Review

by Zac Bertschy, Apr 7th 2002

Hellsing

Synopsis:
Hellsing
For a century, the Royal Protestant Knight Hellsing organization has toiled endlessly to keep humanity from becoming fodder for the undead. Integra, a strong-willed woman, runs the organization with pride and dedication. Under her is Alucard, a vampire with incredible special abilities that serves Integra and the Hellsing organization, wiping out the undead wherever they pop up. Alucard has taken a new child under his wing, Victoria Celes, a police officer who had to choose between death and unlife. As things complicate for the Hellsing organization, new threats close in.
Review:
For the Vampire enthusiast, it's hard to find an anime series out there that really fits the bill. Kyuuketsuki Miyu (Vampire Princess Miyu) was a little too far off the mark from the classic Vampire legends to quench the thirst of those who love the concept of the undead. Last year we were gifted with Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, a visually stunning film that incorporated one too many science-fiction concepts to be accurately called a horror film. This year, Pioneer brings us Hellsing, perhaps the first attempt at making a vampire series that actually tries to stick to the basic concepts behind vampires. Hellsing is a dramatic, blood-soaked tribute to everything we love about the romantic undead.

The premise is fairly simple. The Hellsing organization (run by the Protestants, no less) has been around for about a century bringing down the various undead creatures that pop up across the globe. The organization is headed up by Integra, a woman who so closely resembles a bishounen that even the most trained anime fan's eye will have trouble discerning her exact gender at first glance. She controls Alucard, an uber-powerful vampire who does all the things you'd expect vampires to be able to do and takes out vampires and zombies with ruthless efficiency. Watching these characters interact is a joy; the dialogue and character interaction here is charmingly written and executed. Hellsing has the honor of being the most character-driven horror series ever. True, it relies on action to tell the story more than words, but in series like Kyuuketsuki Miyu, the monster of the week typically gets more screen time than the title character. Horror almost never focuses completely on characters. Hellsing does the opposite; the characters are given as much detail and background as possible. We see Victoria, the confused neonate, stumble around and struggle with her newfound unlife. It's painful to watch, and yet captivating. Therein lies the beauty of Hellsing; it isn't just about blood and guts. Well, okay, so it is about blood and guts.. but the violence is tempered with drama that takes itself seriously enough to validate the entire thing.

The show isn't without its problems, though. Animated by the rich and famous Studio Gonzo, they opted for the money-saving techniques on this series. After the first episode, which is beautifully animated and brings the unconventional and daring character designs to life, the animation quality gets wildly inconsistent. Characters are frequently off-model and change from scene to scene. I'm not sure why the vampires have gigantic tongues but it winds up looking poorly-drawn and gets fairly distracting at times. After the first 8 episodes or so, the series derails a little and starts developing an “original” storyline that has nothing to do with the manga series it's supposed to be based on. Anyone who's seen enough Rurouni Kenshin knows what happens when good anime series start wandering off the path set down by the manga. Fortunately, Hellsing's turn for the worst calms itself down enough to remain enjoyable throughout the entire 13-episode run.

For those with an affinity for gothic horror and dark, intense drama, Hellsing is an absolute can't-miss series. As with any anime series, it has its problems. The fact of the matter is, you won't find a better horror series on the market today.
Grade:
Production Info:

+ Excellent writing, atmosphere, beautifully executed concept
Animation quality goes up and down, storyline strays from the manga

Director:
Shinya Hanai
Umanosuke Iida
Ryouki Kamitsubo
Yoshikazu Miyao
Akihiko Nishiyama
Manabu Ono
Kaoru Suzuki
Yutaka Takeda
Ryoki Uetsubo
Yasunori Urata
Tokio Yamauchi
Script:
Yuuji Hosono
Chiaki J. Konaka
Storyboard:
Umanosuke Iida
Hiroyuki Kakudou
Ryouki Kamitsubo
Yoshikazu Miyao
Manabu Ono
Kaoru Suzuki
Yasunori Urata
Music:
Yasushi Ishii
Tatsuo Tabei
Yasukasu Tabei
Original Manga:Kouta Hirano
Character Design:Toshiharu Murata
Art Director:Shinji Katahira
Animation Director:
Masaki Hyuga
Tomoaki Kado
Hiroyuki Kanbe
Shizuo Kawai
Yoshikazu Miyao
Toshiharu Murata
Shinobu Tagashira
Takeyuki Yanase
Mechanical design:Yoshitaka Kohno
Sound Director:Yota Tsuruoka
Executive producer:
Shinichiro Ishikawa
Akihiro Kawamura
Yoshinori Kumazawa
Shouji Murahama
Yasuyuki Ueda
Producer:Daisuke Kawakami

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Hellsing (TV)

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