The original series returns in a full set as Ultimate is getting finished off, which is part of the problem as whilst it is still an intriguing series, it may seem like it is sadly left behind in comparison to the new version as flaws are much more obvious than maybe when it originally came out…
What They Say :
“The worst enemy of the night – is one of its own. The original series that inspired Hellsing Ultimate! A secret war is brewing in the night – a war in which humanity is only a pawn. The mysterious Hellsing Organization deploys within the shadows to protect ordinary mortals from the undead legions that would prey upon us. Now, as the ghouls and vampires increase in number, they threaten the human police forces forcing the deployment of the Hellsing Organization’s ultimate weapon – the rogue vampire, Arucard! After saving Victoria Seras Victoria, a special police operative from death by transforming her into a vampire, Arucard must work with her to fight the undead army – as well as her own newfound hungers!”
Set up in Stereo 2.0 in both English and Japanese, this is one of the things that leads you to believe it is pretty much a straight copy of previous release (I believe the Australian release) as there is no 5.1 update, which is a shame considering the sound effects and music in the original Hellsing series. The sound quality is still good, and didn’t have any issues in terms of syncing or transition, nor did I need to increase the volume necessarily, but you wonder if it had been updated what you may have got. Video wise again isn’t a problem, set in wide screen format, there was no issues regarding frame static and the aspect ratio, and with the atmospheric nature of Hellsing it still comes out as a quality release in terms of the design of the show and the quality of the animation so it’s still overall a visual and audio experience, but in particular with the audio you wished it did have the 5.1 option.
Each of the menus are set in the same style, with a different character per disc (Alucard, Seras, Anderson, Incognito) each done where when you select a menu, bullets fly across the screen and slow down so you can make your choice – whilst interesting I’m pretty certain this was the same style of menu that was done when Hellsing was originally released. Each menu has the selections, Play Feature, Scene Index, Extras and Set Up with you able to navigate the menus easily (and one of the things I like about being an older release that we get scene selection) – no problems selection via the menu or via the show and it does give a classic look as well so I still definitely enjoyed it.
There’s a decent amount of extras so far, but again seems a little out of place as will explain – mainly due to the trailers releases on each disc. There are a ton of shows on these trailers – but as far as I know, none of them have been licenced for the UK for re-release at all which suggests this is more based on the Madman Australian licences – so when you have quite a library of anime trailers covering 4 discs (Vampire Hunter D, Armitage Dual Matrix, Berserk, Excel Saga, End Of Eva, Ah My Goddess, Burn Up Excess, GTO, Vampire Princess Miyu, Real Bout High School, Noir, Boogiepop Phantom, Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Blood The Last Vampire, FLCL, Spirited Away, Niea 7 and Ah My Goddess The Movie), when most of these releases were done in the UK several years ago, some have never been licenced in the UK (trust me, if GTO got licenced in the UK, I would have known) and none of these releases bar Cowboy Bebop (via Blu-Ray) and the movies seem to really be considered for re-release in the near future in the UK, hence definite signs of laziness when releasing this set.
We have several traditional extras – we have the creditless opening, a music video trailer (which definitely has a feel of a Hellsing Anime Music Video), several concept galleries spreading over the disc ranging from pictures of the main cast in both sketch and art form, designs of the weapons, location art and even pictures of the blood capsules used for Seras as some of the examples used spread over the 4 discs.
There is some Japanese cover art (which some was used for the original UK release and the US release), and we get a staff interview involving several of the staff, including Umanosuke Iida(Supervising Director) who talks how his style would work with the original release, Kouta Hirano (original mangaka), Shouji Murahama(Company Director when this was done in 2001), Yoshiguki Fudetani(Chief Editor), Shinchiro Ishikawa(GONZO President)Toshiharu Murata(character designer), Yasunori Urata(Director), Atsushi Takeyama(Photography Director) and Yasushi Ishii(Music Composer). There is a lot that is got through regarding the original work, how the challenge is made, the concept designs, both in separate interview and in a full interview with a number of the staff (set in a dungeon like area/set a la the Hellsing basement) – this was very good though felt it could have easily been a bit longer.
