I can't quite shake the feeling that I'm meant to be an anime fan, but for whatever reason, I've successfully managed to
avoid this destiny.
Of what few I've had the pleasure of seeing, by far my favorite is Perfect Blue, a stylish,
violent film more reminiscent of the work of Dario Argento than the disproportionately busty women and twelve-story mecha of
stereotype. Hellsing, which follows much along those same lines, may prove to be the catalyst that propels my
interest from 'thoroughly casual' to 'somewhere in the vicinity of maniacal'. This very recent horror series, which just
debuted on Japanese television on October 10, 2001, centers on such familiar elements as vampires and the walking
A police unit dispatched to a remote village has been slaughtered, with the exception of one lone woman. The inexperienced
Seras Victoria watches helplessly as her fellow officers return from the dead, stalking her. Seras flees and seems to find
sanctuary in a battered church. The priest, however, is the vampire behind the carnage, and he's eyed Seras as another stop
on the buffet line. A glimmer of hope appears in the form of Arucard, a vampiric mercenary in the employ of the
monster-hunting Hellsing organization. Arucard slays the vampire and his legion of the undead with a custom-made pistol
whose bullets have been forged from a melted-down silver cross. In the process, Seras is fatally wounded, and Arucard offers
her the choice of continuing her existence as a vampire. She accept, and the series follows Seras' difficult journey into
vampirism with her master Arucard, as well as their struggles against the supernatural forces that threaten their world.
Hellsing is adapted from Kouta Hirano's manga, and its origins are reflected in the animation style.
image looks very much like a panel from a graphic novel, and the animation, particularly in the first episodes, is somewhat
more static than what I've come to associate with anime. This gives Hellsing a unique style, carried out far more
effectively than other animated series that have taken a similar visual approach. It's been quite some time since a
television series unrelentingly seized my interest, but Hellsing accomplished just that. The appropriate amount of
mystery behind Arucard and the Hellsing organization is maintained, and the progression of Seras' acceptance of her vampirism
is handled intelligently and believably.
I'm very curious to see what happens in future installments, as Hellsing appears to be constructing more of a fleshed
out universe rather than taking the traditional 'monster of the week' route. The series is more adult than most of the anime
I've encountered, both in the sense that its primary characters are older and that there is a fair amount of graphic
violence. I can't recall offhand an animated series with anything approximating the undead's high-powered assault on Arucard
in Hellsing's first episode. This is most assuredly not Toonami fare, but the older audience towards which
Hellsing is geared is likely to greatly enjoy the series, particularly those with a fondness for horror.
Video: As should be expected from a television series that premiered just over seven months ago, Hellsing: Impure
Souls looks absolutely perfect.
Presumably the transfer was either digital-to-digital or sourced from an extremely high
quality video mastered, judging from the lack of even the slightest hint of speckling. The full-frame image is razor sharp,
with the wholly intended exception of a couple of filters used to contribute to Hellsing's stylized appearance. Color
saturation is dead on, and black levels are deep and inky. There are no jagged edges in any of the lines, nor are
compression artifacts or the like visible. I have nothing remotely negative to say about this presentation.
Audio: Hellsing: Impure Souls features stereo tracks in both Japanese and English, as well as English
subtitles. As I prefer to watch material in its original screen language, I cannot comment on the overall quality of the
English dub. The audio is crisp and rich, offering more clarity than I would typically expect outside of a six-channel mix.
The sound effects carry a significant low-end punch, and dialogue remains clear and discernable. There are a wide variety of
musical styles scattered throughout these three episodes, ranging from fuzzy '60s garage rock to upbeat jazz. Though there
doesn't appear to be much rhyme or reason to its inclusion, the music is unilaterally presented flawlessly. Very nice work.
Supplements: An alternate version of the series' opening without
credits has been provided, along with a music video-style trailer for an upcoming Hellsing release. The still galleries offer a sneak peek at an Arucard figure and a healthy assortment of various pieces of artwork.
Two versions of Hellsing: Impure Souls are slated for release on July 23rd, and the differences between them hinge on packaging. The incrementally more expensive release includes an art box for the full set as well as a blood bag.
Conclusion: Hellsing: Impure Souls is an exceptional series, and I'm anxiously awaiting future volumes. Several e-tailers are offering pre-orders for around $20, which is a rather tough price to pass up. Highly Recommended.
Related Links: HellsingDVD.com includes background about the series and its characters, as well as a pair of Quicktime videos.