Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Anime: Hellsing

HELLSING - THE ORIGINAL SERIES (18)4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 298 minutes approx.

With the recent and rather long overdue (five years!) completion of the UK release of theHellsing Ultimate set of OVAs - including the first four instalments being reissued on Blu-ray - Manga have rescued the original TV series from the dust pile of titles formally licensed by the now defunct ADV label. This gives newcomers to the Hellsing franchise a chance to see the show that introduced Anime fans to the indestructible vampire Alucard as well as an opportunity for viewers old and new to "contrast and compare" with the OVA series, which was a more a faithful adaptation of Kouta Hirano's manga .

This thirteen episode series from studio Gonzo first aired on 2001 which explains the slightly archaic animation and character designs, especially in lieu of the improved quality of the visuals of the Ultimate series, but don't let that put you off - the gore and visceral horror remains a core ingredient of the show's success and the boundaries of TV standards have little effect on the level of claret spilling. Production values aside, the key difference between the two releases is that the TV show went into production while the manga was still running and, as we have seen with many other titles, the most notable being Fullmetal Alchemist, the show's writers were forced to create their own material to complete the series.

Viewers of the Ultimate series will find themselves in relatively familiar territory in the first episode in this set, with a rather hurried retelling of how Alucard met young police officer Seras Victoria and turned her into a vampire in order to save her life. While the base material is certainly recognisable, the differences in the interpretations between the two presentations are often quite wide, with the chronology sometimes altered in the TV series. Aside from episode four, everything is based on the manga while the diversion begins from episode seven right through to the end. That means for those of you who have only seen the Ultimate adaptation, all material pertaining to Millennium, Nazis and Rip Van Winkle does not exist here, replaced instead with a subplot involving artificially created vampires called FREAK vampires.

Along with the aforementioned Alucard and Seras, the cast list will be largely familiar for anyone watching this after the Ultimate series - Alucard's female master Sir Integra Hellsing, the loyal butler Walter and the vicious antagonists the Valentine Brothers as well as brief introduction Alexander Anderson (who has a more prominent role in the manga/Ultimate OVAs) all feature here. However some liberties were taken by Gonzo's writing team in this adaptation to fulfil the episode count, including the addition of Integra's sister, Laura, to the fray, but the essence of Hellsing is still very much adhered to. And to maintain a sense of consistency, the voice artists from this series all returned to reprise their roles for the OVAs, adding a nice touch of continuity to the project.

It's not just the violent content and aesthetics that are noticeably different, the OVAs feature much more humour than the TV series. For this writer at least, this is a blessing. That isn't to say that a few moments of levity shouldn't appear in horror stories but the OTT presentation of chibi character forms, sweatdrops and other comedic affectations clash quite severely with the darker tone and narrative of the remainder of the content. Thus, in this case, this is an area where this TV version is preferable to the OVAs, even if this was a feature of the original manga.

Made in 2001 the animation style of this release will look like a throwback to the 90's, with its grainy veneer, basic colour palette and simplistic movements of the mouths when speaking, and compared to the glossy update of the Ultimate series, especially as one can experience it on HD on Blu-ray, the differences will be night and day. But don't take this as a recommendation to avoid this release, it is still worthy of a look, if only to see what brought many fans to the Hellsing franchise in the first place. Much like the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood reboot, this telling of the Hellsing saga is a perfectly acceptable way to establish the characters and central premises and the non-canon material that makes up the second half of the series is a testament to the sheer scope of potential these characters and their supernatural dealings have.

This release is pretty much a carbon copy of the of the original ADV release, with the exception of some subtle differences in the extras, and mostly inconsequential ones (such as trailers etc), but the main content, right down to the animated menus and 4:3 picture ratio are exactly the same. The only significant change is that the BBFC certificate has been raised from a 15 to an 18. With the actual content not changing one has to wonder what has changed in the past few years to cause this re-evaluation.

The Ultimate OVAs might offer anime fans the definitive telling of the Hellsing saga with its modern animation and HD presentations but this original TV series has a lot to offer in its own right, delivering a much more serious yet still liberally blood soaked helpings of supernatural shenanigans that made Alucard, Seras, Walter and Integra firm favourites among anime fans worldwide.


English Language Japanese Language English Subtitles

Disc 1:

Creditless OpeningMusic Video TrailerConcept GalleryMadman Propaganda

Disc 2:

Staff InterviewCreditless Ending (ver. 01)Concept GalleryMadman Propaganda

Disc 3:

Japanese Cover ArtCreditless Ending (ver. 02)Concept GalleryMadman Propaganda

Disc 4:

Magazine Ad ArtCreditless Ending (ver. 03)Concept GalleryMadman PropagandaWeapons Of Hellsing

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