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DVD Review

DVD cover

Hellsing: Ultimate
Volume 1


Starring (voice): Fumiko Orikasa, Jouji Nakata and Yoshiko Sakakibara
RRP: £14.99
Certificate: 18
Available 13 October 2008

For generations the Hellsing Organisation has held back the tide of vampires, which threaten to overwhelm the British Empire. The current head of the organisation Integra Hellsing inherited the post from her father in tragic circumstances when her Uncle Richard tried to assassinate her, in a power struggle, for control. Her father's dying breath led Integra to the basement of their house where she accidentally awoke Alucard, a powerful vampire who used to work for the organisation, but had been deemed too dangerous during the closing years of World War II and put on ice. Ten years later and Integra is secure in her position and Alucard has once more become an active operative of Hellsing...

Hellsing (Herushingu, 2001) is a particularly violent and bloody gothic horror thirteen-episode anime show from the Gonzo director Umanosuke Iida. The show was based on the very popular, but slow to produce, manga by Kouta Hirano. Because of the length of time between chapters of the manga the anime show has some significant differences. Both the manga and anime have been massively popular, staying in the top ten.

Not having seen the show before it is unclear whether the producers have opted to present the show, not in individual episodes, but rather running the first three episodes - The Undead, Club M and Sword Dancer - together to make a fifty-three minute feature, or whether this represents the OVA. I’m thinking the latter as it is titled "Vol 1" and the production values are much higher than you would expect for a television show. 

The beginning of the story is a little confusing as you're thrust straight into Uncle Richard trying to kill a young Integra, her waking up Alucard - Dracula backwards, if you hadn’t already worked that one out - and then bang the show has moved forward ten years, with the very minor back-story having little impact on the main show.

The show has two main characters and I guess you could say that the story is as much about Seras Victoria as it is about Alucard. Alucard is old and immensely powerful, even for a vampire, when he shoots Sera, a human operative with Hellsing, through the chest to kill his adversary. With her life’s blood spilling out onto the ground the vampire gives Seras a simple choice: Die or be bitten. Having taken that fateful choice the story follows Alucard and Seras on her first mission and the moral dilemma that she faces now she has to kill to live.

Complicating this picture is another organisation, which on the surface appears to have the same goal as Hellsing, but whose methods are radically at odds with Alucard. The Iscariot Organisation, part of the Vatican, is so ideologically at odd with Hellsing that their dispute threatens to create a space where vampires can thrive and multiply.

This is not a show for children as shown by the 18 certificate that it has been given. Although presented with an eye for style, sometimes even to the point of caricature, the show is a remorselessly violent and bloody gothic horror. 

The disc is presented with audio options for English and Japanese (with subs) 5.1 or English DTS, with a lot of action going on both tracks do a good job with the DTS track just that little bit better. There is a commentary by Taliesin Jaff, the English voice director and Crispin Freeman, who voices Alucard. These two also appear in an interview (31 min, 48 sec) about the show and overall together these give you a good introduction into what is going on. There are four promotional videos of various lengths, Broken English Version (6 min 26 sec), Young King Ours (5 min, 23 sec), initially an odd title until you realise it is also the name of the book in which the original manga was published between 1997 and 2008, a US (3 min, 23 sec) and Japanese Version (1 min, 45 sec). I thought these would be short affairs and so was pleasantly surprised with what was on offer, though there is an amount of repetition within the four.

Rounding off the extras is the inevitable Textless Closing sequence (2 min, 47 Sec) a very popular extra with anime releases whose use always eludes me, four Japanese commercials for the show, A character Gallery which runs for 2 min and 34 sec and a Prop and Background Gallery which spookily runs for exactly the same length of time. So no gripes this time about lousy extras, as the disc is about as full featured as you could hope for.

For the show itself, certainly the production values shine through. From a narrative perspective I found the character of Seras much more interesting that Alucard, after all he had been a vampire since 1400, whereas we are witness to Seras’s moral choices. Alucard appears to be amoral rather than immoral, though some of his choices, such as making sure that the undead are terminated quickly as their condition was something that was forced upon them, would point to a creature with depths, which have yet to be explored.

So a good start to this popular show and a well packed disc.


Charles Packer

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