Hellsing Ultimate Vol. #2 (also w/special edition) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2007



What They Say
An unusual new breed of vampires terrorizes England while increasing at an alarming rate, making it impossible to conceal their presence from the public for much longer. Furthermore, the attacks seem organized, which makes the situation even more ominous. While Sir Integra reports her findings to the members of the Round Table, the Hellsing mansion gets blitzed by an army of indestructible ghouls led by the Valentine brothers, a vicious and hedonistic duo who claim to have all the vampiric powers of Arucard and beyond. Indeed, the night has only just begun...

The Limited Edition release contains a second disc with additional extras.

The Review!
If the first episode wasn't bloody enough for you or violent enough, the second installments does its best to rectify it.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The track is a solid 5.1 Dolby Digital mix encoded at 448kbps that's quite immersive at times with the sounds of bats, bullets and bullet riddled bodies sounding better than ever. Some of the scenes have such a strong amount of oomph to them in this mix that listening to it on a stereo only setup you realize just how much is lost. The English language track essentially mirrors this in its 5.1 mix but there is also the inclusion of a fuller sounding DTS 5.1 mix which is found only on the Limited Edition release. This seems to be a touch more expansive in some scenes as well as a touch deeper in richness. All the language tracks are clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally released in 2006, the OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Fresh out of the animators cubicles, this is a fantastic looking show that takes the visuals from the manga and really brings it to life, though not without a few changes along the way. The source materials are obvious in gorgeous shape and the print is free of problems. Whereas the first volume had us seeing some noticeable gradient issues, they look much better blended here and generally unnoticeable. The few that do come across strong enough are so few and far between that it's hardly worth mentioning. Taking that out of it, the rest of the transfer is simply gorgeous and if you can watch this on a large screen with the lights off it'll be even more impressive.

Regular Edition Packaging:
Not yet available.

Limited Edition Packaging:
Geneon takes things up a few notches for this edition and releases a gorgeous package. First, the case itself is one of the metallic ones that have shown up more recently where it seals properly and has the side binding that's made of plastic. Latching problems from cases like this a couple of years ago just aren't a problem. The front cover has a perfect illustration of the Valentine brothers together where Luke is cool and collected in the background while Jan is in the foreground giving the finger. The metallic aspect of this gives it a very eerie look and one that really makes the artwork stand out all the more. The back cover uses the same background as the regular edition but eschews shots from the show and instead provides the listings of the discs extras and a quote from Integra's father. The remainder of the cover uses the same design elements as the regular edition. Inside, the back side of the metallic case uses a close-up of the cover art from the regular edition which looks even more detailed. The insert uses the cover from the regular edition in its normal size while the reverse side of it lists the discs features.

Due to this being an early review copy, we did not get in the art book that's planned for the release.

Menu:
The US release manages to kick the Japanese release all over the place when it comes to the menus as Nightjar has produced a great looking in-theme piece. Using the series logo as its centerpiece, waves of blood flow behind it while there are dried caked bits of blood strewn over that. The navigation strip along the bottom uses the same kind of font as the series logo which helps to tie it all together. Like a lot of Nightjar menus, they push they layer the audio of the menu in 5.1 as well which gets you right into the mood for the show. Submenus are quick to load and the transitions are very smooth. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
With the regular edition, there are no extras.

With the limited edition, there are extras on the main disc but they're not actually in the extras menu " that menu is actually empty which is amusing. In the setup menu, there is a commentary track that you can access that's done with the ADR director, Taliesin Jaffe, and the voice actors for Luke and Jan Valentine, Patrick Seitz and Josh Phillips. The commentary track from the Japanese release is not here however which is a disappointment.

The second disc included in the limited edition is all about the extras.. The first is an interview session with some of the English adaptation folks as Taliesin Jaffe, Patrick Seitz and Josh Phillips get to talk more along the lines of what they covered in the commentary track. The ending sequence is provided in its clean format and there are two versions of the original commercials made for Japanese TV. The promotional trailers that are included have both the Japanese trailer for the second episode as well as the US made trailer for the Internet which is really nicely put together. The last set of extras is the production art galleries which covers both characters in its own section and props and backgrounds in another.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a strong first installment that set the groundwork of what to expect from the series, the second episode not only continues the carnage but in some ways exceeds it. Depending on the familiarity level with the franchise, be it the manga or the previous TV series or nothing at all, going into this episode will have different meaning. For me, it was the pleasure in seeing the portrayal of the manga in such a slick and accurate form yet still knowing just how much more insane it will all become.

