Hellsing, an organization specializing in dealing with supernatural threats, is called in to eliminate a vampire that is turning the villagers of Cheddar into ghouls. To put an end to this, the leader of the organization, Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, dispatches her most formidable asset: a powerful vampire known as Alucard.
Armed with only a single handgun, Alucard wreaks havoc on the monsters plaguing Cheddar. However, a young police officer, Seras Victoria, gets caught up in the chaos and becomes mortally wounded as a result. Taking pity on the girl, Alucard gives her a choice: die as a human or live on as a vampire. Seras accepts his offer and begins a new life as a member of Hellsing.
Though it was her decision, Seras struggles with the fact that she is no longer human. Nevertheless, she must embrace being a creature of the night soon if she wants to survive on the front lines in the fight between humans and the supernatural.
Hellsing was based on Kouta Hirano’s manga of the same name. The anime utilizes the same characters but the story strongly deviates from the manga, which was still ongoing at the time of the anime’s creation.
Hellsing is my favorite manga of all time. It combines a fun story, memorable characters, quirky humor, stylish art, and unrelenting gore and brutality all into one little paper back graphic novel.
So naturally, you'd think that the manga would make an awesome anime. Well, Chiaki J. Konaka and Umanosuke Iida thought so too and took it upon themselves to make an anime based off the popular series. In many ways, they succeeded. But they also failed...
The anime was released in 2001, long before the manga series would be complete. So they were forced to come up with their own story, completely unrelated to the
manga (save for a few key plot points). This potentially is a pretty cool idea and allows room for originality, but the story in the anime is very hit and miss. There were times I was really enjoying the series and other times that I was flat out bored. I felt that the story just dragged and was often times pointless.
The story also lacks a key element that makes Hellsing so great, and that's the humor. This anime takes itself very seriously, but it loses heart doing so.
I've heard many times from fellow fans that the anime is just poor a fanfiction, and I can't say I disagree.
The animation is just plain ugly, even by TV anime standards. The characters are all poorly drawn, the colors are bland and ugly, and animation is smooth but suffers from choppiness. Visually, this is a lifeless anime. And that's all I can really say about it.
The soundtrack and voice acting is the anime's highlight. The soundtrack is nothing short of wonderful. The jazz tracks really set you in the mood for the series and I'd go as far as saying that the actual album is worth they buy. The voice acting was also very good. Crispin Freeman, K. T. Gray, Victoria Harwood, Steven Brand, Ralph Lister, and the rest of the cast did such an excellent job voicing their characters.
All the characters themselves were great, but the one character that truly stands out in the series is Seras. Her character is really fleshed out and you got to know her alot more then you did in the manga. Alucard was great, but he really becomes more of a prop in the background then anything else. The shows villain 'Incognito' was just... blah. He was kinda cool, but can't hold a candle to the manga's villain 'The Major'.
Overall, this is just simply an okay anime. Nothing rememberable or even exciting. It's not bad really, but it isn't great either. And to be perfectly blunt, this fails to live up to Kouta Hirano's vision. In recent years, they've rebooted the series with 'Hellsing Ultimate', an OVA series that is almost panel by panel like the manga's. I highly recommend you go see the OVA's, those did everything that the TV series couldn't.
If you consider yourself a Hellsing fan, then by all means go see this series. But if you're just entering the Hellsing universe, then I recommend you stay clear of this and go straight onto 'Hellsing Ultimate'.
If you are a "Hellsing fanboy", ignore this review as it will probably fill you with murderous rage. That being said... Hellsing is the kind of series not meant to be taken seriously, at all. If you like stories about vampires and find random violence cool and fun then this may be right up your alley. If you enjoy effortless entertainment with no real depth and no thought required, then stop here and just skip my review. However if you know what kind of anime you like, and are curious to see if Hellsing may or may not be for you, the following criticisms may
help with your decision.
Let me make this clear, it's not like shows about mindless violence are beneath me (I loved DBZ). The first episode of Hellsing was very interesting and drew me in, but from there on things went downhill. For one, everything about it moved at such a quick pace nothing really develops. This is especially evident with the way characters handle events (see "Characters" below). And this frantic momentum just keeps on going. The cut scenes are sudden, making for rough transitions, and even the plot progresses sporadically. It's also morally all over the place, which could be a statement about the ambiguity of right and wrong, but most likely the creator just didn't care about that kind of stuff. If you like shows like Cowboy Bebop which are very episodic and have very thin/loose central plots, then you may still enjoy Hellsing.
The Anderson guy was kind of cool and the fights with him weren't bad. The whole vampires commanding ghoul armies thing was a nice touch; kind of different. Still, there was little plot, and much of it was ridiculous and/or didn't make sense. The way they acted, the things they fell for, etc. The dialogue to action ratio was like 3:1. That much dialogue and so much dubiousness made even less sense.
