Kouta Hirano’s Hellsing was one of the very few breakout manga and anime hits of the early 2000’s. After Studio Gonzo’s 13 episode series had made its mark in the states, Geneon USA decide to coproduce an OVA in 2006, that was modeled closely to the original manga. Thus, Hellsing Ultimate was born, which gave audiences more supernatural action and plenty of vampires to go around. The story concentrates on the Van Hellsing organization and their commitment to eradicating vampires, ghouls and plenty of other creatures of the night. The major factor in their arsenal is Alucard, a pure blood vampire that helps the organization in their endeavors. Along the way, they find enemies in the Vatican, Nazi’s and plenty of other groups that pitt their best against the ageless vampire and the organization that supports him. The series has been out of print for a few years now and Funimation has finally released the initial four episodes from Geneon, in a nice Blu-Ray/DVD pack that is just to die for.
Compared to the original TV series, Hellsing Ultimate manages to balance humor, horror and action really well and perfectly emulates Hirano’s style. The comedic bits are reminiscent of the comedy found in Hiromu Arakawa’s additional chapters at the end of each Fullmetal Alchemist manga, with the exception that in Hellsing, these goofy moments happen in the midst of the story. The animation from Satelight is incredibly fluid and manages to get better and better as the series moves along. While people might feel that the series manages falls off the rails, as it moves from typical monsters into the Nazi centric storyline, it remains fun and energetic. My only issue with this attempt at Hellsing, is its rushed plotting in the first two episodes, that blazes through a lot of the material to get the ball rolling. This fumbles a lot of the great character development and flow of the narrative of the original series and manga.
The Blu-Ray’s video boasts 1080p AVC encoded HD transfer, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It certainly comes off as an upconversion of the original DVD transfers that Geneon originally put out a few years ago. While it still manages to balance the heavy black and red colors throughout the four episodes, it lacks a bit of sharpness typically found on a native HD transfer. The audio comes in both English and Japanese DTS-HD 5.1 mixes. While I typically listen to anime in the original Japanese language, Taliesin Jaffe’s script and the cast he gathered makes for an extremely well done English dub. Crispin Freeman is a perfect Alucard and once you hear his delivery and portrayal of the main character, you just wont want to hear anyone’s voice in the role. The second Blu-Ray disc in the set contains an enormous amount of extras, that were part of each of the individual releases of these four episodes. From commentaries from the cast and crew, to in-depth interviews and convention panel coverage make for some solid extras that are missing from most modern anime releases.
If you’ve never seen this series or prefer your anime to be on the darker side, Hellsing Ultimate is just the thing for you. There’s no sparkly vampires here, just pure mayhem, brutality and buckets of blood, that’s been released just in time to watch for Halloween. Highly Recommended!