Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms (2006)

For folks that appreciated the subversive artistic style that launched Mike Mignola into stardom, “Sword of Storms” practices a lot of the grit and indie flavor, along with much of what made Del Toro’s films so stellar. There’s even voice work from the original films’ stars including Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt, and Doug Jones, all of whom are about as fun as ever. Directors Phil Weinstein and Tad Stones’ animated movie is set between the live action installments, channeling creator Mike Mignola with dark and often grim animation, with the back drop of an exciting narrative that never trails from its original source material.

Chronicling the further adventures of the B.P.R.D., in “Hellboy: Sword of Storms,” the B.P.R.D. are called out to Japan where they must retrieve an ancient sword that has possessed a folklore expert. The sword has garnered a sentience that is also transforming him into a powerful monster. After a bad skirmish with Mayan zombies, Liz Sherman is struggling to cope with her amazing power that nearly kills her teammate, the fish man known as Abe Sapien.  Focusing on honing her powers, she is forced to cut her training short when the BPRD team is called out to the scene of the possession involving the folklore expert. Oddly enough, Hellboy finds himself warped in another land filled with monsters of all kinds from disembodied heads, and killer spiders, et al.

Confused and forced to fight, he’s anxiously trying to discover what it all means and how he can use it to save the world. Hellboy’s emphases is much more solid this time as he’s intent on helping Liz topple her aggression and solve this mystery of this monster who has wicked plans for Earth. “Sword of Storms” continues to elaborate on the characters we saw in the films, and gives us better more empathetic ideas of where they are in their duties, and how their powers can be burdensome. Much of the film involves Hellboy discovering his environment attempting to outwit the monster who is putting his human subject’s vast knowledge of mythological monsters to use by manifesting them in the environment around him.

The landscapes are fantastic with whimsical tones reminiscent of anime like “Vampire Hunter D,” all the while fans of the film will find an easy flow with this animated sequel and how it meets fans of the films and comics halfway. Cast members Blair and Jones are as great as always with stellar chemistry, with Perlman taking center stage with his excellent turn as the titular character. Hellboy is an exciting character to watch on-screen, and “Sword of Storms” is an entertaining spin off with the character solving crimes, and being more than willing to butt heads with a legendary monster of epic proportions only because, well, it’s fun.