Hellsing Ultimate Volume 03 Review
In the wake of the Valentine Brothers’ attack on Hellsing’s HQ, Integra hires a band of mercenaries called The Wild Geese to bolster the organisation’s military might. Led by the charismatic Pip Bernadotte, the Geese get to grips with working within the realm of the undead and Pip is soon put to task when he is sent to Brazil with Alucard and Ceras to investigate the Catholic’s reports of Millenium activity in the area.
One scene aside, the 2nd episode of Hellsing: Ultimate finished off all the material from the Manga that made it into the original series, so from now on Ultimate becomes something entirely fresh to those unfamiliar with Hirano Kouta’s manga. Somewhat ironically the start of Episode 03 may feel a little familiar to fans of the TV series, as we are re-introduced to the Hellsing organisation through the eyes of The Wild Geese – who have been blissfully unaware of the existence of ghouls and vampires until now. So this sets up a similar scenario to Ceras’s prolongued introduction to Hellsing in the original TV series, which focussed quite heavily on her integration into the armed forces.
The regular soldiers in the original series where very loosely based on The Wild Geese but for some odd reason they completely dropped the leader Pip Bernadotte for a grizzly old veteran captain. Presumably this was so Alucard would remain the sole love interest for Ceras, but whatever the reason it was an extremely short-sighted decision because Pip is a great character and perhaps the most human person in the story. Most of all, lots of great comedic interplay comes from his interaction with Ceras.
There are a number of great characters introduced in this episode, not least of which is Enrico Maxwell, the leader of Vatican Section XIII: Iscariot, the deranged megalomaniac who despises everything Hellsing stands for. His introduction at a strained meeting with Integra in the London Museum is the final scene that made it into both Hellsing: Ultimate and the original series and is also the setting for our introduction to Millenium.
Both series feature this scene, but the difference in adaptation is like night and day, and if you ever needed an example of just how totally superior Hellsing: Ultimate is to the original series then you need look no further than how each approaches the museum exchange between Hellsing and Iscariot. The sequence is directed with so much more verve in Ultimate, and the dialogue in Anderson’s entrance far richer, and the little face off between him and Alucard culminates in a wonderfully timed wacky interruption. Enrico Maxwell also comes across as more three dimensional compared to the snide git in the original series.
After some brief exposition on who Millenium are and what they got up to in World War 2, Episode 03 switches into action mode when Alucard, Pip, and Ceras are sent to Brazil in search of Millenium activity, but find themselves under siege at their hotel by Brazillian Armed forces led by the card-carrying (and I mean that literally) vampire: Tubalcain Alhambra. As ever Hirano Kouta throws a tonne of pop culture references into this sojourn to South America and it’s a lot of fun trying to spot them all: X-Men, Star Wars, Leon, Gundam, and more. Kouta also has a great talent for designing pure unadulterated carnage, and more blood is spilled in this episode than perhaps the entire original series. Alucard’s vicious vivisection of the enemy almost has a lyricism of its own, and director Tomokazu Tokoro embraces the carnage whole-heartedly, keeping the siege as close to Kouta’s drawings as possible whilst ensuring the action is excitingly stylised. The fight with Tubalcain is a tiny bit more balanced than Alucard’s destruction of Luke Valentine and features some great visual flourishes and a brutal finale that should put a big wide grin on your face.
Of course, this being Hellsing there are also some interesting dynamics between the characters established amidst the chaos. Alucard facing human opponents and revelling in the anarchy of battle gives further insight into his motivation for working for Hellsing. His gloating test of Integra’s resolve sheds light on their relationship and the lengths Hellsing will go to protect Britain. On the antagonists side we see The General’s immense admiration of Alucard that borders on idolisation, which hints at their ultimate goal. There’s also some slightly more real-world context to the horror in Brazil with the media and general populace peering in on the fray. All of this adds up to create an extremely entertaining 50 minutes!
