Hellsing Ultimate Vol. #1 (Mania.com)

By:John Eriani
Review Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What They Say
For over a century, the Hellsing Organization has been secretly protecting the British Empire from the undead "freaks," When Sir Integra Hellsing succeeded as the head of the organization; she also inherited the ultimate weapon against the undead enemies, the rogue vampire Arucard. Although his signature weapon is an enormous "anti-freak" gun called Jackal, he is a "true" undead with mysterious and frightening powers, which includes the ability to transform himself into bats and other creatures. While on a mission ordered by Integra, he is forced to shoot Seras Victoria, a policewoman held hostage by an enemy vampire. "Do you want to live?" he asks Seras, whose very answer changes the course of her existence. Now reborn as Arucard's servant, Seras is torn between her conflicting humanity and her vampire urges.

The Review!
Alucard is back! And this time things are being done right. Well mostly.

I watched the show in it is original language of Japanese 5.1 and spot checked the English DTS dub in certain scenes. The English dub cast were all brought back to reprise their roles with the show and they sound exactly the same as before with lots of English accents Alucard being the only exception. I didn't notice any distortion or drops out at any time and the DTS soundtrack did sound just a bit fuller when the big action pieces kicked in. The audio commentary by Taliesin Jaffe and Crispin Freeman is rather enjoyable as they talk about the standard things such as casting and who they like as actors etc as well as some interesting trivia from Taliesin Jaffe.

The video is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced with anamorphic widescreen. This is another NTSC to PAL conversion and all the inherent flaws are present such as ghosting and softness. Colours look good through especially the reds and blacks. The only bad thing about this video really is the interlacing due to the conversion otherwise things look great and action scenes do not suffer from this to much.

The artwork used for this release is top notch. The front cover has an image of Alucard either falling apart or coming back together while holding his gun diagonally across the whole picture it's a striking image that shows exactly what you are going to get with this OVA. The logo is under this artwork but the volume number is located above it most likely due to the OFLC logo being too large to display anywhere else. The cover is done with a metallic finish to give it that special LE look similar to the region one steel book, while it's not as good as the steel book it's a nice touch. There are lots of dark red and black within the artwork and even the red OFLC rating is less distracting then normal. The back cover has the same metallic finish with a summary of the show and a quote by Alucard taking up the top portion. The problem is that the font used may be a little small and hard for some to read. The special features are all listed but in this same small font and the standard Madman technical grid is found across the bottom with some shots of the show. The cover is also reversible but not with the metallic finish which is a little bit of shame.

As I said above the artwork for the packaging is top notch and it continues in the menus as well. The main menu opens with the Hellsing logo on a black background while the ending theme plays with all its operatic glory. It then moves into a flight of animated bats and shows the full menu screen with a blood red background, logo at the top and to the side is a static image of Alucard from the front cover. All other menu screens are static without music and only the extra's and setup screens have another piece of artwork, this time of Alucard holding his face whiling chomping down on a cross. Everything was quick and easy to access without issue.

The Extra's are pretty much the same as the region one LE but they come on the same disc as the main feature. There is your standard production gallery as well as Japanese TV spots and US and Japanese trailers. The most interesting extras are the commentary mentioned above and the interview with Crispin Freeman and Taliesin Jaffe. Both of them have a definite love of the show and enjoy talking about it and its interesting to hear how the casting came about and what was involved in not only this version of Hellsing but the original TV show as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Several years ago Gonzo made the first foray into the world of Hellsing with a TV show but there were a few problems. While the animation was fine and the music was top notch, its story diverged from the manga greatly and only became 13 episodes long. While most fans enjoyed the show to some degree a lot of people were disappointed with how it ended. The main reason for this was because the manga storyline only went up to about episode 8 and then the series had to make its own which when compared to earlier episodes just didn't stand up. Now Statelight and Geneon have gone back to the beginning to right the mistakes of the past and create a faithful adaptation of the manga with the Hellsing Ultimate series.

Each Ultimate OVA episode is about 45 to 50 minutes in length and being released one episode per DVD. The show should be coming out for the next several years and hopefully this release schedule will allow it to catch up to the manga but not overrun it and go down the same path as the old TV series. Fans of Hellsing will pretty much have seen everything that there is in this volume while hints of characters only featured in the manga come to play at the end of the episode.

The story starts of with a young Integra Hellsing running away from her uncle who wishes to take over the Hellsing organisation that protects The Crown and Great Britain from demonic forces. In her escape she resurrects Alucard a powerful vampire that is a legacy of the Hellsing organisation. She now uses Alurcard as an agent to kill other vampires as she believes the only true way to kill a vampire is to have them killed by another more powerful vampire. We get to see just how powerful Alucard is about 5 minutes in when he is brought to the town of Cheddar where a vampire has taken up residence in the local church.

After killing most of the church goers and police the vampire chases after the lone survivor a police woman named Seras Victoria who is then taken as a hostage when Alurcard catches up with him. In order to save her Alucard shoots her through the chest killing the vampire holding her but only after asking if she is a virgin he then allows her the choice to become a vampire or die.

This pretty much how the first episode of the original show plays out and from there we get more of the same with the two teenage vampire lovers tearing up a town and getting blown away by Alucard and Seras. Seras is having a little trouble adjusting to her new un-life and while she trusts Alucard she is also frightened of him and what she has become. The showdown between Alurcard and Alexander Anderson the crazy regenerator priest that works for the Iscariot Organization (a top secret section of the Vatican) is also presented in much the same way as the TV series.

The overall flow of the story in this episode may seem a little haphazard and vague but most fans will be able to piece the scenes together from what they have previously seen on TV and in the manga. The creator of Hellsing Kouta Hirano has been much more involved in this production and is supervising most aspects of the show. This evident from the closer to the manga storyline and the character designs. Ryoji Nakamori has adapted Hirano's original designs for the screen perfectly with his signature style of elongated limbs and exaggerated features.

The animation does a good job of trying to replicate the art of the manga with deliberate bold outlines for characters and extra lines for shading within. While the violence is brutal the gore seems very cartoonish with lots of blood flowing from injuries to the point of ridiculousness. The set action pieces are fast and furious with lots going on and the animation handles this quiet well. Certain scenes do seem a little rushed but overall the animation is solid. Music while good just doesn't have the same atmospheric touch as the TV series with most tunes being rather forgettable techno except for the awesome ending theme which is very orchestral in nature with an operatic choir.

In Summary:
For fans who want some new Hellsing this isn't new territory, sure it is a more faithful and better animated adaptation but that's about it and for new fans it can be rather confusing. There are definite good and bad things about this new series but I'm sure with each volume things will become increasingly more satisfying. While Madman's edition is a valiant effort it doesn't hold up to the Region 1 LE offering from late last year. With such a long pause between releases it may be hard to sustain a new fan base not use to an OVA release schedule but those who are dedicated enough should find lots of fantastic Hellsing action to enjoy.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Audio commentary with Crispin Freeman (Arucard) and Taliesin Jaffe (English Voice Director),Interview with Crispin Freeman (Arucard) and Taliesin Jaffe (English Voice Director),Japanese promotional music videos inc. Broken English and Young King Ours Version,Japanese and U.S. trailers,Japanese TV commercials,Textless ending,Production art galleries

Review Equipment
LG 32LX2D 32" HD LCD TV, Sony DVP-NS50P Progressive scan region free DVD player, Monster component cable, Yamaha TSS-15 Home Theatre Sound System

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 4 - Australia / South America
Released By: Madman Entertainment
MSRP: 29.95
Running time: 50
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hellsing