Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Oct 20th 2007
The Valentine brothers may have died horribly at the hands of Alucard and company, but they managed to completely destroy Hellsing's mortal soldiers before doing so. To fill the gap Walter and Integra hire a group of mercenaries known as the Wild Geese, led by a one-eyed, pony-tailed veteran named Bernadotte. It's questionable whether they'll be any use on Alucard's newest mission though. It becomes known that the power behind the Valentines was a Nazi remnant known as Millennium. In order to investigate, Alucard is dispatched along with Seras and Bernadotte to South America, where they are immediately branded terrorists and attacked with the full might of the police—acting at the bequest of Millennium's mysterious Major of course. Poor police.
Hellsing's greatest attribute, without doubt, is Alucard. He's one of the scariest, and most unspeakably cool, anti-heroes to ever slaughter his way through an anime. This episode of the franchise's OVA adaptation exploits his appeal shamelessly, delivering what amounts to a 45-minute demonstration of his lethal capabilities.
This is not a criticism. After whetting our appetites for Alucard-style mayhem with the tail end of the Valentine brothers' fight, this volume really delivers the goods. Posing with his round glasses and predatory grin a-shining, he literally tears his way through the cast before taking on a vampire Nazi-sympathizer in a no-holds-barred brutalization that sees Alucard stretching his combat muscles with feral glee. He hypnotizes victims; bites, slices, blows holes in, and plain old bludgeons his enemies; and morphs from stylish gentleman to stripped-down leather-encased baddie to a nightmare morass of teeth, eyes and formless shadow. The word cool could have been invented for the man.
Given that anime's mainstream notoriety years back was derived from violence, it's ironic that bloodbaths like Hellsing are something of a rarity on the market now. But even by the standards of bloodbaths past, Hellsing is something special: stylish, virtually fetishistic, and definitely not for the weak of stomach. The second half of this episode is almost non-stop carnage, a veritable montage of crunching bones, dismemberment, beheading, disemboweling and even impaling (a particularly nice touch recalling the origin of the Dracula myth). The series fairly embraces the anti- in anti-hero, not shying away from the collateral damage inflicted during vampire-on-vampire duels, and forcefully reminding us with the deliberately unpleasant SWAT sequences that Alucard is indeed a true monster (as several characters say aloud throughout the course of the episode).
This third installment brings viewers, finally, to the point where this adaptation and the original TV adaptation go their separate ways forever. Other than the opening confrontation in the museum between Integra and Maxwell of Iscariot, nothing in this episode has been animated before. That means the introduction of neglected favorites from the manga like Bernadotte/Vernedad and the chubby, weirdly cool Major. And the inclusion of Nazis (Nazis!). It also means that there is no need (or way) to directly compare Ultimate with Gonzo's television adaptation. Though the retention of original manga artist Kouta Hirano's peculiarly angular designs and the lovingly detailed animation of his outrageous, distorted action scenes and anally accurate military hardware give Ultimate an edge, the results of running scene-by-scene comparisons in one's head weren't always positive. Hellsing Ultimate director Tomokazu Tokoro (best known for Haibane Renmei of all things) has had to grow into his role as an action director, and his renditions of action scenes often suffered in comparison to the fast-cutting maximum cool of the TV series and its slinky subliminal rock soundtrack. But he is growing into the role, as becomes gratifyingly obvious once the comparisons stop. The visceral impact of this episode's final half is absolutely undeniable and he wields his thundering gothic score and its short bursts of pure rock with a solid competence that occasionally borders on excellence. Pine for the loss of Kouji Ishii's creepy rock 'n' roll whispers all you want, but like any relationship eventually you just have to get over it. Pedestrian it may be in comparison, but Hayato Matsuo's soundtrack is full-blooded and stirring when evaluated on its own merits.
The stellar quality of New Generation Pictures' dub for this series is more or less undeniable, and has been much remarked upon. Crispin Freeman thunders and whispers and to all appearances is generally having a grand old time inhabiting Alucard, while special mention among the rest of the cast goes to Steven Brand's Anderson and his sinister prayer recital in the museum. It's the brogue that does it. Before dub fans go diving head in it should be remarked that choosing English, though it allows easy identification of nationality via accents and is surprisingly faithful, requires trading off the sight (sound?) of many of Japan's most distinctive voices squaring off. Listening to Jouji Nakata and Norio Wakamoto going head-to-head isn't something to be dismissed lightly.
Be warned that this is a Geneon title and that their current troubles may affect the prospects of future releases. Though a title of this stature hardly seems in any danger of going long unlicensed were it to be dropped, the wait until the next volume may be even longer than the wait for this one.
That Hellsing Ultimate improves with every episode will matter little to those who find it shallow, crass or unpleasant. Undoubtedly there will be those who find its complete lack of restraint and willful offensiveness...well, offensive. You can almost hear Hirano cackling in juvenile glee as he packs his tale of extreme violence and supernatural vampire battles with military fetishism, apocrypha, cheerful blasphemy and Nazis. For those that cackle right along with him this will be a little slice of heaven—or hell, if you prefer.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Who would've thought vampires, modern violence aesthetics, and Nazis could combine so harmoniously.
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