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Review: Hellsing

The previous review was insufficient. It appears below:

The first several episodes of Hellsing, about vampires, the Hellsing organization which controls the vampire population (read: gets rid of troublesome vampires), and the tormented process of becoming a monster, are some of the most awesome things I have ever seen, bar none. They are simply amazing. Unfortunately, the latter half of the series doesn’t explore any of the fascinating topics that were opened in the first half, instead getting dragged down into a superhero/supervillain conflict, with a really stupid supervillain. It’s as if the original writer-genius suddenly died and was replaced by a no talent hack who read an executive summary of the first few episodes, and went from there.

Despite this, it’s more good than bad… just be prepared to have your high hopes dashed when the series ends.

Genre: action
Emotion: vampires!

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I wrote the previous review. The grammar parses in most cases, but I was torturing it. With knives.

I think that what makes Hellsing so appealing is its impeccable sense of style. The lead male character, Alucard, is nearly perfectly portrayed as a being who’s eternal and immensely powerful, and who is well aware of both of these facts. If you’ve ever played a poorly balanced role playing game, there comes a point where you are more powerful than anything else in the game. At that point, you either pick up hobbies, or you stop playing.

Alucard’s hobby is working for the Hellsing agency destroying rogue vampires. He does this in the hope of eventually meeting someone powerful enough to actually challenge him. He also seems to enjoy befriending a particular sort of woman, though we only see this happen twice over the course of the series.

The female lead character is Celes (for Celestia?) Victoria, who Alucard befriends in the first episode. In the process, he turns her into a vampire. She is everything that he is not: young, inexperienced, innocent. She’s not a ditz, but she hasn’t exactly had a difficult life. Vampiredom is difficult for her, in that suddenly she has become inherently monstrous; her struggles with her new nature are a key component of the first half of the series, and it’s a disappointment that the topic is almost completely abandoned in the second half.

In fact, most of the intriguing plot threads of the first half are abandoned in the second half in favor of a new political intrigue whose details rush by too quickly to be understood. At the same time, the old political intrigue storyline falls by the wayside, along with the mystery component and the dehumanization plot previously mentioned. The new plot favors lots of kicking ass, but if that was what I wanted to see I might still be watching Naruto or Bleach. In the end, the high level fight is actually so extreme that it is impossible to represent on the screen, so it basically ends up being alternating shots of the antagonists staring at each other and stuff blowing up.

There is one very nice moment in the end, though: at the moment of defeat of the bad guy, he asks Alucard: “Who… ARE you!?” And for just a second, Alucard’s face takes on an Eastern European visage. In the next shot, we see the bad guy skewered on a huge spike.

If you don’t understand why this is amusing, try reading Alucard’s name from the other direction. Then read about vampires, so as to stop being so entirely ignorant of the subject matter.

Some elements remain consistent through the series. The art is very stylized and works quite well, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the music. This music easily ranks among the best of any anime series I’ve ever seen, both in composition and usage, and was the first anime soundtrack that I ever downloaded to listen to in its own right. The pieces are dark, jazzy, and elegant.

In the near future (December 2005) they will release the first episode of a retelling of this series, which they promise will follow the manga’s storyline much more closely. I’m looking forward to it; with any luck, it will be all that this series could have been. Instead, I have to look at this as a series with a lot of promise which is diminished, though not destroyed, by its flaws.

Genre: action/horror
Emotion: 10 things to do when you’re undead
BTFS: .73

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