PresentationHellsing: Ultimate Volume 03 is presented to the same standard as the first volume, so I will repeat my comments on the audio and transfer of that volume here:
Hellsing: Ultimate is presented Anamorphically at 1.79:1 and has been given an attractive transfer that is bogged down a little by the usual NTSC>PAL foibles (ie: poorly compressed interlaced frames). Those foibles aside for a moment though, I have to say the contrast and brightness levels are excellent, the image is bright without blooming and the blacks of deep without affecting shadow detail. The colour scheme is similarly very strong, with bright attractive colours that do not bleed. There is some chroma noise in the image, as well as low-level noise, which is probably down to the OVA’s earthy colour tone, and there’s also some minute mosquito noise that probably won’t be spotted unless you do a frame-by-frame analysis. Nevertheless for a 52minute episode you’d think there’d be pretty much no compression issues at all.
Image detail is strong thanks to the thick lines and high production values, and the print is in excellent condition, with only one or two nicks or scratches here and there. There’s a fine layer of grain present, which is rendered well enough, and there’s also some very slight Edge Enhancements. The only real problem I had with this transfer beyond the automatic standard conversion woes is that there’s quite a bit of digital banding throughout the OVA. It’s a very nice transfer – certainly better than pretty much any TV show. It’s just not a fantastic one, and I kind of expected something closer to fantastic given this series was produced for DVD.
In the audio section we have a choice of two soundtracks: Japanese DD5.1 and English DD5.1. Both tracks are excellent, the Japanese DD5.1 has deep, resounding, and tight bass, augmented by a clear, vibrant soundstage across both front and rear channels. The audio dynamics are excellent, breathing life into the brand new score and bringing clarity and punch to the action sequences. The dialogue is also crisp and clear throughout. The English DD5.1 track is pretty much an exact match for the Japanese DD5.1. The Hellsing: Ultimate English dub is handled by the people who did the dub for the original TV series. They did a good job then and do a good job now. Most of the actors suit their roles well and the idea of watching Hellsing with a proper English context is not an unattractive one.
Optional English subtitles are included, with no spelling or grammatical errors that I can recall.
ExtrasThere’s a small but worthwhile selection of extras here, I’ll just give you a brief rundown:
Commentary with Taliesin Jaffe (English Voice Director), Victoria Harwood (Integra Hellsing), and J.B. Blanc (Enrico Maxwell): This is quite an enjoyable commentary, it’s mostly just the three chatting about their work on the show and who did the voice of who, but they clearly have some history and a warm friendship with each other so the banter has a more playful, comfortable edge, and the humour is free-flowing. As ever Taliesin makes sure we get plenty of insight into the technical challenges of adapting Hellsing: ultimate into English, and reveals a litte more information on his meet with Hirano Kouta before starting the project.
Interview with Taliesin Jaffe (English Voice Director), Victoria Harwood (Integra Hellsing), and J.B. Blanc (Enrico Maxwell): A good interview with Taliesin leading the topics, and unlike the interviews on previous volumes this one doesn’t retread that much of the discussion from the commentary. Victoria and J.B discuss at length their theatrical background and how it differs from anime. They also discuss anime fandom and the differences between Japanese and English voice acting.
Anime Expo 2007 Cast Panel: A fairly long feature at 42minutes, the cast panel comptrises of Josh Klein, Josh Phillips, Patrick Seitz, Crispin Freeman, Ralph Lister, and Taliesin Jaffe. It starts off as a general disorganised chat where the crowd just seem to want Josh Philips to swear repeatedly, but after 10minutes it settles into an audience led Q+A session which is much more informative and gets the feature back on track.
Anime Expo 2007 Geneon Booth Featuring Hellsing Mansion: Brief footage of Geneon’s booth at the 2007 Anime Expo which shows various cast members conducting autograph signing sessions. There’s no dialogue here, just rock music playing over the footage.
The rest of the extra features are self explanatory: A Production Gallery, and the Non Credit Opening III, which is definitely worth checking out as it contains lots of imagery based on Hellsing: The Dawn.