Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Anime to watch: Hellsing Ultimate

Hellsing Ultimate is one of my favourite shows, anime or non anime. (Also, not to be confused with the show that was just called Hellsing and predated it. Same characters and same premise, but slightly different plot. Also not based directly off the manga.) Anyway I really like it partly because I think it features one of the best vampires put to screen. Partly because it features vampires period; proper, real, not sparkling, throat ripping, blood drinking vampires, and partly because it has a great set of characters, good execution, plot, and some pretty awesome fight scenes to watch.

The entire show centres around the exploits of the Hellsing Organization, and its attempts to defend England from the incursions of vampires and forces that threaten its existence. These can include everything from single random vampires, to rogue armies from the Vatican(who for some reason look like the Ku Klux Klan), and Nazis (complete with a Nazi vampire army) that survived the end of the World War II and are looking for revenge. The show is an original video animation of the manga series of Hellsing, something I also recommend picking up if you like the genre.

The action is great and ridiculously over the top, even by a lot of anime standards. Never mind spurting blood, the blood in this show looks like it's being shot from a fire hose when it starts flowing. Giant guns, multiple swords, beheadings, and bullet wounds that blow off major body parts or that you can see through are par for the course in Hellsing Ultimate.

The main vampire on the show is the one who gives the viewer the most bang for their buck in terms of shear destructive power, and serves as the Hellsing Organization's main weapon against whatever and whoever might oppose them. Alucard only ever seems to be truly happy when he's killing people, which is a lot of the time, it's anime with vampires after all, or when he's about to kill people. The rest of the time, he just tends to be grouchy. That he also happens to be a terrifying eldritch abomination who cannot be killed even by having his head cut off, or by being shot to pieces, or even both, only makes him all the more intimidating. He disdains virtually every other living and non-living being, especially those who make the claim of being vampires and who don't measure up to his standards. Which is almost all of them.

That being said, there are a fair number of other characters in this show besides Alucard, all of them interesting and well done. Arguably the main character would be Seras Victoria, Alucard's sire. Seras is definitely the one who also undergoes the most change across the series arc, going from a pretty innocent and terrified British police woman, to a slightly less terrifying mirror image of Alucard. There are times when she undergoes her own mad killing rages that, combined with her slightly little girl appearance, make them kind of disturbing to watch. She also has a preference for guns that are larger than her, and in one of my favourite scenes of all time, she dual-wields thirty millimetre cannons to shoot down a Nazi dirigible. My one complaint about her character is the creator's attempts to make her seem either vulnerable or scared can make her seem more like a little girl than an adult at times, what with the whimpering and panting she does. Given that seems the standard style for anime though, it's to be expected, so you've really got no choice but to roll with it if you plan to get into this genre.

Leading the entire group is Sir Integra Van Hellsing, head of the Hellsing Organization, and extremely passionate about her job. She is someone you do not want to have mad at you, because she'll sic her guard dog vampire Alucard on you, and if he happens to be busy killing someone else, she'll come after you personally with sword and gun in hand and a cigar in her mouth. In combat she is merciless, though she cares about her men and the people she is sworn to protect. Backing her up, both as a domestic servant and as a fellow soldier, is her butler, Walter C. Dornez, who is equally adept at serving tea as he is in beheading a dozen ghouls at a time with his razor floss. I kid you not, this man fights with strands of razor sharp thread that he wields partly with his teeth at times. He's good enough to have gained the name of the Angel of Death from those who've run into him on the battlefield.

There are 10 episodes to the entire series, though only the first 8 have been dubbed into English.Each episode runs from 42 minutes to 70 minutes for the longest. For those who prefer their anime in full Japanese, congratulations, the entirety of this show is available in the original language with English subtitles on Youtube. You can also get the first 8 dubbed into English on bluray. Only some of those are currently available on Youtube. I've provided links to the best I could find at the bottom. So far as I can find, no major retailer has a complete Region-1 compatible DVD or bluray set in any language available for purchase right now, so Youtube seems like your best bet to watch the entire series. You can pick up the first 8 episodes that have been fully dubbed into English by Funimation on bluray off Amazon, or your local video store should stock this if it has a decent anime section. It's a fairly popular show.

9/10 for me on this one. It's got a couple small drawbacks, but nothing that you can't easily overlook or get used to. The characters are good, the voice acting in either language is fantastic, though I'm biased toward the English one, and the plot is entertaining and certainly keeps things interesting. I would watch out letting children watch this one as well. It's heavy on the gore, and one episode in particular is heavy on the f-bombs, so keep that in mind. If you're a fan of vampires, I couldn't recommend this one enough.
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