Hellsing is a manga that ran from the late 90s to the late 00s. It was the brain child of Hirano Kouta, the same guy behind Drifters. And, since it’s horror anime month we might as well get in something about vampires. The original anime ran in the early 00s. The re-telling, which we’re looking at today, aired from the mid 00s to early 10s. And it was worked on by Satelight, Madhouse & Graphinica. Let’s take a look and see what happens.
We open with the young heiress to the Hellsing family retreating from her uncle and his thugs. She makes her way to the basement where her father hid a secret weapon. That’s the vampire, Alucard. Totally not related to the world’s most famous vampire. Just don’t write the name out and look at it in a mirror. In any case, we cut to Totally not Dracula being sent to a small village where a vampire’s in the process of turning everyone into ghouls. Vampires in this series can’t be bothered with a masquerade or subtlety in general. If you wanted vampires who moved cautiously and intelligently you’d be watching Shiki. Alucard slaughters everything and turns the last survivor, Seras Victoria, into a vampire. Things progress from there as various threats move against Hellsing and them.
The biggest issue with this series is that it’s largely made up of mindless, over the top action sequences. Here are some evil vampires, action. Here are some Nazis, action. Here are some Catholic Zealots, action. It never takes time to let us really get to know our major characters or have some down time. Instead we go from more mild action segments to more extreme ones. What little e get for non-action scenes is either set up for the next series of action sequences or poor attempts at humour where the characters weapons talk to them as celebrity figures or some such nonsense. Ultimately, that doesn’t give any real incentive to give a shit about the characters or what they’re doing because the focus is squarely on the spectacle.
There are some more minor issues. The series is set mostly in London or other parts of the UK but the cars aren’t designed with the driver’s seat on the proper side for that area and all the cops are seen with guns. Now, if you’re American or Hirano this might surprise you, but police in the UK largely don’t carry guns. At all. It’s like he watched a bunch of American media and decided that the cultural stuff was probably close enough to the UK that he didn’t need to actually learn anything about the UK. This is also a series that loves to throw in references to sexual assault but clearly has no intention of doing anything with them. Almost like Hirano wants to be a bit edgy but doesn’t have the writing skills to handle that type of content in any type of reasonable fashion.
With all that being said, the series isn’t badly written. It’s a bit like an inferior version of Karas where we’ve seen the whole plot before and better executed but the big spectacle bits can still be amusing. Because it is always cathartic to see Nazis get destroyed. And I’ll give Haruno some credit for trying to have something of a theme surrounding the idea of immortality and monsters vs humans even if it isn’t written all that well.
This is part of the issue with the series. The characters aren’t that interesting. We have our over-powered protagonist. Our action girl sidekick. The leader and a bunch of other very stock characters. The only reason we really have to root for them is that they’re fighting Nazis and Zealots. Which is a clever choice on Hirano’s part, actually. Make the villains part of groups where you don’t need to do any real work to give them motivations because you can just make them antagonists and no one will care because they’re just natural villains. And that is kind of a necessity with this series because our protagonist is a literal monster.
I’ll give these three studios credit, the visual aesthetic looks pretty much the same throughout with the only real changes being the comedic scenes where they toss in artwork that looks like trash just to make it painfully obvious that it’s a joke. Actually, Drifters did the same thing.
Last week I gave Kakurenbo credit for not being one of those series that throws buckets of blood at you and just comes across as over the top and kind of stupid. This week we have the counter-example. Hellsing loves its excessive blood. Every time we see someone fatally wounded it just gushes out like they’ve got a pressurised hose in their bodies that just got pierced. I honestly don’t get that. Why do so many action-oriented things just toss in massive amounts of blood to the point where it loses any potential impact it might have had? Are there people who think the blood fountain thing looks cool? Is it that the violence is so excessive they think that they have to go over the top and unrealistic enough with it to avoid grossing people out? Is it just one of those tropes that got started with something popular and has been mindlessly parroted since? I haven’t the foggiest.
They got some strong actors for this. Our completely ordinary vampire citizen “hero” is voiced by Nakata Jouji. So, not the first time I’ve reviewed an anime where he was a Count. Our other main characters are voiced by Orikasa Fumiko & Mizuhashi Kaori. Both of whom have a long list of strong performances. And, while this may not be among their best, they still do a fine job. Especially given how little they have to work with. Matsuo Hayato’s score is pretty good.
There’s a scene of Integra feeding Seras that’s a bit homo-erotic. And Not Dracula calls another man beautiful at one point. So, there’s a small amount.
In the end, this isn’t a series for me. The emphasis on mindless, overblown violence isn’t something that appeals to me and, as a result, all the dumb bits are just grating. Maybe this will be one for you if you just want to see lots of blood and violence and you don’t particularly care whether or not your protagonist is ever legitimately challenged. For myself, I have to give it a 4/10. While I didn’t think it was bad per se, I did find it weak.