Mania Grade: B-
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: B-
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: C+
- Extras Rating: C
- Age Rating: All
- Region: 3 - Southeast Asia
- Released By: Dynamic Asia Multimedia
- Running time: 325
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Hellsing
May 26, 2003
Release Date: October 20, 2002
What They Say
© Dynamic Asia Multimedia
Disc Catalogue Numbers: DVD-200401/DVD-200403The Review!
Audio: Presented in Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese, the show's sountrack is, arguably, the greatest asset it's got. A generally pleasing mix, the music and dialogue and sound effects all sound fine, though it's not quite the greatest stereo mix I've ever heard, either. Ambient sounds are kinda' non-existant, and as with almost all movies or TV shows, the music will kick up and down to allow for dialogue, making the track a bit more jarring than it might have been. All the same, I have no problems with it, and the panning sound effects are occasionally used very well. More importantly, there's no hisses, pops, or dropouts, which I wouldn't see any excuse for in a show this new, anyway.
Video: Made by Gonzo Digimation, the animation is very impressive, but ultimatey very inconsisnant, and it's definately a matter of style over substance. Regardless, with a lot of digital effects, bright red skies, and dark interiors, this show could have been a virtual den for artifacting and cross coloration. Thankfully, the digital origins transfer beautifully, though even with the exceptionally high bitrate per minute, the Media Asia collecton does artifact somewhat on effects such as fire and mist, particuarly in episodes 8 and 10 (when Integral is crawling through the air ducts is especially nasty), though I have a feeling this is more a problem with the animation than any fault by Media Asia, but for most scenes to look so good, those that don't do sort of stand out. Also of note is that Alucard's coat has a nasty habit of leading to cross coloration, but that seems to be the only thing that seems to bleed even the slightest. The transfer is stunning for the most part, though, and save for a few slightly imprefect moments here and there, it's one of the nicest liscenced discs from Hong Kong I've had the pleasure of seeing.
Packaging: While I've had my fair share of complaints with digipak type packages, I'd have to say this is simply the nicest I've ever seen in terms of functionality and design. With a pair of digipak's in stiff, matte, cardboard slip cases, each has an image of Alucard on the front cover, and an image of Serase on the back, with a sort of mottled red and black backdrop, as well as the quote "In the name of God..." at the top, etc., along with several screencaps and a description of the show in Chinese on the back, and a full English credits list, there's a lot to see, but it doesn't feel too busy, or obnoxious. All of the technical info is listed clearly, the only mistake being that the second set lits it's runtime as 150 minutes, when it's closer to 175. Inside the slipcases is a digipak that opens like a book, the 'front and back' identical to the keepcase, the 'open' book loaded with screencaps of each episode and a Chine desciption, and finally, if you open those flaps, you have the discs themselves, and descriptions of what I think are other anime discs that Dynamic sells, and the company history. Underneath where the discs lie, there's some more heavily distorted images of the characters, from what I believe are Japanese promotional pieces. While I'm usually a keepcase fan more than anything, these are some gorgeous packages, that could have only been improved, in my opinion, by having a plastic slipcase that doesn't 'bend' quite so easily.
Menus: One of the only dissapoinments on the Dynamic release, the menu's feature an image of Alucard's grinning face which blinks, the symbol on his glove (the Pentagram with all the runes around it) rotating in the backdrop, and the Jackal firearm, with selections all over the place. The animation is kinda' tacky, and the sound - the opening theme of the show - is very loud. (There are also several front-loading menu's, which you can't skip on discs 1 and 2.) The selections are "Chinese", "English" (Subtitles, on the pentagram), "Hellsing" (play all), and "Chapters" (on the Jackal), which let you pick only the start of an episode, despite each episod being further broken in to 4 chapters.
Extras: While no release of Hellsing has been especially feature packed, this release includes only a creditless opening on disc 1, and a creditless ending on disc 2. I have no idea which version of the openng or closing they are, however, as I'm aware there are several edits of the opening and closing for this particular series. The Dynamic discs are also available in a limited edition version with 12"+ replicas of Alucard's weapons. Being the budget otaku I am, I opted for the release without them. (Had I grabbed the LE set, I assure you, the extra's rating would be an A++.) Still, the clean credit sequences are nice. I just can't help but think there could have been a bit more included on the discs.
