Spectrum Nexus

Anime Info

Creator: A Gonzo Production
Director: Umanosuke Iida
Genre: Horror, Action
Length: 13 Episodes
Purchase: Here From Amazon

Summary

+ Stylyish animation, stunning
+ Nice twists on some old clichés
+/– Blood and more blood
– Atrocious British accents

Overview

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something... Anyway, Hellsing manages to blend old and new elements of vampire lore into a story that while hardly unique is at least entertaining. Those looking for a substantive examination of Jungian archetypes as they apply to vampires shouldn't look to Hellsing. On the other hand, those looking for a tightly scripted, occasionally intelligent, and stylish story featuring vampires as both heroes and villains should give Hellsing a try. It's not the greatest series in the universe but it wouldn't be a bad way to waste a lazy weekend.

Public Rating

Our Rating

Score of 3 out of 5
3 out of 5

Hellsing Anime Review

Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 7/22/2008

Introduction

In 1897 Irish writer Bram Stoker published the novel Dracula and in its pages managed to create the seminal vampire, Count Dracula and the seminal vampire hunter, Abraham Van Helsing. In the roughly 111 years since, the creators of vampire themed horror have copied, borrowed, and recreated both Dracula and Van Helsing dozens if not hundreds of times. Dracula and his clones have appeared in countless books, comics, films and TV series. Besides the American made action-adventure movie Van Helsing, perhaps one of the most prominent uses of the Van Helsing character is in the manga and anime series Hellsing. Created in the pages of Young King OURs magazine by Kouta Hirano, Hellsing chronicles the adventures of the Royal Order of Protestant Knights, Hellsing as they battle vampires, ghouls, and other supernatural monsters that threaten the United Kingdom. In the fall of 2001, Gonzo animation studio director Umanosuke Iida and screenwriter Chiaki Konaka adapted the manga into a 13 episode anime series originally broadcast on Fuji Television.

Review

Vampire lore was already old when Bram Stoker wrote Dracula and there had been other novels and short stories published on the theme. However, by giving his story a real setting, basing his vampire on a historical person, and writing the novel in the form of journals kept by the protagonists he managed to ground the story in reality in a way that captured the public's imagination like no other horror novel except perhaps Frankenstein. Contemporary discussions about the sexual implications of the metaphors and symbols in Stoker's work have only helped cement Dracula in its place as a classic at the pinnacle of vampire fiction. In the years following Dracula's publication in 1897, a variety of filmmakers, comic book creators, writers such as Anne Rice, and TV producers such as Joss Whedon have added their own unique details to vampire lore, creating a vampire mythos that has become part of the collective subconscious. In creating Hellsing, Kouta Hirano borrowed heavily from previous works of vampire fiction but also managed to add enough twists on the old elements and enough new elements for Hellsing to be seen as a thoughtful if not entirely unique vision of vampire lore.

The series begins on a fog shrouded evening, at the request of the police, Integra Hellsing, last of the Hellsing family and head of the titular organization has dispatched Alucard (read that backwards), her chief vampire hunter to the village of Cheddar to hunt down a vampire masquerading as a priest. Meanwhile, in the village, a squad of police special forces has been wiped out by the vampire, transformed into soulless ghouls and slaves of the vampire. The only survivor is Seras Victoria a young rookie overwhelmed by the presence of vampires and ghouls. After dealing with her transformed teammates she first encounters Alucard in the woods and fires at him, believing him to be the vampire responsible for the death of her teammates. She then runs to the church and encounters the vampire who is actually responsible. He takes her hostage and uses her as a human shield when Alucard arrives. In an average action-adventure, the hero would manage to kill his target while saving the life of the hostage; Hellsing is inventive enough to allow Alucard a more interesting way out of this situation. He shoots both of them but saves Seras's life by turning her into a vampire. The series is largely presented from Seras's point of view as she slowly comes to accept her situation.

Show More The series largely consists of self-contained adventures of the Hellsing organization as they hunt the undead. However, the heart of the series is Seras's gradual acceptance of her transformation into a creature of the night. She is shocked by her sudden increase in strength, surprised by her improved senses, and revolted by the thought of drinking blood. However being a vampire has it advantages in her line of work. Increased strength allows her to use larger, more powerful weapons while improved vision allows her to fire a sniper rifle without relying on a scope. Eventually, Seras comes to accept the weaknesses of a vampire such as extreme reactions to sunlight and silver and needing to sleep during the day as minor to the gifts of near eternal life, super strength, improved senses and other abilities of the undead.

