Review of Hellsing Ultimate (Volume 1)

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Hellsing Ultimate is a direct to DVD anime series based on the Hellsing manga created by writer/illustrator Kouta Hirano. As you may have gathered, from the title, the cartoon is a vampire centric show revolving around the Hellsing organization who are tasked with protecting Blighty from bloodsuckers and other supernatural threats. This isn’t the first time the Hellsing comic gets the animation treatment, as back in 2001 a short thirteen episode Hellsing series aired on Japanese TV. The original anime was well received at the time, but in retrospect some fans were disappointed by how it ended (a case of the studio making up their own finale after they run out of material to adapt from the ongoing written source material.) Can Hellsing Ultimate win over the naysayers with its higher production values and more faithful following of the comic’s storyline? Let’s find out.

The series premiers by showing us how Integra Hellsing turned from a bashful girl to the strong, cigar chomping, present day head of the Hellsing organization. After the death of her father she was inaugurated as the group’s leader, which didn’t go down well with her uncle. He attempts to assassinate his niece, to wrestle control of the organization, only to get his comeuppance when he chases Integra into a room containing a slumbering vampire named Alucard. During the scuffle Integra manages to reanimate the snoozing nosferatu who repays the deed by saving her life. Skip ahead to modern times were Alucard continues his servitude of Integra by battling his own kind, armed with an oversized gun that spews out bullets forged from melted down silver crosses.

Viewers get to see Alucard’s undead slaying prowess early on when he is sent to the village of Cheddar to eradicate an infestation of ghouls (zombie like creatures created when deflowered humans are bitten by a vampire… see you should have paid heed to abstaining from sex before marriage you sluts.) Numerous villagers and police officers, sent to contain the chaos, are slain during the incident by a vampire masquerading as a priest of all things. Alucard does however manage to save the life of a fatally wounded police girl named Seras Victoria by turning her into a vampire. It’s from this point on that the story shifts to a tale of Alucard mentoring his new vampiric apprentice on how to battle things that go bump in the night.

I have to say that volume one of Hellsing Ultimate leaves the best for last when Alucard and Seras are sent on a mission to rid an Irish castle of a ghoul horde. The assignment shows that vampires aren’t the biggest threat to the Hellsing group when they come across Paladin Alexander Anderson. He’s a vampire slayer, working for the Vatican, who does not appreciate Protestants meddling with Catholic affairs. Anderson turns out to be my favorite character in this volume as he chews up the scenery with his colorful bible bashing rhetoric. His resulting duel with Alucard ends up being the highlight of this DVD, which is a relief given that a lot of the prior action is just Alucard effortlessly mowing down whatever opponent he is pitted against.

Overall I have to say that I was a little disappointed by this opening chapter in the Hellsing Ultimate series. The show has been getting glowing reviews from fans, but I cannot help but wonder if they have been bewitched by the flashy artwork and promises that it will fully adapt the manga storyline. I concede that Ultimate blows the original anime out of the water, in terms of visuals, thanks to superior animation and mild computer effects, but the pace at which it rushes through the story is a turn off. In forty-five minutes Ultimate has covered events that took around five episodes for its predecessor to tell and man does it show.

There’s pretty much zero character development in this iteration of Hellsing. Gone are the moments of Seras coming to terms with her new life as a vampire. In the original series she had issues with drinking blood and killing anyone, but in Ultimate she wakes up after being turned, accepts her situation straight away and seconds later is on a mission sniping an unarmed fleeing vampire. It’s a pity seeing my favorite character, from the original anime, being reduced to a big-breasted puppy dog that gleefully chases after her master Alucard. This leaves us with no amicable characters to latch onto as Alucard is a cliché anti-hero and Integra is a complete cow that treats her employees like dirt.

One final complaint I would have with the series is the English dub. Crispin Freeman is perfect as Alucard, but a lot of his other English-speaking cast members aren’t up to par. The dialogue they are made to read isn’t great either. Characters are either trying too hard to sound like a badass or dish out heaps of exposition. One such example is when Integra’s butler informs her that the Vatican has sent an Iscariot agent to Ireland. This prompts her to waffle on about who the Iscariot group are, something the butler already knows, which only serves to explain a plot element to viewers that they could have sussed out themselves.

I’m giving volume one of Hellsing Ultimate three stars out of five. The action is good, but not terribly exciting given how powerful Alucard is. After being enhanced via alchemic and occult means he can survive getting filled with bullets, impaled by holy blades and decapitated, which means you never feel he is in any danger. I’m hoping the creators are just rushing through ground that is retread of the old show and that things will pick up in the later installments. As it stands I don’t feel the series deserves the plaudits it has got and it isn’t great value for money either. You get just one forty-five minute episode, which isn’t brill. They probably should have included another episode on the disk because, although you can pick up the volume for under a fiver now, I wouldn’t want to pay full price for such a short running DVD. This is after all an age were you can get a complete thirteen episode anime set for around fifteen quid.

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