A Geisha of Gore Anime Review by Colleen Wanglund
I love Asian horror films, but I also love Japanese anime in its various genres. Not all of it, but a lot of it. Some anime, which in a lot of instances is based on manga (Japanese comic books) is geared for young kids. And then there is the anime that is targeted to ‘tween girls. Even some of the action anime, while containing copious amounts of blood and violence, still have some very childish sequences and has caused much eye-rolling while viewing. HELLSING however, is a horror anime that is for older teens and adults.
Based on a manga of the same name by Kouta Hirano, HELLSING takes place in modern-day London where the Hellsing Organization’s mission is to rid the world of non-humans, or vampires. Centered around the Holy Order of Protestant Knights, they defend Queen and Country from the undead. The secret government organization is led by 22-year-old Integra Hellsing who inherited it from her father upon his death. Integra is a strong young woman, especially in her convictions, even when faced with her possible death and temptation. She is also the last of the Hellsing line.
In the first episode we are introduced to Alucard, the Hellsing Organization’s secret weapon. Alucard is sent to the village of Cheddar to kill a vampire posing as a priest. A police special operations unit was originally dispatched to the village but the unit was attacked and there is only one survivor. That lone survivor, Seras Victoria, finds the vampire, but is used as a shield when Alucard shows up. Seras agrees to let Alucard kill her and turn her into a vampire in order to destroy the priest/vampire. Upon Seras Victoria’s transformation, Alucard tells Integra to have her transferred to the Hellsing Organization. Alucard is now Seras’s Master.
Seras Victoria doesn’t quite realize what has happened to her. She knows she is a vampire, but she doesn’t know how powerful she really is. She has refused her daily blood ration, in an attempt to hang onto her humanity. Alucard tells her she must drink the blood or she will continue to get weak. During the third episode of the series Alucard offers Seras his own blood which would effectively set her free from the control of humans, but she chooses not to drink from him. She does eventually drink the medical blood ration she is given.
It is also the third episode that introduces Alexander Anderson, a warrior priest with the Vatican’s Section XIII Iscariot, which is a secret organization whose mission is to destroy all non-humans and heretics. Anderson has the same regenerative abilities and strength as Alucard and is called a Regenerator, although he is human. It is never clearly stated how Anderson came to have these abilities but it is hinted at being either science or divine. There is clearly a potentially deadly rivalry between the Hellsing Organization and Iscariot. Belonging to the Vatican, Iscariot is Roman Catholic, while it is stated that Hellsing is staunchly Protestant, and this creates a surprising religious undercurrent.
HELLSING is only thirteen episodes long and focuses on the Hellsing Organization’s search for who is responsible for creating artificial vampires by implanting a specially engineered chip (called a freak chip). Alucard faces off against the Valentine Brothers, who are artificially created, as they storm Hellsing’s headquarters with an army of ghouls. Ultimately they are no match for the more powerful and very real vampire Alucard and his compatriots in the organization. In the last episode, a final battle occurs between Alucard and a weird-looking vampire called Incognito, who says he was born to destroy. It is during this final battle that blatant hints are made as to who Alucard actually is (although if you haven’t guessed by now…).
The anime is dark and bloody and definitely not for children. There are some very gruesome creatures called ghouls that while made by vampires, actually resemble zombies. The ghouls are mindless and shambling and will eat their prey, as well as take orders from the vampire who created them. The story is a very good one and unlike some other anime series, HELLSING has no filler episodes that wander away from the main story. And while the anti-hero Alucard fights on the side of good, it is only out of an obligation to the Hellsing family that he does so. The main character of the anime is the police woman-turned-vampire Seras. Even though she struggles with her new existence as a vampire, she is loyal to both the organization and Alucard. Did I mention Seras is a redhead? Well, her hair is really orange, but you get the idea. One other very cool character is Walter who is Integra Hellsing’s assistant/bodyguard/butler. Walter’s nickname is The Angel of Death and he can still throw down when necessary, even though he is retired from fighting due to his age.
While an entertaining anime series and one of my favorites, I must point out that HELLSING does not faithfully follow the original manga. The stories are very different and the anime keeps a very narrow focus with its climax involving a character who isn’t even in the original manga–Incognito. Incognito is very powerful and said to come from the “dark continent” which is (usually) a reference to Africa.
HELLSING is still a very satisfying series to watch because it is quick and to the point. It also has a very cool finale and ties up its story pretty nicely, for the most part. The character development is well-done for such a short series, with most of the important revelations coming in the last few episodes, although there are teasers throughout. I can’t tell you how many anime series I have stopped watching because of endless filler episodes and no actual ending in sight. What is also really cool about this anime series is that it has a more Stoker-esque feel to it, as opposed to the more science fiction feel of other vampire anime such as TRINITY BLOOD or BLOOD+.
If you want a little more meat, you could read the manga, which is more complex, involving the Millennium Group, Hellsing and the Vatican’s Section XIII Iscariot. The Millennium Group is basically a neo-Nazi organization and their purpose involves revenge for something that occurred during World War II. All three organizations come together in a violent apocalyptic battle in London. It is very different from the ending of the anime, BUT the anime still holds up well on its own.
In addition to the anime and manga, there is an OVA (original video animation) series called HELLSING ULTIMATE. The eight OVA episodes are more faithful to the original manga with just a few minor changes. As a matter of fact, the first episode of the OVA follows the manga’s first volume almost exactly. The OVA episodes are also longer than the standard twenty-three minutes of the television anime, although the length does vary from one episode to the other. Unfortunately only seven of the eight OVAs have been translated into English at this point (and I am patiently waiting for Number 8).
HELLSING, the television anime, was produced by Gonzo and brought to the United States and Canada by Texas-based FUNimation Entertainment. It is definitely worth seeking out, as it is one of the best horror anime out there in both story and artwork. It’s also got one hell of a soundtrack composed and performed by Yasushi Ishii.
© Copyright 2011 by Colleen Wanglund