Hellsing & Hellsing Ultimate Respect/Comparison – Vol. 1

Hellsing. You know it, and if you’re anything like me, you love it. And if you don’t, then stick around. I promise you will at the end of these blogs. Mwuhahahaha… ahem.

Anyway, the point of these blogs (besides being an extended nostalgia trip for yours truly anyway) is to catalog Hellsing’s noteworthy feats as well as compare and contrast the original manga with the excellent Hellsing Ultimate OVAs, which I heavily recommend you buy (on bluray, if possible). Hopefully at the end the long-time Hellsing fans like me will walk away with a renewed appreciation for the series and new fans will come out wanting to watch it/read it for themselves.

With that said, let’s begin with episode 1/volume 1. I’ll attempt to keep my summation of each episode to a minimum so we can focus on the feats and the analysis. Oh, and since I can’t exactly post a ton of scenes from the OVAs here even if I had access to such conveniently snipped clips, most of the visuals will be either stills or panels from the original manga. Just a heads up for anyone expecting me to post the whole episode or something like that (seriously, go out and buy it yourselves).

VS.


Jumping right into the thick of things, one of the most noticeable differences from the manga is the art style. Watching the Hellsing OVAs first you can really tell just how much Hirano’s style has evolved over the years. Characters are more well-defined and less-stringy, their features look less haphazard and oddly-proportioned in relation to their faces in a very stereotypically anime-esque fashion (Seras in particular is very guilty of this in the early volumes of the Hellsing manga), Alucard’s hair doesn’t look like he’s gone without a shower for five months (even though he probably has unless you count showers of blood), and the art and character design is overall much crisper and feels more practiced. Part of this is surely due to MADHOUSE’s superb animation, but you can really tell the difference between how Hirano drew his characters in the beginning of the Hellsing manga and how he drew them when the OVAs first started being made. Unfortunately this also means that the early design for Integra, which was far less ambiguous about her femininity (see TeamFourStar for more jokes about that) is gone.

Speaking of Integra, some brief establishing info on vampires and ghouls from Hellsing’s director herself:

Integra (manga): Vampires can only breed more vampires by drinking the blood of a virgin of the opposite sex. Others are simply food and end up becoming ghouls. Nothing more than the vampire’s servants. If you kill the head vampire, you kill them all. And Hellsing will do the honors.

So far we have established a combo duo of mindfuck and soulfuck abilities for even fodder vampires which allows them to mentally control hordes of undead ghouls (at least a few dozen, possibly many times that considering the entire town of Cheddar had been turned by that point). Additionally, should the head vampire die, the souls they’ve collected as familiars will be released from undeath (more details on “blood as the currency of the soul” will appear the further down the line we go).

Another interesting thing is that the Hellsing OVAs choose to omit the brief backstory of Seras’ hometown Cheddar (yes seriously), and how it succumbed to the vampire priest and his army of ghouls, instead choosing to replace it with Integra’s backstory about how her uncle tried to kill her after her father passed away and named her heir instead of him, and how she met Alucard, which has been drastically shortened as well, and also doesn’t happen in the manga until chapter 2.
Spoilers: it doesn't end well for her uncle

Spoilers: it doesn’t end well for her uncle.

This unfortunately means we miss out on our first good look of what the vast majority of combat in Hellsing is like – messy and utterly one-sided. This is the first time we get to see how easily a vampire can take humans apart with just their bare hands, not to mention their incredibly casual bullet-timing. To wit, a weakened and still very nearly dead Alucard was able to catch a handful of bullets from a 9mm handgun just as they left the barrel, easily a hypersonic feat.

Unfortunately they cut that part out too and split the flashback in half, and we quickly move on to the meat of the plot involving Seras and the vampire infestation. My best guess is? This early-episode compression was done to save time, and to make the story flow more smoothly without interrupting flashbacks in the middle of the action. In order to create a mostly one-to-one recreation of each volume of the Hellsing manga, certain extraneous details had to be cut, and the fate of Cheddar is by far some of the most extraneous. MADHOUSE probably figured the audience would be smart enough to piece together how a vampire flying under the radar would be able to convert the population of a sleepy English village into slavering flesh-junkies and wisely chose to omit showing it, leaving us with more room for stuff that’s a lot more kickass, like Alucard Matrix-ing the shit out of an entire horde of ghouls in slow-mo.

