Hell Baby Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: C
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Blast Books
  • MSRP: 10.95
  • Pages: 160
  • ISBN: 0922233128
  • Size: N/A
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Hell Baby Vol. #01

By Josephine Fortune     December 12, 2005
Release Date: April 01, 1995

Hell Baby Vol.#01
© Blast Books

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hideshi Hino
Translated by:Hiroo Yamagata
Adapted by:

What They Say
From one of Japan's most accomplished artists comes this new graphic novel, the unsettling saga of twin sisters born on a dark and stormy night in Tokyo: one normal, and one a demon baby with a taste for blood - a Hell Baby. Tossed into a garbage dump, Hell Baby dies in the plastic bag but is brought back to life by an unworldly bolt of lightning. Hell Baby develops hard-earned hunting techniques to survive life among the wild animals who roam the garbage dump. After struggling along for seven years, she seeks revenge for her fate and returns to the city, where she applies her hunting skills for survival - this time against the good citizens of Tokyo. Replete with Hino's trademark black humor and unflinching imagery, Hell Baby is a classic horror tour de force.

The Review
Poor baby.

This is one of two Hideshi Hino titles published by Blast Books in the early 1990s. Other than maybe one or two Suehiro Maruo titles that are harder to find, I don't know of any other manga series they've done, and I'm guessing what they did publish is out of print at this point. I found mine on half.com, which is a first for me... I never buy from anyone other than the Right Stuf. Looks like I might be mistaken though, Blast Books has a very bare bones website where they provide you with address information where you may send away for their books if you wish.

The cover does something unique. The book is printed right-to-left, but I'm guessing so it didn't confuse or stand out in a time when manga was flipped, the cover was put on the book so it appears to be left-to-right... basically, backwards. There are notes about it included on the front and back pages, but it's kind of weird and I'm not sure that I like it... but then again, it IS unflipped, so I'll take what I can get. The front cover features a very simple colorized illustration of the Hell Baby taken from within the manga, I have no idea if it was the original cover or not. The title is treated in a fairly simple fatigued-looking yellow font centered large above the illustration, with Hideshi Hino's name printed in tiny red type below the Hell Baby's hand on the left side. There are red bars running down the right and left sides of the cover. It's nothing flashy or modern, but I don't mind the simple front cover for the simple story. The back cover, on the other hand, is pretty unattractive. It's red with a teal triangle cutting diagonally through the center with yellow text printed on top. No illustrations whatsoever, the text fills pretty much the entire cover, and where the background changes from teal to red, it's hard to read the yellow text.

As for extras, I really wasn't looking for any here, and I wasn't disappointed. There's a brief biography in the back on Hideshi Hino, essentially the same one which appears in Panorama of Hell and gives that tale some context. Other than that, we get a page that lists some information on Blast Books and two notes that appear at the beginning and end that let you know about the book orientation.

The translation was pretty okay. There weren't any grammar or spelling errors that I remember, and while it read much more stiffly than I would have liked, that could've just been the work itself and had nothing to do with the translator. Not that there's all that much text to translate or dialogue to be stiff, but still. The sound effects were left intact with a translation nearby, which I appreciated, but the translation just wasn't meant to go on anything except a black or white background, and when it appears on top of a texture, there's a clear black or white box around the English text, which is sort of sloppy and unfortunate.

I'm actually not that big a fan of Hideshi Hino's artwork. I hate how cartoonish it is, but on the other hand, he can draw some pretty disturbing stuff with those cartoonish people. It really depends on the volume sometimes. Here I actually didn't mind the cartoony art so much since it was a story about babies and young children, and while disturbing and violent things happened, the style seemed suited to the age group of the children, and somehow it seemed really appropriate. All his people are very lumpy, round, and cartoony, and often, the creatures (such as the Hell Baby) will have a roughly rectangular or football-shaped head because of their bug eyes. It's also very flat, and he uses a lot of ink and hatching instead of screentone, which I appreciate. Somehow, with his cartoonish style, the acts of violence never seem as gory or gratuitous as they should. You simply aren't as offended by a rotting corpse dropping maggots as you would be with many other renditions of such subject matter. While I would like it to be as disgusting as possible, there's also something extremely adorable and funny about the cartoon people getting dismembered sometimes.

