The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 27 – Hellsing

Hellsing

As it’s Halloween this week, it seems only right to cover a horror anime. Anime has a bit of a reputation for being violent and with blood by the bucket-load, this series does nothing to change that impression. It’s like a combination of every horror B-Movie you can think of, especially seeing as it features both vampires and Nazis.

Hellsing began as a manga which was written between 1997 and 2009, and has been the subject of two anime adaptations. The first was broadcast between 2001-02, but obviously the story was not completed then. A second adaptation, a 10-part Original Video Anime (OVA) called Hellsing Ultimate has since adapted the entire story faithfully, between 2006-12. One particular area of interest to readers here is that Hellsing is one of those few anime series that is mainly set in the UK.

The story follows the exploits of an organisation called the Holy Order of Protestant Knights, aka the Hellsing Organisation, a group devoted to eliminating the undead that threaten Britain. It is led by cigar-chomping Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, who despite the title is actually a woman. She is protected by her butler Walter C. Dornez, and the central character of the story: Alucard, the original and most powerful vampire in the world.

After being defeated by Integra’s ancestor, the original Van Helsing, Alucard has sworn loyalty to the group and is dedicated to eliminating any vampire or other member of the undead that is a possible threat. In the opening section, the group manages to recruit another member, a policewoman called Seras Victoria whom is nearly killed but is saved by Alucard by being turned into a vampire herself. She therefore has to get used to becoming a vampire, having to follow Alucard’s instructions.

As the story progresses, the Hellsing Organisation encounters more cases of the undead rising. This at first results in conflict with their Catholic rivals Iscariot when both try to deal with an incident in Northern Ireland. But later Hellsing Organisation discover an even bigger threat: the remains of a group of Nazis called “Millennium”, headed by a warmongering figure simply known as “The Major” who plans to use a vampire army to destroy Alucard, resulting in a three-way battle between all the groups.

In terms of the main attraction, it is the action. To be more exact, it is just the sheer amount of violence. It is something of a test of endurance to see how much blood and guts you can withstand. It can be a bit overpowering at times.

The characters themselves are engrossing too. All of the members of the Hellsing Organisation have their own merits. Alucard himself is pretty terrifying,and seemingly indestructible. But the other groups have with own interesting characters. In Iscariot there is a priest called Father Alexander Anderson who fights using bayonets – normally calm, but fearsome when fighting. However, The Major is also very scary, not in terms of the violence he causes, but because of his beliefs, and not just the obvious beliefs you expect with Nazis. Possibly one of the most dramatic moments in all of anime is what has become known as the “War Speech”, in which The Major addresses his vampire troops before battle, stating his love of war in all its horrible, disgusting, violent ways, and why he loves it above anything else.

Hellsing seems to combine the best of all the horror elements. There is the gory, violent aspect. Then there are the supernatural elements. Then you have the psychological aspects. All of these elements work together to one of the most popular horror anime around.

The original Hellsing series has been released by Manga Entertainment on DVD. The first eight of the ten Hellsing Ultimate episodes are out on DVD and Blu-Ray from Manga Entertainment.

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