The sound direction in Hellsing really stands out here as well with the funky battle theme, Crispin Freeman’s voice as deep and as rich as a pan full of bread pudding, and the noises the .454 Casull makes when Alucard fires it. The sound is crisp, complements the visual design of the gun firing superbly, and is above all memorable? Hear that? That deep, sharp bang? That’s the sweet, succulent sound of a gun the size of your forearm firing 13mm explosive rounds tipped with silver melted from a Lanchester cathedral cross. Wait…

Alucard (manga): 13mm explosive steel rounds, alloyed with silver melted from a Lanchester cathedral cross.

Alucard (anime): The silver cross of Manchester cathedral was melted down to make these 13mm exploding shells.

… RUINED FOREVER.

This also where we get to see what is by far Alucard’s most defining character trait and power: his ridiculous damage soak. He can get shot literally to pieces by an army of gun-toting undead, to the point where his lower half isn’t even connected to his spine anymore and his organs are scattered across half a square mile, and then just laugh that shit off, regenerate in seconds, and then shoot you in the face. And he’ll do it on purpose. Alucard just does not give a fuck.

Anyway, things wrap up with Alucard shooting the vampire priest through Seras and turning her into a vampire, leading to a rather bizarre Python-esque dream sequence and boob joke that I honestly don’t quite understand. Sure it’s a bit of a comedic moment to break things up but so was Seras’ first night of training in the Hellsing manga, and that actually made sense. Not only is the dream sequence very tone-breaking compared to the terror and trauma that she should by all rights be reliving instead of this watered down comedic version of the night’s events but it keeps reappearing throughout the series in different forms, and the boob joke is also considerably out of place since this is the only time Alucard displays anything resembling sexual interest in Seras, who in the manga is more like a servant/student/protege to him (though to be fair, if anyone has cleavage worth ogling it’s Seras Victoria).

In my opinion, this honestly could’ve been cut to spend more time on Integra’s flashback, which was rather short compared to the entire chapter it occupied in the Hellsing manga.

Heheh. I saw your boobies.

Oh, and speaking of needlessly sexual stuff? Lesbians.

Lots of lesbians

TOTALLY NECESSARY.

Anyway, instead of showing us Seras’ training which gives us this neat little tidbit regarding a vampire’s third eye:

Alucard (manga): No. Stop using normal aiming. Forget all the habits you learned as a human. Shoot like you have another eye in your forehead. If you shoot the same way humans do, you’ll only miss like they do.

Seras (manga): I don’t see the target.

Alucard (manga): I do. One kilometer ahead. *hits a bullseye with a handgun from 1km away*

We skip ahead to Seras’ first assignment: tracking down and killing a duo of spree-killing newborns (newborn vampires that is, not babies because that’d be weird).

Alucard accurately shoots one of the vampires through the door, then breaks it down with some kind of weird telekinesis or red energy projection he didn’t have in the Hellsing manga (he just opened the freaking door like a normal person).

Also, another oft-forgotten power Alucard and other natural vampires have:

Alucard, speaking to a lesser vampire: No nobility, conviction, or rationale. You can’t transform into mist or bats. You can’t even recover from the wounds you take.

Transformation and Logia intangibility. A tool of the trade sadly forgotten in most versus debates regarding Hellsing, even by fans like myself (I have in fact been guilty of this before).

After filling the male vampire with more bullets than 50 Cent, Seras is ordered to take out the remaining vampire, who is fleeing at more than 100 m/s on foot:

Alucard (anime): What are you waiting for?

Seras (anime): Sir, she’s already 500… no, 600 meters away!

Alucard (anime): Imagine a third eye in your forehead. Aim from there. If you shoot like a human, you’re going to miss like a human.

Seras (anime): But sir-

Alucard (anime): Aim right for her heart. Don’t worry. You’ll put the bullet right through her.

Seras (anime): But it’s so dark, and I don’t have a scope.

Alucard (anime): That’s a human complaint. Now it’s time to make the shot like a proper vampire!

