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Hellsing Review

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There’s never a good priest around when you need one is there?

Genre: Vampire Action Horror
Director: Yasunori Urata
Distributor: Pioneer Animation
Duration: 25 minutes approx per episode with 13 episodes total
Production Creation: 2002

Plot Synopsis

Based on the popular manga, serialised in Japanese magazine Young King Ours, the Hellsing organisation is a long running operation that defends the British Isles and her majesty from the threat of the undead. The leader of the organisation, Integra Wingates Hellsing, is a determined and driven woman, fixated on the destruction of the impure undead.

Ironically, through a special connection with Integra, an extremely powerful vampire known as Alucard, is in the employ of the Hellsing organisation. With powers far beyond the comprehension of man or vampire, Alucard is an unstoppable force, determined to rid the world of those undead he considers to be inferior or impure.

One night, Seras Victoria a member of London’s special police squad D11, is fatally wounded during a confrontation between Alucard and a vampire. Alucard offers her the choice to die or to become a vampire. Realising that she doesn’t want to die, Victoria chooses to join the ranks of the undead. Struggling to control her newfound bloodlust and maintain what shreds of humanity remain, Victoria Seras must now deal with what she has become, and learn what she can from her powerful new master.

The creatures of the night have found their worst enemy…. one of their own.

The Review

Vampire shows in anime, have been shown to be a mixed bag. For every excellent Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, there’s a shoddy Vampire Wars just waiting to steal sixty minutes of your life.

Fortunately not being the latter, Hellsing’s popularity in North America, can be attributed to three things: guns, vampires and style. I think I can already hear the yawning of jaded otaku now, but hang with it as Hellsing is quite simply the most stylish and enjoyable anime to arrive on western shores since Cowboy Bebop.

Alucard, the insanely powerful vampire in the employ of the Hellsing organisation is one of the most striking characters to grace an anime show. With his long red coat, period red hat and of course, two custom made handguns, Alucard is quite the suave, stylish looking individual. What makes him refreshing and different from his vampiric counterparts in other anime, is simply his attitude.

Alucard is an anti-hero. At the core he is almost completely evil, a demon tamed only by his sworn service to his human master. He despises other vampires who he considers to be weak and unable to control their powers in the correct way, not to mention, the man-made vampires which really draw his ire. Making Alucard angry, is simply one thing that should not be done at any cost. This is perhaps the only real drawback with Alucard, because he is so powerful you never feel like he is in any danger and that he will defeat any enemy he is put up against.

Alucard can be shot, cut to pieces, blown up, beaten down, you name it, but he just keeps coming back for more, often with a sarcastic or witty retort in tow. Wielding his twin handguns and a bewildering range of supernatural abilities (such as killing vampires by just thrusting his hand into them), Alucard is more than a force to be reckoned with, he’s near enough invincible. As good as he is though, he still needs a foil, somebody on the opposite side who is just as powerful to counter balance him and since he doesn’t really have this, it makes the anime unfortunately more predictable as a result.

Alucard’s best moments tend to be not when he’s blowing the creatures of the night to pieces, but instead when he is interacting with the other two main characters of the show, Integra and Victoria Seras. Written as an extremely strong female character, very possibly stronger than the principal male characters, Integra is the hard faced femme fatale of the show. An ice-maiden if there ever was one, Integra is the leader of the Hellsing organisation and Alucard’s human master. Alucard and Integra often clash and have tense confrontations where you get the feeling that a lot more is going on than what is actually being said. They each dislike one another in various ways, yet they are working together for a common goal, and as such you get impression that their relationship is standing on the edge of knife, and is extremely strained. It’s this dynamic that keeps the relationship between Alucard and Integra always taut, yet profoundly interesting.

