Vampires exist. It is the duty of Hellsing, a secret organization sponsored by the British government, to hide that frightening fact and protect the blissfully unaware populace. Along with its own personal army, Hellsing has secret weapons. Alucard, an incredibly powerful vampire, has been controlled by Hellsing for years. It is unclear how he feels about being a servant to the Hellsing family, but he certainly enjoys his job as a vampire exterminator. Seras is a fledgling vampire and former police woman. Although reluctant to embrace her new self, she is a valued member of the organization. Integra Hellsing, the current leader, is usually fully capable of fulfilling her duty, but lately, vampire activity has been on the rise. Unfortunately, the cause is more alarming than anything she could have imagined. A group long thought dead has been plotting in secret since their apparent destruction over 50 years ago, plotting to plunge England, and perhaps the entire world, into war.
I honestly don't think that there is much out there like Hellsing Ultimate. It is both a show that takes itself seriously to the utmost degree, honestly attempting to explore the question of what is human and what is monstrous, and yet it is also a show that basks in its gloriously ridiculous sense of spectacle and grandeur. It is a show without restraint, its villains are cackling madmen and so are some of its heroes at points, and much of its dialogue isn't speech but speeches filled with rhetoric and philosophy. It is so heavy-handed and absurd yet so awesome and gratifying that Hellsing Ultimate may just be beyond my criticism. All I can say is that you have to see it for yourself.
Hellsing captures something that allows the show to work. That thing is the spirit of Crazy/Awesome and at the heart of it resides the character of Alucard. Even from the first glance Alucard looks fantastic; he has the psychotic smile, the cool jacket and a complete disregard for anything other than his own amusement. You can't call Alucard a hero, even the term anti-hero seems to give the character too much credit, and this is the guy we are meant to be rooting for. He is callous, literarily bloodthirsty and a barely contained evil but he has so much style that we can understand the role he plays in the story and yet still love every second he is on the screen even if he is just popping up to curbstomp a pitifully out-of-their-depth villain who are often less monstrous and evil than Alucard himself (though not always).
The other protagonists are not quite in his league but balance out a bit better by not being irreconcilably evil but actually quite sympathetic. Seras sits at the heart of the show, we learn about the Hellsing Organisation through her eyes and she does a good job at being the show's most human character, being cute and funny as a comic relief character, being cool in the action scenes and being the centre of what fanservice the show has (though she is not alone in that role). Yes, she is annoyingly air-headed at points and her attempts at trying to retain a normal moral centre while the show bathes itself in blood and violence are too insincere on the part of the writer to be effective drama but in most respects she works pretty well as a character. These same compliments also apply to the remaining protagonists, Integra and Walter. Their roles are perhaps less diverse - they are essentially exposition spouting badasses as far as their early narrative roles - but one of the best things about all the major characters of Hellsing Ultimate is that they all have clearly defined motivations, at least by the show's end. It makes the characters interesting and relatable to a degree which is impressive given this is set in a world that no-one has ever experienced.
That all said the show only works because it has villains as big, bright and bold as its protagonists. These guys are not sympathetic, multi-faceted individuals that make us question what is right or wrong. They are so bunny-stompingly evil that it makes cheering on Alucard even easier but it works once again because even though they are raving lunatics they have clear motivations that explain their actions and allow the story to exist. In their own way they make sense and they have a real if twisted ideology that makes the various bouts of oration that punctuates the action scenes interesting and relevant. It is not subtle, it is as big and loud as everything else in this show but the background of conflicting motivations and ideologies give the action a spice that mindless fighting does not have.
Oh yeah, the action is fantastic. The OVA budget shows and it is glorious to see the manga's original two page spreads animated on the screen. It is a show that gets its big visuals spot on - big navy ships aflame and a whole bunch of other scenes that I won't spoil for you. The general setting of the show looks fantastic too and it captures the perfect atmosphere. It is right on the money. The music is bombastic and grandiose in the best sorts of ways too.
Are their negatives? Sure but it almost feels pointless to discuss them consider they are tied so intricately with its positives. It can often feel slow as it builds towards epic climaxes and I think many viewers will feel that there is too much talking during fights but for me that made the pay-off even sweeter in the long run since the dialogue does lend itself to the show's overall theme. The comic relief is also a bit patchy in its effectiveness; the SD moments are off-putting more often than they're funny though I did find the guided tour incident hilarious. Still Hellsing Ultimate is pure entertainment gold. Big, flashy and as subtle as a Ford Mustang but if that is what you want then look no further.
Hellsing Ultimate is one of the best if not the best at what it does. Lose a star or more if the flippant silliness of the whole thing bothers you. It's also not for the sensitive, not in the least. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: It's easier to say what objectionable material it doesn't contain. I don't remember any nudity.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source
Review Status: Full (10/10)
Hellsing Ultimate © 2006 Kouta Hirano / Shonen Gahosha / Wild Geese
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