Hellsing Ultimate is back, and without any shenanigans over episode count this time around - one disc, one episode, multiple cases of bloody violence. Let's get down to business...
What They Say
With the massacre of her troops at the hands of the Valentine Brothers, Sir Integrea recruits the aid of the legendary mercenary group "Wild Geese". In a rare moment of cooperation, and self-serving righteousness, The Vatican calls a meeting with Sir Integra and reveals classified information about the origin and motives behind the shadowy Millenium Organization. This shocking truth and troubling link to World War II spurs her to send Arucard, Seras and the Captain of the Wild Geese to South America on a search and destroy mission. However the tables are quickly turned and Arucard and Seras are framed as international terrorists! The resultant bloodbath and public display of overwhelming power and carnage lights the fuse on a powder keg containing the Hellsing Organization and The Vatican's dirty little secret, The Millenium Organization.
You get three audio tracks on this release: English language in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS versions, and Japanse in Dolby 5.1. I listened to the Japanese track for this review. Hellsing Ultimate is heavy on the action scenes, and the soundtrack reflects the loving detail that's been put into the rest of the production, with clear dialogue, well-placed effects some decent music combining to create more of an audio experience than a soundtrack. There were no apparent problems.
Video is presented in its original 1.78:1 anamorphic ratio, and is hands-down one of the best-looking shows that I've seen in a while. Desite the dark colour palette, there's a huge amount of detail in the animation and backgrounds, with the series simply coming to life on screen. Animation is smooth, with some of the more horror-type scenes being positively creepy to watch. There were no obvious problems on my set-up.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
Both discs use a blood-red main menu, with the centre of the screen home to images of the lead characters, flitting in and out while an ominous piece of choral music plays over the top. Options for Play All, Scenes, Setup and Extras are arrayed along the bottom of the screen. There's an annoying transition animation when an option is selected that takes 5-10 seconds to play and soon wears thin, but the menus are easy enough to follow.
As before, this disc comes with a commentary track for the episode, this time featuring Taliesin Jaffe (ADR Director), Victoria Harwood (Integra) & JB Blanc (Maxwell) – the three of them are also the subject of a half-hour interview segment. Add in a 40-minute video of the 2007 Anime Expo cast panel with Patrick Seitz & John Phillips (the Valentine brothers), Crispin Freeman (Arucard), Ralph Lister (Walter), and Taliesin Jaffe; another short video segment of the Geneon Anime Expo booth, done in the style of the Hellsing mansion; a 1½ -minute slideshow of production artwork; and a creditless version of the closing sequence, and you have another great selection of extras to work your way through.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Thanks to the Valentine Brothers and their massacre of the Hellsing Foundation forces, Sir Integrea has to turn to a mercenary group for help. The group involved are the legendary Wild Geese, but while they're experienced and bloodthirsty, the ideal of having to deal with vampires is new to them - and not a situation that many of the groups members will readily believe, even after Integra's explanations - although a meeting with Victoria and Arucard soon persuades them of the truth. Meanwhile, in a rare moment of co-operation (and self-serving righteousness), The Vatican calls a meeting with Sir Integra and reveals classified information about the origin and motives behind the shadowy Millennium Organisation. What she learns prompts her to send Arucard, Seras and the Captain of the Wild Geese to South America on a search and destroy mission. But all is not as it seems, and Arucard and Seras are framed as international terrorists - an act that ignites the simmering tensions between Hellsing and the Vatican...
Turning to mercenaries for help isn't the sort of thing that Integra enjoys doing, but it's not like she has much choice - and she has a job persuading them that the threat the foundation is fighting is even real. Vampires? Demons!? Yeah, right. We know the threat is real, of course, and one meeting with Arucard is all the persuasion the Wild Geese need. From there, it's a case of following the Vatican's lead right into a South American trap - the boys from Rome are clearly far more interested in wiping out their Protestant opponents, rather than forming any sort of alliance, and this episode details one of their plots to do so.
Anyone with any experience of Hellsing will know by now that huge amounts of bloodshed will be involved, and that's certainly the case - we have entire military units being obliterated here, thanks to ill-advised attempts to take on Arucard and Seras. There's also a recap of the rivalry between Arucard and Anderson (which begins in a way which will have you laughing on the floor), and some good humour thrown in along the way. One of the ways that Ultimate differentiates itself from the original TV series is that sense of humour, the other being the level of violence, which is quite some way beyond what a TV series would get away with - it always surprises me that the series gets away with a 15 certificate, and given how much 'positive' publicity an 18 cert will give a series, I'd hazard a guess that it surprises Manga as well (the pre-release cover artwork for the release shows they were expecting an 18, but the BBFC website confirms the 15 cert).
The downside of all that action is that there's not much left to write about. The rivalry between the Vatican and Hellsing brings a certain political aspect to the story, and the introduction of the Millennium Organisation adds something else to the mix that will probably come into play later. It's the action that's the core of the story, though, and even without Arucard being forced to fully unleash his abilities in this episode, there's still plenty of that to keep the attention. Simple, but enjoyable nonetheless. If the price doesn't put you off (£15 for one double-length episode is a bit steep, to be honest), go get.
Japanese Language 5.1, English Language 5.1, English Language DTS 5.1, Commentary Track and Interview with Taliesin Jaffe (ADR Director), Victoria Harwood (Integra) & JB Blanc (Maxwell), Creditless Ending #3, Production galleries, Anime Expo 2007 Cast Panel, Anime Expo 2007 Geneon Booth featuring Hellsing Mansion
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.