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"Hellsing": The Bird of the Hermes is My Name and a new DVD Make Me Tame

by on November 13, 2006

I should preface this review, as with all of my anime reviews, by saying that I am not the biggest fan of anime. This is not to say I don’t enjoy it—I have in the past, but I feel I should mention it as I will no doubt complain about staple anime events that fans have grown accustomed to.

While Hellsing has been on DVD before, this release is a whole new beast of a show. This first volume of the “Ultimate Series” is completely new and takes a closer approach to the original manga it’s based on. The show follows the Integra family and the story of the ultimate vampire, Alucard, and his vampire slaying ways. As one would expect, the show is filled with a vast array of bullets, bleeding and body explosions, which will receive absolutely no complaints from me.

Digging right into the show, this disc covers the first fifty minutes of the new series. We’re quickly given a rundown of the story through a intense opening sequence which ends with Alucard’s reawakening. Further exposition on the history of the Integra family and Alucard’s origins arrives during a later sequence with British officials. I won’t indulge too much on these scenes, as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen the show, but the series does a great job of setting itself up.

The show really gets started when it brings in Seras Victoria, “police girl,” into the scene. While she lies dying, Alucard gives her a second chance at life by biting her; of course, she becomes a vampire the instant she’s bitten, but with this bite she becomes Alucard’s protégé (or “servant” as the DVD insert describes).

While the show is a bit dull at first, once the warring factions of vampire hunters meet up and begin blowing each other apart, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained. There were plenty of exciting action sequences and some nice character development that will keep me coming back for more on future volumes.

Having said that about the show, there were a few things that bothered me about it; mainly the aforementioned anime “staples.” I’ve seen only a few anime series, but more than enough of the ones I’ve encountered have the young virgin female who gets her body groped in some way and Hellsing is no different. This fits better with the sexual nature that the vampire mythos almost always contains, but it’s still not something I absolutely need in each anime I watch. Another minor annoyance was the inclusion of the chibi-characters sequences. The one bit in Hellsing seemed especially jarringly and out of place in this series. The sequence comes on so sudden and ends so abruptly that I question the need for it. Nonetheless, it’s nothing that really detracted from the series.

Aside from the anime staples, there was a fair bit of repeated animation in this show. It certainly looks expensive enough to animate, what with the multitude of extreme up-the-barrel CGI and standard animated shots of Alucard’s magnum. While it was very nice to look at and all, it seemed rather extreme to have it every other shot with Alucard. Much like Spawn: The Animated Series, there is also a multitude of reused shots to cut costs/fill time which also adds to the distraction. Granted, this new rendition of animated Hellsing is straight to DVD, so corners must be cut, but I think there could stand to be a few less shots of Alucard firing his gun and more animation of other characters.

Another very positive aspect of the series is the character progression. Even in the short time this disc runs, I was able to get a good grasp on Alucard and Seras’ characters. In addition, the warring religious faction for the Integra family was also quite wonderfully developed in the story as well. Despite the shows intense action, there is plenty of room left for character screen time which makes the show all that much richer.

I don’t want it to seem like I didn’t enjoy the show, as it was very engrossing, the things above just really stood out to me while watching it. Overall the show is extremely enjoyable and well worth picking up if you see it at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, anime releases are notoriously expensive and with only 50 minutes of content, some may find the price for Hellsing – Ultimate Series: I a bit high.

Since this is a watermarked screener, it’s hard to accurately gauge the video quality. There is some interlacing and a lot of very, very bad looking blocking/compression on scenes with Alucard against reds, particularly his eyes and a specific scene where he’s against a red backdrop with bats around him. Another issue is discoloration between frames in some scenes. I’m not sure if it was due to on screen effects, but there were a few instances where I saw the colors slightly lighten/darken. Again, the watermark text could have thrown the video quality completely off, so I cannot accurately judge this; I have a feeling it will look much better as the video was encoded directly off the HD master.

Audio is presented in 5.1 DTS/Dolby Digital, although audio on this screener was only stereo. The audio was crystal clear, though the music overlapped the dialogue a bit too much in the more intense scenes. As with the video, I cannot accurately judge the audio on this release, so I hope that the final 5.1 surround spaces the music and dialogue more clearly apart.

There are no special features on this screener disc, so I unfortunately cannot comment on what Geneon has planned for the final product. In the end, assuming the video is cleaner on the final transfer then the price won’t be so hard to look past; in addition, I can only imagine how sweet a DTS 5.1 track would sound for this series, especially in the action sequences.

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