156: “Anime Review: Hellsing”

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<// J_Daito //> For once, it is I, the Dark General, who will do the reviews!
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<// J_Daito //> Intro
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<// J_Daito //> Hellsing is an anime about an elite force of English paramilitary vampire hunters, aided by some very supernatural (and very powerful) allies, and the numerous clashes they have with "freaks" (humans who have been turned into strong quasi-vampires via technology) and "ghouls" (mindless zombies, usually their own fallen teammates), as well as competing anti-vampire organization such as the Vatican's amoral Iscariot order, epitomized by the insane, cackling, death-dealing, blade slinging priest, Father Arthur Anderson.
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<// J_Daito //> Let me say right now, that this series is severely crippled by its limited length of 13 episodes-- that does not, however, mean you shouldn't watch. The sacrifices that had to be made to cram this much cool into that many episodes may have robbed Hellsing of the chance to earn a coveted 7-Dragonball Suburban Senshi Shenlong award (an award so hard to get we haven't even bothered to make a graphic for it), but it's still worthy. As you'll see after reading the review, had it been longer, it may have very well taken home the grand prize.
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<// J_Daito //> As usual, the review will cover Visual , Audio, Plot, and overall cool.
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<// J_Daito //> Video
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<// J_Daito //> Hellsing's visuals are a treat to behold. Rich, saturated graphics, unobtrusive but exceedingly effective CGI, and more gore than you can shake a refreshed Youma at make up the visual universe of Hellsing. Studio Gonzo has come a long way from the jarring cel / CGI mix of earlier shows like Blue Submarine #6, and it shows.
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<// J_Daito //> Character designs are good, but somewhat inconsistent from episode to episode. Each main character has a distinct "look" that makes it look almost as if they were all dragged from other anime (it works quite well). The action is fast and furious, and always a joy to behold. The battle scenes bring a tear to this bloodthirsty General's 10,000 year old heart. Granted, some of the design changes in the characters they made from the manga are a bit odd (Integral? She's a woman), but it doesn't matter. Those are supremely minor nits.
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<// J_Daito //> Rating: Two out of Two Dragonballs.

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<// J_Daito //> Audio
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<// J_Daito //> The soundtrack to Hellsing is incredible. Mixing a range of aural styles from 30's horror to 90's techno and everything in between, plus insert songs by a decent English speaking J-band, it simply defies proper description. The mood it sets is absolutely perfect for a show about uber-badass Vampires tooling around doing battle with big guns in the London night. I have never seen Cowboy Bebop, but I'm told it's similar to its soundtrack, if that helps. Some people complain because some of the music is too hyper. I don't see the problem. I've been playing the OSTs in the Dark Kingdom MP3 Pod for days now, they're that good.
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<// J_Daito //> Rating: Again, Two out of Two Dragonballs

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<// J_Daito //> Plot
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<// J_Daito //> Now, sadly, here is where it ALL falls down. The first few episodes are fine, as they follow the Hellsing manga fairly closely, so everything ties together well. But then, perhaps because Studio Gonzo had either outpaced the manga, or because they were banking on getting 13 more episodes in short order (or something), they chose to diverge from the manga path, maddeningly (if you read the manga) choosing to omit several key plot threads, (which I assume they thought they would get back to)-- threads with insignificant impact, like, you know, who the bad guys are and what they want."
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<// J_Daito //> This doesn't mean you go without some kind of closure. Oh no, the series doesn't stop dead. You get a black screen with blood-red text hastily resolving some loose threads in the most vague manner possible, followed by a maddening final scene which sets up a cliffhanger so annoying you want to gnaw your own arm off with the frustration-- THEN it stops dead. Or undead, as the case may be (ha hah)
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<// J_Daito //> Unfortunately, Hellsing was so violent it aired at 2 AM in Japan (this should give you an idea of how cool it is [yes, violent == cool, get over it!], so it probably doesn't have the mass audience in Japan needed to get it a second season (although I hear Studio Gonzo want to continue it once the manga, now up to Volume 4, is completed), so these loose ends may never get resolved.
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<// J_Daito //> Still, the show is worth watching... while the subtle details are GREAT and form a tapestry unto themselves(for example, the tension between the Protestant and Catholic organizations and their religious zealotry when it comes to matters of how best to kill one another), the plot itself really is secondary to this experience. Sadly, unlike a movie like Versus, which blatantly only used plot as an excuse to get the fights going, Hellsing sets you up with the expectation that a grand story was about to unfold, and it deliberately failed to deliver. So its score here has to suffer.
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<// J_Daito //> Rating: One out of two Dragonballs (because what you DO get is great stuff, there just should have been more of it.)
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<// J_Daito //> Overall:


<// J_Daito //>
<// J_Daito //> Plot aside, everything in Hellsing congeals (a perfect adjective for this show) to create one of the most atmospheric, visceral, and just plain cool anime series this Dark General has seen in a long, long time. It easily claims a full Dragonball for overall experience.
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<// J_Daito //> Summary:
<// J_Daito //> And there you have it. At six Dragonballs, Hellsing is the one thing reviewed here at Suburban Senshi that has come closest to earning a full Shenlong. Maybe if season two comes out, it finally will. All I can say is, grab the episodes any way you can and get watching! And grab the Manga too (I think it's been licensed, if not the first two volumes are scanslated).. it's FUNNIER and COOLER (plus it actually tells you what's going on!)
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<// J_Daito //> Final Rating:Six/Seven Dragonballs.

<// J_Daito //> Links: Official Hellsing sites in Japan and America.
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