#1 Vampires hunting vampires
Set in modern day England, Hellsing is an action anime centered around the titular Hellsing Organization. They are a secretive order who exist for the sole purpose of protecting Britain and its people from vampires. Despite this sacred mission, Hellsing has a curious secret. Their foremost member is himself a mighty vampire called Alucard.
You see, when it comes to supernatural battles, humans tend not to fair well. Even in this era of machine guns and high-tech gadgets, vampires are overwhelmingly powerful. You need a trump card and what better means to fill that role than employing your very own neckbiter.
Alucard is ancient and powerful, even by vampire standards. Most other vampires that Hellsing has Alucard hunt are pitiful by comparison and he takes great pleasure in ridding the world off them. Until something unfortunate happens. On a routine mission to wipe out another loser vampire, Alucard fatally wounds rookie police officer Seras Victoria. To save her life, Alucard turns her into a vampire like himself. She “lives” but at what cost. With no other place for her to go, Seras joins Hellsing as its newest abomination-in-training.
#2 Badass characters all-around
The moment you first see Alucard, you know what kind of show you are in for. He is tall and wears this long, flowing coat with a massive hat and tinted glasses. He is cocky and intimidating, but maintains a casual, laidback attitude even when pissed off. He is a total badass and deservedly so.
Watching Alucard go about his business in style is certainly a major draw for Hellsing. He is just so cool, it’s fun to watch him do just about anything. At the same time. Alucard sets a role model for Seras to grow into. She is young and overwhelmed by everything happening to her. Even as a police officer, she never actually had to kill anyone. And now here she is, forced to drink blood to stay alive and face off against supernatural monsters. Seeing her slowly take after Alucard makes for a great storyline rich in satisfying payoffs. She’s a badass-in-training.
Even among the humans, there is no shortage of cool characters. The retired super soldier turned butler Walter and Hellsing’s aging commander Fargason certainly come to mind. Nothing compares to the intimidating nature of Hellsing’s director, though; Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing. After all, it takes a special kind of person to command the likes of Alucard around.
#3 Delightfully English
The original story of Dracula was written by Irish author Bram Stoker and prominently featured a Dutch protagonist. The Hellsing anime doesn’t care about either of these influences and is instead set in England. Fucking Brits man. Even in anime they wind up pilfering cultural icons for themselves.
Jokes aside, I did really enjoy the English setting. I have often complained that anime is too scared to venture outside Japan’s borders, so it was enjoyable getting to see London, old-timey castles, and quaint British villages. The story is similarly keen on reminding you of just how British it is. Hellsing is a protestant organization who pray before battle and swear allegiance to the queen every chance they get.
The voice actors play in on this as well. The dub cast is comprised of British actors mixed with Americans putting in a great effort. Take Katharine Gray for example. Born and raised in America yet she puts on a killer performance as Seras Victoria.
#4 Amazing weapons
To kill a vampire, you need more than a stake to the heart or a 9mm to the face. Hellsing‘s vampires are borderline eldritch in nature. They look human merely out of courtesy, but can transform at will and recover from almost any damage. The solution? Don’t leave anything behind for them to recover from.
Seras and Alucard aren’t human, so their weaponry needn’t abide by human limitations. Their armaments and ammo can be ridiculously oversized with a knockback that would shatter bones. The guns actually get a longer introduction than most characters. And boy do they sound frightening. Holy water is out of style, my boys. Nowadays we use sanctified depleted uranium!
These ridiculous weapons get ample opportunity to shine throughout the anime. Whether its battles between superpowered creatures or Seras tearing through entire columns of ghouls with her rifle, the action is incredibly cool.
#5 Ultimate’s shortcomings
Ever since it started airing, I’ve had a grudge against Hellsing Ultimate. One that I am ultimately at the losing end of, because most people nowadays regard it as the definitive adaptation of the series. Nevertheless, I still feel that the 2001 original has advantages over Ultimate that make it worth seeking out.
Most prominent of these are consistency and tone. Ultimate pushes hard to capture the manga’s edgy appeals and ultraviolence, but then also tossed in a lot of comedic relief. The constant shifts in tone resulting from this are jarring; making for a story that I could never fully get into. You got Alucard acting like a total badass and the atmosphere becomes tense, when suddenly you get chibi Seras breaking into the scene for some silly gaffs. And that’s all well before they introduce the over-the-top Nazis to the plot.
The 2001 anime tells a far more focused and serious story. A story that emphasizes mystery and horror, interspersed with intense violence. There are jokes in there, but they feel like natural inclusions. They don’t have to break out into full-on cartoon antics to be entertaining.
Hellsing 2001 also has its own story beats and characters that don’t appear in either Ultimate or the original manga. Many of these characters I enjoyed a lot, some of them more so than what could be argued to be their canon counterparts. The characters that do appear in the manga also show numerous differences both in personality and appearance. I always enjoyed Seras and Alucard way more in the 2001 version, for example. I especially felt it was a shame that they redesigned Seras to be blonde and sillier-looking in Ultimate; the ginger look was so neat.
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