Label: Manga Entertainment
Release Date: 12th August 2013
Running Time: 325 minutes
Release Type: DVD
The re-release of the Hellsing TV series ultimately provides as more content for UK fans who are craving for the release of Hellsing Ultimate parts 9-12. However the original series’ poor presentation, confused plot and two-dimensional relationships between its characters will make the anime feel like a disappointment for any fan of the more recent OVA series.
The series begins after several people are reported missing from an English village and policewoman Seras Victoria and her fellow officers are dispatched to investigate the incident. However as Seras soon discovers, the case doesn’t concern a simple disappearance incident – there are supernatural powers at work. As Seras is succumbed by vampiric forces she is given the choice by a mysterious vampire going by the name of Alucard – to die or gain new life in the form of a vampire. Choosing Vampirism, Seras is forced to come to terms with her new existence as one of the undead. Joining the Hellsing organisation – a group that protects civilians from the creatures of the night – Seras and her new master Alucard, set out to fight the supernatural forces that threaten queen and country.
The series’ story is lacklustre and ultimately has no sense of direction. Rather than sticking to the original storyline, the decision was made to depart from the source material’s plot at the halfway point in the series – seemingly so that the series could conclude in thirteen episodes. Unfortunately this production decision lead to the creation of more problems than it solved. Characters that were fundamental to the progression of the plot in the manga are cast aside in favour of more two-dimensional ones and more epic storylines are ignored so that more generic ones could take their place. Enrico Maxwell and his colleagues only make a brief appearance – meaning that the Protestant/Catholic conflict which is fundamental to Ultimate’s strong narrative is ignored entirely – and the Nazis don’t even make an appearance. Furthermore the villains that the source material’s antagonists are replaced with are two-dimensional and have rather unclear motivations – giving the sense that much of the series’ violence is ultimately for the sake of including violence. The way in which the series’ concludes is laughable. Rather than coming to a satisfying end we are given a series of epilogue notes telling us that Hellsing’s search for the antagonists has not yet come to an end – suggesting Gonzo had some budgetary issues when it came to concluding the series.
Whilst there are flaws with the anime’s storyline, the series’ characters do, to some extent, make the show compelling. Seras was by far the most interesting character to watch develop and her struggle to accept her transformation into a vampire granted a sense of realism to the series. Alucard and Integra are also reasonably well drawn, although the brevity of the series meant that it was at times difficult to empathise with the emotional struggles they were going through at times. Whilst the series’ characters are reasonably well drawn, its relationships feel two-dimensional. This is strongly shown through the relationships Integra has between herself and her colleagues at Hellsing. Whilst she is supposedly adored and respect by all, she sets herself at such a distance to those around her that the supposed attachment that Alucard, Walters and others have to her is difficult to understand at times.
The series is let down by its art and animation. Whilst Ultimate is renowned for its fantastic animation and beautifully designed backdrops, the same praise cannot be given to the original TV series. The animation slowly degrades over time, character designs are inconsistent and backgrounds feel hastily put together. Whilst the series cannot be classed as being diarrhoea for the eyes, it certainly doesn’t look good for a show that was only produced twelve years ago.
Moreover the series feels a bit lacking when it comes to the blood and gore department. Violence is often covered up by a figure or pillar standing in front of the action, and disappointingly many of the enemies bleed dust rather than blood. The high level of detail when it came to animating gore was what showed that Ultimate was a high level production, and the TV’s lack of this factor detracted from my enjoyment of the show.
On the other hand, the series’ music and voice acting is fantastic. The post-punk, alternative soundtrack really gave an edge to the series’ action sequences and made some of its more poorly animated scenes a joy to watch. The series’ opening song is also fantastic and it gives the series a flare of psychedelia. The Japanese dub is reasonably well produced and is filled with some commendable performances. Fumiko Orikasa really gives a sense of the internal conflict Seras is going through in the series and the renowned Joji Nakata gives a great performance as Alucard. Whilst Funimation’s English dub of the series lacks some of the Japanese’s emotion and contains some strange casting choices (Seras is given a slight Australian accent for some reason) it’s reasonably well produced and Crispin Freeman steals the show with his performance as Alucard.
The original Hellsing TV series has not aged well. Many of the factors that make Ultimate so special to its audience are not present in this series. However the show is by no means terrible, but it’s not great either. The lacklustre story, poor animation, art style and two-dimensional relationships will really detract from your enjoyment of the show, so if you are looking for something that will quench your cravings for the release of Ultimate parts 9-12 consider picking up Manga UK’s new release of the second Berserk movie instead.