Halloween Week: Hellsing Ultimate (OVA)

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. More than likely because I love all things scary and spooky! That’s right, if you haven’t heard yet, the Horror/Mystery/Psychological genre is my favorite and has some amazing series that are among my all time favorite anime. Within that is the Supernatural subgenre of anime where you’d find anything involving super powers, mythical creatures, and a variety of other things. And within that is the mythical creature that I seem to have the most fondness for: Vampires. I don’t know, I’ve just always seemed to like vampires. May have something to do with my obsessive Twilight days (I was in high school, shut up), but vampires have always been an interesting creature to me. However, lately, anime seems to prefer romanticizing them rather than scaring the pants off people a la Vampire Knight and Diabolik Lovers (to an extent). I think what we need this Halloween is to be reminded of the scary side of vampire lore and not the romantic side. While we’re at it, let’s add some German Nazis, huh?! Now where am I going to find something with scary and awesome vampires and Nazis? …. OH! Right!!

For the five people who don’t know what Hellsing Ultimate is about, the series follows the Hellsing Organization led by Sir Integra Hellsing as they fight against rouge vampires that are attacking the public under the order of the Queen of England. In order to defeat these vampires, the organization has their own secret weapon in the form of the deadly vampire known as Alucard. While on a mission, Alucard comes across a young police woman, Seras Victoria, under attack from a vampire. In order for the vampire to die, so does Seras. After Alucard pulls the trigger on them both, he ask Seras whether or not she wished to die. After seeing her reaction, Alucard turns Seras into a vampire. Now Seras is a member of the Hellsing Organization, and must help Alucard and Integra face their biggest fight yet, the organization only known as Millennium led by the crazy Nazi solider known only as the Major. Not only that, but they must also keep a balance with the Vatican’s secret organization, Iscariot.

The first thing that I think needs to be stated is the difference between Hellsing and Hellsing Ultimate just to save at least a little confusion as well as give a tiny bit of production history. The original manga written by Kouta Hirano was published between 1997 and ended in 2009 with a total of 10 volumes. By the time the 2001 TV series was released in Japan, there were only four volumes out of the ten released, with the fourth published a month or so prior to the anime’s debut. From there, the remaining six volumes saw releases between 2003 (two were released the same year) all the way to 2009 with either a yearly or biyearly release between each volume. In 2006, animation studio Satelight released the first episode of the Hellsing Ultimate OVA series. From there, either two episodes were released per year or a single episode was released until the final episode on December 26, 2012 (that after Christmas date is rather amusing to me). The animation production switched hands throughout the process with Satelight producing the first four episodes, MadHouse producing episodes 5-7, and Graphinica producing the final three. This isn’t the only time the series changed hands. Originally, Hellsing Ultimate was licensed under Geneon in the US and they were only able to release the first four episodes on DVD before shutting down. A few years later, news that fans of the franchise were waiting for finally came through as FUNimation announced the acquisition of both Hellsing and Hellsing Ultimate. In November of 2012, episode 5-8 of the OVA series were released and the remaining two episodes were set for release on October 28th of this year. Just in time for Halloween!

Now, after all that, why on earth did I go and talk about it? It’s simple, really. It’s the difference in story between the TV and OVA series. By the time Hellsing was released in 2001, there were only three to four volumes to adapt. After that, they were on their own to do whatever they needed to do with the story. The result was a bloody mess of an adaptation (Don’t mind me as I pull my inner Brit out) as the company behind the TV series tried to create their own ending with the first seven episodes being adapted from the manga. The OVA series, on the other hand is a full fledged adaptation of the original manga, even taking it’s time in releasing episodes while the original source material was still being released. With the ten episodes in the OVA series and the ten volumes of the original manga, it’s a safe bet to say that each episode of the series equals one volume of the manga. This makes sense considering the time it took to complete the original manga and then the OVA series. I really have to commend the production team on this because it must have taken some patience and a long waiting game before they would get the chance to take on another episode of the series. And, even though the animation did change hands a few times, it still manages to look rather consistent throughout the ten episodes.

Now that I’m done talking production stuff, let's talk about the actual meat and potatoes of this series! Let’s start with the actual story. Like I said, the story of Hellsing Ultimate follows the manga very closely and is more like a full adaptation of the original material. I say this because I have read most of the manga, outside of the final volume because I didn’t get a chance to borrow it from my then boyfriend in order to read and finish the series. So it’s possible that the ending differs from the manga slightly, however I very much doubt that possibility. From beginning to end, Hellsing’s story remains consistent and rather well paced minus some of the comedic moments the OVA series provides. “Comedic moments, you say? Huh?” Let me explain. Though those moments are rather few (I’d say maybe one short moment every other episode or so), they do seem a little out of place considering the nature of the series itself and all the dark imagery and gore we typically see throughout. At the same time, those comedic moments do bring in a breath of fresh air and a break from so much of that dark and gory imagery. They can take on the form of dreams the characters are having (Alucard and Seras being the only ones this happens too), or just some dialogue that brings in a lighter and less serious side. To accommodate for this, the animation follows suit with less sharpened designs and more silly comedic backgrounds. The animation is what really makes it seem odd, but, again, it’s more for the purpose of letting the viewer take a small breather.