On a dark and stormy night, a proud father is given the news that his wife has delivered twin baby girls. While this news should come as a joy to all concerned, unfortunately one of the babies was... different. She was born disfigured, with her eyes open and with tiny fangs filling her mouth, and even her cries are abnormal. Her father, too terrified to raise such a child or even tell his wife the truth about the second twin, simply throws the baby in a garbage bag and deposits it at a garbage dump known as the World's Graveyard. The baby dies alone in the dump, but mysterious spirits and lightning bring it back to life, and the rotting corpse is made whole again. As a baby, it is not fast enough to catch any of the other animals, and they also will not come near her, so she must sustain herself on muddy water, rotting carrion, and maggots she digs from the ground. As she grows, she must learn to hunt for herself since the maggots will eat her from the inside out if she deprives her body of nutrients, and she eventually becomes Queen of the World's Graveyard. One day, an old woman appears to her in the form of the mysterious spirits and tells her to go to the city and take revenge on the humans who threw her away because she was ugly. Then the slaughter of men, women, children, and pets begins, and the Hell Baby will not stop until she's had revenge.

I was so shocked when I found out the existence of Blast Books, a manga publisher I hadn't heard of in my eight years of collecting, that I went ahead and ordered their two Hideshi Hino titles from Amazon. I was also quite excited because they were horror manga, very rare things indeed. This is the one that arrived first, and I'll admit up front I was very disappointed with it. It's a one-shot that focuses entirely on the story of the Hell Baby, and the story itself winds up being so cliche that it can only be a genre parody. There's the cheesy opening, where you can tell by the characters faces and the dramatic storm setting that the second baby is an outcast monster before you even see her. She grows up in the wild, then seeks revenge on the society that turned its back on her. It gets very gory once the Hell Baby gets into the city, and the one thing it does do very well is show character reactions to the girl. Faces of people that are shown before she tears them to shreds is what made the comic entertaining for me, as they would have the most comical looks of abject cartoon terror on their faces, and it was impossible not to be at least a little amused. And it is these cartoon people that lead me to believe that Hino was entirely aware that the story is, in fact, a parody. I respect the fact that he did the facial expression and a lot of needlessly violent things like dismemberment and fountains of blood, because it was quite funny, but I'm generally very picky about parody, and expect something to go much farther and to do much more to make me laugh. And even keeping in mind that it was a genre parody, I still really hated the ending, because it was nothing like how I imagined the volume finishing, and felt really out-of-character to me. It twists around and goes completely against expectations, and while that can sometimes be a good thing, here I really didn't enjoy it. One thing I did wind up liking about it was the style in which the story was told. There is very little speaking, and the Hell Baby herself almost doesn't talk, only shrieks, so there's a lot of narrative told with either narration or just image. I found it to be kind of nice and a good change of pace since most series are so dialogue-heavy. While I suppose this volume has enough black humor and gratuitous violence to warrant the purchase, it was neither a horror comic nor a decent enough parody for me.

There's not much to speak of as far as characters go. We follow and only get perspective of basically the Hell Baby, who functions on base instincts and not much else. We don't learn much about her other than she's very feral and she also has some feelings of either attachment or anguish when it comes to maternal figures, and that comes back into the story later. Other characters are shown or mentioned briefly, but only to play their part in the story and exit. It wasn't written to be character-driven, and basically accomplishes what it sets out to do without the use of elaborate, deep characters.

The name Hideshi Hino is probably enough to make me buy any manga, because he's done plenty enough twisted stories to keep me coming back. This was something of a disappointment though, and though I enjoyed some parts of it, it just missed the mark for me. I don't feel like I can wholeheartedly recommend it really, but if you're looking for some black humor, or an old series, or a series you didn't even know existed, you might want to check it out.


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