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:
Thanks for reading!