A medium long anime movie (50 minutes) released as one of the programs of 'Toei Manga Festival', and screened with a live-action film "Kamen Rider vs. Ambassador Hell" and others.
A near-future Sci-Fi mecha action film featuring four cyborg dogs. An original story based on the concept from Hiroshi Sasagawa's manga "Maken Goro" (serialized in the magazine "Weekly Shonen King" in 1963).
A boy named Tsutomu and four cyborg dogs (Queen, Ace, Jack and Joker who coalesce and transform into the spaceship "Liner") fight against aggression by insect-type aliens from the Planet Devil.
Directed by Takeshi Tamiya. Music by Takeo Yamashita.
Hellhound Liner 0011 Transform! is a 1972 Toei film that attacks the viewer with a cacophony of intense jazz, psychedelic colours, insane plot, stimulating futuristic designs, and good old fashioned alien destruction. In other words, it's a 50 minute anime movie produced to cater to hyperactive young Japanese teens released in the middle of summer, giving parents everywhere headaches to boot no doubt (it should be noted that it aired as the pre-movie to Kamen Rider vs Ambassador Hell).
The story of Hellhound Liner 0011 Transform! is out of this world (literally at points). Our hero, young boy Tsutomu, finds himself battling for the earth against
an invading force of buglike aliens, with the help of 4 cyborg dogs crafted by his soon assassinated father. Even this seemingly eccentric short synopsis does not belie the true demented complicity found within. The story is based upon a Weekly Shonen King manga Hiroshi Sasagawa's 'Maken Goro', an interesting point as Weekly Shonen King, while running for a whole 25 years, had little content of quality, yet was one of the main magazines in distribution. This use of a second rate manga as origination of the narrative may explain why the plot is of such a interestingly strange quality, yet thoroughly homogeneous in its use of standard shonen conventions. Yugo serikawa, usually a director, in collaboration with Tsuji Masaki, wrote the script while Takeshi Tamiya directed.
The artwork is the half of the appeal of this series. Early work by Fumihiro Uchikawa was the keystone to the successful utilisation of a strong but varied palette of colours, helped by colourists Kubota Yasuyo and Kazuko Yoshimura. Art direction is by Tadanao Tsuji, who also worked on Devilman and Mazinger Z in the same year- which explains the relative Go Nagai taste Hellhound often exudes pictorially. Not only are we treated to truly imaginative interpretations of bug aliens, the opening sequence compellingly depicts the internal anatomies of each monster, giving a real feel of authenticity to them which undoubtedly makes their portrayal more effective to the (mainly juvenile) audience. The actual quality of animation is quite high, Toei employing its usual technique of a raft of animators [34 in Hellhound's case], spearheaded by animation director Akira Daikuhara who had just found his niche since cutting his teeth with Remi and Hans Andersen's Tales.
The music of Hellhound, as mentioned, is jazz. Rather free form, relatively skat, it's acid jazz. This is done by Takeo Yamashita, who did actually work on the Super Jetter film and television series before this. Voice acting is quite competent, though mostly ham-acting stereotypes. Kyoko Satomi as Tsutomu is effective even with her high pitched voice.
The characters, as mentioned, are stereotypes. We have our shonen hero Tsutomu, his genius father scientist fated to be killed and exiled by a society who should have accepted him, and we have our [talking] cyborg dogs- the mother has a calm detached matriarchal demeanour, and the dog called 'joker', well unsurprisingly, is comic relief.
Overall, Hellhound is actually a pretty hard-hitting little movie. It portrays multiple deaths, though from the outset we know our hero Tsutomu will come out victorious. Thus it comes across very much as a product of its times; with its eclectic aesthetic style for assuaging the teenage audience discovering the manga-zine scene, its portrayal of a future rife with cold war fears such as aliens, the portrayal of Tsutomu being simplistic- a rally against the anti-morality of protagonists the last sixties generated.
It's a fun, though full on and tiring, film. Very much enjoyable as a childrens film, like most of Toei's work, it's perhaps at times a bit simple. But it entertains, effectively.