animefringe january 2003 / reviews

Hellsing Vol.3: Search and Destroy
Format: bilingual DVD, 3 eps., 75 min.
Production: Pioneer / New Generation Pictures / Studio Gonzo / Hirano Kouta
Comments: Three-fourths of the way through, Hellsing is still undead and kicking. Let's hope it stays that way.
Animefringe Reviews:
Hellsing Vol.3: Search and Destroy

Brutally stylish, Hellsing has the potential to be huge in North America. It has a great soundtrack, an interesting storyline, and top-notch visuals. Well, at least, it had top-notch visuals just an episode or two ago. The fantastic series begins to lose some of its momentum (along with some quality) in this, the third volume of Hellsing. I had trouble believing warnings of a degradation in production values...but now, I can sense what I refer to as, "the encrappening."

As I've suggested, events seem to slow down a bit for this quarter of the show. Luckily, there's an episode with Alexander, a delightfully insane Paladin employed by the Vatican's covert Section XIII. No matter what naysayers may claim, I'd be interested in seeing Arucard battle Alexander even if it was animated in Claymation with Gumby-colored clay. Those two characters are simply that cool.

Newcomers may be feeling slightly left out, so if you're still around, allow me to explain. Vampires exist. They always have, and there's a good chance they'll outlast humanity, as well. Set in present-day (or near future) Britain, this series follows the actions of the Hellsing organization, a private group dedicated to Queen and country...and the eradication of the undead. Let by the masculine Sir Integral Hellsing (whose well-hidden womanly features are finally shown in the ninth episode, and if you're having hentai thoughts, then stop, because there's no nudity here), the Organization is recovering from the devastating attack that commenced during the sixth episode on the last disc. Roughly 75% off Hellsing's manpower is no longer living after two vampires broke into the Hellsing mansion with an army of ghouls. In this alternate reality, true (or original) vampires tend to keep to themselves, but there's a new microchip on the black market that changes humans to vampires instantly and easily. This chip apparently is widely available, because there's been a significant rise in the number of "artificial freaks."

These artificial vampires were sired by technology rather than a Master such as Arucard, an ancient vampire somehow in the employ of the Hellsing Organization. The true nature of Arucard has only begun to be revealed by the end of this disc, but the collection ends with another true vampire on the British Isles, leaving things wide open for an excellent battle. Even if things are a bit slower in these three episodes, I'll still be there for the next and final volume of Hellsing.

The visuals are another aspect that suffers somewhat from lowered quality. There isn't nearly as much smooth animation as there was in the first few installments of the series, and character designs appear to have changed a slight bit, as well. It's not horrible, but it is noticeable, and thus detracts from the overall experience. Yet, now that I've noted the drop in quality, this show is still packed with above average character designs dressed in incredible outfits and toting impressive weaponry. I'm still very much in love with the visual style presented by Hellsing, and wall scrolls are on my to-get list. There isn't a huge cast of characters here, but the lacking quantity is more than made up for by the quality of the designs.

The music is one aspect that is still just as amazing as it was the first two installments. Simply put, I like some of Hellsing's music as much as I like tracks from Cowboy Bebop. There is no higher compliment from me. This is excellent stuff, and when I can get a hold of Raid (the first soundtrack), I'll most likely play it for a few weeks straight. Filled to the brim with classic guitar riffs, creepy piano chords, and the occasional chanting from a supernaturally inspired choir, I really can't get enough of Ishii Yasushi's work here. I'm also a big fan of the Japanese voice acting (and not a big fan of the dub...but am I ever happy with a dub?). Subtitles were legible and timed well enough for my standards.

There's an odd technical glitch that popped up on each of the 7 DVD players I have access to (including an X-Box, PS2, 2 DVD-ROM drives, and various set-top boxes), so it must be a software problem. Essentially, selecting "Set-Up" brings viewers to the "Extras" menus and vice versa. So long as both can be accessed, there's no problem, but this can be confusing to some people. Once you find them, the extras are pretty good. There's a load of Japanese cover art for various releases of the show, as well as a 37 piece concept art collection. A second creditless opening is also included, along with trailers of some of Pioneer's upcoming releases. As a side note, I'd like to applaud Pioneer for showing a trailer for X/1999 in Japanese with subtitles, rather than a dub that I'd rather skip than listen to. There are some poorly dubbed trailers flanking CLAMP's juggernaut of a show that made me appreciate the difference immensely, and for that, I thank the producers.

When I was done watching this volume of Hellsing, I wasn't disappointed one bit. Sure, the visuals aren't as eye-popping as before, but this is still a show worth watching. There's quite a bit of violent and potentially offensive religious content, but people buying a show featuring a blood-imbibing creature of the night should expect as much. There's one disc left, and I'm going to buy it - and it's not because I bought the artbox with the first DVD when it came out.