As for the rest of the story, it’s a bloody and gory piece of action that is able to have the viewer on edge throughout. Either that or it may make the viewer squirm a little bit from all of the decapitations and very messy deaths of several characters. But, when you think about it, you would have to have something to really carry the story along because, here’s the thing, the likelihood of there being Nazi vampires in this day and age is, obviously, very unlikely. Not only that, but having Nazis cross paths with one of the most well known vampires in that lore is even less likely. Obviously, this story wasn’t meant to be based on a true story of something, but that’s not the point I’m getting at. It’s just that there are sometimes rather odd moments that may not make sense considering the history of Hellsing, Nazi Germany, and the Vatican. It’s not trying to be a hugely intelligent series, but what Hellsing does have is themes of religion and humanity in it’s very core. I’m not just saying this because of the obvious reasons of war between Protestants and Catholics that seems to bring an underlying tone between Hellsing and Iscariot. I’m saying this because of the characters that we get to meet, particularly Alucard and Seras.

Probably the best segway into talking about the characters, huh. Maybe a little touch of the dub while we’re at it (Quick fun fact: most of the voice actors from the 2001 Hellsing series reprise their roles in the OVA with FUNimation purposefully seeking them out in order to complete the english dub. Pretty cool if you ask me). Why don’t we start off with Sir Integra? Her character is an interesting one because she is linked to Van Hellsing, the legendary vampire hunter. But I think it’s more interesting how her character plays out throughout the course of the series because of the circumstances going on around her and that this is the first time something on this grand a scale has occurred while she has been head of the family and of the organization. As such, Victoria Harwood manages to bring out her mixed struggles in her voice work. As one of the few major characters who is human I find quite a bit of interest in this. Next let’s talk about Alexander Anderson of Iscariot. Since he is one of the major forces we see from Iscariot, and Alucard’s rival in the series, he is the quintessential religious character who has very strong beliefs. He’s actually one of the major reasons why there’s such a religious undertone in the series. Steven Brand’s performance of Father Anderson helps bring his personality out very well and I can actually see Anderson with a similar personality as Alucard (I’ll explain in a moment). The last major character I want to touch upon is Seras Victoria. Going back to what I said about the religious and humanity themes the series has, Seras is probably the more prominent character in this area. Throughout the series, she struggles to come to terms with her new vampire life and doesn’t understand it. This causes her to be a little hesitant and stubborn when it comes to drinking human blood and this plot point comes up a few times during the series. It’s not necessarily a struggle, more like an adjustment. However, she doesn’t fully accept it either, making her story rather interesting. Although her performance is probably among the weakest of the cast, for me, K.T. Gray does portray Seras rather well. Before I move on, I do want to mention a few other english performances I enjoyed. Yuri Lowenthal as Pip Bernadotte gave me some tingles (probably because of the French accent) while Ralph Lister’s Walter C. Dornez and Laura Bailey’s Schrodinger were fun as well. But I do have to say that Kari Walhgren stole an episode with her performance as Rip Van Winkle. That German song may still be in my head.

Something that Hellsing Ultimate and the Hellsing franchise have, in general, are two very memorable characters in Alucard and the Major. For the Major, he’s a rather interesting choice as the series villain because you see him as a rather overweight man who can’t even shoot a gun and hit his target. However, his character is still extremely captivating. You may not see that at first glance, but when you give one of the most epic speeches a villain could give, then you would understand a lot better.

See what I mean? He goes from a potentially odd villain to a much more interesting and yet simplistic one. Based on that speech alone you can see his motivations for his actions (though his final true objective doesn’t come up until the final episode) and begin to form a rather interesting opinion on his character. Personally, what I think of the Major is a simple man with a simple goal; who ends up consumed by that goal, turning into a monster along the way. It’s as simple as that and Gildart Jackson who voices the character manages to bring that side out of the Major with ease!

Probably the most memorable and well known character of this series, and in vampire lore in general, is Alucard. But why is that? I would like to think there are two reasons for this. The first, and easiest one to get out of the way, is Crispin Freeman’s performance of the role. Alucard is probably what he is most known for and, I believe, is what threw Freeman into the world of very well known voice actors, only to be joined by those like Johnny Yong Bosch and Vic Mignonga not too long afterwards. The performance Freeman gives is not only menacing and dark but also has some softer moments along with some crazy ones. Alucard, in general, is a character who is all over the place! It’s like he has some kind of split personality or something, expect not. Alucard has a dark past and a very troubling life, so seeing that come alive is something amazing for Freeman to pull off! Which brings me to the second reason why Alucard is extremely memorable, his personality. Because he can be scary and crazy and even kind sometimes, Alucard and his character manage to place themselves in a position where he is one of the more well known vampires. I’d say he’s even up there and equal to Dracula.

If you’re looking for something scary that can make you jump out of your seat, this isn’t the series for that. If you’re looking for some bloody gory action with some rather memorable characters, then by all means check out Hellsing Ultimate. It may be a little back and forth sometimes in terms of story and animation, however that same story and those characters are a bundle of joy to watch! Halloween may be a time for scares, but that doesn’t mean we have to limit ourselves to those scares considering, nowadays, the horror genre is about blood and gore more than anything. Although I’m more of a classic horror fan, myself, I can still appreciate and have fun with a series like this. It’s a easy watch with each episode between 45 minutes to an hour, so that’s about ten hours or so if you want to try and straight marathon it. When people think of anime to watch for Halloween, this isn’t the first one I would pull out to watch, but it may be the first one others think of. Either way, Hellsing Ultimate is just a barrel of fun and everyone should watch it anyway at some point in time.


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