PRESENTATION: (C-) This being an import disc, and a fully liscenced one unlike so many from Hong Kong and Taiwan, I feel I should make a few notes about how the show itself is presented. For one thing, despite the marks above, there is a consistant problem - once to twice per episode, the video will 'Shake' for about 2 frames. I have no idea why almost every episode does this, and it's only mildly distracting - but it is there. (This is what really kept me from giving the transfer an A-.) Also, the subtitles are, servicable, at best. The first 3 discs seem to have translations ripped off of fansubs, but poorly - the timing goes off in many scenes, various english words are mis-translated (Snuff='Snap', Punk='Please', Our='Dur', Now='How', etc.), and the last disc seems to have translations that were made by someone other than the first 10 episodes, and are a step down from the first 3 discs in terms of accuracy, and general consistencey. Discs 3 and 4 have what looks to be a "See you next time!" message after each episode, as well as what must have been a commercial bumper after the credits. The first 2 discs do not. And perhaps worst of all - the 'bug list'. My own personal copies all did this, and wither I just recieved faulty discs or wither all copies do this is a mystery to me - but they should be noted all the same.
Episode 4: A noticable "blip" - artifacts fill the screen, and the soundtrack pops, for about a second when Serase and the others are in the van. Also, in the next scene, there is a "pop" on the soundtrack.
Episode 8: When Helena is speaking to Serase, the discs freezes. Pushing 'scan forward' briefly will make the scene resume.
Episode 9: The last 2-3 minutes will not play at all! Shortly after Incogneito says his name, and Laura is seen with Integral, the discs stutters, and locks up completely.
Episode 13: During the CGI "Whirlpool of blood" sequence, the disc freezes briefly, and then resumes. About 3 seconds of footage seems to have been lost in this.
Disc 4: Clicking "English" on the menu will stop the disc. You have to just play the episode and select them on the fly.
These errors have appeared on both my Daewoo 5700, and Pioner DV-333 players, so I'm convinced they're disc specific, rather than just player incompatibilities. As to if I just got a bad set, or all the discs are like this, I honestly am not certain. These glitches may be considered minor to some, and major to others. The only one that really irks me is the last scene of episode 9 not playing at all, since I honestly don't know exactly how the episode ends, nor do I get to see the always crazy "Next Order" sequence. (Considering that's the one when Serase is given a "New Halconnen" by that creepy little... Well, you can understand my being a bit miffed about the whole thing...) Consider these glitches, and the general quality of English subtitles, before you decide if the Region 3 Dynamic release is right for you.
Content: SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers may (and knowing me, will) be contained below. If you want to be completely surprised by the show before seeing it, please refrain from reading this part of the review!
To be frank, I don't like vampires much. Or, let me rephrase that; I don't like the curent trend of vamprires. I'm all for Bela Lugosi and Max Shrek scaring the crap out of us in their black and white ACTING! glory, I certainly have no problem with the euro-trash movie vampiresses that always seemed to be lesbians and naked for as much runtime as was possible, and even Gary Oldman was great to see as everyone's favorite blood guzzling count. But after Anne Rice, it all went down hill. Not that I have anything against Rice herself, no, I'm actually rather fond of the few books of hers I've read. She managed to create 'monsters' that were genuinely intriguing, sympathetic, and understandable to even the average human as being lonely, toemented, and miserable beings. Unfortunately, after "Interview with a Vampire", it seems like every vampire in existance had to be a whiny, mopey, bitching loser who spent more time contemplating his place in the world than he did actually drinking hemoglobin and enslaving virgins and ripping villagers apart. Y'know, vampire stuff. Even the new Vampire Hunter D theatrical film has a whiny vampire, and one that couldn't strike fear in the heart of a four year old who was still scared of the dust bunnies under the bed.
And then my best friend in the world decided she wants me to watch a show about, surprise surprise, vampires. An anime, no less. Needless to say, she nearly had to tie me to the chair to keep me from banging my head against the wall in the other room at the mere thought. And it almost ended in me cringing in disgust... The focus of the series was on a young vampiress who wanted to remain a human as long as she could, refused to drink blood, and in general, just really got on my nerves. I had a feeling that by the third episode I'd never want to see the show again.