But anyway... I'd say this is probably not for young teens as there's plenty of blood and some sexual situations...
The characters weren't the most original, but I didn't mind. The problem was that they weren't fleshed out very well and they were considerably static. They had no range. They were always in the same "mode" all the time. Alucard was always smug and "bad ass". Seras was always weak and impish, etc. Some people may actually LIKE this kind of certainty, but I prefer dynamic, unpredictable characters. Their interactions were also so unusual that I spent more time scratching my head than clapping my hands. Examples...
Alucard - I like bad asses. I can forgive a lot, but I expect a certain consistency. A certain logic or order to a characters behavior. But so much of the show is just kind of up in the air and random. For instance, Alucard's encounter with Seras. There was no pressure and no time limit and despite his considerable powers he still takes the least practical action. He didn't even consider any other options. The whole event felt so forced and rushed. Speaking of which, one moment he'll be asking, "Hey, wanna be my servant?" the next, "Hey, wanna be on your own?" Bwa?? O_o
Additionally, Alucard suffers from "overpowered main character" syndrome, which (when combined with the above characteristics) make it hard to either care or be concerned about the character.
Seras Victoria - I actually liked the whole vampire in training bit with her, but (like everything else) they never really developed this much. Also, she was all too eager to accept some random monster as her new master. Maybe the British have weaker constitutions than I was aware of, but I have to wonder, who does this? I'm ok with a character being weak or hesitant or not super special awesome, but to be so inexplicably submissive just seems unbelievable. No resistance? No doubt? No concern? I just can't imagine anyone in such a situation being so nonchalant.
Ironically, despite her instant instinct for servitude, she still ends up being very reluctant to actually DO anything. Maybe if there were some backdrop or history to her character this might have made sense. It's areas like this where the lack of character development really hurt the show.
Strangely enough, her breasts seemed to fluctuate in size and her hair would alternate between yellow and orange.
"Sir" Integra Hellsing - Not much to say, just wanted to comment on how usually in anime you'll see guys who look very, very feminine. The whole "Sir" and "Miss" thing was a little confusing, but it also didn't help that she might be the first in a new line of girls who look/sound very masculine.
The art's good, though a little weird at times (especially when the characters end up being stylistically "elongated") but this may come across as cool. I did like the look of the DVD menus though. I give the previews credit for being... different, although I personally found them annoying.
The one thing I did like about Hellsing was the music. The selections were unusual but interesting and somehow went well with the show. I wished it was used more often, then I could've enjoyed it as some extravagant AMV. The dubbing for Hellsing is noteworthy if for nothing else than the fact that they got mostly European voice actors for the European setting. Though despite this novelty I still preferred the sub. Freeman was the only one who didn't come across as amateurish to me.
On the technical side of things, Hellsing has major major issues. Gonzo is famous for prioritizing its projects from lavish budgets to zippo budget. Guess which one Hellsing got? Character designs are hideous outside of the main cast, backgrounds are so bland and unappealing that it’s almost impossible to tell where you are at any given moment, I could go on but just know that Hellsing is often painful to watch, color choice being its largest detriment. The palette in Hellsing produces a plastic, bile-colored result with skin tones on some characters that makes humans look less vivid than the undead.
The folksy rock-metal music
is unique, but I don’t care for how it’s used, or should I say, not used. Rather than support the action, the music always acts as an afterthought in Hellsing, playing far too quietly to be appreciated or punching up to blare and only achieving the effect of a drowning radio. It’s a great soundtrack that is poorly used.
The dub of Hellsing has an obligation to the English language that the Japanese does not: British accents, a double-edged sword with Integra and Walter on the sharp side, far too many awful extras on the dull side and K.T. Gray’s unstable Victoria licking the blade as she struggles to act a bland part in a voice that’s not her own and just pulls through. The Iscariot Organization offers a respite from all the limey lingo with Castilian Enrico Maxwell and the very best of all: paladin Alexander Anderson, a character who needed far more scenes if only so we could hear more of that great scottish brogue. For the most part it’s a very enjoyable listen with just a few forced cringes that come with a bunch of Americans trying to sound European. Then there’s Alucard. You can’t go wrong in either language because both Jouji Nakata and Crispin Freeman are wickedly fantastic. Anytime Alucard opens his mouth, you just have to shut up and LISTEN, it’s so spellbinding.
So, what do I really think of the wildly popular cult hit Hellsing? I could almost shout “what a waste!” and save myself some breath but seeing as this show is so well loved, I’ll have to explain my low opinion of this sleaze-fest in great detail. Very well. It’s one thing for a show to be episodic, to not have a plot. It’s quite another for a show to pretend it has a plot and string us along a lot of very confusing sideroads to end up admitting it has no idea where the hellsing it was ever going and doesn’t care to finish. Villains appear and disappear at random with little to no motivation or explanation of why they’re a threat and what they have to do with the “main plot” of who is creating the freak chip and why. Not that it matters. "Spoiler alert": They never find out who’s creating the freak chip, and even though we spend hours on it, the stupid things don’t ultimately mean anything. I rarely understood why any characters did anything, and I never cared.