The series other primary protagonist, Alucard, is an ancient vampire who now fights for the Hellsing organization as their chief vampire hunter. In typical anime fashion, Alucard is a flashy character dressed to-the-nines in a Victorian Era suit, a wide brimmed hat, and a blood red overcoat. He dispatches his enemies with huge pistols that fire silver bullets made from a cross. Immortal and nearly indestructible he hides his regret at having given up his humanity for power behind a veneer of egotism and arrogance. Alucard envies humans; they have the sweet release of death while he must walk the Earth for all eternity. It is perhaps this mixture of longing and regret that allows Alucard to fight for the humans instead of against them. Hints at Alucard's real identity are sprinkled throughout the series. The most obvious clue is the name Alucard which is a simple anagram of the name Dracula.

While most of the vampire lore in the series is drawn from popular fiction including Dracula, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the vampire novels by Anne Rice, the series creators do manage to add some of their own unique twists. One of those twists is the appearance of artificial vampires created with computer chips. Such vampires have sought out immortality for a variety of reasons, largely to gain time with lost loves. Another interesting twist is the Hellsing Organization's rivalry with the Iscariot Organization, a top secret, elite demon hunting wing of the Vatican named for Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Christ. While both organizations fight supernatural monsters, they are divided by methodology and ideology. Hellsing not only works with vampires who fight their own kind, they are strictly Protestant while Iscariot is made up of hard line Catholics who won't rest until all vampires, including those who aid humans, are destroyed. Iscariot employs one of the series' most intriguing antagonists, the fanatical Paladin Alexander Anderson. Anderson is a dedicated following of the Catholic faith, dresses and acts like a Priest but when confronted with demons and vampires he is a deadly serious and dangerous fighter whose favorite weapon is a blessed bayonet. He is also possessed of a number of superhuman abilities including super-strength, enhanced speed, and regeneration – much like a vampire his wounds heal quickly and he can grow back lost limbs.

Show More
While not original in the story department, Hellsing is visually stunning. Series such as Hellsing depend much more heavily on style and mood than on substance. Vampire lore is so common place that the only real contribution that such a series can hope to make to the genre is to present the familiar in an unfamiliar and stylish manner.

As animated by Gonzo, Hellsing has style and mood to spare, setting its action in fog shrouded cities and villages, layering the backgrounds in so much shadow that black paint practically oozes off the screen, and filling the sky with blood red light. Also the producers of the series are fortunate to work in animation, if Hellsing was done live action; their source for fake blood would have run dry after the first two or three episodes. As it is, the supply of red paint is severely tested. Besides the buckets of blood and the red sky, there are the red eyes on the vampires and the chief vampire hunter's red hat and coat. The character design is not unique but the characters are well animated. The characters are given their own unique postures, ways of moving, and even habits.

Hellsing's greatest weakness is that it suffers from an inconsistency that seems to plague many recent vampire themed stories and that is the need for secrecy. At one point in the series, a video of one of the Hellsing agents getting killed appears on the Internet, Integra Hellsing tells her underling to make sure the video and all evidence of its existence is destroyed because the public is too fragile to learn about their organization's existence. However their organization is a paramilitary force, their operatives ride around in armored personnel carriers, they employ SWAT and military tactics, and routinely engage in gun battles with their targets. Their lead vampire hunter is a vampire who wears a red coat and hat, carries pistols almost as long as his arms, and engages in rather public fights with both vampires and rival vampire hunters. What part of their operation is secretive?

Conclusion

Lelouch Ever since Bram Stoker published Dracula, horror writers have re-used and re-created both the vampire and the vampire hunter hundreds of times. Most stories regurgitate what has come before. Occasionally a unique voice such as Anne Rice or Joss Whedon adds something new to the mythos. The creators of Hellsing were smart enough to borrow a little bit from the best of the previous incarnations of vampire lore while adding there own unique little touches. Hellsing is not the best anime series in the world. It is not the worst. However with its solid animation, stylish visuals, occasional reversals of clichés, and even suspenseful storytelling it is a nice way to pass an afternoon. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the series is its focus on Seras's transformation into a tough and heroic vampire.

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