And yet, by the third episode, I found myself kind of speechless. It had some genuinely stunning animation, it was very well written, it was action packed, shockingly violent for a TV series, had a wonderfully raw and catchy hard rock soundtrack with narry a J-Pop tune in sight, and... It had Alucard.
Oh yes. If it weren't for Alucard, I'd have regarded this show with the same enthusiasm some of my friends meet when they want me to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer wth them. Namely, me falling asleep. But man, oh man, did Alucard change my tune. Here was a modern day Vampire Hunter D (the only other animated vampire I'm fond of) who blew zombies in to dust, impaled vampires on his fist, drank blood fresh from the source, and loved every second of it. There are still cool vampires! Much as Serase irritated me greatly until about the midway point, it was well worth it just to see Alucard show up, kick some asses, and not even bother taking their names. By the time he was done with them, there wasn't enough left to identify. I love Alucard. I really do. And I love Integral, but, that's another matter entirely.
Anyhow, the setup for the show goes something like this; Hellsing, the Royal Order of Prodestant Knights, is a British secret service that the government funds to eliminate vampires and their human-feasting ways. This outfit is fronted by the overtly assertive but still intriguing Integral Windgates Hellsing, who along with several dozen soldiers, a butler with a few hidden talents, a gruff millitant advisor, and her 'pet' vampire Alucard, rip anything and everything undead a few new blowholes. As if vampires weren't enough to keep her busy, she also has to contend with the Vattican sending it's not so vaguely insane vampire hunting priests, the media trying to expose their existance, and set-ups that make them appear to be trying to murder the Queen herself. The series actually begins with a police woman, Serase Victoria, being turned in to a vampire as a last ditch effort to save her life after a mission with a vampire priest goes awry. The setup is promisong, and for a while at least, a lot of good is done with it.
The first disc (episode 1-3) sets up both the story itself, and the main characters, in my opinion, very well. The best episode here, without a doubt, is the third, which includes a furious battle between Alucard and what has become one of my favorite anime villains of all time, the sword-weilding Father Alexander Anderson, who's just as stunningly cool as he is just plain goofy. And what a personality! I was rather glad they had him return later in the series, simply because he was one of the most fun characters I think I've seen in almost anything.
The second disc (4-6) contains the 'media' element I mentioned earlier, as well as a pair of vampire brothers who don't take the threat to their territor kindly, and as such, the Valentine Brothers end up bringing the entire organization to it's very knees. This has got to be the best volume in the series, thanks mostly to the mismatched insanty of the Valentine Brothers, who are almost the anti-thesis of the typical villain. Most are dim-witted creatins who simply invite the heroes to beat their own sorry behinds. The Valentine Brothers show no mercy, no remorse, and plan out their raid of the Hellsing mansion perfectly. The fact of the matter is they do so well, you wonder if they're actually going to win for more than half an episode, even when the series isn't even half over! That's the sign of a great writer, and great villains, to be certain.
The third disc, however (7-9), is really the end of the fun for me. Episode 7 is, in and of itself, almost as good as the 2 episodes the Valentine Brothers commanded, the final confrontation of Alucard and Father Anderson being another shocking, twisted, and non-stop feast of fun. Unfortunately, there's a brief sequence that sets up why the rest of the series is simply going to fall apart... A young Anderson, on his knees, is being consumed by the shadow of a vampire, and nearly shoots himself - and then he's back where he ought to be, with no explanation, or even reason, for that moment of random terror. Was it a flashback? A dream? Just a symbolic moment of Anderson wetting himself? Gonzo doesn't bother telling us, and the rest of the series is going to have plenty more of these "...Wha...?" scenes. Episode 8 and 9 feel like that one obscure moment stretched out for half the episode's runtime - they're full of dreams on top of visions on top of reality, and in my opinion, don't really go anywhere. Can someone explain to me, why in episode 9, neither Walter no Integral can remember wither or not she actually *has* a sister? And about this time, my least favorite villain in anime history shows up; Incogneito. The animation goes from stunning to average in the same scene, and several characters are brought in to the mix, even if their only purpose will be to die in the next episode with no other consequence to their existance. The excellent writing the first half of the series simply evaporates and crumbles, as well as a lot of the intrigue and charm, not to mention the oozing visual style of those bright red skies and decrepit churches crawling with monsters.
