I knew rather little about Hellsing before I started it. It was popular, but often not amongst critics, and had an alternate version OVA called Hellsing Ultimate. I went into the original Hellsing series with a vague expectation of violence, vampires and mild but messy entertainment. To my surprise, I absolutely loved the thing. The plot was a mess and might as well not have existed, but the show oozed style with it’s strange brand of sadistic energy. It was then that I started to pay more attention to what the reviews were saying. This original 2001 anime version of Hellsing has a bit of a bad rep amongst anime fans for the oh so familiar reason of ‘butchering the manga’. I was assured multiple times that Hellsing Ultimate, the OVA series started in 2006 and still ongoing, followed the original manga and was 10 times better because of it. Considering how much I loved the original Hellsing, the prospect of a series similar yet greater in every way…this is that story.
For those of you who haven’t watched anything from Hellsing and wondering where to start: You can start off with Hellsing Ultimate without having seen the original. They cover the same ground early on, only to deviate later on, much like the two Full Metal Alchemist series.
Such is my anticipation for enjoying this series, I went wild and actually bought the dvds!
Yeah I know. Someone who watches anime illegally later going out and buying the dvds of series they like? Shocking, isn’t it. One of the main reasons I bought the series was Hellsing had the single greatest english dub jobs I’ve ever heard. English accented policewomen, crazed Scottish warrior priests, profanity abound, Crispin Freeman as Alucard. The whole thing was glorious. Only the first four dvds were on sale on Amazon though. There was something funny about the licensing of this series and it got stuck in limbo for a while, but I believe it’s been picked up again. Besides, there’s such a long wait between releases that it shouldn’t take long for the dubs to catch back up again (although I’d have to wait for them to come across the Atlantic first so -_-).
One thing that did catch me off guard a bit was how it started pretty much the exact same way the original did. When people said ‘butchering’ I was expecting a bit more actual butchering to be done. The series still starts off with Police Girl and the rogue vampire priest. It also wasted no time in dishing out exposition with Integra explaining the entire purpose of the Hellsing organisation. Course this was the first time I got to hear her gloriously angry English accent once again. She’s such a fantastic character. She’s like Revy from Black Lagoon if Revy was actually intelligent.
What got me about the whole becoming vampire scene last time, and they kept the feeling this time around, was how strangely sexually charged it was. Of course, vampires have always been creatures with sexy auras about them in any form of literature (I guess it helps add to the energy when Police Girl spends most of the scene in a breathless, semi-moaning state). Unlike everyone’s favourite sparkly vampire, there’s a more masochistic, ‘violate me’ energy to this whole scene. I do feel it was much more subtly done in the original though (sorry people who haven’t seen the original, but this OVA covers the exact same material the first 4-5 episodes of that series did. I can’t help making comparisons).
(Speaking of Twilight, I’ve never actually read the books or seen the movies so I usually stay away from all the hate that franchise gets. However I do remember being absolutley flabergasted when I heard these vampires genuinely do sparkle. Like, it’s a plot point and everything)
I love the stlye of how everything is presented in Hellsing. Never go for a standard approach for a character profile. That’s just dull. Have an outline of a black shadow, with some glinting knives, a manic grin and round, Harry Potter glasses (whoever wrote the manga must really like round glasses) is far more interesting. Alucard has to be one of the strangest dressed anime characters you’ll ever see, that massive red hat being the strangest headgear around. I do love how, after getting ripped to shreds by a bizzilion bullets, he regenerates the clothes and hat along with the rest of his body (although notice that they never break his glasses. How would this show do silhouettes without those round glasses!).
Going from one Hellsing to the other, my biggest fear was that it would lose the style and sheer entertainment factor the original had. My fears were completely unfounded as it appeared. I had a giant grin plastered across my face for the entirety of this episode, which is largely how I spent my time watching the original too. It did lose little other things though. Much like Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, it fast-forwarded through the early material in the assumption that the viewer has seen this stuff already and wants to get to the new stuff. In doing so, it loses pretty much any subtlety the original had. Most annoyingly, it really hurt Victoria’s character. The struggle with her humanity and her growing respect for Alucard was a rather small plot point in the original but it was a very well done part of it. In Ultimate, she goes straight from ‘oh look, I’m a vampire’ to ‘yes master, no master, three bags full master’. It destroyed her character and made her out to be pretty pathetic. She was never the most exciting character in the show, but at least she was interesting and well developed. Bleh~
However, much like Brotherhood, I’m guessing this will all slow down in the later volumes when the new material is reached. It keeps the energy and style of the original, but at the moment I’m still waiting for it to prove itself as being at least as good as the original. I’m waiting for something like episode 19 of Brotherhood. An ‘I sealed it with fire’ moment that finally wins me over and convinces me that this series has a reason to exist. It’s still hugely entertaining, but I guess it won’t be until the next episode at least before I really begin to see why people go insane over this version of Hellsing.