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Hellsing Ultimate DVD/Blu-ray Set 2 Anime Review

11 min read

Welcome back, baby. It’s been too long but worth every minute of the wait.

What They Say:
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.

This limited edition includes an artbox sized to hold both DVD/Blu-ray combo sets 1 and 2 of Hellsing Ultimate.

Contains OVA episodes 5-8.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid as we get a good set of mixes here. While FUNimation typically uses Dolby TrueHD, this release gives us a pair of DTS-HD Ma 5.1 tracks which makes some sense since the original DVD releases from Geneon were big on DTS for the format. The show works the mixes pretty well as there’s a lot of good surround sound to be had here for both the big action sequences but also the small subtle ambient sounds and the music presentation. There’s a good bit of action in the show and the majority of it is definitely forward soundstage base mix but it provides plenty of good moments throughout that enhances it. When it goes big, it definitely fits the bill of what you want from this series. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released from 2008 to 2011, this OVA series gives us the second four episodes of the show in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The release puts all four on one disc while putting all the non-commentary extras on the second disc. The show is in its native HD form and overall it looks very good here. The series uses a lot of dark colors and plenty of black space with what it has, as well as a good deal of red, all of which can be problematic at times. The transfer captures the disturbing look of the show very well while, especially with all the blacks that it has. There’s a rich flow to the animation as the whole point of the series was to go big with the visuals and getting in high definition brings it to life all the more. The previous DVD edition definitely had a lot going for it, but having it all here on one disc in this format definitely shows the attention to detail and quality that the show wanted to bring out.

Packaging:
Unlike the first set that came out, this one gets the limited edition release which means a heavy chipboard box set that holds both this set and the first set. The front panel is one of my favorite images of Arucard with guns in hand while the back cover has a really solid look at Seras as she holds onto her massive cannon. The package has some good, dark colors to it that’s kept light as well with the backgrounds and it’s all bound together with a good, clean white strip along the bottom that has the logo without anything binding it to the episodes that are included overall. The spacer box inside is pretty nice as one side has a dark image of Arucard from the first set that came out while the back side is the breakdown of the release and its technical information that we get on the back of most packages.

Inside the case we get a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds all five of the discs with the hinges inside as there are three DVDs inside and two Blu-ray’s. The front cover has a great, intense shot of Seras that brings some color to it while the darker backgrounds and there with the stormy skies and the back of Bernadotte which really works well. The logo is the standard piece that fits just right. The back cover is a difficult piece unfortunately since it goes with an all black background with gray text that covers seventy-five percent of it. And it’s small text that’s impossible to read unless you’re in a brightly lit space, especially with the bits of red text as well. The shots from the show are decent but almost too murky, but they provide the only bit of color other than the red and blue from the technical grid. Which is just as hard to read with the same kind of gray text on black. The discs features are listed the same way when it comes to the extras, so it’s just not a good, clean read. The technical information is all accurate though. While there’s no inserts with this release, we do get artwork on the reverse side as it uses the familiar pieces with the left side showing off an one of the members of Millennium while the other gives us a pretty grim looking Anderson.

Menu:
The menu design for the release is painfully simple when you get down to it as the menu as a whole is just a full screen series of big action clips with a heartbeat kind of thumping music to it that ramps up from time to time. The navigation itself is along the bottom area and doubles as the pop-up menu where it’s just the text of the navigation itself with a cross in the middle of the four selections. It’s small, simple ande effective and is done in red to try and keep it “in theme” but just generally feels like it wasn’t even phoned in but rather sent in a text. It gets the job done but you have to feel that something like this title deserved a little more effort. Everything loads quickly and is effective in getting it set up so you can get to the good stuff.

Extras:
Similar to the first set, the extras are set up in the same way. The first volume has the four new English language adaptation commentary tracks and they start off just right by saying it’s been a long time but worth the wait between installments. With the second disc, we get the rest of the extras here that certainly add to the four feature length commentary tracks. The basics are here in that we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences but we also get a lot of new, original pieces as well. The first extra is a 45 minute piece called Participating in the Legend in which it’s filled with lots of Q&A bits with the cast and creative team across the board from the English production going into their experiences in it and what they like. For fans of the actors it’s definitely great to see them all come back so enthusiastically for the project. Similar to the first set, we get another panel report wit Anime Vega highlighting the cast as they do the Q&A. Lots of familiar questions but just a lot of fun banter for the 70 minutes that it runs.

