Higanjima (Manga) Volume 5 Review

Plot: Akira manages to free Atsushi from Miyabi’s mind control, and the group makes their escape. Most of them make their way across a rope bridge, but Atsushi chooses to stay behind for the sake of buying them time and getting his revenge on Miyabi. As he brandishes his sword, we learn why exactly Atsushi has such a personal vendetta against Miyabi.

Breakdown: Fresh off the heels of Atsushi being mind-controlled by the newly revealed main baddie, Miyabi, and Yuki supposedly being stabbed by him, this volume is actually more about backstory than anything.

I was relieved that the most badass person on the team wasn’t going to be a puppet of Miyabi for long, although I have mixed feelings about the backstory between the two.

Two years ago, Atsushi came to the island to get a marriage blessing from his beloved Ryouko’s parents. To do so, he had to present an offering in a shrine that the villagers were afraid of. It’s fine if you leave it alone, but Atsushi’s curiosity got the better of him and he couldn’t help but enter. There were legends of vampires surrounding the shrine, and Ryouko desperately wanted to turn back.

When Atsushi heard a voice asking for help, that wasn’t an option anymore. In a room in the back of the shrine was Miyabi who seemingly feigned being ill so Atsushi would let him out and unleash him upon the island once more.

He did, and everyone on the island paid for it. The reason Atsushi hasn’t escaped the island in the two years he’s been there, despite having commandeered a boat, is because he feels guilty for letting the vampire virus loose on the island. And the reason he has a personal vendetta against Miyabi runs deeper than infecting everyone with this virus.

Miyabi got to Ryouko and paralyzed Atsushi with a quick bite before biting her and brutally raping her right in front of him. She died as a result of being drained.

Even though the Ryouko backstory’s a bit cliché, I liked how this entire volume played out. We end on another cliffhanger in present time, even though I sincerely doubt Miyabi’s dead.

Atsushi continues to be a badass, and I commend the others, despite being incredibly weak and wounded, for trying to help Atsushi however they can from the other side of the bridge. They could’ve been gone and in that boat ten times over in the time they had, but they stayed to ensure Atsushi had a fighting chance.

Something I should note, though doesn’t really bump up the content rating too much since we’ve had graphic sexual content already, is the rape scene. Not only is it a rape scene, so of course the content rating rises here, but they do a ridiculous job trying to ‘censor’ Miyabi’s genitals. There is a closeup shot, right on, fully erect, details intact, and they think it’s censored just because it’s in silhouette.

I’m very intrigued for the next volume, and I’m especially looking forward to more Atsushi badassery. Miyabi is shaping up to be a decent antagonist, but I’d like to see more to him besides ‘he’s evil just because evil.’

Rating: 8/10

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Animating Halloween | Hellsing Review

Rating: 7/10

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 and Walter and to a lesser extent 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 silly 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 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: EnglishHere’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.

Bottomline: 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.

Year: 2001-2002

Episodes: 13

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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Higanjima (Manga) Volume 4 Review

Plot: Akira and Atsushi have finally reunited, and he reluctantly agrees to go help save Ken. They take advantage of the night of the full moon, when they’re not permitted to feed and aren’t as active. During their mission, Atsushi conveys valuable information about the vampires.

The vampires were all once human. The vampirism is actually a kind of virus that is passed through blood. They’re damned to be vampires forever, but there’s an even worse fate.

They need to drink human blood in order to stave off an even worse transformation – turning into a crazed monster called a devil.

Akira, Atsushi and the others have the bad luck of coming across a devil during their rescue mission. While they manage to save Ken, they cannot escape the devil. Even worse, the master of the island, Miyaki, has found them. He has mind control powers that they refer to as Psychic Jack, and he can control the devils all he wants.

However, his sights are truly set on Atsushi, whom he’s finally able to grab ahold of a brainwash. He sics Atsushi on Akira and in an effort to stop the fighting Yuki gets stabbed.

Breakdown: This volume amps up the stakes (lolpuns) even more as we learn that the vampires aren’t even what the group really needs to worry about, which is good because they were getting killed a little too easily for it to really be the main threat, no matter if they were slaughtering others.

Now we learn that the vampires can turn into devils, which are much more of a threat and much harder to kill. They need to prevent the vampires from becoming devils, but there’s the catch that they need human blood as a sort of medicine in order to stop it.

