Hellsing Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
By:Robert "DarkSong" Piekut
Review Date: Saturday, June 01, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Another dose of GONZO eye candy that is oh so popular as of late. At one point they had 6 shows they had worked on airing on Japanese TV in the same season, and I fear to think how much the licensing fees are for their shows.
A quick disclaimer - I'll readily admit that I'm a complete vampire fanatic, collecting movies, posters and other memorabilia. Having seen this show before in fansub form, I've been looking forward to seeing this on DVD, in all its digital splendour, and it doesn't disappoint. However, despite my enthusiasm for this show, I'll give this a thorough and fair review.
I took the time to watch the disc in both Japanese and English audio. There was a lot of anticipation of this title from fans of Crispin Freeman, who voices the role of the vampire Arucard, so I decided to give the dub a fair shake. From a technical standpoint, the audio for both languages is well done and clear - I have no complaints in that department. If you let your sound level rip, you'll catch some really amusing background audio bits that might amuse you. My specific comments and gripes over the performance of the dub cast, I'll mention in the content review section.
It's hard to say anything negative about the video quality for this. Having aired on Japanese TV in October 2001, the masters are in great shape. Even more so, for a show that has so much black and dark colouring, there is little evidence of any macroblocking. Pioneer usually has good video quality on their releases, and their ability to get the newer titles doesn't hurt either.
To me, the packaging on this disc was a bit of a disappointment, as I feel that it got "sanitized" for the American audience. Any images with any bit of occult symbolism were not used on the cover, unlike the R2 release. The front cover with Arucard's smiling face will creep people out enough as is, though. The insert center features a picture of Arucard and Anderson going "mano a vampiro" (yes, I know it's not technically correct) which is rather neat.
My big gripe is Pioneer's new choice for keepcases. I have no idea who makes these things, but they are dreadful. I dropped the case from about four inches above my desk, and I heard the telltale sound of a disc coming loose from the hub in the case. I'd even take a Scanavo over this piece of junk.
Another wonderful Nightjar menu graces this disk, and some wonderful work it is. The main menu features a bag of blood on ice giving off fog, with the menu options on the label itself. The eerie background music on it amused me so much; I left it running the entire time I worked on this review, unless I was spot-checking something. The other menus aren't as straightforward to figure out, but not as difficult as some other menus I've seen. Great stuff all in all.
A decent batch of extras are present, to include the clean Opening and the Music Video trailer that was present on previous Pioneer discs. Although techno music usually isn't my preference, it actually does work with the frantic pace in the video. Also present is some concept art, and some images of the Arucard action figure due out soon. And Pioneer continues with trailers again, this disc having the one for the X TV series as well as the ones seen on previous DVDs.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One thing about this show that displeases many people is that it's definitely a "style over substance" sort of show. Also, some shortcuts are taken, because of the adaptation of the manga into a 13 episode series. This annoys many people, as they'd want more character development, or explanation as to why someone acts like they do. One of the hazards of the shorter 13 episode series is that often you don't have that leisure, especially if there is a lot of story to be told. So be it.
The show starts off with Arucard performing a termination on a rather sexy looking female vampire, and when you contrast the 2 audio tracks, you see what I consider to be one of the biggest flaws of the English dub. George Nakata has the perfect voice for the character of Arucard - deep and full of menace, as he SHOULD have. Crispin Freeman, on the other hand comes across as a prissy little twit, and the character loses the impact he has in the Japanese audio track. I love Arucard's outfit he wears - it looks like a Wild West Undertaker's outfit, but in blood red. Ironically, in the AOD forums there was a spirited discussion thread on whether his name is "Arucard" or "Alucard", and the official verdict from the licensor is that it is indeed "Arucard" - but lo and behind, in the English dub, he is clearly called "Alucard" - which I tend to refer to him as in my head as well. Got to love localization, eh?
The next major character we encounter is Sir Integra Wingates Hellsing, the head of the Hellsing Institute. Despite the "sir" title, this is a female character, although I still say she looks like Allen Schezar from Escaflowne in drag. Her character is a rather strong one, as would be expected for her role, and both VA's do an excellent job voicing this role. The only oddity is that they can't seem to decide whether or not the first name is Integra, or Integral - they flip-flop in the audio/subtitle tracks. Integra has an as of yet unexplained control over Arucard, and uses him as her ace troubleshooter in hunting down other annoying vampire problems, and although she has no compunctions using him, it's obvious she does not like him.
The next character we are introduced to is Seras, the main female character. She starts off the show as a member of the elite D-11 police team, and of course everyone else in her squad becomes vampire feed, and turns to zombies. (Braaaaaains!) We get very little insight into her character with the exception that she has trouble bringing herself to shoot a human, being that she's the "mascot" for this team, it seems. After a bit of running about, encountering the Vampire priest they were supposed to hunt down, and running afoul of Arucard's termination of said bloodsucker, she chooses to become a vampire instead of dying, and Arucard puts the bite on her. A rather amusing line during this part, just as he's about to sink his fangs into her, is when her tells her "This is where you usually close your eyes." I got a good chuckle out of that, and the parts right after where she looks completely bewildered coming to terms with her new existence and being transferred to the Hellsing Institute. Alas, here is a part I take issues with the English dub VA - as she seems to drop in and out of accent quite often for the rest of the disk, which annoyed me to no end.
The second episode deals with a "Bonnie and Clyde" duo of young thrill seeker vampires, showcases some more of Arucard arcane powers, and deals with Seras trying to fit into her new role on a Hellsing strike team. A scene where she totes around a 15 kilogram "sniper rifle" like a twig is rather amusing. Also we see more of her having problems getting used to her life as a vampire - when she is shown to her new quarters at Hellsing headquarters, she hops onto her bed and pushes a button on a remote, closing a top over her, to which she remarks "a four-poster coffin, bloody hell!"
The last episode on this disk brings a rather compelling "antagonist" into play, Alexander Anderson, another vampire hunter working for the Vatican - keep in mind this show takes place in England, Protestants and Catholics tend not to get along too well here. Anderson is a rather powerful hunter himself, despite being a mere human, and does some freaky things with his blessed swords. The VA's for both languages do a rather good job of conveying his rather manic nature - he seems to enjoy his work a bit too much - and in the English dub he is voiced with an Irish accent, adding a nice bit of contrast to all the British ones in the show.
Hellsing is one of these shows you're going to either really like, or take an immediate dislike to. It's very style over substance, as I remarked before. With it being only 13 episodes, you won't get a whole lot of character development, as it is a rather action-packed show. Some people have remarked that Seras looks entirely out of place, being drawn as she is only for the fanservice factor - with which I disagree, as you will encounter plenty of other females put into the story for fanservice alone. Later on in the show, it has a tendency to introduce interesting new characters in an episode, only to discard them by the end of the same episode, never to be seen again. Some plot points never get adequately explained, leaving you to press your "I believe" button, as well.
However, in spite of its many shortcomings, Hellsing is a very enjoyable little addition to the stable of vampire shows - at least to me. Sometimes there is a need for deep meaning, and other times just solid entertainment is enough, and from GONZO's past track record, they seem to be masters at the latter. I've been waiting anxiously for this to hit region 1 DVD, and look forward to adding the final disc with its box to my collection.
1) RCA 25" TV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony
STR-DE845 DD/DTS receiver, S-video cables, Fibre optic audio out to
receiver, Paradigm speakers. 2) Toshiba MD-1402 DVD-Rom, PowerDVD, ViewSonic
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: C
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2