The final volume (10-13) is, all in all, better than the third, but it certainly lags behind the first half of the series. Episode 10 is probably the best, and is one of the highlights of the series - the all important 'origin episode' of Integral and Alucard's mysterious bond - but it's marred by it's clearly cheap animation and more incoherant appearances by Incognieto. The final three episodes, with wildly inconsistant animation, plenty of mayhem and carnage, are at least very exciting, but the writing simply unwravels at this point; everyone starts acting in ways that's simply out of character, old tricks from the series are re-used as 'shocking' revelations, half the secondary cast is killed off without their having had anything resembling a glory filled moment, and worst of all is the last villain himself. Incogneito simply lacks anything resembling charisma or personality, something Anderson and the Valentine Brothers had in spades. He's a vicious, heartless monster, but that doesn't make him all that interesting, and that he looks like a rejected henchmen from Dragonball Z doesn't really help much. The last battle contains the sort of excitement, action and revalations that should have made for a great finale, but with the very unsatisfactory build up to it, the whole affair comes across as a half-decent ending to what should have been an excellnt series. But, the last volume does contain werewolves and English tourist sights being leveled by the snake-demon Seht, so, that has to give it some kind of bonus points.
Also, just to clear up any confusion, the Dynamic DVD includes the "Rescript" version, which is slightly different from the TV airings, and as such, different from the version some fans are used to. The animation was 'fixed' up in spots, the opening is slightly different, and the reason it was called the 'rescript' to begin with was for excessive cursing and harsh language, the TV version was actually bleeped in several spots just to stay on the air. The Rescript version appears to be the only version on video, though, so the actual content you're getting is - I only assume - identical to both Region 1 and 2 releases.
Hellsing started out as a great show, but ends up being a great first half, and a merely okay second half. The writing, style, and animation vary wildly from episode to episode, but all in all it's one of the better examples of style over substance, and anyone with even a mild interest in vampires, zombies, and digital animation really should check the show out. Heck, I'm not a huge fan of the first or third, and I still found the whole thing a more than pleasant experience. My rating was for the series as a whole, and despite a lot of the second half just irking me, I was never really bored, and there was almost always something that would make me smile and have som fun. I may sound like I'm complaining an awful lot for a show I gave a B- to, but Hellsing's a show that plenty of people who've probably never even seen any anime before (assuming said people still exist) would simply fall in love with. That in of itself says quite a bit about what to expect; it's sure as hell not any sort of anime archietype, but it's raw, slick, loud and just long enough that it never wears out it's welcome. And did I mention those utterly hilarious "next time" scenes? Yep', just when you think you've seen it all, you get Jan Valentine going "Hey, bro, what's that on your head?" with results that are just so wrong they're beautiful. Style really does work without substance. True believer.
If you want the best, liscenced value deal out there, the Dynamic DVD set is about as good as it gets. At under $40 USD retail price, it's a fraction of the cost of the US release by Pioneer, and the only major advantage the US release contains is the (said to be excellet - I wouldn't know) English dub, and if you were quick enough, a nifty blood bag. However, if you bought the Dynamic DVD set for the guns alone - and I'm starting to think I'm the only one who didn't - the release is still pretty decent, and at the very least, is on par with most DVD's from Hong Kong, particularly for the price. Besides, you want the guns. Don't lie to me - you'd pay $100 for them even without the DVD's, you sad, sad otaku, and you know it! I would have. If, I, ever had $100 to begin with, I mean... *Ahem*
Despite my own personal bias making me not want to give this show a chance, I found Hellsing to be an entertaining action/horror show with plenty of style and wonderfully amusing (and occasionally frightening) characters, a combination that anime rarely seems to try to achieve. Maybe if the second half of the show had followed the manga more closely, the results would have been a truly excellent show that gives nearly any other so-called reinvisioning of the vampire mythos a run for it's money. But even so, there's always something worth watching in this series, and for the price tag on the Dynamic set, I was more than satisfied with my purchase.
"In the name of God, all impure souls shall be banished to eternal damnation. Amen." Amen indeed, brother.
Japanese Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Textless Ending
General Electric XS Stereo TV, Code Free Daewoo 5700 DVD Player