This thirteen-part anime, based on an ongoing manga series by Kouta Hirano, offers an unusual, Japanese-inflected look at a near-contemporary United Kingdom – plus a secret history of the threat of vampirism, and the various covert societies in the business of protecting the nation from the undead.
Sir Integra Wingates Hellsing – an androgynous blonde misleadingly given a male title (it should be ‘Dame’) – heads the Hellsing Organisation, charged by the Knights of the Round Table with wiping out a plague of ‘freaks’ (regular people implanted with chips that make them artificial vampires) but also with resisting genuine vampires, whose victims tend to rise as Romero-look ghouls, and providing a Protestant alternative to the Vatican’s brutal Iscariot Society. Integra’s secret weapon is Alucard, a Vampire Hunter D-look vampire who can transform into a Thing-like multi-armed, doghead-sprouting demon and who has a complex backstory with her family that requires audiences to infer a continuity with Bram Stoker. In the first episode, Alucard has to mortally wound a young police officer, Seras Victoria, and turns her into a vampire; she becomes the viewpoint character among a bewildering variety of factions and characters, and the menace of the ‘freaks’ and their near-vampire masters gives way to a more inhuman monster, Incognito, who is more of a match for the powerful Alucard. Available as four separate releases or a collection of all thirteen episodes (or ‘orders’), HELLSING is typical of made-for-TV or OAV anime in its use of animation shortcuts (pans over static images, etc) but supervising director Umanosuke Iida keeps things engaging; the music selection is especially fine, there are oddly appealing non sequitur episode trailers in the style of Bill Plympton buried in the end credits of each show and the British backdrops are intriguingly fantastical. Vampire fans will note a cameo for LeFanu’s Carmilla (who nearly does for Integra in Episode 9), allusions to F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep and touches reminiscent of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and – ahem! – my own Anno Dracula books.
The audio options are sub-titled Japanese and made-in-Britain English; both have jarring oddities – though Alucard is clearly supposed to be the hero’s name (and is spoken as such in English), the sub-titles and end credits go with ‘Arucard’, while the impossible name ‘Seras Victoria’ seems to be a rendering in English of a Japanese approximation of ‘Victoria Sellers’. Extras include concept art galleries, a selection of interviews that seems more like an announcement that this project will happen than a reflection on it, and creditless versions of the opening and closing sequences.
First published in Video Watchdog.
Alucard (Jôji Nakata/Crispin Freeman), Alucard, Hellsing Ultimate (2006)