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 sub. 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.
Hellsing Ultimate is about the protestant Hellsing organisation which defends Britain from vampires, the undead and any other freaks which would harm the country. This version stays true to the manga, whereas the Hellsing signature series drifted from the manga and compared to Hellsing Ultimate looked like a slide show.
Sadly each DVD only has one episode on it. On this DVD we are intruded to the main characters and the general plot. There isn't much else of interest on the DVD really.
Hellsing Ultimate is one of the best anime out there at the moment, so if your new to anime or a regular viewer them this is defiantly worth watching just for the over-the-top blood and violence. This episode is a little rushed to me and doesn't get interesting until the end when the main character Alucard fights Alexander Anderson, however each episode gets better and better and you would need to watch this first episode so you can watch the second episode then you'll be hooked!
Based on the Japanese manga by Kouta Hirano, Hellsing Ultimate (also known as Hellsing OVA) is the second TV adaption of Hellsing. The first adaption, that ran in 2001 and 2002, was a 13 episode anime series that earned a cult following, but the animation was sub-par, and sadly, it broke off on a tangent at around the halfway mark in the series, unable to follow the manga's storyline.
However, years later, Hellsing fans have rejoiced at this new incarnation of the franchise. Hellsing Ultimate follows the manga very closely, the animation is excellent, and instead of 20-25 minute episodes, each of these episodes are 50 minutes to an hour long.
Each episode of Ultimate is roughly an animation of one volume of the manga, so it's estimated there will be around 10 episodes.
Hellsing follows the story of Alucard, a very powerful vampire who works for the Hellsing Organisation in England. This organisation is led by Sir Integra, a tough, intelligent woman who is a direct descendent of Abraham Van Helsing. Their job is to exterminate the living dead that pose a threat to Queen and country. In this first episode, we are also introduced to Seras Victoria, a young police officer who is turned into a vampire by Alucard, and to Father Alexander Anderson, a priest working for the Iscariot Organisation, who battles Alucard. Iscariot and Hellsing are rivals, and fight each other on every opportunity. The characters of Hellsing are all very cool, there's no other word for it. In comparison to the original series, they are also given far more time to develop as characters. Alucard especially is a lot deeper this time around, and he often hints at future problems and his own history, which is fun.
The Hellsing Ultimate episodes have been given a far higher budget to work with, so the animation is fantastic, referencing and imitating Hirano's art style closely with the use of block shadow and the close attention to detail. It's also very bloody, but the violence is of a typical comic book style - fountains of blood gushing everywhere, much blood splatter, etc. The characters look slightly different, some more than others. I felt that Integra, Seras and Anderson were the most changed, but it's all for the better. Mostly the changes are focused on clothes and general appearance, and Anderson's and Seras' hair colour is slightly different than in the original anime.
I only have a couple of little gripes - the scene changes can be a little forced, not quite flowing very well. The dialogue is often rather cheesy in places too, but the anime itself realises this, and plays it up. It also includes short, humorous clips, directly taken from the manga. Although fans will probably enjoy this, it isn't for everyone.
As for plot, this is an action anime that comes thick and fast with enemies. It's very simple, altogether. A lot happens in the 50 minute running time. The plot would not appear to differ from the TV series until episode 3, where Ultimate follows the manga's story line. In this episode, we meet Hellsing, Seras is turned into a vampire, and Alucard battles Anderson. Another enemy is also hinted at at the end of the episode, although this plot arc will not be fully developed until episode 4 or 5. But for now, don't expect anything complex or overly intelligent. However, there are a few intertextual references that are interesting should one wish to investigate them, such as the Hellsing Ultimate tag line - "The Bird of Hermes is my name, eating my wings to make me tame", from the Ripley Scroll, which reappears late in the manga.
The music is good as well, especially during the closing credits of each episode, as it features a track performed by Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, which works very well. However, the music from the TV series was better, using jazz and blues to contrast brilliantly with the action.
For fans of the original series, the original English dub voice actors reprise their roles, which is a relief, as they had done a fine job beforehand. The japanese voices have changed, but they fit the characters perfectly.
Overall, Hellsing Ultimate is a great, violent anime, perfect for those times when you want a focus on action rather than plot. The characters are fantastic, as is the animation, which also utilizes CGI at points. The music is good, and it's one of those animes where you can tell that the animators care about what they produce. Plus, it's loyal to its source, which is always a bonus in my book. I'd rate this over the TV series any day.
It should be noted that there is only one episode of this series per DVD, but it comes with a great commentary and interview with the English Voice Director, Taliesin Jaff, and the English voice actor of Alucard, which is entertaining and informative. It also has numerous trailers and galleries, which are interesting. The DVD also includes the choice of watching the episode in Japanese with subtitles or with the English dub. It's available on play.com for a reasonable £8.99.
The first four episodes are available now, while the fifth episode has not yet been dubbed in English. The sixth is currently being advertised.