Lastly was a weapons of Hellsing gallery, showcasing more details art of the guns used in Hellsing as well as Andersons blades. Overall, decent extras especially for fans of the art designs but again feels like was just copied and pasted for this re-release, and not really a true update.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The original Hellsing anime was released in the UK just over 10 years ago in 2003 and was one of the first anime series I remember purchasing during my new found love of anime. It was considered one of the more darker and unique titles on the market, with a very unique dub with people trying their best to be British, and was one of those gateway titles on DVD that people recommended. Hellsing Ultimate has been spread out in the UK since 2008 and was a more faithful rendition to the original manga compared to this 13 episode series – similar to what Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood was to the original Full Metal Alchemist. However, whilst FMA is still considered a well done series despite the sequel, the Hellsing series seems to have suffered over the years, not just because of the comparison to Ultimate, but also as 10 years along the line, flaws are more obvious. It is still a deep and dark series, but suddenly questions I was asking that I didn’t do after watching it the first time…
The main heart of the story does touch upon the first main arcs of the manga and does give more detail though – we start of the story as we hear about the Hellsing Organisation, led by a woman known as Sir Integra Hellsing, deploy a unit upon a rumoured vampire attacks in Cheddar. The unit however is just one being – the mighty Alucard, a near invincible vampire who seems to delight in serving his human master and killing rogue vampires. In this mission, the vampires appear to be former police officers who have been turned into vampires and ghouls by a rogue vampire priest. The only apparent survivor is a young rookie police officer named Victoria Seras, who is later cornered at the church where the priest wishes to feast upon her. Alucard shows up and basically just outright slaughtered all the ghouls and the vampire priest but not before mortally wounding Seras. Alucard, in an apparent state of charity, offers Seras to live by turning her into a vampire and thus, we get the famous master/student relationship between Seras and Alucard.
What the majority of the early series focuses on is this relationship, in particular Seras’ refusal to drink blood directly from humans – she even refuses initially to drink blood supplied from the Hellsing organization from hospitals and such and she has to fight against either getting weaker or getting her morals sorted out. She actually has quite a few moments and a focus episode on this when she investigates with an MI-5 agent around the creation and distribution of the FREAK chips, which are devices which transforms people into artificial vampires (in the original story, this is due to vampires can only become if they are bitten when a virgin, this isn’t really told well in the original series) which is most of the story in terms of what is changed from the original manga. This is both a good thing in terms of at the time, but what the story changed to seems a lot weaker nowadays as will be described.
Because the series is quite short and because the manga was nowhere near to completion at the time, they had to wrap up a story in 13 episodes as well as derive from some of the more well known characters and mini-arcs. After Seras gets introduced to her new vampiric dilemmas and helps out in a mission for the first time, and the FREAK chips are introduced, we do get to see one of my favourite ‘villains’ of all time (he’s more of an anti-villain) in Father Alexander Anderson. He is just doing his job as a Catholic Priest from Ireland, calm and gentle with those around him, kind to children…and wonderfully over the top psychotic when it comes to his true nature in killing vampires. This also includes any non rogue-ones who just happened to be in his country’s enemy’s heartland (Catholics vs. Protestants). Blessed with holy blades, he is a real test and thorn in the side for Alucard and Seras, though at the same time it does demonstrate how powerful Alucard is, and sadly due to the short nature of the series, the battles with Alucard only occur in two episodes. It is strange though that there are so many original episodes as there was plenty of source material at the time, yet the only arcs that really are from the original series are introducing Seras, Anderson and the Valentine Brothers.
The Valentine Brothers arc is probably the one that is mostly well remembered, and because they do give a couple of episode to it, it is easily the most praise worthy. After a meeting Integra has with some higher ups in the organization, two vampire brothers named Jan and Luke Valentine infiltrate the Hellsing mansion on orders from some other ‘organisation’ (sadly not the Major, again wasn’t available at this point, hence original story) where they cause destruction, fatalities, ghoul creation, threats to Hellsing herself and basically tear through the mansion like it is their playground. The Valentines are polar opposites of each other, Jan is a swearing, sex-crazed, violence loving psychopath, whilst Luke is a calm, stern older brother who wants to prove he is the most powerful. However, they work well as a team and are able to separate their work as Luke goes to find Alucard whilst Jan can do what the hell he wants. This leads to a battle between Seras and Integra’s butler and Alucard’s confident, a veteran fighter under Hellsing’s employ named Walter, a perfect definition of the trope ‘Battle Butler’ despite his advancing age taking on Jan, whilst Luke has a one on one battle, which similar to Anderson, shows a potential threat, but then shows what Alucard is TRULY capable of…
Most of the rest of the story is original, though we do get a throwback to how Alucard originally became Integra’s master via one of these stories. When someone pretended to be Integra’s sister infiltrates the remaining base to try and turn Integra to a vampire, we do get the flashback of Integra running from her greedy uncle after her father died, and how she was told to find the monster hidden in the dungeon. Feeding on some of her blood when she was shot in the shoulder, Alucard is saved from his bonds and despite the obvious mismatch, agrees to be Integra’s master. This was quite early in the manga, but it was good to be able to fit it into the original story…which sadly is the weakest part.
