The Ultimate Review of the Ultimate Series, part one
By James D. Deaux IV and Kellen Scrivens
10 January 2007 — Hello, I'm James D. and I cannot believe it's been so long since I wrote about anime. However, I figured that this would be the best time to come out of that hiatus. Being a longtime fan of the Hellsing franchise, I was ecstatic when Geneon announced a little over a year ago that we would be getting a brand new Hellsing series — one that follows the Kohta Hirano manga almost directly. But more on this shortly. My otaku partner in crime needs to introduce himself.
Kellen: Hello there, I am Kellen Scrivens and while I may not be the rampant fanboy James is over this series, I highly enjoyed the little bit of the original series that I did see. However, I merely brushed off this new series; having gotten a taste of this series at a local anime convention, I am now devoted to following this... at least for the time being.
James: Methinks Kellen has made a good decision. It only gets better from here if the manga has anything to say about it. The OVA of Hellsing is already, in my opinion, leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. The animation is crisper, more violent and generally more pleasing to the eyes. The sound effects are awesome, particularly in Alucard and Anderson's fight, where they take their steps on the creaking wooden boards. But most importantly, the plot from the manga remains true. I'm highly excited for this franchise's future.
Kellen: The only thing right now that may be keeping me from getting this in the future is my ineptitude when it come to keeping my wallet closed. That said, we can stop just gushing about it; let's say why we liked it. Sound good to you, James?
James: Sure, why not? I will say I share the "money burning a hole in my pocket" mentality. I spend so much money on anime and manga it's ridiculous. Anyway, to understand why I, personally, like the OVA so much, you need to understand how much better it is than its predecessor. The first Hellsing anime series was an abomination for the most part. Granted, I will say that the first three episodes of the original 13-episode series weren't that bad. They were generally accurate to the manga. From there on, however, the writers just made stuff up. By the end, nothing except the Valentine Brothers' attack on the Hellsing mansion and Alucard's first battle with Anderson was actually based off the manga. Incognito, Bubbancy, Captain Garrett, Harry Anders and a host of other characters were thrown into the series even though they never existed in the manga. Incognito was the worst of them all. Did you get far enough into the first series to know what I'm talking about, Kellen?
Kellen: No, I did not. The UMD I bought for my PSP was as far as I got, which happens to be the storyarcs the first episode of this OVA covers.
James: True enough. But would you agree that the general atmosphere and dialogue is exponentially better this time around?
Kellen: Better yes, but I wouldn't go so far myself as to say exceptionally. There were a few things that I happened to enjoy more in the original series, but keep in mind I have never read the manga. The main one: the three 22-minute episodes on the UMD account for more time than the one 50-minute OVA. This lends to a few stories being more fleshed out. That said, I favor the OVA in other aspects: animation, production value, characterization and even the comedy.
James: You bring up something I was about to get to: the comedy. The first series had almost no comedic relief, which is really a disservice to Kohta Hirano, who interjects all kinds of quirky, darkly humorous moments into the manga. Seras' dream sequence in the OVA, with the manga-style super-deformed artwork, was one of the first things I took notice of when I watched the Japanese version so many months ago. That they have incorporated goofy stuff like that tells me they are truly dedicated to making this manga-to-anime translation as accurate as humanly possible.
Kellen: Yeah, it was definitely a nice little edition. Little things like Seras waking up, checking for a bullet wound, then her range of emotions whilst looking in the mirror are absolutely essential to making the OVA spectacular.
James: I laughed so hard when she checked her breast for the gaping gunshot wound, sees nothing, is relieved, but then when she sees Alucard sitting next to her, there is utter silence and then... "WAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!" Again, more of the manga-style coming into play. I was actually pretty surprised when I found out that the English translation would have the exact same voice cast as the first series. Crispin Freeman, as I have said before, is my favorite voice actor out there right now, and you can tell that he completely understands the mentality of Alucard. If you feel like forking out the money for the special edition, watch the interview with him. He hits the nail right on the head; Alucard is inherently bored, and he brings out all of Alucard's underlying emotions when he portrays him.
