In the world of anime Hellsing has quickly become a classic even though the series is only five years old. This thirteen episode series rose among the ranks of must see anime and turned into a title that even people who aren't otaku have seen. Maybe it has something to do with the vampiric theme or maybe it has something to do with the show's overall quality. Whatever the reason it's one of those series that anybody that loves anime has to check out.
Originally Hellsing began as a manga way back in 1997 under the creative guidance of Kouta Hirano. With several volumes under its belt the manga rose in popularity and garnered enough of a following for the Gonzo series to be put into production. Since then the franchise is still moving forward with prequel comics and a pair of OVA released just this year. Either way you slice it, it's hard to discount the franchise's fan-base.
After watching the entire series (twice) I can honestly say that I can't pinpoint a single aspect that sold me on it. Just about everything from the characters and concept to the miscellaneous plots drew me in. I would never consider myself to be Goth but I have always found the vampire mythos interesting. Done correctly this genre of horror can create an atmosphere like no other and Hellsing is a shining example of that; though it attacks the concept with a twist.
Instead of taking place in the days of Dracula and those oft romanticized in horror movies Hellsing takes place in a relatively modern time period. The series focuses on a militaristic organization known as Hellsing who exterminates vampires, lesser vampires and ghouls. Basically if it ain't human they kill it. Their actions unfold in squad based missions though for the most part some key players take the center stage. Because of this the show has a certain Ghost in the Shell feel to it; which is a good thing.
At its center there are multiple characters that make up the structure of Hellsing. First and foremost is Arucard. If you look at the cover he's the badass guy in the red trench coat and funny looking hat. Not only is he a snazzy dress but he's also a first class vampire and one of the most prominent ones to date. Ironically Arucard is a member of Hellsing and works with the humans to take down imitation vampires and other paranormals. This plays into many themes later on in the series with him being involved in hunting his own kind though to be honest he just gets a kick out of it because he's a pure blood with immense power.
In the first episode we are introduced to one of the most well developed characters in the series; Seras Victoria. When we first meet Seras she's the lone survivor of a vampire attack and finds herself surrounded and chased by her squad mates from the police force. Seeking refuge in a church she finds herself the unwitting victim of a vampire who is posing as a priest. Luckily for her Arucard comes along to kill her in the process of taking out the troublesome vampire. I say luckily because Arucard gives her the choice to turn into a vampire and "live".
After she is bitten her world turns upside down. Arucard becomes her master and she finds herself working for the Hellsing group now. To make matters worse she's still coming to terms with the fact that she is no longer human. At first Seras refuses to drink blood in any form but eventually an inner battle takes place and out of the necessity of survival she realizes that she has no choice. This was the most interesting part for me. Seeing Seras try to get a grip on what she's become while retaining what she had adds an element to the show that really fleshes things out.
At the head of the Hellsing organization is Integra Hellsing. She's a cold and manipulative woman with a passion for smoking and wearing suits. In many cases she is more than comfortable in a man's world since she seems to lack a certain amount of femininity. Even though she is what she is for some reason she has power over Arucard and instructs him to do her bidding. We learn more about this as the series progresses but at first it almost seems like a twisted form of devotion, respect or love.
Together the Hellsing organization and these individuals face many challenges ranging from man-made vampires to priests with the powers of instant resurrection. The cast of supernatural creatures is unique and vast to say the least but the nice thing is that the series isn't episodic. There is quite a bit of continuity from the very beginning that lasts to the end. That's another thing about Hellsing that is unique because 13 episode series typically make for 13 plotlines.
In the end this is a strong anime from start to finish and it has a lot to offer. Fans of Goth atmosphere and vampiric society will appreciate the story and the transformation of Seras' character. Arucard is equally fascinating though sometimes it becomes a little bit unsettling what this guy is capable of. Despite it's somewhat slower pacing than most shows Hellsing moves at a pretty brisk pace. It's one of those series where you can't put it down until the final episode's credits role and comes highly recommended.
Hellsing is absolutely gorgeous. From start to finish this show does not disappoint or miss a beat when it comes to design, animation or presentation. The transfer is remarkably clean with little to no compression and a virtually flawless print. Colors remain vivid with no fading whatsoever. Knowing that this was a Gonzo series I had faith in the quality of the product and it's good to know that faith wasn't misplaced. My only complaint is that the show has a 1.33:1 presentation instead of an anamorphic widescreen one.
The audio for Hellsing comes standard with 2.0 stereo tracks for English and Japanese. As you can imagine the diversity in the soundstage isn't the greatest when it comes to listening to this show. Fortunately what it lacks in technical brilliance it makes up for with some quality material. Both dubbings here are very good and the musical direction really helps set the mood of the series. English subtitles are included as well (of course).
Since Geneon has repacked the Signature Series discs for this collection the bonus features get rehashed as well. There are clean opening and closing animations, previews, action figure shots, some images from Japanese releases and some miscellaneous artwork. In other words there's not much here that's very interesting in the grand scheme of things. Still, having anything available is something of a treat.
With a rich atmosphere, interesting characters and a story that just doesn't stop, Hellsing made a huge impression on me. This is one of the best 13 episode series that I have ever seen and has easily made it onto my list of favorite anime. This collection that has just been released by Geneon is just a re-release of the Signature Series. If you already have the series there's no reason to pick up this set, but I can't recommend the show enough to newcomers. It's rock solid from start to finish and definitely a must see.