Nice little bit of adaptation distillation with the dialogue there, combining this scene with the training one from the Hellsing manga. Also, for a vampire’s third eye we have enhanced long range vision, night vision, seeing through solid objects like doors and trees, and implied limited precognition (the only explanation for how she made that shot against such a fast moving target, or how Alucard could have predicted the trajectory of a bullet fired from a handgun at a target over a kilometer away).

It’s also established that Seras and Alucard share some sort of telepathic connection but for some reason this rarely if ever shows up again after this episode/volume, kinda like any kind of alcohol you give to a Scotsman.

Speaking of Scotsmen:

Eef anaywhan duzz nawt lawv tha lawd, Jeezus Crayst, let them be awkcoorzed o lawd cum, aymen!

The only thing missing from this Hellsing dub is glorious Emperor Wakamoto. Cut back to Seras and Alucard, we’re reminded once again of just how much sound can add to a scene. The way the sound becomes muted as Seras succumbs to her blood rage is a nice effect, and the gunshot sounds from the massive Harkonnen cannon are suitably deep. Curiously the Hellsing OVAs omit the second instance of telepathic communication between Alucard and Seras in this volume/episode, as well as a brief shot of Alucard taking a break by drinking from a packet of medical blood, which is honestly endearing in its corniness but was probably best left out.

… Asshole interrupted my coffee break…

More casual bullet-timing from Seras where she dodges bullets inches from her head:

Then she stomps on its head so hard it pops like a water balloon full of raspberry jam, a feat requiring more than 6.5 GPA of force (high Class KJ striking strength at least, probably Class MJ):


Then Anderson shows up and we get a nice couple of examples of regeneration from our big three on the Church’s side.

Seras survives and regenerates from being impaled in the neck and more than half a dozen other spots (Low-Mid):

… Ow.

Anderson survives being shot in the head (Low-Mid):

NANOMACHINES, SON.

Alucard survives decapitation and being stabbed over a dozen times in the chest (Mid):

Fuck you that’s how.

We also get some anti-undead holy bayonets and barriers from Anderson, and some weird kinda psuedo-teleportation where he disappears into a cloud of Bible pages and flies out the window:

Bible Man awayyyyy!

The first of many fights between Alucard and Anderson is also handled very well in the Hellsing OVAs. Besides me banging on about sound direction and stuff like how the use of silence in the background to build tension works really well or the kickass battle music which sounds vaguely like an alarm going off, they also add in a really neat visual effect where the force from Anderson throwing his bayonets breaks all the glass windows in the hallway and Alucard has to shoot them all out of the air while the glass falls to the ground in slow motion. It’s the little touches and refinements like this that really add to the fight scenes in the OVAs.

One last thing I noticed before bringing this episode to a close is that the OVAs seem to be made with the assumption that viewers are already aware of some future twists, like the existence of Millennium and other subversive elements in the Hellsing universe, whereas this foreshadowing was absent in the manga (although I hesitate to call a direct appearance by the Major himself foreshadowing). Makes one wonder if Hirano had decided on the whole “Nazi vampire” angle at that point in time, eh?

I’m a spoiler, mein Fräulein~

And that’s the first episode/volume of Hellsing! Now, I’ve gotta be honest here. The first Hellsing OVA is pretty rushed and generally a feels a bit sloppy. It’s easily the weakest of the series. However I find that apropos as the manga is the exact same way, perhaps to a far greater degree. The art, characters and story don’t really finish developing for either until around the Dandyman arc, which is when the story really finds its teeth (although I admit I have a soft spot for the Valentine Invasion just because of Jean’s antics and Alucard’s first major transformation, which we’ll see in my next blog!)

All in all, I very much enjoy the Hellsing OVAs, even the first one. Because after so many manga series that start out strong and only start to seriously suck after you get into the meat of things, it’s nice to see a story that remembers that if you’re going to experiment and try to find a gimmick or an identity, do it as early as possible so the middle and the end of the story are as strong as possible, which is what Hellsing does. The more you suck at first, the more opportunities you have to shine later. There’s a joke about sleeping with your boss in there somewhere, but you’ll be happy to hear I’m not going to acknowledge it.

Until next time, everybody!

Click here for Hellsing Ultimate Volume 1 in Blu-Ray.
Click here for Hellsing manga Volume 1.