Hellsing: Ultimate 1 (2006)
By: Michael McQueen on May 16, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Madman (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, Japanese DD 5.1, English DTS 5.1. EnglishSubtitles. 52 minutes
The Movie
Director: Hideki Tonokatsu
Voices: Joji Nakata, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Fumiko Orikasa, Norio Wakamoto
Screenplay: Yosuka Kuroda
Music: Hayato Matsuo
Tagline: The Bird of Hermes is my name, eating my wings to make me tame
Country: Japan
Another super-violent anime import from Madman, and boy is it worth it! Based on the manga by Kouta Hirano, Hellsing follows the explicit exploits of the Hellsing Organisation, a notorious Government-subsidised family dedicated to protecting the British Empire from a nefarious supernatural/satanic un-dead army of 'freaks': vampires and ghouls. What's the best weapon to use against such an unholy army, I hear you ask? Why, another vampire of course! Alucard is Hellsing's secret weapon; a kind of rogue super-vampire armed with an oversized 'anti-freak' gun that fires bullets forged out of melted-down crosses, reducing un-dead hordes to visceral piles of blood, bone, and brain matter. His finishing touch is a karate chop through the chest, with a menacingly sadistic, dementedly wide-eyed leering grin plastered on his pasty-white mug – poetry in motion!

The first episode in this redux series is a tasty appetiser. Alucard has been retired, his moulding corpse resides deep within the bowels of Hellsing's basement; the Organisation's 'darkest legacy' is now abandoned and gathering dust. Unsurprisingly, circumstances have arisen that require Alucard's special talents, and he is re-instated as Hellsing's top killing machine. That's not exactly much in the way of back-story, but you get the idea…on with the gore!

This episode revolves primarily around Alucard's talents as a one-man vampire/ghoul slaughterhouse; this guy makes Wesley Snipes' Blade look like a pussy. When the life of Seras Victoria – a somewhat clueless police girl – is threatened, Alucard resurrects her as a vampire and begins training her as an elite vampire hunter. Although she is torn between her humanity and newly-acquired vampirism, Seras throws herself enthusiastically into her new job as demon slayer and servant. The plot thickens when the number of vampire attacks start to spiral out of control and fresh victims start appearing outside of England. When more ghouls are discovered in Ireland (under the iron fist of Catholicism), Hellsing sends Alucard and Seras on a search and destroy mission. However, the Vatican takes exception to Hellsing's invasion of their turf and send in their own one-man team, 'professional exorcist' Father Alexander Anderson, aka: The Purifier, to take them out. Anderson regards the Hellsing as degenerate heretics, and takes a particular dislike to the 'house-broken' vampire. Alucard isn't exactly impressed with this bible-thumping lunatic either and it's not too long before these blood-soaked poster-boys are locking horns and weapons over who gets to massacre who. Typically, the climax of this episode is a titillating to-be-continued as tempers flare with the promise of a showdown. Quite frankly, the suspense is already killing me…excuse me while I wipe the drool off the keyboard.

This revamped 'Ultimate' series is said to follow the original manga more closely than the original GONZO-produced television series, which ran for 13 episodes in 2001. That said, this is not a radical departure; the narrative has been tidied up, with a few cuts here and there, but the basic story remains intact. What really have been given a boost in the redux are the visuals, which have been toned down to reflect the sombre neo-Gothic mood. There's something refreshingly sketchy and unpolished in the line work, and the lighting is appropriately gloomy and dank – all the better to show off tinted-red eyes and shimmering-blue blades! Whilst Hellsing lacks some of the super-stylised visual polish of other contemporary anime, such as Black Cat or Samurai Champloo, the 'rough-edged' look is employed deliberately to spectacular effect; the extra attention to detail combined with a newfound emphasis on subtlety brings the characters to life against muted backdrops. It's an impressive touch that allows the animators to showcase a darker side of Hellsing without succumbing to the usual excesses of anime.

The visuals reflect a blend of neo-Gothic drab (with more than a tip of the hat to Vampire Hunter D) and hyper-techno Japanese noir a la Ghost in the Shell or Cowboy Bebop. Don't expect any big flowing capes or corny Transylvanian accents here – blood-red trench coats and super-massive artillery dominate the foreground. However, there are some interesting plays on vampire mythology: vampire bats, stakes through the heart and – of course – copious amounts of virgin's blood. The production team has done an excellent job with the animation; every shot is fluid and expressive and the action sequences are rendered gorgeously in hyper-kinetic flash-motion or CGI-enhanced super-slow motion. As mentioned, the muted backgrounds and shadows allow for gory splashes of red to come alive on-screen. Furthermore, the monster effects are truly horrifying, even if they are animated. Which all goes to show the anal-retentive attention to detail that has gone into crafting one of the most visually exciting gore-fests in Japanimation.
Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement, Hellsing is a perfect blend of style and substance; rough-edged linework combines with fluid character animation and the occasional CGI flourish, all which culminate in a virtuoso display of light an colour…*weep*weep*
Crystal-clear Dolby Digital. The Japanese 5.1 and English 5.1 & DTS tracks are all impressive, and the added advantage of English subtitles means you can have the best of both languages. Whatsmore, the soundtrack really plays to the show's strengths with doomsday Wagner-esque choirs, melancholy strings and pounding techno beats.

My only complaint is that some of the British accents here are seriously annoying – Seras especially does my head in.
Extra Features
Totally spoiled for choice here! Japanese music videos, Japanese and US trailers, Japanese TV commercials, production galleries, audio commentary, and staff interviews - a generous selection that will satisfy everybody, from the mildly interested to rabid fan-boys.
The Verdict
Destined to become a cult classic! This particular episode doesn't cover a lot of ground, narratively speaking, but the adrenaline-charged gore-porn more than makes up for those first-episode jitters. The second episode is due out June 12. I can't wait. Go get this, NOW!
Movie Score
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