Reviewby Theron Martin,
During a meeting of the Hellsing Organization's round table, a horde of ghouls led by the vampire brothers Luke and Jan Valentine attack HQ with the intent of conducting a little test for their masters, one that involves killing everyone inside. While Jan leads the slaughter of the rank-and-file Hellsing soldiers and makes vile threats against Sir Integra and the round table members, Luke hunts out Alucard, who has been awaiting and relishing such a challenge. But what the Valentine brothers haven't counted on is the Hellsing butler Walter “Angel of Death” Dollneaz, the fledgling vampire Seras Victoria with her 30-mm Harconnen cannon, or how incomprehensibly powerful Alucard really is when he releases his full abilities.
The first 35 minutes of this 45-minute OVA episode correspond exactly to episodes 5 and 6 of the Hellsing TV series, down even to duplicating lines in some places. With its last few minutes it begins to diverge from the TV series content, heading in a direction that the TV series was unable to go because the Millenium Nazis content had not been written yet at the time the TV series went into production. It offers the promise of completely fresh content for episode 3, but that is, at the least, several months off; here we are only dealing with episode 2.
If you are one of the many people who were absolutely thrilled with the first OVA episode's take on the Hellsing manga then the second episode should delight you to no end, as it takes everything that was great about the first episode and piles it on even thicker. If, however, you were in the minority of fans who actually found the first episode to be a disappointment, then the second episode will do little to change your opinion. For better or worse, the content is just more of the same: lots of maniacal grins, blood splatter, cool weapons, foul language, Seras caricatures, and gory violence punctuated by the occasional odd comedy relief scene. And oh, yes, somewhere in all of that is actually a bit of plot and something about a mysterious organization of Nazis behind it all, but who really cares as long as you're having that much fun?
And that's where the problem with Hellsing Ultimate lies: once you strip away all the graphic content, this episode has nothing else going for it. Sure, it may look awesome, delight in its obscene language, and revel in its carnage, but such content is hardly rare in anime available in North America. The only scenes of violence in this 45-minute episode which actually have a novel feel to them (discounting the TV series) are the ones involving Alucard's full power release and transformation. It may have better production values than the equivalent TV episodes and those obnoxiously silly humor bits that were totally absent from the TV series, but it lacks a few key elements which helped make those TV episodes so great: style, distinctive character, and most important of all, a butt-kicking musical score.
And whatever else you might think about how Ultimate compares to the TV series version, or fares as a stand-alone, this point is inarguable: its musical score is a major disappointment. It cannot hold a candle to the music used so well in the TV series to set the tone and proves enormously inadequate at enhancing the action scenes and smarmy declarations to the over-the-top, wet-your-pants-with-excitement thrill level that they deserve.
Fortunately the superior quality of the English dub, which also leaves little room for debate, partly balances out the lack of an adequate musical score. The TV series offered one of the all-time-best English dubs for an anime series, and Geneon, working through New Generation Pictures, has secured the entire original dub cast for this one. Key performances, especially those by Crispin Freeman as Alucard, Victoria Harwood as Sir Integra, Ralph Lister as Walter, and Josh Phillips as Jan Valentine, are electrifying in their effectiveness, and the pervasive presence of British-sounding accents in roles that are supposed to be British don't hurt. The English script actually uses slightly less foul language than the subtitles do but still provides a healthy barrage of it while also adjusting the wording to sound snappier in many places. Great lines like “I suggest a round of pissing on yourselves followed by praying to your impotent God” are also still retained from the TV series, and pronunciations all use the proper English equivalents while the subtitles still retain spellings like “Arucard” and “Halconnen.”
The lush artistry and excellent animation show all of the hallmarks of the extra expense, time, and effort allowed the series due to it being an OVA release rather than a tightly-scheduled television production. The heavy lines, angular builds, flexible dimensions, and use of color give the character designs a strong feel of color-inked manga artistry, while most characters seem to have a broad, evil smirk as their default expression. Seras, regrettably, seldom appears in anything other than some degree of caricature or superdeformed rendering, and seems to have an uncanny knack for cleaning blood off herself in the blink of an eye. Both background art and bloody carnage get extensive effort and attention to detail, but the most impressive visuals belong to Alucard in his full power release mode, especially the dog heads. On the downside, the Harconnen cannon Seras uses does not look particularly impressive.
The regular edition offers only company previews and bonus liner artwork for Extras while featuring the more retail-friendly picture of Sir Integra for its cover art. Upgrading to the Lmited Edition version gets you an audio commentary track, the steel case with the infamous picture of the Valentine brothers flipping the viewer off, a production art book, and additional disk which includes staff interviews.
Episode 2 does correct one of the main problems which plagued episode 1: it tells a single, cohesive narrative rather than jumbling together a handful of shorter ones, which should make it easier to follow for those new to the franchise. And despite its problems in some aspects, it does offer a lot to like for fans of ultra-violent vampire tales or the original series. Is it the be-all and end-all uber-great adaptation that many have made it out to be, though? Nah. It's good, but some will still find themselves preferring the TV version.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : D
+ Nice artistry, stellar dub, plenty of gory violence.
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