Whilst I believe Full Metal Alchemist still holds a good original story despite Brotherhood existing, the problem with Hellsing’s story is that outside of the interactions between Alucard and Seras, and the story based villains, the main villain is very dull with little to no obvious motive really well explained. Incognito is basically employed by this unknown organization who created the FREAK chip and is only really set to destroy Alucard, his own agendas and goals are pretty much unknown, which means he’s not particularly interesting as he is just set as a one dimensional final boss character, whilst at least Anderson and the Valentines have dynamic characters that set them apart and make you enjoy watching them. Whilst the battle in the Tower Of London involving the Hellsing Organisation is good, the fact it doesn’t really explain well enough how they got so many members back after the Valentine’s massacre (again, in the original story there is a replacement group they showcase which is very likeable and well used but not used here as unsure if got that far in the story at that point). Seras’ own investigation does have some interest in terms of developing the story and does add her own dilemmas of her vampire vs. human nature, but it doesn’t really add that much to the story and does seem like padding.
That said, it certainly isn’t terrible. It is, after all the true animated introduction to Alucard, who may be easily one of the most interesting anti-hero characters of all time. A lot of him is shrouded in mystery, and whilst we get minor glimpses of his past with the flashback with Integra, he comes across as cocky and arrogant, but at the same time with every reason to be. He is incredibly overpowered, the true weapon of the Hellsing organization and he knows it, yet the series does give him enough vulnerability during his fighting with Luke and Anderson for example that if you are unfamiliar with his character beforehand, you actually are shocked that he could actually be dead. The weapons he uses are well thought and animated, his relationships are all interesting – whether it be master/servant with Integra(with him as the servant), teacher/pupil with Seras (who he is very condescending to because of her refusal to drink blood yet is willing to teach her in his own unique way) and actually old friends dynamic with Walter.
The fight scenes are all incredibly graphic combined with an excellent soundtrack – the Valentine brother’s fights with Seras/Walter and with Alucard in particular are extremely well animated, as well as the battles with Anderson, and Incognito. The development Seras has, whilst a bit forced, does come close to full circle as you wonder if she will ever be a true vampire, whilst Integra is a stony eyed warrior who shows enough weakness for you to feel for her, but admire her strong character throughout, especially in the episode where you think she is going to be taken as a vampire, she makes a decision to showcase she is her own self.
The problems I have with the original story may seem a bit unfair because I am comparing it to Hellsing Ultimate and the original manga, which have the advantage that the full story has now been told. The development team had to try and make something with what material was available, and it does come off as a full flowing story. The problem is a lot of the original material is quite dull and just seems to slow the story along, and with it being such a short series, that really becomes noticeable. What Hellsing does is excellent – it’s main characters, action scenes, animation and overall feel and atmosphere make it a good series. It’s just once upon a time I saw this as a great series…and now I can’t say the same. Good but not great.
Hellsing has aged over the years and whilst not to a terrible extent, a lot of the weaknesses now that the full manga and Ultimate has come out are easily noticeable. Your favourite characters are still as fantastic as ever as Alucard, Anderson, Seras and Integra still leap out to the screen, just not as much as you wanted them to be. The music, animation and action scenes (especially in the Valentine battles) are still fantastic nearly 10 years on, but the plodding main story with a one-dimensional villain with no real motive is much more obvious to notice nowadays. I’d recommend this as an introduction to Hellsing, and then go onto Ultimate.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English SubtitlesClean Opening/Ending
Content Grade: B-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: August 12th, 2013
Running Time: 325 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.