The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Hellsing Ultimate

Title: Hellsing Ultimate
Genre: Action/Horror
Company: Madhouse
Format: 10 OVA
Dates: 10 Feb 2006 – 26 Dec 2012

Synopsis: There exists in modern-day England an organization dedicated to protecting the British Isles from any undead threat, particularly vampires and their thralls. This organization, called the Hellsing Organization, has in its employ an extremely powerful vampire by the name of Alucard. If ever there arises a problem the Hellsing Organization cannot handle with human soldiers, Alucard is sent to resolve the issue. Harboring a vampire does not, however, come without complication; the Vatican has its own anti-undead force, and they don’t discriminate between tame and feral vampires. And the Vatican isn’t the only problem: an old enemy of Hellsing long thought dead is poised to plunge the world into a war against the undead.

The Highlights
Animation: Beautifully crafted, high-budget animation.
Plot: The antithesis of a Rube Goldberg machine.
Silliness: Highly palpable.
Alucard: Always a joy.
Comedy: Largely misplaced.

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Madhouse, you’ve done it again. You’ve made a series that seems like a clichĂ© recipe for disaster, and it ended up being not only one-of-a-kind, but well executed. A series so self-aware that I’m surprised the fourth wall remains unbroken, and that relishes its own unadulterated silliness.

Hellsing Ultimate works for one reason, and one reason only: its characters. It’s not that any of them are particularly multidimensional or well-developed; it’s that they’re all so colorful. Every major character in this show, barring Seras Victoria, is unabashedly hellacious is the best possible manner. Conversations are commonly exchanges of self-righteous monologues and are often announced rather than spoken. Dig deep enough into their histories and any given protagonist or antagonist was, or is, either a mass-murderer, a hired killer, a Nazi, or any combination of the three. Undoubtedly, no other show I’ve seen has so many characters that could be the main protagonist of a ’70s action flick.

Atmosphere is another thing Hellsing Ultimate does correctly. The world of Hellsing Ultlimate is dark, gruesome, and cruel. It suffers from no tonal shifts and sticks with that brutal atmosphere throughout. Although there are a few brief comedic moments, the series is spine-chillingly dark and bloody. The art style is sufficiently macabre, and the visuals are for the most part spot on. If the scene doesn’t take place in a spooky moonlit village, it’s most likely on a flaming naval vessel or in a shadowy underground throne room. Ostensibly, fans were upset when an episode would take eight or eleven months to be completed, but I’m willing to assume they calmed down when they beheld the phenomenon that is Hellsing Ultimate‘s animation. The fight scenes are not just well animated, but spectacularly so; the high budget really shines when a conflict erupts, and the rest of the series is far from a slouch as well.

Hellsing Ultimate‘s best feature is without a doubt its main protagonist, Alucard. One could argue that Seras Victoria is the real main character, as she is the character the audience is meant to relate to, and she’s undoubtedly the most human character. That could be argued, but it would be wrong, as taking away Seras would render the series devoid of much of a narrative voice, but taking away Alucard would render the series devoid of much of a point. Alucard is uncontestedly the most charismatic and entertaining character Hellsing Ultimate has to offer. He embodies the spirit and atmosphere of the show, and I’d venture to say Hirano Kouta, the source material’s writer, came up with Alucard and wrote the series around him. Very rarely does a character come along whose monologues are the highlight of the series, but if ever there was such a character it’s our gruesome protagonist, Alucard.

All in all, Hellsing Ultimate has its flaws but other than the mediocre soundtrack, they all seem intentional enough as to largely exempt them from criticism, or are otherwise negligible. The show is by no means perfect… but it’s quite simply the best at what it does. It is well worth recommending to any anime fan that isn’t thrown off extreme violence, casual cannibalism, or the self-aware silliness the series wears on its sleeve.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: CNile

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