Hellsing Ultimate Series: 1

Hellsing began in manga form in 1997 in Japan’s Young King OURs magazine. For most American fans, however, the knowledge of a living-dead vampire-slayer with a pair of deadly guns originates in 2002 with Pioneer releasing a 13-episode series Studio GONZO produced in 2001. A natural crossover-series for fans of Trigun, Hellsing proved to be equally popular with a fanbase clamoring for more to enjoy. The TV series for Hellsing loosely followed the original manga; adding more background to existing stories and new characters to examine while weaving a darker storyline than the sometimes-campy-humour manga tales. The new OVA series reverts back to square one, providing a more accurate telling of the Hellsing story thus far.

DVD: Hellsing Ultimate Series: 1
Release Date: 12/5/2006
Release Studio: Geneon Entertainment
ADR Production: New Generation Pictures

MSRP: $24.98
Audio: English 5.1 DTS, English 5.1 DD, Japanese 5.1 DD
Subtitles: Signs Only, English
Episodes: 1
Runtime: 50mins
Extras: Audio Commentary, Staff Interview, “Broken English” Music Video

Notes: Review is based on a DVD-R Screener copy, not the final product. Preview audio clips are available.

The Geneon DVD-R screener is basically for examining the content of the actual OVA. Extras, menus, and Japanese audio are all missing. Because of this, we will only be reviewing what is provided: Hellsing Ultimate Episode 1 with 2.0 English audio. We will try to come back and cover the full title when we can get ahold of a copy of the final version that is being released in regular and limited edition forms.

Hellsing Ultimate episode 1, like the first three episodes of the TV series, follows the content of the first volume of manga. Some events are out of order from the original manga and a few new moments have been added. The OVA series begins with a young Integra Hellsing running away in fear from her uncle. The passing of Sir Hellsing has witnessed the transfer of command of the Hellsing organization to Integra and her uncle isn’t pleased with the news. Integra rushes into the bowels of the Hellsing fortress. Within a locked room rests, according to her father, the key to her salvation: the lifeless body of a man. Unfortunately, Integra doesn’t grasp what this means before her uncle unleashes his rage and shoots her in the shoulder. The blood splatters across the room and paints the floor before the lifeless body. Defiant, but still frightened, Integra prepares to die as the gun is placed against her head. The corpse against the wall licks up the pools of blood and surges to life as the monster takes form.

Forward to modern day England in the village of Cheddar, a trio of police officers are sent investigate a church only to face a Priest and his army of ghouls. A hopeless shootout begins before cutting to the command center where a grown-up Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing dresses down the commanding officer on his inability to contain the situation. A quick explanation into the world of ghouls, vampires, and the Hellsing organization is given to introduce new viewers to the Hellish world of the undead. Her own expert has already entered the area to deal with the vampire and his horde of ghouls.

Running for her life through the woods, we find Officer Seras Victoria attempting to escape the clergyman. She is quickly surrounded and the priest grasps the helpless cop, threatening to sexually violate her as she is converted to be another ghoulish slave. Enter Arucard, a man with a long, red trenchcoat, wide-brim hat, and a smile to reveal his amusement at the situation. The ghouls open fire and riddle his body with holes only to hear an evil laughter surround them. Arucard lives. Arucard’s guns Casull and the Jackal dispose of the undead fodder as he taunts the priest about his special 13mm silver bullets.

The clergyman senses danger and holds Seras as a shield. Arucard stares hard at the captured blonde and asks if she’s a virgin. A simple yes gives Arucard the OK to fire through her chest and kill the vampire. As she lays on the ground dying, Arucard offers Seras the chance to continue in this world. She reaches out and enters a world few know exist.

Hellsing Ultimate’s pacing will leave new viewers a tad baffled, but a quick look at the TV series or manga will fill in any major gaps in the OVA’s first episode. Some of the new scenes, like a chibi-nightmare Seras has after joining the undead, are amusing but still don’t fully capture the amount of humor found in the manga. We are quickly brushed through the killing spree of Leif & Jessica in order to demonstrate only that Seras is starting to understand her vampire abilities. The introduction of the Vatican’s secret section, Iscariot, follows the original manga and gives the viewers a better understanding of the organization Paladin Alexander Andersong works for in competition with the Hellsing organization.

Arucard & Seras Victoria are sent to Northern Ireland to put down a vampire who has been causing a great disturbance with his growing army of ghouls. The pair clean house through a building crawling with ghouls as Arucard instructs Seras into further understanding how to use her abilities. The more Seras kills, the more she begins to get into the work. Soon Seras is lost in the enjoyment of the kill and lets her bloodlust take over with each undead victim. It is this unchecked rampage that allows the Paladin to stab her repeatedly with blessed blades. Victoria falls and Arucard confronts the Vatican’s greatest agent.

Paladin Alexander Andersong benefits from the OVA by returning to his manga origins. The TV series powered down the Paladin to be an easy villain for Arucard to fight. With the OVA, Alexander can now stand toe to toe with the vampire and an epic battle erupts between the two. Integra is informed of the Vatican’s agent and rushes to the scene while Seras helplessly watches her master get thrashed repeatedly. The end result has not changed, but you do get to enjoy a 15 minute battle between Alexander and the Arucard. Montana Max’s silhouette introduction closes the first OVA episode, adding his final thoughts to the impending war he plans to unleash upon the world.

Hellsing Ultimate foreshadows its future plot to follow the ongoing battles between Hellsing, Iscariot, and former Nazi SS officer Montana Max. The more faithful adaptation lets characters like Seras and Alexander grow far beyond what the TV series originally allowed. There is more humor here than in the TV series, but the manga is still the true source of needed silly moments for each character. It is highly suggested that you take a peak at either the TV series or manga before watching the OVA series, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

New Generation Pictures returns with the original English main cast and ADR Director, Taliesin Jaffe, to dub Hellsing Ultimate. The script has been adapted faithfully to the intent of the original Japanese dialogue and skips the added swearing in the TV series dub. Crispin Freeman easily falls back into the role of Arucard, pronounced “Alucard” since the name is Dracula backwards, and is obviously enjoying every minute in the booth. Victoria Harwood equally enjoys Integra’s haughty attitude with the same flair as the original TV series. However, one quibble with her performance is how her voice sounds delivering a line compared to what her character is doing. In the TV series Integra often has a cigar in hand, but not in her mouth, when speaking. In the OVA Integra often has a cigar somewhere in her mouth and the obstacle-free dialogue becomes jarring when the character is obviously speaking with her mouth partly in-use. Just as a character’s speech will sound different when eating while talking, so goes for speaking when she has an object like a cigar in her mouth. Katherine Gray matches most of Seras Victoria’s emotional swings, but occasionally a weak line makes it through. Steven Brand‘s Scottish accent is occasionally toned down yet the Paladin Alexander Andersong is still an enjoyable madman. Sadly, Ralph Lister‘s Walter Dollneazz doesn’t have many lines to comment on, but episode 2 will fix this with the introduction of the Valentine brothers.

Overall, Hellsing Ultimate is a must-have title. The animation and character designs are beautiful. The storyline is perfect to jump into for new fans with just a little background on the series. Hellsing Ultimate also becomes more of a show for silly games because of its fast pacing and fanservice. The possible sexual innuendos surrounding the even more voluptuous Seras Victoria alone could put someone under the table after just one episode. Some fans will be on the border with only one 50 minute episode available, but if you enjoyed either the manga or TV series then you are going to want this DVD.