Japanese Title: Hellsing
Related: Hellsing Ultimate (remake & continuation)
Similar: Trinity Blood
Devil May Cry
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 13 episodes
- Alucard is a badass vampire with his carefree attitude, and expertly voiced.
- Disturbing imagery from the dark powers.
- No tension.
- The editing lacks intensity, especially with the dull cinematography.
- Several better voice choices in English, but Seras, who sounds awful, may put you off the entire track.
- Lax use of otherwise good music.
- Rushed ending.
- Noticeable budget techniques in the art.
During the rise of anime in the West, Hellsing was a much talked about series. However, like most anime from the era, it was overpraised due to a lack of similar anime for comparison. Fans tend to latch onto one great element and forget to mention any faults; let’s be real, Alucard’s ‘Come at me, Bro’ attitude sold Hellsing.
The Hellsing Organisation is England’s vampire hunting group. Their secret weapon? A vampire of their own, Alucard the king of vampires, immortal, ruthless, and carefree. Sir Integra leads Hellsing with a strict work ethic and zero tolerance for failure. One night while dealing with a vampire priest and his horde of ghouls, Alucard saves policewoman Seras, the last of her ghoul-infected unit, by turning her into a vampire. With Hellsing’s guidance, she joins the ranks of the living dead as a sniper to combat a new breed of emerging vampires.
Alucard is nigh indestructible. In the first episode, a hail of gunfire tears him to shreds and he regenerates to gruesome effect, which is cool, but is an early indicator of a core problem. Seeing Alucard regenerate from immense damage a couple of times, you realise there is no danger. Add in lethargic editing, and all tension is sapped from the narrative. Each camera shot feels a beat too long, almost as if they came up short on runtime and needed to pad the length, so they added a half-second each time. It’s hard to explain how a mostly action series can feel so slow without seeing it for yourself. Imagine someone who is learning piano and has to search for the next key.
Seras’s plotline doesn’t bring much to the proceedings, unfortunately. Much of her time passes in adjusting to life as a vampire – drinking blood, sleeping in a coffin (Hellsing is traditional in its vampire lore) – and training as a sniper with enhanced senses and strength. She has difficulty in pulling the trigger against human-like ghouls (people bitten but not turned to vampires). Again, there’s little tension and her conflict doesn’t amount to much in the end. She doesn’t feel necessary to the plot with Alucard around.
Hellsing has a Protestant (England) versus Catholic (Vatican) theme, as the Vatican sees the alliance between Hellsing and Alucard as an abomination. They send Paladin Alexander Anderson, the trump card of Iscariot, the Catholic Church’s secret branch to slay the undead. He’s obsessed with killing Alucard, though they fight the same enemy. Despite his biotech enhancements for regeneration, he poses no threat to Alucard, so once more, no tension. Their fight is decent at least.
Hellsing is an anime crammed with potential. It’s an idea on the right track that could do with more planning and thought put into it. What happens when a new director steps up to take the reins? See Hellsing Ultimate.
Art – Medium
Hellsing still looks good for an old series and some scenes are beautifully dark, but money saving techniques like immovable lips despite talking and enemies firing without recoil is jarring. The entire budget seems to have gone into Alucard’s powers, for battle damage and regeneration look suitably disturbing.
Sound – Medium
I like the use of British accents for the English track. Alucard (Crispin Freeman’s iconic role) and Integra have more personality through their English versions, but Seras…so poor. When she’s supposed to be terrified, she sounds like a whiner. The actor comes off as someone who is too afraid of being embarrassed in front of others. Her voice is feeble. Several onetime characters sound terrible. The soundtrack is rarely used.
Story – Medium
Hellsing is a story with potential, carried by Alucard in this state. Dull pacing and slow editing make the narrative feel much longer than it is.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: Skip this and head straight for Hellsing Ultimate. As an early foray into mature vampire lore, Hellsing is a commendable attempt. With Hellsing Ultimate realising the full potential, Hellsing is now no more than a piece of anime history.
Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)