Alright, look. I seriously give up. I relinquish my official anime fan card. It’s taken me two volumes to work out exactly what it is about Hellsing Ultimate that makes it, well, ultimate. I kept waiting for it to be… different, more, but I’m starting to suspect I might be waiting a very, very long time, because the only thing that seems to be ultimate is the ‘ultimate violence’ maybe — there’s a hell of a lot of blood and body parts being splashed around. It might even stand for ‘ultimate language’, because there’s stuff in there you definitely wouldn’t want said around your mother. But the rest of it — and this is where my brain trips up like it’s stuck in the groove on a record — is exactly the same as the original non-ultimate Hellsing series.
Why? I just don’t get it, and that’s why I think maybe I’m not as legitimate an anime fan as I thought I was. Sure, OAVs tend to exist in a little clique all of their own, and sure, blood and guts and glory is great, but there was nothing wrong with the non-ultimate Hellsing TV series. Was there?
Admittedly, in this OAV re-incarnation, Seres is a little funnier, Alucard a little creepier, the butler is a little crazier and the animation all round is a lot shinier. But fundamentally (two volumes in, at least) the plot is the same — Freaks (zombie types made from a vampire’s bite) are appearing all over old London town and the Hellsing Organisation, led by the manly Sir Integral Wingates Hellsing, is bound to do everything in its considerable power to stop the infestation. Before they can organise more than a Board meeting however, the mysterious enemy is knocking at the Hellsing Estate gates, with a bus-full of Freak tourists packing riot squad gear led by a couple of elite characters. Cue bloodbath.
And cue also some pretty mean action as Alucard goes to town on the upstart talent who thinks he knows what it is to fight like a super creature. Okay, so by the end of round one the upstart has no legs, but poor Alucard. It’s lonely at the top of the food chain and all he really wants is for someone to appreciate his special gifts.
I expect, if the original series plot and Ultimate’s unwillingness to deviate from it is any indication, Alucard might just get his wish. Me, I just wish that I’d never gotten excited about this title, or that I’d at least done a little research, because I actually was under mistaken impression it was going to be different. Fine, you can wax lyrical all you want about how the animation has changed, how it’s more violent and less family-friendly (like the first one was?), but to me the point of making Hellsing Ultimate when there was already Hellsing, should have been to tell a different story, not resurrect one that already lived. How cool would a prequel have been? Or an Alucard Early Years? And come on, Victoria Seres’ cup size or the length and calibre of her gun is all well and good, but a younger, crazier Alucard – or even a younger, lethal-er Walter – would have been awesome and you damn well know it.
Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have never seen the TV series before, the super-charged OAV version isn’t anything you’ll regret spending your time on. In the case of people who have seen the TV series though, what kind of sucker wants to watch two versions of the exact same story? Alright, maybe I can have my anime fan card back again, because possibly I’m the exactly the kind of sucker. For all my whining that I’m seeing double, I really have to say, it doesn’t matter how Alucard is drawn and how much red stuff is or isn’t splashed around depending on broadcast time-slots and television ratings, Hellsing Normal was cool the first time round; Hellsing Ultimate is well, ultimately, just as cool.