What They Say:
Alucard awakens and his thirst for vengeance is stronger than ever. This anarchist must use everything in his mythical repertoire to show that his bite is far worse than an army of snarling Nazi werewolves. As Alucard absorbs every drop of blood in sight, all begin to realize that the ultimate slaughter might be too much to handle even for the deadliest of demonic slayers.
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.
Originally released in 2012, this OVA series gives us the final two episodes of the show in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The release puts both of them on one disc along with the extras while the DVD does things separately. The show is in its native HD form and overall it looks very, very good here. The series uses a lot of dark colors and plenty of black space with what it has, as well as a great 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. With these two episodes there are definitely quiet moments with little going on, but it also has some very fluid and busy scenes as well that come across beautifully and really showcase the animation in a great light.
The packaging for this release is kept simple and easy as we basically get a single sized Blu-ray case with a slipcover over it that mirrors the case artwork. the front cover gives us a decidedly dark and terrifying image of Walter all decked out and ready for action, which works better with the slipcover than the case with its color tone and not being behind the plastic itself. The back cover for both is fairly murky in a bad way though as we get a lot of text in a small and poorly lit font that makes it hard to read most of it. The premise is covered decently and we get the expected tagline for the release. The cast and production information may as well not have been included with the way it was presented as it’s barely readable. There’s a few shots from the show along the bottom in strip form that are colorful and violent and we get a solid breakdown of the technical information, though it uses the same bad font coloring here. With the slipcover replicating the case art, the additional piece we get here is the reversible cover. That has a good image of the Major along the left while the right side uses the same piece as the front we already have with Walter.
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 and 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. Even worse this time around is that so many of the clips involve scenes of fire and blood that the navigation disappears into it from time to time. Everything loads quickly and is effective in getting it set up so you can get to the good stuff.
The end run of Hellsing Ultimate has us getting some really good extras for those that are definitely fans of the English language presentation. The commentary tracks were big attractions on the previous releases with the cast and production people involved and that carries through well here for the final two episodes. We also get some mildly abbreviated video commentary for them as well, which run just over thirty minutes each. It’s always fun to see the people involved in producing this and starring in it talking about it, especially in such a relaxed setting, as you get some small but fun stories and information on what went into the process. We also get an In Memoriam piece here that breaks down the big kills from all the episodes with a brief look at them and the North American trailer to promote the release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The lengthy and release of Hellsing Ultimate finally draws to a close with this installment and it’s definitely a worthwhile experience. With the series shifting between distributors in the US over the years and all the complications there and the sometimes lengthy wait between new installments in Japan, the process of creating ten high quality faithful adaptations of a fan favorite manga that began in 2006 is likely not to be repeated any time soon. Which is unfortunate, since these kinds of projects have such a labor of love about them that they really have something different. Though the animation is definitely distinctive here with what it does, as it tries to adhere to the original manga style as much as it can, there’s something that just feels so theatrical about the quality of it that I find it rapturous, even as the events in the episodes themselves are so utterly destructive and bloody.
The finale here, across the two parts, truly is the culmination of events that began in the first and really picked up once we got our introduction to the Major and the Nazi storyline. In a way, these episodes are pretty much the third act of a film where it’s all about the big moments, the action and the epic striding across the landscape to bring things to a close. There’s something powerful about it, having invested so many years into these characters and their stories in this limited form, seeing them push past limits through these final motions to bring it all to a close. The lines are made so simple and clear as Integra and the Hellsing side are trying to save England and the world from the darkness of the Major while he is, rather simply, trying to end everything. Mixed into all of that are the various character rivalries and issues that have populated it for awhile and that adds a certain amount of color and flair to things.
An act like this is one that is certainly different to review as you’re basically looking at, say, the final act of Star Wars and talking just about that. What this act does is to bring Arucard into events fully as he goes up against the nemesis’ that he has before him while Integra does what she has to in order to bring the conflict to a close when it comes to the Major. Each has their significant moments and we also get Seras providing some solid time as well, particularly with how she aligns much closer to Integra this time around than before and really feels like she’s finding her place in the scheme of things. Something that’s beautifully – and comically – done in the epilogue of the final episode. In fact, outside of that sequence, the two episodes here eschew any of the kind of silliness that we saw scattered throughout the other episodes. Which is appropriate, because events here are serious.
There are a lot of little fights along the way that get dealt with, from various Nazi soldiers to Heinkel and to Yumie among others. They’re well done, bloody and brutal to be sure. And it adds a certain depth to the act overall as we see these subplots brought to a close as events focus more towards the main fight. Those main fights are certainly engaging, if subdued at times due to exposition that draws them out, but I find it hard to really give it much grief as I want it to provide that last bit of context as it moves towards the inevitable conclusion. Integra’s time with the Major is one that is certainly really great to watch, first with how protected he is as she and Seras make their way through his blimp, to the reveal of what he really is and his time going on about why he and his wouldn’t just simply die all those years ago and have to instead attempt this blaze of glory. It’s not a satisfying answer for someone like Seras, but there’s a good glimpse into what makes the Major who he is – inside and out.
Naturally, the real attention is all on Arucard himself and what he’s engaged with and there’s little that disappoints me here. His fight with Anderson makes up a decent chunk of the first episode here, one that he is certainly struggling with considering what Anderson has brought to the table, but you know it will get twisted into something else. Anderson has been an attractive character for his craziness from the get go and he really doesn’t disappoint here right through his final scene. His presence provides some time to illuminate more on Arucards past, seeing what he went through and the damage done to him over the years as a boy that hardened him and made him cruel. But one of the more damaging things in a way is what happens in the present as Walter reveals his becoming a vampire, something that has turned him young and hurts Arucard in a way that I doubt anyone suspected.
It’s this aspect that kind of leaves me a little cold. With Walter now wanting to fight Arucard for a number of small reasons, none of it really feels like it works well and that it’s a forced event. Though he tells Seras that if it helps to believe he was brainwashed, then do so, but that he’s largely doing this of his own free well. The two certainly have some interesting moments as they go at it, and Arucard has some choice statements about the youthful look he has at first, one that gets younger with certain hits by Arucard, but the reasons given and the way it unfolds just doesn’t leave me feeling like it makes sense that Walter would go this route. It provides for some emotional moments from him as things go south as you would expect, and we get the twist of how the Major thinks he’s been able to provide a real end for Arucard. Which, of course, doesn’t prove true. All of that rolls into the expected epilogue. There’s a whole lot to like with the technical unfolding of this part of the arc, but the character motivation side simply falls very, very flat for me.
While I have issues with certain parts of the finale installments here, Hellsing Ultimate has been a strong enough ride overall that it’s a property I’m already looking forward to revisiting. It’s been a difficult road for the show with the time between releases, both in Japan and with licensing and distribution here, but the end result is a lengthy and spectacular adaptation of a manga that you rarely get to see done in such a way. Especially after the weak TV series run that was done prior to this. The final installment is filled with a lot of epic and sweeping pieces of action and a fair amount of exposition and monologues, but that’s been part and parcel with the series from almost the start. This is a fantastic property that comes together in some really good ways, and some problematic ways, all while doing it with some really beautiful and disturbing animation. This is something that you need to sit down and watch in marathon form without the gaps and just enjoy the operatic beauty of it all. Very recommended.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Interview Sessions (IX, X), Episode Commentary (IX, X), R.I.P. In Memoriam, U.S. Trailer
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: A
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 28th, 2014
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.