Ultimate Hellsing Volume 2 is leagues better than the first.
It still looks like some frames of animation are missing and Seras Victoria is still nothing more than a goofy SD character – and still unfunny – but it’s got better action, an actual plot, better music, and way better villains than the first installment’s “AMEN!” barking lunatic. The first volume was obviously a ploy, a shortcut to this story which is odd and yes, a bit of a rip-off – again – because this volume is 15 minutes shorter and there is, AGAIN, only one single solitary episode on the disc.
Let me make a big fat deal out of that: ONE EPISODE. On a SINGLE disc. For $20. And the limited edition is more expensive. I’d like to know, in what universe, is that considered a deal? I’d feel better offering my firstborn to Odin than paying that much for ONE episode of a fucking anime. Anime better get off its high fucking horse and learn its place. You can get whole 26 EPISODE season SETS of Batman Beyond or uh, any other animated series, for the same price. Let’s see what Batman Beyond costs on Amazon… oh, $15 to $18. Not bad at all. Pretty awesome for a whole season. Ultimate Hellsing though? $12… OK, not $20 but still. What the fuck.
I used to look down on those who download anime for free on BitTorrents or what have you, but I’m beginning to understand. I understand now THEY’RE the smart ones. The video quality may be horrendous, the subtitles misspelled our flat-out wrong, the sound tinny and annoying, but at least they get to keep their money – if they have any to spare at all – and not risk it on some import that may or may not be worth it. Is this worth it? Only if you’re a fan with the dough to spring. Otherwise I’d wait the year… or two or three or four years knowing how glacial anime release schedules are, that it’ll take to get this series in a bargain set they may or may not release. Oh anime, truly, you are the alternative to our mindess American-produced trash!
Hellsing though, is pretty mindless but nevertheless entertaining this time around thanks to a straightforward A-to-B story, a remarkable improvement upon the A-to-Q-to-Delta frantic mess of its predecessor. There’s a purpose here. Two super-evil vampire brothers, Luke and Jan Valentine, invade Hellsing headquarters and Alucard, Seras and scene-stealing butler Walter have to repel them. Simple stuff.
Luke is the classier sibling, dressed in a white suit, soft-spoken with a refined Cam Clarke-ish accent, if you got the English voice track on, which you should, that’s the only way to watch Hellsing. The writing also fares better, probably because they economize the dialogue to fit the characters’ lip movements to sound more natural and Englishy. The Japanese track sounds hokey in the British countryside setting and sometimes just plain lousy (“AMEN!”) although I do relish the way they say “Valentine.”
The English voice actors sound like they’re having a ball, particularly Crispin Freeman as Alucard who really lets himself go in the episode’s final minutes with all sorts of badassery, and the other Valentine brother, Jan, whose rampant cursing and swearing makes mine look like it’s from The Little Rascals. His performance is pulled off with such relish and mad glee it would’ve been a treat to see him and his co-stars in the recording booth, if just to see if they gyrate and distort their bodies the way their animated counterparts do. Sadly, this disc is rather low on cool extras.
The animation looks better and it ought to, since most of it is horrible, extreme action violence. And I mean extreme. If you think you saw every way a man’s head can be chopped off or a body explode to pieces, you… well, you actually may want to watch more hardcore fare like Ninja Scroll or Mezzo for real deplorable animated violence, Hellsing’s nowhere near as uh, creative as that. The amount of gore and sailor talk guarantees this a late-night viewing for murderous sickos only, or at least video game fans (har har), especially if you remember the classic Konami Code, which gets a mention for some reason, perhaps because Jan’s movements are as stilted and mannequin-like as the player characters in Contra. Stand still, wave arms and shoot everything! Furthermore, he and every character in Hellsing for that matter, are in permanent God Mode. Alucard gets shot dozens of times and even loses his head and limbs, again, but he keeps going, firing volley after volley at his opponent. All the fight scenes play out this way, with one character bombarding the other with all manner of outrageous moves. Then they stop. Then it’s the other character’s turn. It’s your typical anime show-off fest, done with enough style and testosterone-fueld rage (Jan exclaims amidst all the gore “I have SUCH a boner right now!”) to at least garner some amusement.
Oh, and Konami makes those Castlevania games, those are about vampies and ghouls too, so that could be possibly be a nod. A different but just as formidable Alucard stars in the series’ most popular entry, Symphony of the Night. Coincedentally, or not, both are susceptible to nightmares.
The Millenium Falcon gets namedropped too so it’s easy to surmise Hellsing is written by and for ultra-geeks who grew up on all that. While I appreciate the nostalgic throwbacks the references stick out like a Twi’lek dancer at an anti-abortion rally in Leonardo, New Jersey. That is, with all the panache and tact of your typical Kevin Smith movie. Okay, that’s not exactly fair, the reference does lead straight up to the episode’s cockteasing cliffhanger, hinting at a new development that never came up in the original TV series: the involvement of Nazis. They just can’t stay out of the occult can they! How much you wanna bet Cthulu shows up?
Actually, thinking it over, vampires fighting Nazis and Cthulu while quoting Star Wars and dropping Contra III: The Alien Wars references sounds like the type of messy wet dream geeks who grew up in the 90s would skateboard over Springfield Gorge for. The guys who played Doom and Wolfenstein and wept a tear of remorse when Han shot second. And man, wasn’t that X-Men cartoon awesome sometimes? While I wish the Hellsing OVA would it doesn’t aspire to philosophical greatness beyond that of Hellboy, which is appropriate I suppose.
It makes no excuses for what it is: fun, gory and fast, and at 43 minutes it is FAST. A bite-sized morsel. Fast food. Expensive $20 fast food at that, and though it has a decent bite to it I don’t exactly feel full afterward. At this point however I should go on to see how Volume 3 plays out, if only to satisfy my curiousity that just maybe Alucard will fight the Russian mob, and perhaps dinosaurs in Cadillacs as well.