Note: Review copy supplied by Manga Entertainment
Title: Hellsing Ultimate: Complete Collection
Anime Studio: Geneon
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Action / Horror / Seinen
Released: July 15th, 2019
Language: English / Japanese
Extras: Episode commentaries (all), promo videos, trailers, karaoke of major’s speech, interviews with English voice team, textless songs, fan questions, convention appearances, in memoriam video.
The rogue vampire Alucard is the Hellsing Organization’s deadliest instrument in its mission to protect the British Empire from satanic ghouls and Nazi freaks. He is not alone in his assault on the occult; the master has a servant. Policewoman Seras Victoria accepted Alucard’s gift of dark salvation after falling in the line of duty, and now the remnants of her human soul struggle against her growing vampire urges. Together, they haunt the shadows as a sinister force of good – and tonight the foggy streets of England shall flow with the blood of their evil prey.
First airing in 2006, Geneon’s Hellsing Ultimate was an OVA series that was designed to follow the Hellsing manga more closely than Gonzo’s 2001 series. Both versions are much loved by fans, and there are plenty of arguments to be made from both sides as to which is better. From my own standpoint, I haven’t seen the original series, so can’t compare the two. In much the same way, I haven’t read the source material, so can’t really say what has or hasn’t been changed. As such, my thoughts here relate solely to Hellsing Ultimate as a standalone experience.
From a technical standpoint, I really can’t fault the series. The character designs are certainly fitting with era in which it was released, but there’s something about them that’s very reminiscent of ‘90s anime too. That balance works well here, and makes it feel a lot more standout than if it had been featured atypical designs from one genre or another. The characters all have very unique looks too, making them all being easy to tell apart, and each one sports a look that fits well with their personality.
The animation is also really good overall. Sure, there a few sequences where nothing moves but the character’s mouths, but they’re few and far between. The vast majority of the series sees some beautiful, fluid movements, with high attention to detail. On top of that, we get to see a nice mix of styles at appropriate times, with the standard animation of the OVAs occasionally giving way to cel-shading, CGI, and even some lower detail exaggeration for comedy scenes. All are well executed. What makes this so impressive is that the animation was dealt with by three different studios – Satelight Inc. (Ep. 1-4), Madhouse (Ep. 5-7), and Graphinica (Ep. 8-10) – yet it remains consistent throughout in both quality and feel.
The voice cast does a decent job too, in both the subbed and dubbed version of the release. Some of the British accents for the background characters fall into that not-really-what-British-people-sound-like category, but the main cast is consistently good. Part of that will be because some of them, such as Victoria Harwood (Integra) and Steven Brand (Anderson) are from the same area as their characters. Even outside this though, even some of the more over the top performances, such as K.T. Gray’s turn as Seras Victoria, don’t feel out of place. Meanwhile, the soundtrack itself is good, though perhaps not the most memorable. None of it feels out of place, so that’s a definite positive.
Hellsing Ultimate’s story is a lot of fun and is very much driven by the interactions between three distinct groups. Our protagonists are the Hellsing Corporation, a supernatural task force originally created by Abraham Van Helsing. The villains are Millenium, a band of Nazis that want not only to revive Nazi Germany but also form a vampire army to kill Hellsing’s top agent, Alucard. Standing in the middle is Iscariot, a Vatican group that is opposed to Millenium but also has a fierce rivalry with the Hellsing Corporation.
As heroes go, Alucard, Integra, and Seras are certainly dark. They’re brutal in their methods and approach their duties with a degree of coldness. At the same time though, they are tackling literal monsters, and so it’s easy to pass their actions off as necessary in the grand scheme of things. Each member of the group that we get to spend any real time with is easy to get behind though. They’re all capable of being suitably badass, and their backstories give them enough depth to be more than just tools for action scenes.
Meanwhile, Millenium are also very easy to hate. Being actual Nazis with a pure dedication to their cause, they are villains with no shades of grey. That’s a rare thing, I find, and it makes them a welcome addition to the story. That’s not to say that they’re one dimensional though. Schrödinger, in particular, has some fascinating abilities, and his childlike pleasure in the violence erupting around him makes him incredibly creepy. Balancing it all out is Alexander Anderson, the Iscariot paladin. Much like all the characters, he has some incredibly strong powers, but he is in some ways stuck in an awkward position. He has strong beliefs and is capable of calmness when required, but his hatred of monsters leaves him blinkered and prone to rage. It’s a wonderful cast as a whole, and very fitting with the setting.
I enjoyed the pacing of the story. We were introduced to the key plot elements early on, and the build-up to the reveal of Millenium felt natural. Everything is punctuated by a barrage of bloody action sequences too that allow the characters to show off their abilities. Really, there’s never a dull moment on show. Best of all, it builds up to an ending that ties up the loose ends and leaves you feeling satisfied as a viewer.
In terms of issues, it’s worth noting that the series is definitely not for you if you find that bloodshed is a problem. I’m not sure whether it was trying to top series like Elfen Lied or simply measure up to Peter Jackson’s 1992 zombie film Braindead (aka Dead Alive), but boy does it go all in on the gore! The comedic moments that occur in the first two-thirds of the run fit with what many would view as typical whacky Japanese humour, and are not uncommon in anime. While fine, I must confess, they do feel tonally out of place against the series’ darker themes. There isn’t really any nudity in the series, and the fan service level, in general, isn’t overwhelming. There are a few moments where bad guys make references to rape though, so take that as a trigger warning.
Outside that, the only point of contention I have is Seras Victoria’s character arc. She’s turned into a vampire early on and initially refuses to drink blood as it feels to her like she’d lose something important. This isn’t dealt with in as much detail as I would have liked, as it hinted at a bit more of an internal struggle than we actually got to see. Instead, she spent a good portion of the series occupying a quirky role, essentially caricaturing Renfield. She does get character progression, and her advancement by the end of the episodes is excellent, but it was a shame that it wasn’t explored more deeply.
As you can see in the list at the top of the review, this release is chock full of extras. Not only does each individual disc of episodes contain bonus content, but discs 3, 6 and 8 are comprised of nothing but bonus features. If you like your anime to come with a ton of additional stuff, this will be a great purchase.
So, how do I rate this one overall? Well, the OVAs aren’t without faults, but it’s not like they truly damage the series. Missed opportunities like Seras Victoria’s arc are only really deal-breakers when what you do get isn’t up to scratch, after all. For me, this is a high-octane series, full of memorable characters, interesting concepts, and top quality, blood-soaked action. It was a breeze to watch and well worth the full 5 out of 5.