But that’s not the concern once we get down to it. The main concern is the devil before them and Miyaki. I assume Miyaki is our big baddie, and he seems fairly interesting so far. The fact that he’s a vampire with mind-control powers isn’t really new, but it’s pretty neat. Plus, he already turned Atsushi against them and even dealt a possibly fatal blow to Yuki.

This volume definitely amped up the action, though I’m sad Atsushi might be a mind-controlled puppet for however long. I like his character, so I’d rather him actually be….ya know…a character.

I’m excited to find out how they get themselves out of this one, if they even can.

Rating: 8/10

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Animating Halloween: Higanjima Volume 3 (Manga) Review

Plot: Akira and the others have made it to Higanjima, but they don’t even get to shore before they’re attacked by the vampires. Unlike what Rei said about their only being a few, the island is basically littered with nothing but vampires. The ambush them on the boat and take them prisoner. Rei, however, escapes into the wilderness.

The group learns that the vampires don’t just suck all of your blood at once. They have a special chair prepared for their victims where they sit naked, are force-fed nutrients and water and get bitten for as long as possible on a regular basis until their bodies can’t stand anymore and they die.

Akira and the others sit in horror for several days, hearing the screams of some of the other people they had brought with them to island as their blood is drained away. They begin to turn on each other out of fear, hunger and thirst. The vampires mock and taunt them regularly, frustrating them even further.

Ken seemingly sacrifices himself to allow Akira and the others the opportunity to escape, stating he can take two to three months on the chair, trusting that Akira and the other survivors will come rescue him when they have the chance.

Once they get out, they split up to escape the vampires, and Akira attempts to find his brother in hopes of getting his help.

Breakdown: So, in the end of volume two, I kinda thought to myself…. ‘These guys have to have a real….plan, right? Their plan can’t just be ‘arrive on the vampire island with a bunch of randos. Not tell them what’s going on at this island and hope for the best.’ right?….Right?’ Nope, that was their plan.

Granted, Rei lied about how many vampires there were, but still. And the fact that they didn’t tell any of these people, not only making them completely useless as backup but also making them, essentially, giant snacks for the vampires….Why? You might as well have given all of these poor people red shirts.

Not to mention that, for added measure, they make sure to plow it in your face that two of these people, fresh out of high school, are engaged to be married. Gee, I wonder if they’ll live.

The best part of this volume is when Akira, Ken and the others are going crazy while waiting in their little prison. They have nothing but screams and wails to listen to, and there’s the impending wait to get on ‘the seat’ that is terrifying them all at every minute. They eventually start turning on each other and even throw poor Pon to the vampires as their next sacrifice to ‘the seat.’

Ken volunteers to take his place, however, both sacrificing himself and giving the others an opportunity to escape by staging an attack and getting the key loose from the guard. He states he’ll survive for two to three months, much longer than the week or so the others tend to live, all so they can regroup and rescue him.

Atsushi comes back a bit in this volume, but only teased at the very end. However, it seems he likely will team up with Akira in the next volume. How that will go, I don’t know.

This volume was also very….gross. And they made it a point to point out the grossness. We learn in this volume that the vampire’s bite makes you go numb and all of your bodily fluids involuntarily spew out as a result, everything from tears to drool to pee. They never don’t focus on the peeing. They also add in pooping in this volume, because there’s no bathroom in that prison cell, and show us that ‘the seat’ has a hole in the bottom for waste. Lovely.

There’s a lot of good buildup and tension in this volume, and I nearly wanted to smack them for trying to sacrifice Pon. I mean, yes, he is the most scared of them all and he is, arguably, the most useless, but he’s also the most relatable, to be honest.

Yuki’s barely even in this volume, relegated to about one shot of pleading for Ken to not sacrifice himself.

The end of the volume is a big question mark as the entire group is split up, no one really knows how long Ken will last or even if he will survive, and we have no clue how Atsushi and Akira will interact after two years of being apart.

All in all, this was a good, but slightly stupid and gross, volume of Higanjima. I greatly look forward to volume four.

