Hellsing Vol. 3
Dark Horse currently has its hands on two of the most shocking, potentially offensive manga titles I can think of off the top of my head - Berserk and Hellsing.
And I love them both.
Now that we're in the third volume of a manga series that most of us know of because of its anime counterpart, Hellsing starts to diverge from the story we expect.
The anime incarnation was created in a rather early part of the manga's run, thus the producers of that version were forced to end the story before really finding out Kohta's plan for his characters and plot.
This task was made even more challenging thanks to the likely possibility that even the manga-ka himself didn't really know where he was taking the story.
Personally, I enjoyed the anime version of the show, though I have to admit, three books into the manga I already find myself enjoying this story more than the one presented in the anime.
The striking visual style fans expect from seeing the animated version is even more raw, more intense on the page than on the screen. Hirano Kohta has a knack for depicting characters on the borderline between sanity, excitement, and madness. Alucard in particular sports an exceedingly interesting design, switching from wide-eyed intensity to radiating the calm of the dead in a disturbing, thrilling manner.
It bothers me when people dismiss all manga as being gratuitously violent or sexual in nature, but Hellsing is a series that is definitely not for children. Not merely for the violent content Kohta relishes flaunting, but for the story content, as well.
I don't enjoy violence for the sake of violence, but in Hellsing, I was so into the story I didn't notice the splatters of blood threatening to jump off the page and onto my face. Yet this is without doubt a very, very violent series. It doesn't bother me at all, though more sensitive readers might want to read something more delicate.
What's even more appealing about this particular manga is the possibility that there is actually some substance to the storyline.
Don't mistake me - I loved the anime version of Hellsing, but it honestly did boast more style than substance. In this telling of the tale, there's far more to the plot than meets the eye, and it's already attained a level of complexity not seen in the anime.
If this is how good things have gotten by the third book, I can't wait for the next few.
Dark Horse, in association with Digital Manga Publishing, is presenting this in what appears to be its new standard format. The book reads from right to left, and the sound effects have been left unaltered. In a title like this, it's nice to see the gritty, energetic writing of the original creator shine through in all his disturbed glory.
In addition to a short message from Kohta, the third installment of Cross Fire is presented at the end of the book. Cross Fire is a feisty story, also created by Hirano Kohta, that served as his inspiration for Hellsing.
The short side-story stars two assassins in the employ of the Vatican. The lovely ladies on the side of the light take on jobs too dirty for the Church to officially get involved with, such as the quick removal of false prophets and various other heretics. Potentially insulting to probably any especially religious person, I found it to be an amusing, over the top parody of reality that Kohta apparently has such a knack for.
Hellsing is a heck of a wild ride - gritty, exciting, with just a touch of healthy insanity - and one experience the mature manga reader shouldn't go long without. It's different, unsettling, and in the end, unforgettable, and although it may not have the rousing soundtrack of its animated domestic predecessor, it more than makes up for it with a solid and interesting plot.