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WO Reviews: Hellsing Ultimate Volume 1 Blu-Ray

The Bird of Hermes is my name; Eating my wings to make me tame.

Hellsing is one of those lucky classic series that fortune smiled upon and granted it a modern revival; Hellsing Ultimate is that revival. Spread across 10, 50 minute OVAs, Ultimate is a true-to-the-manga adaptation of a series that captivated audiences back in 2003, but failed to deliver any form of a satisfying ending, due to the fact that the manga was ongoing. Volume 1 is a collection of the first 4 OVA episodes spread across 3 DVDs or 2 Blu-rays.

If you've been in the anime world for any measurable amount of time, you most likely are somewhat familiar with the series, its premise, or its famous protagonist, Alucard. The Hellsing organization fights vampires and other evil forces that threaten England with their own super-powerful undead entity, the vampire Alucard. While performing his exterminatory duties, Alucard saves the life of a virgin police officer by turning her into an agent of the undead. As Alucard educates his new vampire-ling on the ways of the coffin-dweller, the two end up embroiled in a three-way conflict between Hellsing, The Iscariot (a sect of the Vatican dedicated to the eradication of ALL evil entities), and a revived Nazi group with a haunting army.

As one can guess from a series that embraces a non-traditional concept of vampires and introduces Nazis as villains, Hellsing is an action-intense, gory series. Alucard is a throwback to earlier anime heroes, like Kenshiro, in that his fights aren't really a question of whether or not he will come out on top, as much as they are a question of the over-the-top methods he'll be using on his victim. It's not uncommon for Alucard to be personally mutilated several times before he dices his enemies into a fine red mist, but it's always entertaining. In fact, this setup seems to the basic setup of the series, as each of the 4 OVAs focus on a single baddie that Hellsing is going to massacre.

Of course, Hellsing isn't a one-man show. Well, it actually is, in that Alucard is the only male protagonist of consequence. Hellsing's female protagonists are excellent; it's so refreshing to see strong female protagonists that aren't meat-mashing fuel for the lowest  common denominator of fanservice. The leader of Hellsing, Sir Integra Hellsing, (you read that sir correctly) is as iron-willed and steadfast in dedication as Olivier Armstrong, the woman I would consider to be close to the epitome of of strong women. Seras Victoria, Alucard's Vampire underling, is a much less sturdy character in terms of internal strength. Still, her unwillingness to back down and her spearheaded and unfettering action in the face of a battle make her aces in my book. On a side note, Seras is often the focus of the sparingly used, brightly-colored, off-model comedic segments, as well as other welcome moments that break up the drama and tension within the Hellsing Universe.

Each episode either introduces a new facet to the series, such as a rival organization, or builds upon the overarching narrative action. By the end of episode 4, it feels as though the action is rising more steeply towards the climax, as the Nazis, Vatican, and Iscariot groups prepare for an all-out war.

What allows Hellsing to be so action-oriented is the fact that it is so visually stimulating. Production values are typically moderately high, so everything from textures to action is well done. Without spoiling anything specific, Hellsing Ultimate brings out the best of what you would expect from a fight between two supernatural beings, as action is flashy and the effects are nice. Some CG segments showcasing Alucard's guns as he draws and fires stick out in my mind as good examples of scenes where the animation drew me into the action more than normal. Ultimately, Hellsing isn't always as pleasant to listen to as it is to watch. Fitting gothic-sounding scores reinforce the lore of the series, while electronic-infused tracks tend to conflicts with my tastes for the genre. They feel out of place in the series, because despite the modern setting, Hellsing looks and feels like it's stuck in World War 2.

Extras are plenty in the set. Each 50 minute episode has a commentary track, and although I have yet to listen to them, even bad commentaries are a welcome addition to any set. In addition to the commentaries, there are 5 30 minute interviews, convention footage, commercials for the series, promo footage, and if there's anything else I can't pull from the top of my head, it was probably not worth mentioning amongst everything else. If extras are the kind of thing that push you over the edge into buying something, then Hellsing has you covered.

If you weren't sold by the time you read Vatican, Vampire, and Nazi in the same paragraph, then I don't know what's wrong with you. Hellsing Ultimate is indeed a good buy, and gets 5 Stars from Western Otaku.