Plot: Hellsing is an organization meant to protect the citizens of England and her queen from the vampiric threats that plague the land. While the soldiers themselves are skilled and their leader, Integra, has rock-solid resolve and determination, they have one very powerful ace up their sleeve in case things get too muddy; the incredibly powerful vampire Alucard. In addition to the true vampire threats that appear, artificial vampires created by computer chips, called ‘Freaks’ and incomplete zombie-like vampires called ‘Ghouls’ also start becoming a major problem for Hellsing and their newest recruit, a newly-made vampire police officer named Seras.
Breakdown: Ah, Hellsing. One of the most badass anime in existence. The anime that continues to remind us that vampires at one point used to be legit scary instead of romance novel and fanfiction fodder.
I watched Hellsing a long time ago and recently rewatched it for a reason I will be addressing later on. I really liked it because who can’t help but love watching Alucard, Integra, Walter and Seras work.
The show really does have a great style to it. The art style, the music, the writing, the colors, the cinematography – all of it has a great flair that really helps make this show memorable. It’s a good thing too, because you really need to be able to encapsulate style to make Alucard’s character truly work.
There is a lot to like in this show – likable, or at the very least badass and cool, characters, fun action, memorable antagonists, atmosphere and more. However, there are two pretty glaring flaws as well.
First, the characters. Now, I like the characters, even several of the bad guys. I adore Integra, and I really think she’s one of the most badass characters, not just regarding female characters, ever written. I love Alucard and his weird sense of humor and overall kickass style. I love Walter and his unique brand of kickassery. I even really grew to love the leader of Hellsing’s military forces, Ferguson. And Seras is okay….
My problem with many of the characters is that, outside of Integra who basically gets an entire episode dedicated to her backstory, none of the characters’ pasts are fleshed out….at all.
Alucard’s backstory is somewhat touched upon in Integra’s backstory episode where we discover he was captured by Hellsing’s forces and decided to serve under Integra’s father and then her after his death. The two big problems here are that we don’t get any sort of information on what Alucard’s story was before that encounter, though it could not be more obvious as to who he really is, and the fact that the scene showing us Alucard’s first encounter with the Hellsing forces makes no sense.
In the flashback, he’s surrounded by Hellsing soldiers and easily takes all of them out. That’s it. They don’t show how they managed to capture him or transport him to keep him locked up, nor do they show exactly why Alucard has such as high respect for the Hellsing organization as a whole or even merely Integra’s father.
Integra’s father isn’t even in the aforementioned flashback. How did they manage to capture him if they were getting slaughtered by him? And if the Hellsing forces are so powerful that they managed to capture Alucard, why are they having such trouble with Freaks and Ghouls?
Alucard’s character is also a bit odd. For the most part, Alucard takes every situation with a huge evil grin and laughs at every challenge. It really doesn’t seem like he has a shred of humanity left in him, and he enjoys killing and slaughter just as much as any antagonist would. However, he does show some blips on the radar of caring for people who earn his respect like putting people out of their misery to prevent them from becoming Ghouls or visibly worrying about his master when her life is in danger. He even tells Seras to run away from a dangerous situation once. It’s really weird. Nice, I suppose, but weird.
Speaking of characters who get no exploration in terms of background, Seras also gets none. Considering that the first episode makes off like she’s the main character and she stays very prominent throughout the series, that’s a big problem. One of the biggest reasons this is such an issue is because most of her character development is based around her difficulties in dealing with the fact that she’s now a vampire.
In order to kill a vampire that had killed off most of her comrades in the police force, she agrees to let Alucard shoot her through the chest, delivering a fatal wound to her and, being a special blessed bullet, also destroyed the vampire. She made a deal with Alucard beforehand, psychically, that he would turn her into a vampire if she wanted to live after he killed her. She agrees, and he turns her after shooting her.
However, she seems to regret her decision since she starts to be treated differently because of her new vampiric nature. Most importantly, she finds the act of drinking blood, even bagged blood or blood from Alucard, to be repulsive and nearly starves herself to maintain her dignity and humanity. Even at the end of the series, she still has yet to drink blood straight from the tap, so to speak.
Not to mention that her avoidance of blood and shame at her vampiric nature pretty much becomes a non-plot point halfway into the series since it’s somewhat resolved when she finally resigns and drinks her bag of blood. After that, her biggest problem really seems to be lugging around the huge cannon that she gets as her main weapon.
Considering we don’t have any sort of grasp on what Seras was like before she turned, outside of a rookie police officer with plenty of heart but low confidence, it’s hard to really feel for Seras’ situation. All we get of her backstory outside of episode one is a picture of her as a child sitting on her father’s shoulders. The picture reveals that he was also a cop, possibly indicating a feeling of failure as a police officer for letting her entire squad die and then choosing to become a vampire instead of dying with them.
