It’s impossible these days to discuss anything related to vampires without bringing up or even thinking about their portrayal in recent teen-oriented works like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries…
So to hell with them. Here’s some honest-to-God kickass vampirism, courtesy of the original Hellsing anime series.
The Story: Vampires Vs. Vampires, Semi-Good Vs. Pure Evil
Our story takes place in modern-day England, in which Sir Integra Hellsing leads an organization devoted to hunting and eliminating vampires and their ghouls wherever they may be found. Their star agent, ironically, is perhaps the most powerful vampire who ever lived: Alucard. His only restraints are the orders of his mistress, Sir Integra, and his own dark whimsy.
On an operation against a vampire priest, Alucard comes across a mortally wounded policewoman named Seras Victoria. He offers her the chance to live on a true vampire, which she accepts. With Seras as our protagonist, we see more of the Hellsing Organization’s secret war on vampires and witness a true war break out between two “true” vampires, the dauntless Alucard and an enigmatic African-born vampire known only as Incognito.
The Cast: Badass Mortals And True Vampires, Accept No Substitutes
Alucard is basically Dracula in the twenty-first century, using guns instead of swords and pikes, and fully cognizant of the true power of vampires as opposed to what mainstream society thinks it to be (and believe me, seeing his true form is not sparkly in any sense of the word). Counterbalancing him is Seras, who in spite of her transformation into a vampire has retained her optimism and her determination to be humane, even while acting on her police-based instincts.
Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing is a cold and aristocratic woman in command of the Hellsing Organization, by virtue of being a descendant of Sir Abraham Van Hellsing, who originally captured Alucard. She hardly if ever smiles and is determined against all odds to protect her men and wipe out every last vampire for the good of England. Her relationship with Alucard is interesting, to say the least. Not romantic, but a kind of mutual understanding; she knows how much of a monster he is, and he respects her for being human at its best and brightest.
Besides the many variations of vampires they face throughout the series, the Hellsing Organization also has rivals in the vampire-hunting business: a secret department of the Catholic Church known as Section XIII or the Iscariot Organization. Its two most notable members are obvious mirrors to Sir Integra and Alucard: the smug and shrewd Enrico Maxwell and the bloodthirsty, Bible-quoting Alexander Anderson, whose fights and “banter” with Alucard are some of the most gripping and enjoyable scenes. I know the Iscariots are meant to be antagonists to the Hellsing crew, but honestly, as a Catholic, I can’t help but feel a little proud when I see cross-laden priests armed with swords rushing against vampires and ghoul slaves shouting prayers and quoting Scripture (after all, ours is the religion that made the whole Exorcist franchise possible).
The Style: The Allure Of The Night, The Stain Of Blood
To say this series is bloody would be an understatement. This series drowns in blood. It thrives in blood and mayhem. Heads will be crushed under bootheels. Bullets will rip apart bodies in exquisite detail and images of screaming faces will be burned into your brain.
But don’t get the idea that I find any of this to be a bad thing. The show does not apologize for what it is. Vampires are vicious, war is hell, and innocent people still get traumatized and mutilated in spite of their innocence and the efforts of our heroes. And Alucard just dashes through it with a good amount of flair, as evidenced by the hep opening theme below:
Final Verdict: Soaked In Blood, Dark As The Night… And Delicious
Overall, I liked the series when I started watching it. It made me giddy with seeing vampires that were truly monstrous yet capable of heroism under the right circumstances. I loved the dark atmosphere of the story and the great British voice acting. But when it came to the final arc and the villain Incognito, I felt the tiniest bit underwhelmed. His personality seemed a little flat and I knew his defeat was inevitable in spite of everything being ramped up. But besides that, I loved the show for introducing me to Alucard and Seras and Integra, which only made me really want to see the better-animated OVA series known as Hellsing Ultimate.
But that’s for another review…
…Also, it may be early, but Happy Halloween, everyone!
Bibliography: Hellsing (anime). Directed by Umanosuke Iida. Written by Chiaki J. Konaka. Gonzo, Funimation Entertainment. October 10, 2001 – January 16, 2002.