Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: A
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: B-
- Menus Rating: A-
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: 16 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 124.98
- Running time: 320
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Hellsing
Hellsing Box Set
By Tam Nguyen
September 14, 2003
Release Date: April 08, 2003
"My name is Hermes... I become tame by eating my own wings..." Exactly what does this bizarre statement mean? Is there a Hermes in this show? Last time I checked there wasn't... Perhaps this is some sort of statement that is symbolic of the humiliation the main character must endure in order to achieve restraint of himself... so a metaphor perhaps? It's best not to wonder about such things, as one thing is certain, firing up Hellsing on your player and sitting through the show's opening let's the statement explain itself, it just implies a sense... of "Cool." Loosely based upon the manga series of the same name (aren't they all?), Hellsing comes off as a show that seems more concerned with flaunting it's sense of style than merely plodding forward with it's tried and true, "Destroy all monsters plot." Watching a show tricked out with slow-mo effects gun battling, knife wielding, super-natural chop-socky brawls featuring tall and gaunt anti heroes clad in any number of primary colors ought to tell you that.
For centuries unbeknownst to us, Vampires have been clinging to the shadows, a festering superhuman race whose appetites must be eternally sated with our blood. And for just as long, there have been those who hunt the hunters, dispellers of the wicked (I'm trying my best here to romanticize a plot that's been done a million times before!), and amongst these, the Hellsing Organization is the oldest. Flash-forward to a future set in England, where things have quieted down over the many years, the Hellsing Organization now a beast that has remained dormant but ever vigilant in its quest to condemn the beast among men. There is something stirring in the shadows however, and it's steadily multiplying, like a rampant disease the people of the night have begun appearing again. But they have something to fear. Oh... They have much to fear, for the beast of the Hellsing Organization has been waiting for this day, a terrible demon darker than blood red whose vampiric hatred has grown larger than the guns he carries.
Bearing witness to impossible events: a bizarre situation out of her control involving seemingly dead beings, Seras flees from her previously killed comrades and seeks refuge in a church. Only to find that she becomes entranced by its vampiric Father, and held against her own will. Before the Father has his way with her, Arucard busts through the church's doors, and coolly lectures the vampire on the history of the people of the night, sneering in disgust at the Father's fake vampiric origins. The Father then makes an interesting observation, if Arucard is a vampire, then why isn't he on his side? Soon the room fills with zombies, and a statuesque Arucard is ripped to shreds by machine gun rounds, the Father cackles, stating, "he was all talk!" This is where the cool factor comes in, as Arucard decomposes into a bloody mess and regenerates his form, blowing away all the zombies with an impossibly large gun. He then faces the Father and Seras, and gives the girl an option, should Arucard fire a round.
What makes Hellsing a successful show is its bold execution, this isn't a show to watch if you're expecting character development enfolded in a solid plot that focuses on vampiric myth and lore. Hellsing is all about showcasing its wicked sense of style, as the guns get bigger, the showdowns more spectacular, and the enemies increasingly nastier.
Of course Alucard always has just the right way to deal with these impending threats, as his classifications of the vampires' abilities allow him to reveal more and more of his truly terrifying nature. Whether it be the simple Freak Chip vampire, to an army of zombies, to a fully fledged vampire of supernatural origins, to the Vatican's own blade wielding, madman regenerating vampire hunter Paladin Andersong, Arucard takes out the trash in a spectacular way. These duels are usually conducted alongside Hellsing's own S.W.A.T. team, but it's Arucard that deals with the main entity. These battles range from Seras plugging vampires with the Halconnen (A huge ballistics firing rocket launcher, capable of even firing depleted uranium shells!), to Hellsing's servant Walter performing acts of limb separation with his wire filament, to Arucard duking it out on a subway train. Heck, even Sir Integra uses her pistol skills to plug an incendiary cross in a vamp's mug.
Any semblance of a plot, and character growth takes a backseat to this, however that's not to say that these characters are flat, one-sided beings with nothing but kill on the mind (Well maybe Arucard is... but then again who cares?). A lot of this show deals with the gradual changes to Seras' lifestyle now that she's no longer human, and the scriptwriters play off of her insecurity in a big way. It's always fun to see the reluctant Seras sulking about her now irregular sleeping patterns, or how she refuses to carry the huge Halconnen (which was made especially for her ^_^). Being the new member of Hellsing, no one cuts her any slack, and even the newly recruited soldiers that she trains try to hit on her, or pick on her in some way. These little interactions though apparent in other anime, are imperative here, as the viewer often has no real hero to latch onto. Giving the female protagonist Seras a flawed, human (and admittingly cute ^_^) dimension was a wise choice on behalf of the creators.
The simplistic main plotlines in Hellsing may turn some people off, and that would be too bad, because they would be missing out on a really cool, stylized experience that isn't too common in anime. From learning of the origins of the freak chip, to uncovering the truth behind the relationship of Sir Integra and Arucard, to seeing just how Seras will fit in in her new world, there's not a whole lot going on, so the show plays off of its over the top style.
Completing its run in mid 2003, Hellsing is one of the newer shows on the anime market (though definitely old news in my mind...yeesh, how time flies...), so it's a show that a lot of newer anime fans can easily associate with. These new fans are of the I've seen DBZ, Ninja Scroll, and Akira, and the Ghost in the Shell crowd, those who have seen the ultra violent cult classics in general is what I'm aiming at. It's got the crazy post matrix action elements they so crave, the new look of a digital show, the affordability (it's only 13 eps.), and no heavy thinking required, fans of action oriented anime should definitely look into this show. Previously released in 4 separate installments, the whole series can be purchased in a nifty box for the price of 103 dollars. Or if you prefer, you can hunt down the installments one by one, at 23 dollars each. Hellsing comes packaged in those god-awful Scanavo DVD cases, anyone who has bought anime from ADV during the period of 2001 to 2002 will know what I'm talking about.
Moving along to the transfers, we get the usual solid release from Pioneer, a distributor famous for getting its hands on very good source materials. The artwork here shines through effortlessly and colors are very clear and vivid throughout, the blood looking very vibrant in particular. There is no macroblocking in sight, and rainbow effects are a thing of the past, though this is may be due to the fact that the three to four episodes a disc formula helped lower the compression rate. Animated by the relatively new Studio Gonzo (Of Gatekeepers fame), Hellsing has a very interesting mangaesque look to it, Arucard could've had your basic digital color overlay job that would imply shadows, but instead he has a very sketchy look that seems to mimic the look of manga toner. Interspersed within Hellsing's digital shading is 3-D animation that is often used to convey the action segments where perspective is required, such as pages of holy text swirling towards the viewer.
Of worthy mention here is George Nataka the voice of the canny, and "eager to please" Arucard. There's just something about George's voice that impeccably places him above other villainous voices in anime history. It's like when you first heard Sid Vicious of Cowboy Bebop, and you just knew that this guy means business; well George evokes this feeling of dread albeit in a whole different fashion. Like Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, George has lent a personality to a form of monster that has always been portrayed as being either faceless or tormented throughout cinema history. He has this arrogant, pompous attitude, and this tonal confidence plays very well into establishing that Arucard really is as big and bad as he claims to be. Moving into the dub, the English cast puts forth a relatively admirable if not somewhat dull effort in their take on the characters. Of interesting note is how everyone has a british accent reflective of their homeland Great Britain, this is fine and all (and a little expethe monotony.
Finally we get down to the actual disc layout, the menus here are done by the famous Nightjar studio, these guys always churn out very creative, attractive menus including their work on Trigun, and G.T.O. Each menu is different depending on the disc, with the backgrounds ranging from a bloodbag to Sera's Halconnen shells case. Navigating the menus triggers a nifty animation in which the screen fills with blood and pulls away to reveal the next corresponding menu. Extras on the disc vary, but include series artwork, sneak peeks at upcoming Hellsing action figures, the usual clean opening and closing of the show with no text overlays, with the most interesting being a segment dedicated to interviews with the staff of Studio Gonzo. Nothing terribly big here, as most anime discs are concerned but a welcome addition of content otherwise.
Hellsing is an above average offering to the action genre of anime, what separates it from the pack is it doesn't try to sell itself off as something it's not. Hellsing is an action orgy for fans of the aforementioned shows with "tricked out with slow-mo effects gun battling, knife wielding, super-natural chop-socky brawls featuring tall and gaunt anti heroes clad in any number of primary colors." There is no hidden spiritual meaning, or any profound message, or a ridiculous attempt at a plot to cover up a barebones structure that focuses on action. Hellsing is what it is: a cool, stylized, over the top fest of action and mayhem featuring uber cool anti heroes and a cute police girl trying to rid the world of a festering race of monsters, no explanation needed. And to that I heartily say: "Amen."
Panasonic 27" Television, JVC XV-S65 player, component connection, wired to stereo speakers