Seras as a character is pretty disappointing anyway. For the most part, she’s just a newbie vampire and somewhat of a newbie soldier trying to get her footholds into her new job. She even has difficulties shooting at enemies, even if they’re vampires, purely because they look human, which is a bit iffy because even at her previous job as a police officer, she’d still have to shoot and probably kill actual people.
It takes her until the second to last episode of the series before she actually manages to stand tall on her own feet and even gets a badass moment or two, but it wasn’t a big enough hurrah for so much waiting, especially in what was supposed to be her big main villain fight of the series.
I’d like to know exactly why Alucard chose to turn her anyway. First of all, surely a sharpshooter like him would have no issue killing the vampire without even hitting Seras. Second of all, even if he couldn’t avoid killing Seras to kill the vampire, why turn her? He has to have had similar instances like that before, and he rarely if ever makes more true vampires. So why her?
Walter having no backstory isn’t that much of an issue since he’s really a supporting character, but considering that Alucard alluded to his past as an incredibly ruthless soldier of Hellsing, it’s disappointing that we never saw it.
The second major issue is the reason I went back and rewatched this series. The story. I could not really remember anything of the story outside of the main plot details of ‘Alucard and Hellsing fight vampires.’ I rewatched the series to refresh my memory since reviewing an anime based purely on badassery seems pretty empty.
Sadly, I found the reason that I forgot most of the story is because it’s not memorable and doesn’t break outside of the main plot synopsis.
Pretty much all that happens is vampires, Freaks and Ghouls kill people and cause destruction. Hellsing and Alucard kill them. The end.
The only overarching storyline regards the Freaks. Hellsing has to investigate who is making the Freaks and stop them from doing so. There’s not much to the investigation except that more Freaks come along who are obviously connected to the perpetrator. There’s some conspiracy to take down Hellsing, but I don’t understand who is doing it or why.
You want to know something else? The only overarching storyline, which was weak to begin with, doesn’t get a resolution. We find out who is making the Freaks, the main villain of the series, Incognito, but we don’t learn who his master is. Like Alucard, Incognito is working under the orders of a human master, yet they never say who it is or why they’re doing this.
All that is given about him is that he’s a mole in either Hellsing or the Round Table, but considering that there is no one in the Round Table who is prominent or that we give a crap about and most of the people in Hellsing barring one or two people are complete red shirts, and the two I’m talking about end up dying at the end of the series, I can’t imagine any reveal would’ve been worth it anyway. The fact that they didn’t even bother trying to make a character for this is just really sloppy to me.
Wanna hear something borderline insulting in that regard? After the battle with Incognito, we get a title card that tells us that the traitor, unnamed, was caught, secretly judged and silenced. That’s the sign of quality – to wrap up your main plot point with a title card. Another title card after that indicates that they’re still looking for the organization that manufactured the Freak chips. So not only do they wrap up a main plot point with a title card but they put a cliffhanger in another title card!
Speaking of Incognito, he’s seriously the best they could do with a series villain? A naked alien-looking guy with a lot of piercings and tattoos? Not to mention his gun is ridiculous, being a big bloated revolver. And they had to buff him by imbuing him with the power of a god named Set, a god we’ve heard nothing about up until now, have never seen and have no idea of his story or powers? Come on.
By the way, I’m aware that Set is a real deity in ancient Egyptian mythology. I’m saying they should’ve established who he was and what his powers and rules were in this universe.
Even Seras’ final hurdle, the, for lack of a better term, Super Freak Paul Wilson, is a huge disappointment. They bother to show us a tiny glimpse of backstory for him and then he’s quickly defeated by Seras.
There is a pretty decent arc with a priest character named Anderson, who is a vampire hunter working for the Vatican. Even without vampire powers, Anderson can still take a lot of what Alucard dishes out since he’s a regenerator, essentially immortal. Anderson is actually pretty interesting because he’s such a devout religious man, yet he’s also a big hypocrite by openly killing a Hellsing solder, not a vampire, for little reason, and his immortality itself seems like an unnatural affront to God. Anderson is a great foil to Alucard so it really disappointed me when his arc just kinda ended with no real fanfare.
Another factor that severely hurts what flimsy story that is there is Alucard himself. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hell out of Alucard. He is just untold amounts of fun. My problem is that he is way too OP for his own good. He takes every challenge with a laugh and always assures the audience that every threat is basically just a plaything for him. This guy cannot die, even less so than you’d think a vampire couldn’t die. He gets shot up to bits, beheaded, turned to mush, he even gets hit with his own blessed bullets and he does not die. He just gets back up even more powerful than he was before, like an immortal Saiyan.