Rating: 8/10

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Animating Halloween: Higanjima Volume 2 (Manga) Review

Plot: Akira and the others have barely managed to escape from the vampire with their lives intact. The mysterious woman, named Rei Aoyama, helped them escape by using herself as bait. While Ken was bitten, the effects of vampirism don’t spread unless some of the vampire’s blood gets into the victim’s system; leaving him weak but alive and human.

Rei explains later that she came on a mission to save her mother and sister. The village she hails from is filled with monsters. She tried to recruit a team of people from the mainland to help kill them all and save her two sisters, but they were a small group and inevitably failed. As an example, Rei’s second sister was crucified.

Now, she seeks to recruit Akira and even bigger group to take them down and save her sister.

Ken is infuriated and itching to kill the monsters, so he agrees to go. Akira wants to save his brother, who is likely still alive on the island, so he agrees. Yuki wants to protect Ken, so she goes, and everyone else decides to follow in order to help Akira find his brother. The group also decides to recruit as many people from school to help them, under the guise of a graduation trip.

They have about 30 people altogether, but are split into two groups when they reach the boat. Can they survive the monsters on Higanjima, and can Akira find his brother once more?

Breakdown: This was very much a volume to segue us into the main story of what’s happening on Higanjima. Outside of Ken getting bitten, them killing a vampire and Akira seemingly have prophetic visions maybe, the rest is backstory and preparing for the trip.

Rei is quite the interesting character. She does seem at least partway genuine, and I’m rooting for her to really be a good guy, but the fog is far from being lifted around her.

Ken becomes even more abrasive and violent after he gets bitten. He’s not turning into a vampire, he’s just angry that he got bit in front of everyone (and peed his pants in process) so he’s being extra pushy about everything.

Akira doesn’t do much this volume besides have a vision/hallucination that was only a little helpful and he guides us through detecting when Rei is lying, at least much as her tells can offer.

Yuki is still fairly useless, but she does adamantly insist on going to the island and even brings her archery gear to help kill the monsters. Ken even literally kicked her off the bus and she still insisted on going. Good for her. Bad Ken, but good for her.

Not much else left to say about this volume, so let’s see what the island has in store for us next time.

Rating: 7.5/10

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Animating Halloween: Higanjima Volume 1 (Manga) Review

Plot: Akira’s brother, Atsushi, went missing two years ago. A mysterious seductress informs Akira that she found Atsushi’s license on her island. Unable to ignore this revelation, he agrees to go with her, but there’s much more to this woman than meets the eye. Vampiric beings roam the world in the shadows, and Akira and his friends have managed to get tangled up with them. Where is Atsushi and what does he have to do with this strange woman and her vampire associate?

Breakdown: This manga is kinda interesting so far, but not with anything involving the vampires, really. We see Atsushi is actually a kind of vampire hunter now, but why he vanished and why he doesn’t contact his family is never revealed.

We don’t see much of Atsushi, though, so we have to connect more with Akira for now. He’s a difficult person to like. Ever since Atsushi went missing, every adult in Akira’s life has started putting their expectations on him, and he has trouble living up to them. He’s very smart, but he is seen as lazy and simply inferior to Atsushi, which weighs on him heavily.

Outside of that, he’s deeply in love (or lust?) with his friend, Yuki, who is currently dating his good friend, Ken. He has incredibly graphic visions or hallucinations of her masturbating quite frequently, and even though he pleasures himself to these visions sometimes, he feels he’s more haunted by them above all because he can’t have Yuki.

When he meets this woman, she acts as a sort of emotional and physical outlet for him, even though it’s really not clear whether they’ve had sex or not.

It’s also hard to get a grasp on Akira’s relationship to his brother. He cares enough to pursue leads as to his whereabouts, but we don’t get much insight with either brother as to what they truly mean to the other.

Yuki herself is rather blah. She’s….I can’t even think of a descriptor….she’s…nice? She hasn’t been characterized much so far, so it’s difficult to get a lock on why Akira loves her so much.

Ken is a bit of a wild card. He screws around with Yuki even though he knows Akira loves her (another of their friends is in love with Yuki too. What is it with this woman?) but he still encourages him and is a really good friend to him otherwise.

The art is depressing, if that makes any sense. It’s nicely detailed, but it’s also very dark and the more negative emotions are highlighted most.

Rating: 7/10

Recommended Audience: There’s some fairly graphic gore, and the scenes with the hallucination Yuki might as well be full hentai. 17+

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