Kellen: I actually did buy the special edition, and so far have watched nothing but the English dub. I still have to get to the interview and the commentary, but yes the dub was good once again. It was a great thing for Geneon to go out and get the same cast because they did a spectacular job the first time around.
James: Yes, the English voice cast is fantastic. I can't wait to hear Ralph Lister (voice of Walter) get more into the act. Walter was another character who was criminally underutilized in the first series, but gets to shine in the manga and OVA.
Kellen: I'll definitely be looking forward, but one thing I just realized: we've been going over all these awesome moments from the episode without giving any insight at all into the plot or story. Care to fill everyone?
James: This is why I'm glad you're here — to keep me from raving on and on and on without any kind of explanation. You keep me in check. The story of Hellsing takes place mostly in London (but later in South America), and it revolves around the Hellsing Organization — a secret armed forces branch that deals with finding and eliminating vampires and other such ghouls. In their employ is arguably the most powerful being on Earth: Alucard, a vampire himself. While on a routine mission, he enlists a young policewoman named Seras into Hellsing after a vampire attacks her. He shoots her to kill the vampire behind her, but transforms her into one of the undead so that she may live. Leading Hellsing is the stern but caring Integra Hellsing, as well as her faithful butler, Walter Dorneaz. The Hellsing Organization's primary mission throughout the manga (and now the OVA) is to find an organization that is literally churning out "homemade" vampires by the thousands and letting them loose upon the world. Along the way they have to deal with another vampire-exterminating division from Rome called Vatican Section XIII that hates Hellsing as much as the vampires they all eliminate. I think that's a pretty good (albeit broad) outline of the story from the beginning.
Kellen: Yes, I would agree that just about sums the thing up there, so now you have some context for our ridiculous "OMGzorz!!~1!"-ish ravings. I will also say that in addition to giving a good backdrop, you also avoided any major spoilers.
James: I always try my best to avoid spoiling anything. The storyline is as multifaceted as you can imagine, but at the same time it isn't hard to follow. Kohta Hirano is an expert on world history, specifically the military history of Europe and Asia, so all of these obvious and obscure historical references appear throughout. As do random references to pop culture. It adds a certain charm to the manga.
Kellen: While many of the stories haven't played themselves out completely, I will agree that it is not hard to follow; you don't really need the backstory, because everything is presented right in front of you. It's an anime that you can put in, sit back and enjoy.
James: As far as the storyline goes, Kellen is right: they tell you everything you need to know, but also holdback little pieces of the puzzle. They know how to hook an audience.
Kellen: So, that will wrap up the first Ultimate Review of the Ultimate Series. Before we go, though, how about a score? James, using your X / 100 scale, where do you put Hellsing Ultimate OVA Episode 1?
James: As a whole, I'd grade the first volume 90 / 100. There were a few elements they neglected to include, but only an uber-fanboy such as myself would understand what those are. So yeah, 90 / 100 seems fair. I'm psyched for this series like no other anime. Ever!
Kellen: While I'm not as psyched, I give this a 4 out of 5 on my X / 5 scale: the show was very entertaining, but it has its drawbacks. It is, however, one of my favorite action-oriented shows right now. So it looks like that will be it for the first episode, but now we have some...
Kellen / James: QUICK HITS!
Kellen: So what's on your anime playlist currently, besides Hellsing?
James: Gun x Sword has piqued my interest. And since I'm making a new AMV, I'm watching some of my old favorites like Princess Mononoke and Gungrave. How about you?
Kellen: Too many to list, but I'll try: YTV has Naruto, Eureka Seven, Bleach and Fullmetal Alchemist. Anime Club is airing Desert Punk. And on my own I got Sailor Moon (dub & sub), Powerpuff Girls Z and Death Note. And, as of tomorrow, Rumbling Hearts! I don't think I've shilled it too much.