This is further exemplified by the fact that Alucard has some sort of power restriction system set on him. It’s never adequately explained, but in times where Alucard thinks he’s found a worthy opponent, he unlocks restrictions put on his power to allow him to defeat the enemy. When Alucard goes into the final battle merely unlocking his power at level two, you know he’s not letting loose completely.
Even if he ended up ‘dying’ in the battle, the absolute end would likely be Alucard unlocking next level restrictions, restoring his power to full and completely annihilating anything that comes his way. When you have a character that is this powerful, it drains the tension from the series. You can still worry about human characters for the most part, but no threat really seems like a threat when Alucard can just sneeze on them to defeat them.
Art and Animation: The art and animation are fantastic, courtesy of Gonzo. The character art can seem a bit off model sometimes, mostly with the eyes, and the animation has its shaky moments, but it’s nothing too bad to warrant knocking down its praise. It has a great atmosphere, great colors, crisp linework and some great designs.
Music: The music was great with some awesome jazzy tracks and catchy as hell OP and ED…..However, it could be said that the OP and ED’s tones don’t fit the tone of the show. The soundtrack fits the style perfectly, but not really the tone. For a really dark show with blood and gore rampant, having such an upbeat and jazzy opener is a little odd. The ED is even worse in that regard because it’s really optimistic and almost alternative rock.
Voice Acting: English – Here’s another mixed note. Both times I watched Hellsing, it was in the English dub, and some of the voices are just eugh. Seras is probably the worst here as her actress just sounds horribly awkward with an English accent. Many of the characters need to put on an English accent for this and most of the time it just sounds phony.
Integra is alright, Walter’s VA is good, but the shining star here is Crispin Freeman as Alucard. Oh God, he is having a total ball in this role. He is enjoying every minute of it and you can tell in a heartbeat. He is perfect for this character, and it just makes Alucard even more enjoyable to watch.
Jan Valentine’s VA was also very well cast and seemingly had a great time with his character.
Bottom Line: Hellsing is a very fun anime with some really cool characters and concepts as well as great action scenes, but it has a very one-note story that is completely forgettable, hardly any of the characters get explored very well, and some of the plotlines like Anderson and Jan Valentine seemingly end on cliffhangers. I’ll always have a soft spot for this series, but you’d be much better off with Hellsing Ultimate.
Additional Information and Notes: Hellsing was directed by Umanosuke Iida, and was written by Chiaki Konaka. The series was produced by Gonzo. It is currently licensed in North America by Funimation.
Recommended Audience: There’s obviously a hell of a lot of blood and gore. It could’ve been much gorier, but it’s still pretty nasty sometimes. In regards to sex, there is censored fellatio, some yuri eroticism, but no actual nudity. Lots of swearing. 16+
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4 thoughts on “Animating Halloween | Hellsing Review”
Very good review of Hellsing. I’ve seen the original, but I haven’t seen all of Ultimate and I know there’s way more story in that remake. Hellsing had lots of fun and creepy moments in it. Alucard certainly doesn’t sparkle, am I right? Hahaha! Not sure if you know this, but I got to meet Crispin Freeman when I was in high school at a museum not far from where I used to live where they did an anime exhibit. He even autographed my Read Or Die DVD which was awesome!
I forgot that Chiaki J. Konaka worked on this. Funny how he can work on avant-garde stuff like Texhnolyze while at the same time writing fro Digimon Tamers. This would also explain the creepy elements in both shows for different reasons.
Fun fact about the ending theme. That was sung by the glam rock band Mr. Big who despite being one hit wonders in America are actually HUGE in Japan. In case you didn’t know, that’s the same band who did that acoustic power ballad “To Be With You”. Here’s a reminder of that song since a lot of people have heard of it at some point in their lives: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6-uJLteKek
This was certainly fun to read and I got a bit nostalgic about that series even with it’s imperfections. Yes, I’m certainly aware how much of a God Mode Stu Alucard is.
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Thank you very much! I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂 That’s so cool that you got to meet Crispin Freeman. :0
I’VE HEARD THAT SONG! I’ve always really liked it. Wow, I didn’t realize they were one and the same. That’s pretty cool. It’s great that they found more success in another country.
Here’s to everyone’s favorite god mode badass, Alucard! XD
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You’re welcome, Fiddletwix! It was fun meeting Crispin Freeman in person. He has pretty cool with all the fans.
That’s right! The same band did both songs. I even heard “Shine” was a major hit in Japan when Hellsing came out. Yup. They’ve headlined Budokan and the other top venues in that country.
Hahaha! Quite true.
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[…] Animating Halloween | Hellsing Review by Fiddletwix – Man, it doesn’t feel like I watched Hellsing a year ago (lockdown might have something to do with that…). Anyways, Fiddletwix gives some viable criticisms to the series, although since I know Ultimate is out there, I don’t know whether reviews of just Hellsing encapsulate the entire series properly. […]
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