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volume 3 issue 9

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15 home / september 2002 / reviews Turn Page BackwardBack to HomeTurn Page Forward

Hellsing Vol.1: Impure Souls DVD
Bilingual DVD
75 minutes
Kouto Hirano
Shonen Gahosha
Not since Cowboy Bebop have I seen a show dripping with so much style. Hellsing's loads of fun, managing to maintain originality and be more than just another vampire show.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Hellsing Vol.1: Impure Souls DVD
By Patrick King

Forget vampires - there's nothing more seductive than the subconscious beckoning of a charge card in a video game store. If that supernatural force hadn't enthralled me, I'd be about $95 US richer. But then, I'd have passed up the first DVDs for Love Hina, Berserk, and Hellsing along with their decorative art boxes. I already knew Love Hina was worth getting (as I had already purchased it...I just wanted the box), but I haven't watched Berserk yet. Now that I'm done with Hellsing, I can happily report that it has earned its keep as well.

Let's face it, vampires are fascinating creatures. Stories featuring these children of the night tend to pose all sorts of deep questions. How would you deal with immortality? What if it came at the price of your soul? Are we bound to morality simply because we are not strong enough to get away with being evil? Most people already have romantic ideas when they think of vampires. Rather than rely upon all of the convenient innate coolness of vampire mythology, Hellsing easily has plenty of its own charm to keep viewers interested. Since this DVD only contains the first three episodes of the series, not much is known about many of the characters. The first episode introduces us to Victoria, our doorway into an alternate Earth similar to our own, only with more minions of darkness. Well, more obvious minions of darkness, at least. Victoria was part of a special task force sent to the town of Cheddar to investigate an infestation of ghouls - walking dead controlled by the vampire that slays them. Somehow, the young police officer (nicknamed "Little Kitty") ends up being the only surviving member of her squad, setting her up for a meeting with "Arucard," a man destined to change her life forever...

At this point, not much has been divulged about Arucard's past. Arucard, by the way, is Dracura reversed. Do some Japanese linguistic math and you'll quickly get the not so subtle hint. Incidentally, the name has been used previously in a few Castlevania titles, as well. He's obviously a vampire, but apparently, a willing servant of the Hellsing family - another close approximation of vampiric mythology, for Van Helsing was a renowned vampire hunter. We'll see how things play out in future releases...

This is a beautiful show. You can probably guess that red is used very frequently in the series, and that most of the action is set at night. However, this remains an incredibly vibrant and visually appealing show. The animation is extremely smooth, with special detail given to Arucard's movements. Fight choreography is superb, and good enough to justify watching the show just to see the martial arts scenes. CG is used to what is quite possibly the best effect I've ever seen in animation; it doesn't stand out, but still adds a great deal of mood to the action. This is not the cheesy racing CG from Initial D - it really belongs in this series. Character designs are very stylish and irresistibly eye catching. Arucard might look like a pimp, but he pulls it off because he's just that cool.

With such excellent visuals, it's not surprising to find that the music and sound for Hellsing are far above average, as well. The songs used in this series are good enough to make me want to buy the soundtrack right now. I'm sure I'll get it after I pay off this month's succubus of a credit card bill... The sound effects enhance everything appropriately - making it even more impressive when Arucard whips out his custom blessed firearm.

The Japanese voice actors carry their characters well, with Arucard's voice in particular coming across good and bassy. The English voice actors...are actually really good too. This is possibly the first time I've ever actually enjoyed the acting on the English side of things. While I can't assess the quality of the British accents (they sound good to me!), and I'm unsure as to why an Italian priest has a Scottish accent (I could be missing something here...), the voice actors tend to speak with believable conviction, conveying emotions much better than I've heard in any previous dub. I still have to complain about the extra words or lines crammed into the English track, for I can appreciate the adage that "less is more." I'm not sure why this happens, but there is significantly more profanity in the dub than the original recording. While I'm not sensitive to curse words, it doesn't sound very realistic to hear characters inserting an epithet for every sentence. It's a bit childish, and takes away from the mature nature of this show. Mature doesn't mean "fuck" appears every two minutes - it means that it's more complex than something for children. (And in this case, it also means that there are buckets of blood and oodles of violence present...but that's not the point...)

As I mentioned, I grabbed the special limited edition first DVD with the art box for the next three discs. My box came with a free bag of "blood," ranking up there with some of the most useless and bizarre but original bonus features I've received... The box is very pretty with a creepy illustration of Arucard that is hard to stare at when you're trying to sleep...but it keeps the DVDs all happy and lined up - or it will, when the others finally come out. There are a few extras on the DVD (whether you get the box or not - it's the same disc either way), including a neat music video trailer, 50 pieces of concept art, a few pictures of Arucard's action figure, and a clean opening. All in all, there's pretty much to keep you busy. There's also a group of Pioneer previews (including Vandread, X: The TV Series, Soul Taker, and Armitage among others) that would make fine movie theatre trailers. However, you can't directly access any one preview - if you want to see them, you have to plow through them all. I much prefer instant access to the previews I want to see - there are too many of them to watch them all and get much out of it.

There's no denying that this is a violent show. And it takes a gutsy stand by presenting the heroes as Protestants and one of Arucard's most sinister opponents as a Catholic priest. If religious issues or violence offends you, don't watch this. On the flip side of things, this is a fantasy/horror show. It's not necessarily meant to represent real life, and it's kinda silly to be offended by such things. If you're on a search for a truly stylish show with plenty of bloodsucking action, this is it. I think this show can also serve as a great introduction to anime for mature audiences; much like The Ninja Scroll was back in the day. It's not too deep, has plenty of action, and is beautifully animated. I'm certainly going to fill up my box with the rest of these eventually! That is...if I can afford it.

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