It seems like quite a few quirky series have found a home on Prime Video over the last few years, as the streaming service owned by Amazon attempts to set itself apart from the others. Prime Video has made it its job to provide viewers with quality sci-fi and fantasy shows, both animated and live-action, with series such as Good Omens, The Legend of Vox Machina, and Invincible, just to name a few. So the moment that I received screeners in my inbox for Hazbin Hotel, I knew I was likely in for a good time.
Created by Vivienne “VivizePop” Medrano, the adult musical series began its journey as a pilot on YouTube, through her animation studio SpindeHorse Toons and funds from Patreon. Now Hazbin Hotel has found a second life on Prime Video, in collaboration with A24 (known for films such as The Iron Claw and Everything Everywhere All at Once). An eight-episode first season for Hazbin Hotel begins on January 19, with a second season is already in production. With an interesting premise and graphics to match, should this new series be your next streaming obsession? Or is it just another run-of-the-mill animated series for adults?
[Warning: light spoilers and impressions from Hazbin Hotel are below!]
Charlie looks for redemption in Hell in Hazbin Hotel
Life is not easy for Charlie Morningstar (Erika Henningsen) when Hazbin Hotel begins. As the princess of Hell and the daughter of Lucifer, Charlie is stuck in a hellscape (no pun intended) and a broken cycle. Every year, Charlie watches the angels of heaven conduct a purge of Hell, as punishment and to keep the population down.
Why exactly is Heaven punishing Hell? For Lucifer’s action in paradise, tempting Eve with a bite of the forbidden fruit. As a result, Heaven rains fury down on those living in Hell year after year, meaning that those who survive have to rebuild and therefore can never thrive in their surroundings.
Charlie has had enough, as the purge is too much for her to handle. She has a plan, one that promises change for both Heaven and Hell. Her dream is to open up a hotel that will specialize in rehabilitating souls in Hell, redeeming them from the fiery pits of her home, and sending them to paradise in the sky. Lofty goals for the princess of Hell, but Charlie won’t be doing it by herself. She has an eccentric group of Hell dwellers that are there to help run the hotel, although how well is another question.
Serving as Charlie’s right-hand woman is Vaggie (Stephanie Beatriz), her girlfriend and also the manager of the hotel. At times, Vaggie is moody compared to Charlie’s bubbly personality, but she is always supportive of her girlfriend’s wild dreams of helping the souls of hell.
Joining them is also Angel Dust (Blake Roman), an adult film star who is as vulgar as is hilarious. Angel Dust also happens to be one of the first recruits for the Hazbin Hotel, which Angel Dust seems rather annoyed about.
As well, there’s Alastor (Amir Talai), a Radio Demon who has made a few enemies in hell and is using the hotel as a sanctuary. Together, this group of misfits are looking to make history, although it won’t be an easy task, as no one in Heaven or Hell seems happy with the happenings of the Hazbin Hotel. Can they change one soul from bad to redeemed? You’ll have to check out the series to find out.
The positives and negatives of Prime Video’s newest adult animated series
The concept of an adult animated musical series had me intrigued from the get-go, as I haven’t quite heard of a combination like that before. Written on paper, it sounds like a lot is going on, some of which doesn’t feel like it would work well together. Thankfully, Hazbin Hotel not only works, but it excels in the niche in which it exists.
Comedy-wise, the series reminds me a lot of Harley Quinn or Family Guy, where the jokes are on the cruder side. There are more sex jokes than I can count; however, I’m a child on the best of days, so I laughed like a madman at every single one. Low-bar humor is something that appeals to me, I know that it’s not for everyone. I’m the only one in my family who can watch a series like Family Guy or South Park and enjoy the jokes.
I would say that Hazbin Hotel falls in rather nicely among these animated powerhouses; however, this Prime Video series has something that many other adult animated series lack. No, I’m not talking about the singing (although I’m a big fan of that as well), but season 1 has a ton of heart that oozes off the screen. Medrano has developed a show that shows how important having hope in a hopeless place is.
Charlie and her ragtag bunch of miscreants care so incredibly about their mission and will go to any lengths to complete it. Sure, things go wrong, and they are a little rough around the edges, but their tenacity makes you grin from ear to ear.
If you’ve been following along to all of my Broadway coverage, then you know I’m a big fan of musicals. So having a music element to Hazbin Hotel added something else to the series that sets it apart from other shows. The music tended to be upbeat, reminiscent of Disney music, although you wouldn’t hear these songs in a children’s film. A few were so catchy that I found myself humming the tune long after I finished the episode.
For those who don’t like musicals, don’t worry. Each episode has just one or two songs, they aren’t musicals from start to finish. Plus, the catchiness of the tunes makes up for any issues.
The animation is similar to the Nickelodeon series Invader Zim, a thought I had before learning that the series might have been an inspiration for Medrano when developing the original idea. The characters are very angular, giving them a rough aesthetic that fits in well with Hell. However, while they may be all limbs and points, the characters move fluidly and not in a disjointed awkward way. I loved the mix of design from my childhood with the advancements and sleek aesthetic of more modern-day animated series.
The voice cast is exceptional, adding to the strength of the series. There are a few stand-outs among the bunch, with Stephanie Beatriz and Erika Henningsen being stars in their own right in Hazbin Hotel. Henningsen brings a light-hearted energy to Charlie, which was exciting to see from such an unlikely character such as the princess of Hell.
Beatriz plays a similar role to her Brooklyn 99 character, which was one that she excelled in the live-action comedy. Together, these two bring a charm to the show that elevates it from basic to spectacular.
Joining them as a highlight is Angel Dust, voiced by Blake Roman. Angel Dust is incredibly multidimensional and unfolds across the first five episodes. Many times, Roman’s demon serves as comedic relief, however as you begin to learn more about Angel Dust’s background, there’s a sadness behind the sex jokes and smile. Roman does this role justice in so many ways, and, along with the two other stars, is a huge draw for Hazbin Hotel.
I loved that this series also gives the LGBTQ+ population some nice representation, with the main couple being of the same sex. It was refreshing to see them start the series already together, not making their relationship or coming out a big plot point. Instead, it’s normalized in the respect that these two can just be in their relationship, which is something more shows should do. Our sexuality doesn’t need to be the entire story to be an important part of our story.
Final thoughts and singing the praises of Hazbin Hotel
When I was asked to review Hazbin Hotel, I was expecting another mediocre animated show. However, this new series is so much more than mediocre, it’s excellent in almost every sense of the word. The story is interesting, using something many are familiar with, but adding another layer to it.
The voice acting is strong as is the singing, which adds to the exciting story and interesting animation style, making this show a complete win in my book. If you’re looking for your newest obsession, you don’t have to look any further.
Hazbin Hotel begins its first season on Prime Video on January 19. Let us know on social media @Mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on checking this series out.