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Entry updated 4 December 2023. Tagged: Film.

Japanese animated film (2008; original title Heruzu Enjueruzu; vt Hell's Angels). Madhouse. Based on the Manga Hells Angels by Sin'Ichi Hiromoto. Directed by Yoshiki Yamakawa. Written by Kazuyuki Fudeyasu and Yoshiki Yamakawa. Voice cast includes Chō, Keiji Fujiwara, Misato Fukuen, Daisuke Kishio, Miyuki Sawashiro and Fumihiko Tachiki. 118 minutes. Colour.

Rushing to her first day at a new school, Linne Amagane (Fukuen) saves a cat – whose face bears the Yin and Yang icon – but is then hit by a lorry. She continues to school accompanied by the cat, oblivious to the landscape's shift from Japanese City to something considerably more gothic. The school's teachers and pupils are demons (see Gods and Demons) – the latter including a Mummy, a Vampire, a Werewolf and a Witch, who are – like most of the prominent students – female and sexy (see Fan Service), they are also, apparently, embodiments of the seven deadly sins. The headmaster is a giant, red-skinned Elvis Presley lookalike named Helvis (Tachiki), who tells Linne she is dead (see Eschatology) and now attends the River Styx Academy in Destinyland (see Education in SF), located in Hell – with graduation the only means of leaving: "Study, baby!" Linne's attempts to befriend her classmates are largely rebuffed; but one, the initially silent Stealer (Sawashiro), responds and is protective towards her. Though relatively small, Stealer's appearance – patchwork, with screws projecting from her body – recalls the title character in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

Linne learns from the seemingly sympathetic President of the Student Council, Ryu Kutou (Kishio), that Helvis founded the Academy and is "the first murderer of mankind" – Cain. Later she meets God (Chō) – a small, bespectacled man with a G on his forehead, who had been the cat she rescued (see Shapeshifters); when she wonders why he is in Hell, he responds, "Don't you all say 'God is dead'?" He explains that Ryu is Abel, whose madness was imprisoned by Helvis in a giant pulsating mass; it is now freed by Linne and returns to Ryu, who declares, "I'll become my true self!" God explains that Ryu brought Linne to the Academy because she is the reincarnation of his mother, Eve. Adam (Fujiwara) now turns up (see Adam and Eve); like the audience, Linne is confused.

Ryu has an ambitious plan, having created Stealer with the power of Nothingness to destroy all souls and put an end to Reincarnation: he now activates her. Hell transforms into a vast funnel shaped pit, sending its inhabitants toppling down its side towards Stealer – positioned like an ant-lion at its base – to be absorbed by her and cease to exist. But Stealer has been touched by Linne's kindness and no longer wishes to be darkness, instead returning everyone to Hell. In fact, though, Hell does not really exist but is in Abel's mind; when a panda demon asks "but don't the dead usually go to Heaven or Hell?", God replies "Why do people accept being put in Hell? Because Abel has nurtured such images through Religion and art".

There is now a battle between negative thoughts, channelled by Abel into the now giant seven deadly sins, and positive thoughts, expressed by Hell's citizens after a pep-talk from Linne (much is made of her positivity). However, the battle is decided by Stealer's sacrifice: the negative energy is consolidated into a giant sphere which she destroys, at the cost of transforming herself into a slender but towering dead tree that resembles a crucifix. The Academy is rebuilt beneath the tree and Helvis announces that Linne has graduated: everyone weeps as she ascends from Hell, awaking in a hospital bed, her adventures forgotten. But later, rushing again to start her first day at school, we see the inhabitants of the Academy as humans in the city and Linne rescues a child from an oncoming truck; she knows her name is Stealer. Full of happiness, the pair walk to school together.

The makers appear to have jammed as much as possible of the source manga's story into this Anime, resulting in a cluttered plot. The backstory seems to involve Abel creating Destinyland – which is either located in, or is, Hell – as part of a plan to have revenge on his brother; but Cain defeated him, removing his madness (and thus most of his power), then created the Academy so that Destinyland's inhabitants would have a chance of leaving Hell by graduating. Having Abel as the villain and Cain largely sympathetic is an interesting twist. The relationship between the setting of Hells and Christianity is somewhat loose, incorporating other religions and Mythologies.

The establishing of the bond between Linne and Speaker is rushed although it should be the film's emotional core; this, despite the other problems, is probably its main weakness, since it hamstrings the power of Speaker's sacrifice and Linne's distress. Fortunately the animation is often excellent: raw, imaginative and stylistically varied, with much Humour, Horror and surrealism (see Absurdist SF). Hells is a striking and memorable – but flawed – film, with Speaker an iconic character. [SP]


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