The forty-six minute OVA revolves around a very brief amount of time overall. Beyond a simple yet intriguing lead-in with Arucard's past and the end credits scroll which has stills dealing with the epilogue, the majority of this OVA deals with a pitched battle within the Hellsing headquarters. A roundtable meeting has been called by Integra as she's intent on going over the changes that she's been seeing in the ghouls that were documented in the first episode. The changes in how the ghouls have been acting and being created is something that represents a significant change in what's been going on and there needs to be some sort of agreement about how to proceed.

As this meeting is going on in the third floor conference room, Seras is finding her life becoming difficult to adapt to. Due to her continued problem of not drinking blood, Arucard has had Walter remove her bed and put a proper coffin in there. Without a proper day's sleep within a coffin that contains earth from her birthplace, she'll simply get weaker and weaker. The whole thing is just making her on edge. Walter doesn't help much with the way he handles it nor in the way he's dealing in the differences between her and Arucard. The introduction of their new weapons is priceless. From Arucard's near-orgasm over his new custom weapon to Seras' overreaction to the cannon she now has, it's simply so over the top but kept within a strange form of reality that just thinking about it brings a smile to my face.

This is all just icing on the cake that is this second episode however. The bulk of it revolves around the arrival of a pair of brothers named Jan and Luke Valentine. Working for a mysterious organization that gets slightly revealed towards the end, the duo has come to Hellsing headquarters to cause nothing but chaos and destruction. Jan is the typical punk archetype who revels in bloodshed and violence. His using the ghouls to achieve his goal of completely destroying Integra gives him a power trip. Between his vulgar styling and the simple brutality of his actions, Jan showcases some fascinating destructive power in raw unmanaged form.

To provide balance to Jan, you have his brother Luke. Luke Valentine is the epitome of the cool, calm and collected type. With his long blonde hair and the pure white suit that he wears, you know that he's simply evil incarnate. Whereas Jan is wild and all over the place, Luke provides a more measured approach in how he deals with his enemies. The people he cuts down is in its own way more brutal than how Jan simply tears them apart. Both of them provide an immense amount of bloodshed but Luke has the larger goal of wanting to take down the legend that is Arucard. The whispers and rumors about what Arucard can do have been motivating him for some time and there is a great amount of poetic beauty in how the two of them approach each other.

One of the best things about this episode however is Walter. Though certainly an intriguing enough character as seen in the first volume, his involvement in this episode expands greatly. Between his ability to handle both Arucard and Seras in "butler" form and the way he can provide proper context for Integra over the impending battle, he's far more than he appears. The old man look is certainly real enough and he's lived a long and sordid life, but the exterior belies the viciousness that's controlled and tempered just under the surface. Pairing him with Seras serves to properly enlighten here but also to show just what kind of people the core of the Hellsing organization is made up of.

Not unlike the first volume, the animation here is just gorgeous to look at. With so much going on and so many deep reds and blacks the visuals just pop right off the screen. As rich and vibrant as this looked on our 50" Panasonic set, it couldn't hold a candle to the way it immersed us with the 70" Sony set. The hues and general lack of a visible gradient gives it such a rich flow. Combined with a beautiful 5.1 mix for both languages and it's a real double threat on the technical front. Every little nuance in the bass really gives the subwoofer a workout which results in a strong and very superior presentation. Watching this a day later on TV speakers in stereo really changes how much impact it all has. It's simply not the same show.

In Summary:
Though this is going to be a long and slow series to release, each new installment simply makes me giddy beyond words when I sit down to watch it. With six months between this release and the first one, it's like coming back to very familiar ground. Geneon has done a superb job with this release on just about every front which results in a fantastic experience overall. Everyone has a different threshold for what makes a great release and for me everything clicks just right here. Though it'll likely be at least another six months for the next installment, I'm more than patient enough in order to get something just as solid as this. Very highly recommended.

Features
Regular Edition: Japanese 2.0 Language,Regular Edition: English 5.1 Language,Regular Edition: English Subtitles,Limited Edition: English 5.1 DTS Language,Limited Edition: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Language,Limited Edition: Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital Language,Limited Edition: English Subtitles,Limited Edition: Audio Commentary,Limited Edition: Staff Interview,Limited Edition: SteelBook Case,Limited Edition: Production Art Collection Bookx

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player via DVI -> HDMI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 24.95/49.98
Running time: 46
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hellsing