Hellsing Ultimate – Volume 1-10 Complete Collection (Cert 18)
5 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 493 minutes approx.
Manga Entertainment has brought another classic (well sort of) out of the mothballs for a Blu-ray re-release, compiling all ten of the Hellsing Ultimate OVAs in one handy single collection. Previously released as individual volumes on DVD and Blu-ray, this gives fans a chance to relive this epic vampire series in glorious HD, and being stretched across three discs makes it more convenient to binge watch.
Now, I did says this was a “sort of” classic – the Hellsing franchise is another property like Fullmetal Alchemist that was subject to the anime adaptation disappointing fans by deviating from the source manga by Kouta Hirano. Six episodes into the 2002 TV series made by Gonzo and they had already covered the extant material, forcing them to create a new, unrelated direction for the remaining chapters.
A number of fans weren’t happy about this, though the series was still something of a success among the unaware; in hindsight the series does many things right that this OVA series doesn’t in terms of character development and a satisfactory conclusion. With studios Satelight, Madhouse, and Graphinica taking over the production, Hellsing Ultimate was released over 6 years, following the manga much more closely than the TV series.
The fundamental story is the same – vampires are running wild in Britain and the most effective form of defence is another vampire, in fact, the most powerful vampire of them all, Alucard, working under Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, the head of the Hellsing Organisation which, with royal approval, works above the law. However, the Vatican believe Hellsing is infringing on their duty as protector of the people and the two forces regularly clash.
Whilst on a mission to deal with a vampire priest, a young police officer Seras Victoria is caught in the middle of the showdown. To kill the vampire, Alucard is forced to shoot through Seras but offers her a lifeline to make her immortal by drinking her blood, turning her into a vampire. Seras then joins Hellsing as Alucard’s charge but has trouble adjusting to her new life as one of the undead.
If you’ve only seen the TV series this will all be familiar to you but the original story as written by Hirano is totally different and from episode three onwards and substantially so. Gone is the race of synthetically created vampires causing havoc, replaced instead by the remnants of the Nazis from World War II, who have created their own army of vampires and plan to exact revenge against the force that stopped their bid for world domination 50 years earlier – Alucard!
Fronted by a maniacal, rictus sporting stubby chap known only as The Major, the Nazi campaign sees a number of equally supernatural beings sent to keep Alucard occupied whilst Sir Integra and top ranking government officials are dispatched – except they didn’t bank on Seras, now a sharp shooting bad ass in her own right, and Integra’s loyal butler Walter, aka the Angel Of Death, to counter their attacks.
Even though this is practically non-stop gruesomeness, the story is driving it is rather undercooked, partially through the antagonists not being sufficiently fleshed out or their motives explained clearly, as if being Nazis was enough. There is of waffle by way of exposition but it comes across as pretentious psychobabble with no substance, and with the final two chapters descending into the typical surreal existential cacophony of ideas, our emotional investment is rather challenged.
Some of you may recall controversial Tory MP (is there any other kind?) Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech from 1968 which was an exaggerated metaphor regarding the influx of immigrants to the UK – well, Hellsing Ultimate isn’t that subtle; it delivers literal rivers of blood and then some, making this one of the most claret filled titles in anime, with copious amounts of the red stuff spilled in even the quietest episodes.
Violent doesn’t even begin to describe the content of this series; its saving grace being it is a fantasy/horror thus preventing it from being too excessive whilst earning its BBFC 18 certificate with pride. Had it been any other genre chances are it might have been heavily censored or worse; but the unpleasantness isn’t limited to the gore, there are two (non-explicit) disturbing rape scenes and the usual improper sexual behaviour to bolster its notoriety.
Yet, one significant difference from the TV series is the application of humour and I don’t mean moments of passing levity either. Taking its cues from 4-panel comedies and fluffy slice-of-lice anime, there is an incongruous clash of tone when the cast change into chibi characters, the backgrounds turn multi-coloured, and the animation goes way off model, undermining, and not giving us a break from, the prevailing gore and darker narrative.
Employing three studios to handle the animation is interesting, but to give them credit, the animation, artwork, and general aesthetic remains constant throughout. It is only the CGI elements that stand out and not always in a good way. The leitmotif of glasses reflecting light to create sinister illuminated eyes in the shadows is effectively creepy but rather overused since most of the cast are bespectacled.
It needs pointing out that this five-disc set is laid out so discs one, three and five contain the actual OVAs, whilst discs two and four are comprised exclusively of extras, which, as you’ll see below, are plentiful. However, only the first of the three The Dawn prequels is included.
Maybe comparing the two version of Hellsing is a tad unfair since they are both so vastly different. The TV adaptation has the less ridiculous storyline and offers more character development, especially Seras and her acclimatising to becoming a vampire; Hellsing Ultimate follows the manga more rigidly and is the more bombastic, graphic and action packed of the two and looks better.
Can’t decide for yourself which you prefer? Now you can with this ludicrously plotted but bloody enjoyable release!
English Language DTS Master Audio 5.1
Japanese Language DTS Master Audio 5.1
Episodes 1-4 Commentary
Anime Expo 2007
Japanese TV Commercials
Japanese Ending IV
Karaoke Of Major’s Speech
Episodes 5-8 Commentary
Participating In a Legend
Anime Vegas 2010 Hellsing Panel
The Dawn: A Supplementary Of Hellsing
Hellsing Cast Round Table Discussion
Fans Questions – Answered
Episodes 9-10 Commentary
R.I.P In Memoriam
Interview Session IX – Episode IX Video Commentary
Interview Session X – Farewell To An Epic
Rating – ****
Man In Black