Monday, September 12, 2011

Hell Baby

Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Horror (Best of the Rest)
Contains: Hell Baby (Kyofu Zigoku-shojo) (Original Graphic Novel)
Year: 1989 (Original); 1995 (Translation)
Publisher: Blast Books (Translation)
Writer: Hideshi Hino
Artist: Hideshi Hino

Hey guys!  Back already!

With staying up half the night last night to finish reading and blog on "Terry and the Pirates", I might have two entries here dated September 12th!  Ah, well...  That's OK.  You faithful had a bit of a wait between the previous two entries.  And while we're on the subject: anyone who counts themselves among the faithful readers of this blog, I THANK YOU!

I know that my dear brother Andrew (who does a film blog which was a major inspiration for this blog at always leaves comments on things and Mr. Mike McLarty just tonight showed me a little retweet love on Twitter. (By the way all you comics nuts should follow Mike if you're on Twitter, he's @MrDystopia.)

I thank and respect you both.  If anyone else is out there and wants to comment, whether you love or hate, wanna praise or curse, or just get ANYTHING off your chest about the reviews here, PLEASE COMMENT! 

We won't bite, we promise. (*shudders at the thought that someone may be saying to themselves, "Hey... Your BLOG bites, pally..."*)


Hell Baby...

It's a dark and stormy night...  Only we're not crouching over Snoopy's typewriter, we're at a hospital in Tokyo.  As rain pounds the window and lightning sporadically lights an office, a doctor tells a young father that his twin daughters have been born.  As the doc leads the new daddy through the eerily dimly-lit rooms, he says, "As you can see, your first-born is perfectly normal..." 

But the doctor struggles for words as he leads Dad into the room where the second daughter lay.  You see, she's not "perfectly normal".  She's...  Well...  Take a look below.

As you can see, she's pretty grotesque. 

Fearing for his family's honor, the father decides to keep the beautiful normal twin girl and asks the doctor to lie to his wife and everyone else about the existence of the hideous second child.  He then ties it up in a garbage bag, takes it to the local dump, and pitches it next to a heap of trash.

The vengeful journey of Hell Baby begins...

Here we have the first bit of manga on the blog and I was anxious to get into some of that, having read a little before, but not enough to have any working knowledge of it.  This book had to be read backwards and right to left.  I dug that.  Some of the original Japanese characters were still there and simply had English translations next to them.  I thought that this helped maintain the authenticity and feel of the work.

The story itself was a bit strange. 

Sometimes we had four or five panelled pages with very artful prose, almost as though we were reading an illustrated poem.  There were beautiful, meaningful panels here and there that left me staring, seeing perhaps something of a transcendant image, despite Hino's visceral art style.

But sometimes Hino embraced the gore.  Limbs and heads went flying, blood splashed walls, fluids of dead animals were supped upon...  He certainly picked some places where he didn't pull the punches.

As a whole, though, in my opinion, the whole thing was a bit slow.

I suppose we could view Hell Baby's journey as an extended metaphor for life, some of us being born viewed as ugly by unwanting parents, tossed into the garbage dump of existence, clawing our way through the dump and struggling on...  Even then, this would fail to excuse the relatively slow pacing of the plot.

There really were some touching, humorous, and shocking parts in this little book and Hino's art is like nothing I've ever seen before (even in my limited other readings of manga), which is cool.  But taking this one, sitting with it and visualizing it as it plays out leads to little more than the entertainment value of a B-rate horror film.  And remember, those can be LOTS of fun, but would you showcase them among the films that changed your life?

Hell Baby is a unique work with its own atmosphere, but by the time I get to novel 100 of this thing, I'll probably strain to remember any real impact it made on me. 

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 3 out of 5
My rating: 2 out of 5
7 down, 493 to go


  1. This actually sounded really cool, but a "2 out of 5" doesn't sound too promising. Oh well, can't win 'em all. Good stuff dude!

  2. Yeah... It wasn't TERRIBLE...

    When I sat down and tried to rationalize giving it three stars, which would have indicated "average", I just couldn't do it.

    I think too much of my time was wasted in the first half of the book where not enough happened. (You might see what I mean, were you to read it. I realize you haven't, but giving you my reasoning.)

    Thanks for the constant commenting, bro. It means the world. :)