Japanese stuff. And the swearing was fun, but largely I think that was because it's a bit uncommon to hear such stuff on Toonami.
So, I suppose I should describe the movie's plot, a bit. In case you don't know Hellboy's backstory, um... I guess some Nazis opened a portal to Hell in 1944, and they were like trying to get a demon to fight for them or something. A baby demon came through, but he was rescued from the Nazis by the good guys, who raised him in secret and taught him to be a good guy himself. And now he's a part of a covert international organization (the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) that fights supernatural threats. There's also a woman named Liz Sherman who can create and manipulate fire, and an aquatic man named Abe Sapien, and well... plenty of other folks. This movie also has a paranormal researcher named Kate Corrigan and a psychic named Russell Thorne.
It begins with Hellboy, Liz, and Abe on a mission unrelated to the main plot of the movie. But after that, the next scene focuses on Japanese folklore professor named Mitsuyasu Sakai, who finds a scroll and reads the story it contains (which we see dramatized in a simpler, more stylized animation than the movie itself). The story is about ancient demons Thunder and Lightning, and a daimyo who promised to give them his daughter if they'd stop destroying his village or whatever. They agreed, but then a samurai who was in love with the girl fought and defeated the demons, trapping them in the Sword of Storms. The daimyo was angered that he had been dishonored... not that he wanted to give away his daughter to demons, of course, but he had given his word, and now that word had been broken. So he prayed to the gods, who turned the samurai into a statue. After reading the story, Sakai (who is apparently possessed by the spirits of Thunder and Lightning) visits Toshiro Hiramatsu, a collector of antique swords, and tries to steal the Sword of Storms. But he couldn't touch the sword; it was apparently protected by the spirit of the samurai.
Hellboy, Kate, and Russell go to Japan to investigate the crime scene (along with a team of BPRD guys in hazmat suits). At one point, Hellboy picks up the sword, then finds himself in another dimension or whatever; a folklore version of feudal Japan, it seems. He's vaguely guided by an only somewhat helpful kitsune, and begins to learn about the sword and everything. Meanwhile, Kate and Russell continue their investigation in the present, finding Sakai's scroll at his office, and decide to look for him. Liz, Abe, and everyone at BPRD headquarters try to figure out what happened to Hellboy.
And Hellboy continues to encounter various Japanese mythical creatures and whatnot, gets into a bunch of fights, as well as eventually learning how to get home... but at the cost of releasing the demons from the sword, which he doesn't intend to do. In the present, there are storms cropping up around the world, and one of them crashes Liz and Abe's plane, en route to Japan. They survive, and soon encounter a kitsune, who leads them to an old woman, who provides some only somewhat helpful information. (If the demons are released, they'll awaken some dragons, which will destroy the world or something. But she gives no clue how to stop this.) Meanwhile, Sakai sics some Tsukumogami on Kate and Russell. But eventually, Hellboy returns home, fights the demons (who leave Sakai's body), while elsewhere Liz and Abe deal with one of the dragons. And... the demons, predictably enough, are finally defeated, but there's still one other thing that needs taking care of before the day is truly saved. I ain't sayin' what that is, though. I've said too damn much already. But it was a reasonably fun movie.
See also Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron.