Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: All
- Region: 2 - Japan
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment, Japan
- MSRP: 7500
- Running time: 50
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Hellsing
Hellsing OVA Vol. #1
By Chris Beveridge
March 07, 2006
Release Date: February 10, 2006
Hellsing OVA Vol. #1
What They Say
© Geneon Entertainment, Japan
The ellusive Hellsing organization is back to take on the freaks threatening England with their secret weapon, a former vampire named Arucard! Includes 8-page booklet and picture labeled disc.The Review!
Direct to video and more closely following the manga, Hellsing returns with a bloody vengeance.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Being that it's the only one here as well there isn't exactly a lot of choice but the disc does also include a stereo commentary track. The main track though is a Japanese 5.0 Dolby mix 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 track is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.Video:
Originally released in February 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 but it's not a completely smooth thing. While colors look fantastic and avoid break-up and cross coloration, there is a fair bit of noticeable gradient issues, sometimes also called color stepping, in which you can see the digital outlines of where the colors shift. It's only noticeable in a big way in a few key scenes but it's a fairly common problem with a lot of digital shows. 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.Packaging:
We went for the limited edition version of the release which for an extra twenty bucks got us a separate box that has a bust of Alucard in it. It has a good weight to it and is the kind of neat limited edition material that I like going for with the Japanese releases. The regular edition is in a keepcase and uses different artwork than the limited edition which is designed as a digipak that folds out to three panels. One panel is the simple plastic black disc holder while the middle on is an elaborate illustration of Alucard that looks like it came from the manga. The third panel is a cross cut piece of a cross that inside holds the booklet which uses the regular editions' artwork for its cover, a neat shot of Alucard holding his gun down out towards the viewer. The booklet is nicely done with lots of full color shots, character sketches, liner notes and a full cast and staff listing. Also included in it is a two panel piece called "WOOPS" which basically has fun with the show. This installment has an illustration of the leads all wearing bunny ear hats with crosses on them while looking mean. Menu:
The menu is very simple and limited, surprisingly so at times, as it uses the limited edition cover artwork of Alucard clutching his face while surrounded by a lot of red shading while a bit of music plays along to it. The selections are very minimal with just playing the episode as a whole or selecting either the opening, story or ending. That's right, the bulk of the show is one big chapter that's bookended. The only other selection available is to play the disc by the commentary track. Naturally, there are no language selections or subtitle options here and the menu is a mix of English and Japanese but with so little to select it's very easy to navigate.Extras:
The only included extra is a feature length commentary track by the shows producer.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The announcement in 2005 that a new Hellsing OVA series was going to be produced got the attention of a lot of folks, much more so than when the Hellsing TV series first came out several years ago. The property has become much more than it used to be by the arrival of the manga being distributed by Dark Horse as the releases have scored very well for the most part in the Bookscan lists. The TV series had its fare share of fans and they'd been able to go and find out just how much better the original is since that came out. With news that the new OVA series was essentially going to try and be one OVA per graphic novel and that they were intending to use those books as storyboards essentially, it sounded like a dream come true.
Clocking in at just under fifty minutes, the first OVA release manages to capture a lot of what makes the manga so exciting. Hellsing's story revolves around an age old war of vampires, religion and something more sinister that's about to be revealed in the next volume. On one side, there is the Hellsing Foundation, the group started centuries ago that has in its possession the old and powerful vampire Alucard. Under the leadership of Integra Hellsing, she's able to control Alucard to do her bidding, something he revels in and enjoys. The two have a very amusing relationship where you can almost imagine each is ready to rip each others heads off but there's an immense respect mixed into it as well. On the other side, you have the Church and those within it that have their own agendas for purifying the world and so forth.
Generally, there is little interaction between the Hellsing side and the Church as there are clear lines where one will not go. But England is finding itself riddled with vampires and they're making a strong push for power. There's an engaging sequence of events where Alucard arrives to deal with a gaggle of them led by a preacher who had just decimated a police division and he gets to show off his powers to them. But this event also brings into Alucards view a young police girl named Seras Victoria who barely survives the event and he decides to gift her the power of a draculina. She now finds herself deep inside this bigger war that nobody knew about but in changed form. She's more violent, she has the growing powers of a vampire, and she's finding new needs affecting her. Her introduction to all of this is rather sparse and before she knows it she's off hunting with Alucard using a massive cannon rifle.
Naturally, Hellsing and the Church will collide but this is all just prelude to what's to come. The arrival of Anderson and the subsequent fight, drawn out as it is, is beautifully animated and wonderfully violent. The animation looks much closer to what I envisioned it as after reading the manga for the first time. There is little real comparison between this and the original TV series which is almost worth just forgetting about at this point. The OVA series is able to go where the TV couldn't and this is very obvious in the opening episode here. The differences are varied since the TV series did do a lot of things right but this release just feels like it's been unshackled and can tell it properly. One of the best differences at least early on is that Seras Victoria doesn't feel like a whiny crybaby of a girl that was scared all of the time. She's a far different character in here once she turns. The TV series had me disliking her but the further I got in the manga the more she became my favorite character.
Interestingly enough, I found that watching this raw wasn't all that problematic if you've read the manga. Between it and the TV series basis, it's very easy to put together what's going on here and follow the flow easily enough. The OVA does feel like it has more quick cuts and slightly choppy pacing compared to the manga but it does have a lot to introduce in its first episode. In a way, if you're going to watch it raw, it's best to read the manga a bit before the episode and everything will be much easier overall. The close nature of the two mediums is something that's very alluring as they're doing such a wonderful job of bringing it to life.In Summary:
For as flawed as the TV series was, I enjoyed it a lot but knew that it was making serious leaps away from the source material, something that's still being published. Having read the seven released volumes of manga since then, my anticipation for the show as the zombies and Nazi's start showing up is immense. Reading the manga since the announcement it's easier to imagine the scenes from it coming to life but even more so now having seen the approach they're taking. The opening episode of the OVA franchise isn't a knock your socks off kind of experience but it is one that says clearly what kind of path that they'll be following as they set out to separate themselves from what's come before. This release when it arrives in the US will likely completely reinvigorate the Hellsing fanbase and be something that's talked about a lot. I can't wait for that release and have to have it as it comes out. The Hellsing OVA is one of the best modern vampire anime shows I've seen yet. Very recommended.
Japanese 5.0 Language,Commentary Track
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.