A smaller extra is the Dawn of Hellsing which is a useful little Japanese language piece that goes into the origins of the organization and adds a lot of neat bits over the ten minutes that it runs. It definitely expands the Hellsing world just right. Another length extra is the cast round table discussion which was recorded with this set going back into production that has them going on about the show as a group, which has a different dynamic than what we saw from the first Q&A piece we had. The set also gives us the Fans Questions Answered segment, which clocks in at twenty-two minutes, takes the various questions asked and sent in to FUNimation and lets the voice actors answer them. It’s similar to some of what we saw in the panel extras, but it has a different and more thoughtful flow to it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The return of Hellsing Ultimate to my TV set is one of the more welcome events of the last few years. While I had rather enjoyed the first that came out with the first four episodes, getting it in big high definition glory, I have to admit that it did have a sense of been there, seen that since I did have those on DVD before. It was good to marathon it and get all caught up once more, but there really were no surprises with it. I’d read the manga years ago, seen the episodes and loved it, but it wasn’t new. And then this set landed in my hands. Going through this was far more of thrill than the first because of that difference of these episode not seeing release before. It was a far more addictive viewing session, especially because of what the show does during the four episodes we get here.

With what we get in the first set, the introduction of the characters, the creation of Seras as a vampire under Arucard and the idea of what Millennium is all about with its Last Battalion, Hellsing Ultimate definitely set the stage well. Over those four episodes, it was heavy Arucard material that worked very well as we got to understand the nature of his relationship with Hellsing and Integra in particular but also a very good idea of just how his powers work and the extent of it. Arucard dominated those episodes in a huge way, as he rightly should. But with the events towards the end, prior to the Major’s speech, it ended in a way that’s taken him out of the equation for the first three episodes here. And while that may be problematic in concept, it’s utterly beautiful in execution because everyone else must step up to fill that void. And they do.

The opening episode kicks things off in a great way as the Major and his forces arrive in London with their airships and just devastate it. While often we get the last minute save, here it’s just utter destruction, a hell on Earth that everyone on his side revels in. This does largely dominate the opening episode and it’s just brutally beautiful to watch unfold as his minions make their way out and cause massive amounts of destruction on a hand to hand level as well as all the weaponry fired out of the airships. While London is under attack, we also get an attack on Hellsing as well, one that shouldn’t have happened as Zorin was just supposed to watch the area and keep things under control. Instead, he goes all out and drops in quite a lot of soldiers to deal with capturing Integra and proving his worth all the more.

An attack on the area is something very much worth watching, especially since the Wild Geese are holed up with them as well. Amusingly, Bernadotte has really taken to Seras in his own way and even some of the others have as well. While destruction runs rampant in London and here, it’s where Seras really has to step up and become something more than before, especially since Arucard isn’t here. She’s had the taste of blood before, but it’s here that it feels like she truly starts to become what it really means to be a vampire. While she was pretty meek in the first set, she was drawn to the weaponry. But here, with an attack on her home, she becomes something incredibly powerful, at least compared to the ghouls. Seeing her evolution across the set, but particularly as she deals with the Wild Geese soldiers in this situation, really makes her far more of an engaging character than she was in the first set.

The first three episodes deals with this across so many different avenues as it brings Iscariot into the mix, has some intense scenes with Sir Penwood that really works better than it should and continually expands the scope of the war. Where it goes even bigger is that while Hellsing is neutralized for the most part, Iscariot lands in the midst of things to take care of everything in their view in order to come out on top. With Iscariot against the ghouls and then the arrival of Seras, it just keeps boiling over and over. There’s a sense that everything is just going to be the end of the world because of what kind of forces are aligned here. The buildup for it across the first three episodes here really does something amazing. With the background events going on, the constant death and the revelry that so many take in it really knocks it out of the park.

With Arucard back in play, the eighth episode just goes to a whole other level. His absence is definitely felt, but coming into a situation where everything that could seemingly ever happen si there is a moment where he can just be unleashed. Getting into the core of what he is, some of his past but also what it means to turn off his limiters, and it takes some of the aspects of ti that we’ve seen and just shows how far it can actually go. Arucard in control without restraints is a thing of beauty, but it gives us a greater understanding of the character. When you have this much power, finding ways to amuse yourself requires restraint. But seeing how he is after all these centuries and the contrast to Seras only adds to it, especially when the two finally do come back into contact with each other and we get a beautiful master and pupil moment.

In Summary:
Hellsing Ultimate in its second set of four episodes takes the foundations of the first and barrels forward in a huge way. Removing Arucard from most of it is something that I can imagine was more of a problem when it was coming out an episode or two a year at most. Seeing it in marathon form definitely works in the shows favor here since you see the threads of the story coming together better and the evolution of Seras really takes center stage. While not having Arucard for much of it is definitely noticeable, the end result when you look at the big picture drives it all home beautifully. With great animation, beautiful sequences with great power and characters that are definitely engaging to watch. It gives you the kind of over the top show that some strive to be but falter. This release has been far too many years in the making overall but I’m thrilled to finally have it.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentary, Dubbing Hellsing – The 10th year Anniversary Interviews, Hellsing Cast Round Table Discussion, Anime Vegas 2010 Hellsing Panel, Fans’ Questions Answered, The Dawn: A Supplementary of Hellsing, Textless Closing Songs

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: A+

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 13th, 2012
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 180 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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