HELLSING (2001)

 

Format: 13 22-minute episodes on 4 DVDs

 

Rating: R (AL, AC, GV)

 

American Production: Pioneer

 

Japanese Production: Gonzo Studios

 

Grading

 

Premise:

B-

Story:

B

Writing:

B+

Character Design:

A

Animation:

B

Artistic Merits:

A-

English Dub:

A

Musical Score:

A-

Opener:

A

Closer:

A-

 

 

Humor Content:

C

Action Content:

A

Drama Content:

B

 

 

DVD Presentation:

A-

DVD Extras:

C+

 

 

OVERALL:

A-

 

Synopsis

 British policewoman Seras Victoria is mortally wounded when a villainous vampire unsuccessfully uses her as a human shield against a “good guy” vampire. Faced with certain death, she accepts the vampire Alucard’s offer to become an undead and join him in the secretive Hellsing organization, a generations-old group dedicated to protecting Queen and country against vampires and their spawn. As the series progresses she attempts to resist the urge to drink blood while helping her new associates investigate and deal with a rash of false vampires created by a computer chip, ever under the watchful eye of her new master. She also gets to tote around a really, really big gun!

 

Quotes

     “In the name of God, impure souls of the living dead shall be banished into eternal damnation. Amen.” (standard Hellsing Organization blessing)

 

      “Police girl. . . I’m going fire my gun now, and the bullet will rip through your lungs before it hits the maggot vampire’s heart. . . I know you don’t want to die tonight. Do you want to come with me?” (Alucard)

 

The Long View

One of the hottest releases of the latter half of 2002 in the American market, Hellsing is nothing if not stylish. Its jazzy musical scoring, dark but vivid color schemes, snappy dialogue, and emphasis on flashy weaponry just scream “cool,” and the character design is among the best in the business. The artistic merits of the earlier episodes are among the best of recent titles (though they degrade somewhat towards the end), and the idea that vampires can be created artificially by means of a computer chip gives the old vampire-as-a-vampire-hunter concept an intriguing new twist. Gun lovers will go nuts over this series, as the vampire hunters of Hellsing take full advantage of modern weaponry. Alucard totes around twin hand cannons that fire 13 mm silver-cased, blessed holy bullets, while Seras Victoria eventually packs a 30 mm Halconnen cannon which fires depleted uranium or incendiary explosive armor-piercing shells and another character favors mercury ignition bullets - all quite effective at dusting vampires and their ghoul spawn. And there’s still the old classics, too, like the blessed blades of Paladin Alexander or the razor wire of Walter. Also watch for neat artistic touches, like the blood-red skies or the symbolic meaning of the flickering candles in the church near the end of the first episode.

For all the great dialogue, weapons, and violent action, though, it’s the dynamic characters that really sell Hellsing. Alucard (or Arucard in the original Japanese) is an “original” vampire, a true Creature of the Night in every sense who regards the newer artificially-created vampires as so much filth and trash. He is a cocky, arrogant bastard with a perpetually amused expression who thirsts for a good challenge more than he does for blood. When you have power like his, though, you can afford to be cocky; his “full power release,” when he finally institutes it midway through the series, is an awesome spectacle. For reasons that are not fully explained he is a faithful servant of Sir Integra Wingate Hellsing, the stern, boyish woman shaped by the propriety of British aristocracy. She is fiercely dedicated to upholding her family’s proud legacy of secretly protecting Queen and country against the predations of vampires. The third main character is Seras Victoria, the policewoman-turned-vampire who joins Hellsing after Alucard “turns” her. Alucard treats her much like his child, usually opting to call her “police girl” instead of by name, but it’s clear that he has some degree of affection for her and coaches her through the awakening of her vampiric nature. She is a reluctant undead, however, who both fears and abhors her true nature so much that she fights the urge to drink even the medical blood supplied to her. Though meek at times, she is a policewoman by heart who ultimately proves that she can pull her weight. The way she is rendered, with the wide-eyed innocent face belied by red eyes and a figure that is buxom but not overtly sexy, is also rather interesting.

A handful of other recurring characters also deserve mention. Most prominent among the good guys are Walter, a former vampire hunter once known as the “Angel of Death” who now serves as the chief retainer of the Hellsing family, and Ferguson, the proper senior commander of Hellsing’s foot soldiers. Prominent among the bad guys are the artificially-created Valentine Brothers and the true African vampire who calls himself Incognito. There’s also the massive Paladin Alexander, priest and manic star slayer for the Iscariot organization (the Catholic counterpart to the Protestant Hellsing organization), who shares a common purpose with Hellsing but works at odds with them.

The vampire lore in Hellsing is muddled. Supposedly vampires are vulnerable to sunlight and sleep during the day, yet we regularly see Sera Victoria not only active during the day but outside on more than one occasion when the sun doesn’t look like it’s set yet. Neither getting the lore straight or delving into the history of vampires is a significant matter in the series, however. Of greater interest is the way the series works in religion, which is something that a lot of vampire-slayer stories do not do even if their heroes do use holy implements. Prayers are voiced, characters clearly have faiths, one of Alucard’s guns is inscribed with “Jesus Christ in Heaven” along the barrel, and a distinct Catholic-Protestant conflict rears its ugly head in a couple of different episodes. Magic also works its way in, too, including a form of so-called Christian magic involving streams of pages bearing biblical scripture.

The biggest detracting factor to this otherwise-excellent production is an ending that is much too abrupt and leaves too many issues unresolved. It feels like the writers and animators had a good story but then didn’t know how to wrap it up, so they forced the issue. (Gonzo Studios, the creative force behind Hellsing, is apparently notorious for doing this.) A wrap-up movie which resolves things better would be a great idea, but I have heard nothing about any such thing being forthcoming. On the plus side, the opener is a great number both graphically and musically and the closer features the very appropriate song “Shine” by the American ‘80s pop star Mr. Big. Another plus for the closer is listing both the Japanese and English voice actor for a role together, rather than in separate. This is a format that is only used occasionally in American releases but I wish companies would make it the regular standard.

      The graphic content rating is mostly for violence and disturbing imagery, although there is some swearing. Hellsing is not as extreme in its violence as comparable titles, however, and the wonderful artistic styling should be enough to compensate for those who are normally averse to graphic violence in their entertainment.

Finally, special comment is deserved about the English dub. This is one case where I am going to insist that purists actually give the English dub a chance. The voice work is great, and the overall quality is superior to the original Japanese track if for no other reason than the British characters actually have proper British accents and speech patterns in the English version. This is a story set in Great Britain, not Japan, so it should have a wholly British sound to it rather than sound like a run-of-the-mill anime voiceover.

 

DVD Extras

All DVDs have Previews and Concept Art. 2-3 additional extras per DVD which vary from volume to volume, including advertisements for Hellsing figurines.

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Alucard

Crispin Freeman

Seras Victoria

K.T. Gray

Sir Integra Wingate Hellsing

Victoria Harwood

Walter

Ralph Lister

Fargason

Bill Morgan

Paladin Alexander

Steven Brand

Luke Valentine

Patrick Seitz

Yan Valentine

Josh Philips

Incognito

Robb Manning

 

 

 

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