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Reviewby Mike Crandol, Nov 21st 2002
DVD 3: Search and Destroy
Following the Valentine Brothers' disastrous attack on Hellsing HQ, Integra must face new threats from Iscariot, who feel Hellsing is unfit to deal with the vampire outbreak and send Alexander Anderson back to London to take out Victoria and her master. Alucard sees this all as a great excuse to have some more fun. Later Victoria meets another “true” undead who provides clues to the identity of the vampire behind the FREAK chips, Alucard gears up to face a worthy opponent, and Integra has a dangerous encounter with her sister Laura.
“Hellsing” is becoming somewhat notorious as a series that starts off brilliantly but ends in total disappointment. Volume 3 of 4, “Search and Destroy”, represents the weakest installment of the series as the previously sharp storytelling begins to bog down in a bunch of cryptic imagery that never gets properly explained. But there's still enough action, atmosphere, and attitude to keep fans happy, and the unique mix of Gun-Fu, Rock-and-Roll, and Hammer-Horror continues to make the show one of the standout releases of the year.
The first episode on this volume is actually one of the series' highlights, featuring the return of everybody's favorite papal assassin Alexander Anderson. More is learned about the workings of Iscariot, the Vatican's own anti-vampire task force, but the real point here is to top Alucard and Anderson's previous battle from Volume 1. Bored with hunting common freaks, Alucard is eager for a rematch with the mad priest, and we are treated to a longer, more intense duel in which both characters pull out all the stops, all the while hurling verbal insults and Scripture passages to great effect (savor the moment when Alucard calls Anderson “Judas Priest”). Unfortunately this is the last appearance of Iscariot in the animated version of “Hellsing”, as Anderson and company are dropped in favor of some new characters unique to the anime who lack the imaginativeness of the manga's colorful denizens.
The next two episodes are somewhat unfulfilling. The action is sparse, and these dialogue-driven installments do remarkably little to advance the overall story. “Kill House” takes a cue from “Interview with the Vampire” and introduces Helena, a centuries-old nosferatu trapped in the body of a little girl. Victoria and MI-5 agent Harry Anders seek her out for information regarding the FREAK chips, and most of the time is spent beating around the bush as the disaffected Helena talks about the tragic nature of the undead. Though she speaks much but says little, this is the only episode to fully invoke the romantic and melancholy aspects of the vampire myth, and it does so quite well. The closing moments take a right-turn in schizo-ville, however, as the viewer is bombarded with a bunch a random scenes that may or may not be reality, and Alucard begins to demonstrate some weird inconsistencies in character when dealing with Integra. The pattern continues in “Red Rose Vertigo”, which throws in Integra's sister-who-maybe-isn't with three different names and shows Alucard shifting between deep concern and blithe disregard for his master's well being. The true villain of the series also makes his first appearance, and though he sports one mean-looking gun Incognito isn't half as interesting as Anderson or the Valentine Brothers. Cracks in the plot begin to appear, and despite ending on a truly wicked cliffhanger this is easily the least engaging entry of the series.
Vampire-in-training Seras Victoria continues be the heart of “Hellsing”; ironically the coming-of-age story of this undead girl is the show's most human element, and it helps carry the series through a stretch of low-key episodes in which Alucard makes little more than a few cameos. Without her “Hellsing” would be all style and no substance, and since much of that knockabout style goes on hiatus here she becomes even more crucial, keeping things interesting and giving the audience a larger picture of the vampire world through her eyes. Few are the anime in which the sidekick is just as if not more interesting than the hero….even if Victoria can't compete with her master in the Cool Department
“Hellsing's” art continues to vary wildly between inspired and just plain lazy. There is some great layout work and on Alexander Anderson which uses innovative lighting tricks to convey his fanatic, predatory nature. Helena's reclusive abode is perfectly gothic and moody. But there is only one noteworthy bit of animation, a brief sequence in which Alucard morphs into a swarm of bats and then reforms looking meaner than ever. Keeping characters on-model remains a major problem for the show, as sometimes Alucard and Integra don't resemble themselves in the slightest.
Keen ears will notice that the background music is being recycled from previous episodes but the music is so darn good it's easily forgivable. The soundtrack remains “Hellsing's” constant and greatest strength, and the hard-rock battle themes are worthy of mainstream radio.
The vocal performances have gotten even stronger since the series' first release. Early on Crispin Freeman struggled to nail Alucard's dark nature but he has definitely found his voice, and his malevolent delivery more than holds up to George Nakata's original performance. Yoshiko Sakakibara and Victoria Harwood have some heavy acting duty as Integra, and both meet the challenge with consummate skill. The rest of the Japanese cast is fair to average, but the English cast is superb, and the new characters continue the nice trend of coming complete with the appropriate British, Slavic, and African accents.
It is disappointing that “Hellsing” cannot maintain the high level of storytelling that marks the first half of the series, but at only 12 episodes it is easy enough to overlook when one considers the many much longer anime series that far outstay their welcome, and the wild cast of characters and great mix of genres keep things from getting too boring. Don't let the bad things you've heard about the ending keep you away from this one, in today's stilted anime market Alucard and company are a breath of fresh air.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C-
Animation : C-
Art : C
Music : A
+ Alucard & Anderson: Round 2
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