In a strange twist of fate, a normal high school girl ends up descending into hell. It is now up to her and her new found allies to find a way out.
Hells takes Judeo-Christian tradition and turns it on its head. Much of the interesting aspects of Hells comes from the fact that it takes some of the most well known stories of the Bible and asks the question What would happen if we where to change the story just a bit? Also, aside from taking interesting risks with established religious lore; it also sports some of the most edgy and beautiful animation, a likeable lead heroine, and some of the most edge-of-your seat action to every be animated.
So why don't I love this film? I just... like it.
But before that question is answered, it is important to discuss what is awesome about this anime, so I will take a shot at singing its praises. First of all, as stated before, the animation in Hells is a jagged mess of a beauty. What do I mean by that? Well, a lot of the artistry looks as if it was all done by pencil, as if a sketch was drawn and then someone decided to splash some color on it. But not just any color, the kind of color that can be felt in an almost visceral way. Every frame, visual, action, and backdrop, exudes copious amounts of energy that can only be expressed with animation. Hells takes this concept and then ramps it up to eleven. The character designs are 'pointy' with plenty of rough edges in regards to faces and body types. Imagine if an anime film met up with someone who was part of the cubist artistic movement and you will get the idea. Kind of. On the technical side of things, there are very few things out there like Hells.
The characters are also more fun than a barrel of monkeys and with enough spoofs to add to said fun. With characters such as a white jumpsuit-wearing devil with a pompadoured hairdo named Hellvis, and a ugly Minnie Mouse look-a-like; Hells has the spoofs and gags for all your slapstick needs.
The leading Lady, Linne Amegame, is a refreshing lead. On one side of this character's spectrum lies a ubiquitous anime high school girl - bright, bubbly, and optimistic. However, Linne is no Pollyanna. She is also strong willed, caring, and full of spunk. Maybe a little too perfect in some ways. While she is refreshing, she is also a bit of a Mary-Sue archetype, and this is where her flaw as a character comes in. It is hard to relate to a character that may be going through a struggle, but contains few qualities which make her seem human and less of a symbol of purity, strength, and virtual perfection.
Story wise, Hells fiddles about with the doctrine of inferno. At first glance, the story and set up may seem like a carbon copy of other zany anime such as Dead Leaves and FLCL. Yes, and no. Dead Leaves was kinetic and vibrant, but the story was practically non-existent. FLCL had a plot and the same high octane animation, but the story required more mental digging. Hells, on the other hand, is colorful and zippy, but the story was more easy to follow and actually takes some very interesting twists with the aforementioned religious tones.
That is, until the third half of the film comes into motion. This is where the 'I-want-to-love-it-but-just-like-it syndrome comes into play.
The third half is where this promising anime feature film falls flat on its face, and there are two particular strikes that this movie has against it which prevents me from falling in love with it. Number one involves the fact that it overstays its welcome. The film is already two hours long, and the plot is simple enough where it could have been told in about ninety minutes or less. Whereas the first two parts of the film seems to breeze about with fast-paced ease, the third half just meanders. I found myself enjoying the film less and less as time marched forward, and becoming more and more of a fidgeting mess.
Second strike -- and it is, unfortunately, a large one -- involves a forced and hokey moral message of perseverance and hope. For a fun film about hell, and one girl's struggle through its diabolical catacombs, this anime sure took its time to 'preach' a message of how one should never give up. "Never give up on your dreams!" "You can do anything if you put your mind to it!" became nothing but bromides after having to hear them over and over again. I will not spoil anything concerning the ending, but oh boy will your eyes go on a rolling tangent.
I for one was disappointed in an otherwise promising effort. If the film was either edited to reduce run time, or focused more of the zany fun of this zany view of hell, I would have potentially found myself 'loving' this unique flick.
Three strong stars to a viscerally visual anime of endless energy; complete with a likeable lead, fun secondary characters, and an interesting spin on western religion. There is nothing quite like Hells. That is until the third section of the film where it loses a lot of its steam with a contrived moral message, and wearing out of its welcome. If you can look past the aforementioned flaws, than add a star. — Dallas Marshall
Recommended Audience: Some bloody violence, light nudity, and A LOT of in-your-face action make this movie more appropriate for the teens in the crowd. Ages thirteen and older.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital Source.
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Hells © 2008 Madhouse Studio, Hells Production Committee
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