Review for Hellsing Ultimate Collection 3 (Eps 9-10)
The production of Hellsing Ultimate has been a joke, jumping from animation house to animation house seemingly with each new episode, and for all 10 episodes to be made, it has taken some seven years. In the US, Geneon started releasing it, but four episodes in, they went out of business, and Funimation had to release the rest. Including the original Hellsing anime series, the English voice director and principal cast have been working on some form of Hellsing for 13 years. In the UK, Manga Entertainment started releasing it, first on single volume DVDs, and then when the Blu-ray age came to pass, they started releasing HD collections, four episodes apiece. And then when Funimation and Manga went their separate ways, they lost the Hellsing Ultimate license. Given the eight years of labour pains associated with this show’s birth on home video, it seems fitting that the punchline to this joke is that I’ve had to import the last two episodes of the Hellsing Ultimate OVA series from Australia, just to finally see how it ends.
Vampires exist, as do the legions of the undead, and the Hellsing organisation has been tasked with guarding the British Empire from their onslaught. The current head of the organisation is Sir Integra Hellsing, who inherited the position from her father. The ace card she holds is Alucard, a renegade vampire who fights for humanity against his own kind. If only vampires were the only problem they had. Britain is a Protestant nation, and Hellsing works for the Church of England, something that rubs the Vatican the wrong way, who have their own Iscariot organisation to battle the undead. The ideological differences between the two groups have them locking horns on more than one occasion, and while they are distracted, the vampires can feed. But while political infighting has been keeping the two rival groups distracted, a sinister power from the past has been reborn, and now the master race is calling the shots.
When last we saw Hellsing Ultimate, London was in flames, overrun with vampire Nazis, the Hellsing mansion had been destroyed, Seras Victoria had finally awakened to her vampire powers, and the final confrontation between Alexander Anderson and Alucard was unfolding in the centre of the burning capital. As the endgame approaches, Alucard’s disillusionment with Alexander’s choices may prove crippling, as the unexpected traitor in the Hellsing Organisation is about to be revealed. The final two episodes of Hellsing Ultimate are presented on one Blu-ray from Madman Entertainment
Hellsing Ultimate gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc. Another sign of the title’s production issues is the treatment in HD. The first few episodes were animated in SD and scaled up, and there was a degree of scaling involved in subsequent episodes as well. By the time these two episodes were made, Hellsing Ultimate was being animated in proper, full HD, and the clarity, detail and sharpness evident here shows the series at its best. It’s a shame about the consistency across all 10 episodes though. Hellsing’s fantastic artwork, bold colours and vivid designs, as well as the theatrical quality animation comes across to excellent effect here.
You get DTS-HD MA 5.1 English and Japanese audio, with locked translated subtitles and a signs only track for the English dub. Hellsing Ultimate really does deliver in the audio stakes, with its grand orchestral themes, and resonant action sequences. The sound stage is put to good use, with discreet placement of effects, and enveloping ambience. I went with the original language track as always, and was more than happy with its bombast and over the top characterisations. I still don’t like the English dub, but I am beginning to appreciate it more. My problem is still that of a native UK resident listening to English accents made for a US audience. It all goes a bit Daphne Moon at times. You have to see past that to realise just how good a dub it is, how good the actor performances are, and how well it translates from the Japanese to the English, adding layers for the English speaking audience without losing what’s essential about the story.
Once again, this disc had trouble deciding between Integral and Integra Hellsing in the subtitles.
You get one disc in a Blu-ray Amaray, and the inner sleeve gets some appealing Major artwork. The disc boots to the animated menu, set to The Blue Danube.
The episode IX commentary features ADR director Taliesin Jaffe with K.T. Gray (Seras Victoria).
Episode IX also gets a video commentary (44:50) with Taliesin Jaffe, producer Jonathan Klein, and Crispin Freeman (Alucard). Crispin’s a little too method, a man who hasn’t aged a single day in the last 13 years.
The episode X Commentary features Taliesin Jaffe, Patrick Seitz (Luke Valentine and adaptive writer), and Jonathan Klein.
Interview Session X: Farewell to an epic lasts 35:02 and has Taliesin Jaffe, Jonathan Klein, Crispin Freeman and three other voice actors interviewed talking heads style about the end of the series.
R.I.P. In Memoriam lasts 9:43 and is a silly rerun of all the significant character deaths in the show.
Finally you get the U.S. Trailer.
I usually eschew localised extra features, as they tend to the vacuous and crass. I’ve made a point of avoiding the average Funimation audio commentary merely to preserve my sanity. But once again, the extra features that come with Hellsing Ultimate are excellent, the commentaries and the interviews both. You actually get intelligent discourse about the story, the characters, and the themes, and there is much to learn from these extra features.
Hellsing Ultimate’s... well, ultimate problem is one of expectations. From the beginning, it’s been bigger, louder, and more histrionic than anything else. It’s always pushed the limits; there’s been no character that hasn’t chewed the scenery, and it’s taken every subsequent episode to a new level. The end of the previous collection, the eighth episode, had London in flames, with vampire Nazi stormtroopers marching through the city, feasting on all and sundry, with the immortal Alexander Anderson taking a nail from the cross of Christ into his heart to become a living holy weapon, some kind of thorn creature, and with Alucard unleashing all the lives that he had consumed over the centuries as an army of the undead. Just where do you go from there? Just how can you end a story like that, making it even bigger, and crazier, and have it satisfying to the audience as well?
You just can’t. Making it bigger, crazier runs the risk of crossing that line and having your suspension of reality fracture, but in this case Hellsing Ultimate avoids that ignominious fate. What happens is almost as bad, but a natural consequence of the nihilistic story that unfolds. This is a story about epic, massive destruction, slaughter on an incomprehensible scale. It all becomes somewhat impersonal. Given the self-destructive bent of almost all of the characters, it also becomes even harder to relate to. The vampire Nazis have been looking for the ultimate war in which to spend their lives, and wind up creating their own. Alexander Anderson wants nothing more than to be a martyr to his God, and then there is Alucard, tired of immortality, his practically omnipotent power, and his growing disillusionment.
About the only character that had a hook to relate to was Seras Victoria, a woman torn between her newly acquired vampire nature, and her desire to remain human, but in the previous collection of episodes, she fully embraced her vampire nature, and subsequently became as much of a badass anti-hero as anyone else, thus losing that hook that made her a relatable character. The final two episodes of Hellsing Ultimate essentially relate how these characters’ world is flushed down the drain, and as a sop to a happy ending, we get a 30 years later epilogue to catch up with the handful of survivors (or their descendants), and re-inject a note of that Hellsing Ultimate wacky sense of humour that so enlivened the first four episodes of the series, and which has rapidly drained away in the second half of the run.
Forget all that though, as what Hellsing Ultimate’s final episodes are really about, is what the series has always been about; it’s about style. This show is fecund with style; it’s a show that you watch because it is Hellsing Ultimate. The very name has cachet, the reputation of the show as the epitome of sheer visual craziness, of scenery munching character overload demands that it be seen at least once. It’s like the crazy, over the top action movies that I loved to watch in the eighties, delightfully daft but accomplished with style and testosterone. Hellsing Ultimate also rewards history buffs and Dracula aficionados biting down on a rich vein of cultural history to inform its characters. Personally, I have to admit that I loved it all getting a bit quantum for the denouement. It’s taken its sweet time in getting here, with a little help from the import button, but for a show that promised the moon, the ending, while it inevitably falls short, is worthy of the effort.