James: No you certainly haven't... you said it best: Rumbling Hearts is to you as Hellsing Ultimate is to me. Who is the bigger bitch: Talho (from Eureka Seven) or Asuka (from Neon Genesis Evangelion)?
Kellen: Asuka's bitchiness is one of the few things of NGE that I could understand throughout the entire series, so I have to go with her. You?
James: As of now, I'd pick Talho. She just picks on Renton all the time for seemingly no reason and generally makes you want to grab her by the throat. Granted, I've only watched the first five episodes, but still...
Kellen: Sailor Moon: dub or sub?
James: For me, this is like asking, "Would you like filet mignon or pig's feet?" The Sailor Moon English dubs are among the biggest travesties in anime history. Entire episodes were left out because DiC believed they were too risqué for kids. Sailor Moon isn't supposed to be a happy-go-lucky, nine-year-old-girl-friendly anime. It's an anime that people (male or female, 13 or older) can enjoy, but you absolutely need it to be uncut so you can get the obscure sexual humor and mature moments.
Kellen: Yum, pig's feet. I'm currently watching through both, but will go as far as to say right now I prefer the dub. I was raised from elementary school on that dub, and even today... for the most part... it holds up. Yeah, a couple episodes are missing and some stuff is cut, but I prefer the little things the English cut did: the transitions, the musical score, the localization (it's not a bad thing). I know I'm against the grain on this, but I think the dub gets more flack than it deserves.
James: The musical score was fine. I just hated how they butchered the scripts. Okay, who wins in an all-out fight: Vegeta or Darkseid?
Kellen: Vegeta has a heart, it's an itty-bitty one, but it's still there (pick the quote, get a cookie). Darkseid does not... that and Darkseid is just more powerful. Darkseid takes it.
James: They are both arrogant as all hell, but I think Vegeta could win simply because he gets stronger as he gets beaten down. But, of course, Vegeta is infinitely faster than Darkseid, so I don't see Vegeta losing this one anyway.
Kellen: So are you coming to Ai-Kon this year?
James: I wouldn't be able to get the time off from work, but where is it?
Kellen: Here in Winnipeg.
James: Yoinks. Yeah, I don't think I could make that trip, unfortunately. What AMV(s) are you currently working on?
Kellen: Due to my inability to work Adobe Premier and Movie Maker being bitchier than usual, I have none as of present, but I have some golden ones in my head: "Graduation Song" set to Azumanga Daioh, "Getting Away With Murder" set to Death Note, "Coma" set to Neon Genesis Evangelion and "Lips of an Angel" set to Rumbling Hearts... among about a dozen others.
James: My "ultimate project" is proceeding... slowly but surely. I'm planning on making a music video to every song on Metallica's S&M. The first part will be the first three songs on the album. I finally finished "The Call of Ktulu" (which was hell, but rewarding), and I'm onto "Master of Puppets". You might be pleased to know I plan to include Hell Girl in this thing.
Kellen: I am. Let's see if you can one-up my "Miseria Cantare" video. What song are you setting it to?
James: Most likely "Devil's Dance". Another video I plan to do is Hellsing Ultimate to Therion's version of "O Fortuna".
Kellen: Actually my idea of Hellsing Ultimate was "Bow Down to the King" by Motorhead.
James: Ooh, very nice.
Kellen: As I've told you before, I may attempt what you're doing with S&M to American Idiot, but I make no promises.
James: I had mulled that over for a time, seeing as how I already did a "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" video, but I decided not to.
Kellen: I have some ideas for a few of the songs already; hell, I even have ideas for the out-there stuff like "Rock & Roll Girlfriend".
James: Well, I believe that will do it for this go-round. The second volume of Hellsing Ultimate is slated to be released on 31 March, so I'll be eagerly anticipating that (and Kellen knows all about anticipation). For Kellen, I'm The Roman Numeral Four, and this has been The Ultimate Review of the Ultimate Series.