Victoria Seras, perhaps the only somewhat angsty cast member to be found in this show, is constantly looking to Alucard for advice as a mentor as she is getting used to her new form. A bond of sorts does exist between the two and as the series progresses, you see this bond develop. It’s quite amusing to watch the interaction between the two, as Seras is struggling with her newfound form and desires, yet Alucard ever the sadistic teacher, is forever chipping away at her humanity and, as he likes to put it, is telling her to become something ‘more’ than what she used to be.

The bad guys too are for the most part well constructed characters. Alexander Anderson, the manic catholic priest that lives for Alucard’s destruction, is an intense and driven individual that always manages to play off Alucard’s relatively calm and cool demeanour very well in the scenes that they are in. Even Incognito, a character that was not featured in the manga but was created for TV show, possesses a menacing and disturbing presence. He is truly an evil individual with no sense of morality or mercy, and as you can well imagine, when him and Alucard get together on screen, the sparks do indeed fly.

Moving on, Hellsing’s plot from what I can tell, does stray quite considerably from the later stages of the manga. Some critics have said that this was to the show’s detriment, but I disagree. The plot, whilst not particularly convoluted, does a good job of holding the interest of the viewer over the course of the thirteen episodes.

A lot of the events that occur within the show and the relationships of the characters that are intertwined with these events, are explained quite well. With the exception of the ending, which leaves a few loose ends, I thought the plot was well-thought out. As an anime show, what makes Hellsing fairly unique, especially when compared to other vampire shows of the genre, is it’s mixture of catholic religious overtones, modern day action scenes and gunplay. It really is an odd combination to describe, yet it works really well in establishing this dark vision of present-day Great Britain.

As a show, Hellsing’s only real weakness comes in the form of it’s fluctuating visual quality. Whereas the art is coherently adept and detailed throughout, the animation doesn’t quite fare as well. Comparing different episodes, you can see that the animation suffers a fair bit. Movements that were fairly smooth in one scene, lose their integrity in another as they become jerky, stunted imitations of the smooth movement seen before. Thankfully, the animation quality does stay fairly coherent in the well done action sequences that occur throughout Hellsing, as Alucard and his various enemies clash and duel with impressive grace and visual flair.

Hellsing’s sense of style extends also to it’s musical score too. The music itself is a strange, yet quite satisfying fusion of Doors-esque chilled out tunes and heavier Jazz influenced serenades. Not since Cowboy Bebop, have I heard a soundtrack this well done and just well… so darn cool. Certainly this would be one official soundtrack worth the pick up. One note of praise must also be given to the English dub that was recorded for this release, as it is one of the best dubs that I have listened to.

Thankfully just about everybody puts on a superb performance. Crispin Freeman, puts on an excellent low vocal tone for his turn as Alucard. The reason why however, I feel it is superior to the Japanese track, is that this is a show set in Great Britain, and as such, it just doesn’t feel right to hear Japanese voices from English characters. It’s a good thing though that *just* about all the English characters have convincing English accents. There are one or two bad accents in there (mostly from minor characters), but on the whole, Pioneer have managed to get it just right.

Hellsing in conclusion, is a show that I suppose you will love or hate depending on your view toward anime that tries to be ‘cool’ or ‘stylish’. Whilst it is sort of geared toward the sort of audience that might like the Hollywood film Blade, or other such action driven vampire shows, it nevertheless has a deceptively deep cast of characters and a compelling story that needs to be appreciated. Not since Cowboy Bebop though (and I know I keep mentioning this), have I seen a show so self-assuredly stylish and just plain cool. It’s no wonder it did so well in North America.

Ratings Summary

Animation: B-
Art: B
Music: A
Content: A-

Overall: A-

Review by: JP Jones

Suitability for children

Okay where to start. There’s lot’s of violence, heavy swearing, some adult situations and an absolute ton of blood splattered throughout. Suitable for those 18+ only.

If you liked this why not try…

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust – Urban Vision
Nightwalker – Central Park Media
Trinity Blood – Funimation Productions

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Written by bitsnark

October 24, 2005 at 11:40 pm

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