Reviewby Mark Sombillo, Jun 10th 2008
Hellsing Ultimate V02
Sleeping in a coffin and drinking blood to stay alive are just some of the things that Victoria Seras is going to have to get used to in her new life. After being turned into a vampire by Alucard, the Hellsing organisation's most powerful weapon, Victoria must now give up the life of a policewoman and become part of this organisation dedicated to combating evil and keeping it secret from the rest of the world. Before she gets settled in to her new surroundings, however, Hellsing's base of operations is attacked by two very powerful vampires, the Valentine Brothers, along with a horde of zombies obeying their commands. Their mission: destroy Alucard himself and eradicate the Hellsing head council.
Blood, gore, violence, nonsensical humour, unabashed references to rape, blatant overuse of the idea "deus ex machina"... the list of ingredients cooked up by the latest instalment of the Hellsing OAV series just goes on and on. And, though it made for one tasty meal, there was just a little too much on the plate for me to enjoy every element fully. In case my references to cooking made you hungry rather than understand my point, I'll simply say that the whole episode flew by too fast.
The OVA series was pegged to be much more closely related to the original manga than the TV release was. This meant full-on violence with the rougher edges softened up by juxtaposed humour. In this second episode, just like the first, I found the laughter to be short in coming, but also that OVA definitely delivers on the adrenaline-filled blood-fest side of things. In fact, having never have seen the original TV release, I was quite taken aback sometimes by how violent this series has really turned out.
The action sequences are very exciting with fluid animation. There are hints of computer generated graphics, but they are almost seamlessly integrated and you barely notice they're there. The overly exaggerated character expressions during the tense moments also give the show a deliciously sadistic atmosphere. However, when this super deformed style is used for the comedy segments, it didn't quite carry the same depth in stirring a chuckle as the violence did in bringing about thrills for the viewer.
It is, in fact, the ostensibly humorous side of this episode that fails quite miserably. Scenes showing Seras whining about her new arrangements are meant to bring you into the story somewhat gently before the fighting begins, but I don't think it ever quite achieves this. I found myself really wanting to skip right through her scenes to where something good might be more likely to happen. It's a shame - from the first volume of this OVA, I thought that I might like Seras' character, but I soon found that being portrayed in such a rambunctious light only serves to make her irritating.
The attempts at humour never let up. Throughout the thick of it all, the characters (particularly the Valentine Brothers) frequently make mocking jests at whoever they are attacking. This worked well to make any attacking character more malicious looking, but, at the end of it all, I thought that the comedy was too hit and miss to bother with, and that the series should focus more on what it does well - action and gore.
The poor attempts at humour, however, are not my number one complaint. It was the fact that, with all the "jokes" and unending barrage of zombies, the story fails to advance in any direction. In fact, the only thing that was discovered in this episode was that Alucard may be much stronger that we thought, pulling out the big guns in the last moment. It was somewhat of an overkill situation which I thought just sullied the level of believability, particularly for future episodes where he almost certainly will need to become even stronger.
The operatic soundtrack sublimely painted a very gothic visage, important as the unrealistic imagery typical of the genre can make it difficult to really scare anyone, save the most faint hearted and the innocent. The grandiose score inspired a feeling of reverence and, at least for a moment, made me think that, if Alucard really existed in the world, then I'd want to be sure that the Hellsing organisation equally existed to keep him on a strong leash.
There was a fair bit of harsh language throughout the show; with so much blood gushing out, why would a few profanities matter? It could just be me, but I can't get into animated characters swearing profusely in English. Admittedly, the Japanese language used was probably every bit as obscene as it could have been, but the corresponding English seemed a tad forced for me.
I'm really quite impressed by the enthusiasm that Madman is putting into their DVD production of this title. Just like the first volume, this release comes with a foil covering hosting some praise-worthy artwork. The DVD extras are nothing extravagant, however. With each disk only showing barely an hour's worth of content - a single episode -, one might find it hard to justify buying each volume separately rather than waiting for a more cost effective box set.
It's a thrill ride, no doubt about it. Whether or not this can be classified as an effective comedy is up for debate. If you're coming to this show wanting nothing more than hard rocking non-stop violence and gore then I believe it will be hard not to be impressed.
Overall : B
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : B
+ Impressive action sequences.
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