The only reason I stuck with the show is because of the script. The dialogue in the show is wonderfully witty, and hearing all the brits banter scene by scene is incredibly rewarding until you realize every fun conversation has nothing to do with any overall direction.
But some shows get by on rich character development or unique concepts at the expense of a strong plot, the tried-and-true Bebop approach. This isn’t one of those, either. Victoria is one of the most boring and completely undeveloped protagonists in any anime. She follows her master’s orders and has long talks with people who could be interesting but often just get killed after they explain things. There’s no exploration of her struggle with her vampire nature or her apparent loneliness. She’s hopelessly boring, but hey, at least she’s hot, or so I’m told. Every other character is just as vapid, except a lot of them aren’t sexy or anything. The final boss is particularly bad, and has all the personality of a picket fence. The big exception to this is Integra herself, a complicated and valiantly strong woman, but she just isn’t enough by herself to give this show any substance.
So, maybe this show isn’t supposed to have a plot or develop characters, or you know, have any depth. Maybe it’s just a great horror title. No. Good horror frightens people, often relying on the audience’s imagination. Bad horror just grosses people out with too much information. Hellsing is gory, repulsive, sometimes twisted, but never frightening. Fullmetal Alchemist, a show accessible for young teens, has at least ten moments that are scarier than anything in Hellsing, many of them near-bloodless but may still keep you up for hours with the lights on. Hellsing is mature viewers only, gratuitous, and woefully unimaginative by comparison.
I’ve almost sucked this show’s juices dry, but it’s left with one appeal: the cool factor. Okay. It has that. It’s cool. It’s cool seeing a vampire in a longcoat pummel ghouls to ash and cackle about it. It’s cool seeing a bunch of catholics send a scripture-pitching Scotsman after him, too. But at the expense of all the garbage floating through this ailing anime’s system, simply being cool is no saving grace, in fact, it’s almost insulting. Hellsing is a pile of sensationalistic hyper-violence with excessive swearing and ridiculously ignorant sacrilege and the fact that people shout “It’s cool! Lighten up!” makes me balk at rewarding it for anything at all. Maybe the show is fun in a sick kind of way, but I see no merit in bad storytelling, bad technical execution, and yes, offensive content. Standards vary for every individual, but I’m the kind of person who will never watch Saw or Grindhouse and I am still sorry I bought into the hype to watch Hellsing, the cool kid at school who deserves no honest praise for being a real douche at heart.
All in all, Hellsing is a wild and wooly idea that sucks more than it bites. No amount of stylish costuming, good voice acting, and Scottish assassins can disguise an incomprehensible plotline, cardboard characters, and poor attempts at cheap thrills. Then, to make matters worse, you have painfully poor production values. It’s not a popular opinion, but I believe it has some credence. If you must indulge Hellsing, skip this and check out the OVA.
*THIS IS A PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT OF MY VIDEO REVIEW WHICH CAN BE FOUND HERE:
Heavy on style and very dark, the devilishly cool Hellsing is one of the hippest animes I've seen in the past half-decade. Oozing coolness, it's excellent musical score and characters hook you in, and the story keeps you interested enough to watch all the way through.
The characters look fantastic....some times. The animation ranges from flawless to sub-standard and is wildly incosistent, which is sad considering the character designs are amazing. The entire look of a character will change from frame to frame, which can be really jarring, but the big fight scenes all look great.
Music is always important to an anime (or at least
it is in my eyes), and Hellsing is second only to Cowboy Bebop when it comes to the fantastic score, everything from 70s rock to dark piano instrumentals is present on the soundtrack and none of it ever feels out of place. The opening theme is an amazing song, not to mention very complimentary to the sequence's visuals.
The story is a breath of fresh air from the normal generic vampire story tripe that pollutes Hollywood and cheap horror novels, and the strong connections to religious symbolism and Bram Stoker's Dracula were a real treat for me. Sadly, the main plot sorta goes out the window after episode seven in favor of a quick explanation of Integra and Alucard's pasts and the origin of the synthetic vampires. Fortunately, the manga and currently running Ultimate OVAs tie up most loose ends.
Overall, the memorable cast, great music and cool story bit me (hahahaha, vampire humor) and left me with the serious desire for human blood (or a better ending, either or). If you're a fan of Dracula, you'll love the series. If you're a fan of stylish anime, you'll love the series. If you like action, but also like compelling characters, you''ll love the series. Flawed animation and story aside, it's defintely a must-see.
Music in anime can be a blessing or a curse. When done correctly, it can leave an everlasting impression on the audience. Music is merely one element of many, but it is a critical component that defines the emotional impact of an anime.