There’s something kind of surreal about realizing that after all this time, we’re only now getting the final chapter to the animated version of Hellsing.
But oh, was it worth the wait.
Fourteen years after it began, the long and rocky road of Hellsing‘s trip to the US comes to a close with this final release, overseen by Funimation. Despite changing companies along the way thanks to Geneon’s death, much of the core cast and crew have remained the same- a connection that really does further add to the sense of finality on this release.
A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment
Storywise, this picks up right where episode VIII left off: the battle for London is still in full swing, and Archbishop Maxwell’s power play has backfired on him in spectacularly bloody fashion. Desperate to finally beat Alucard, Paladin Anderson has taken the relic known as the Nail of Helena, elevating himself to a full blown monster.
…without giving too much away, what follows can be best summed up with the phrase ‘Shit just got real.’
There’s only so much I can bring myself to say about the story at this point without giving anything away. If you’ve been watching everything up to this point, you know exactly why this is: since episode V, this series has been in full blown battle mode with no stops. These two episodes continue that right to the last. Hellsing is a series that really does well on the action front. Yeah, it’s often over the top and insane, but if you’ve made it this far, you’re presumably okay with that.
If anything, I would question the sanity of someone who got this far and is still expecting real world logic- that fled the building screaming in the first episode when Rule of Cool kicked down the door and announced itself with a boombox playing Mastodon’s greatest hits and a roaring Randy Savage voice. Okay, maybe that’s a bit much – but really, it’s a show with ultra powerful vampires, regenerating Papal swordsmen, and an undead Nazi army that wishes to declare war on the main character – this thing’s default level was ‘Over the Top’ and with the second half, that then crept to ‘This One Goes to Eleven.’
About the most I feel comfortable divulging here is, yes, you get more of a sense of what prompted Walter’s actions, you finally learn the full extent of The Major’s machinations and madness, and surprisingly, you learn quite a bit more about Alucard – both his past and his mindset. In terms of closure, this does a great job of seeing to all the loose ends.
About the only real drawback is one that, to their credit, was already in the original source material anyway – that sense that the final battle could probably stand to be shorter. It’s a blast to watch, but it just keeps going. After a while, I didn’t even mind the length of the epilogue, just because it was a nice change of pace. And after how overall grim much of the second half of the show gets, it’s a welcome return to the more humorous side of the series.
In terms of technicals, it’s on par with the earlier installments. Having done a marathon watch before I got these discs, I will say the CG has come a long way from the earlier episodes and for the better, and in general, they continue to do a great job taking Hirano’s art and giving it motion. Likewise, the music is still well suited for the series. To that end, points for bringing back the first episode’s end song, Gradus Vita, for the final episode’s credits. It’s a nice bit of bookending.
Next we come to the dub. Hellsing is considered by many people to be one of those shows where the dub cast can be said to outperform their Japanese counterparts. As much as I love the Japanese cast (especially as a Gundam fan, because they’re a veritable who’s who in that regard), I have to agree on the strength of the dub cast. A big part of what helps them, and this is something the extras have confirmed, is just how comfortably everyone has settled into their roles by now.
Like I said before, these people have been working with the world and characters of Hellsing for the better part of fourteen years now, more than enough time to really get under the skin of these characters and allow them to really sound lived in. This pays off in a big way, as everyone’s in top form for the finale. Besides Crispin Freeman’s much praised work as Alucard, I think the other bit of casting I have to really hand it to here is Gildart Jackson as Millennium’s leader, the diminutive Major. Jackson does a phenomenal job making a character equal parts entertaining and monstrous with a role that is so unabashedly evil and happy with what he does that it leaves the actor free to completely let loose in the role. Even if you want to stick with the subs, he’s at least worth checking out parts of the dub.
While I’m praising the dubbing team to high heavens, I have to commend their work on the extras as well. They aren’t really anything particularly earth-shattering, but then, I’ve always been somewhat mixed on anime extras to begin with (best I’ve encountered so far was probably Geneon’s old release of Akira that did a great job bringing over some of the old Japanese promotional material for the movie). Often, the language barrier is such that it limits just how much US distributors can get access to/bring over.
In this case, it means it’s pretty much all on the dub cast and crew. That’s actually a good thing. Over the course of three commentaries and an interview (Farewell to an Epic), they all recount, to various degrees, their involvement in the series and just how much this has meant to them. Even though they were mainly on the translating end, you get a sense of just how much of themselves they put into this -one particularly amusing story being regarding the Alucard/Arucard discrepancy they had to deal with care of the Japanese end of distribution.
In a lot of ways, these extras have just as much of a feeling of finality and closure as the final episodes of the series do. After fourteen years, they’re all saying their goodbyes to a show that, as they often joke, has taken up a good chunk of their lives. It’s the kind of thing that ordinarily I could take or leave, but in this case, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t won over by just how personal this whole experience was.
On a less personal note, there is one other extra on there worth noting – a short clip reel called R.I.P. In Memoriam. It plays out like a graphically violent version of the Oscars death toll, going through each of the characters and showing their often brutal demises. In true Hellsing fashion, this 10 minute reel is kicked off with Jan Valentine’s cuss-riddled last words and takes things all the way up to the final episode’s spoiler-tastic death toll. All in all, not a lot of extras, but they at least put in an effort on what’s there.
It’s really tough trying to sell just the last episodes of this series. If you’ve already taken the journey this far, there’s really no reason not to see it to the end. But for what it’s worth, even with the somewhat protracted final battle, this is still a very rewarding end to the journey, rather than feeling like an obligation. Doubly so if you’ve been following the commentaries to this point, in which case this will be closing two books for you.
So get comfortable and buckle in for the final blood-soaked chapter of Kouta Hirano’s vampire saga. They take a long way getting there, but think of it as taking the scenic route. Either way, it’s a well-earned sendoff.
Did not expect the extras on this to tip the scales as much as they did. Well, that’s what happens when the team’s been at it this long.
I’ll be back to the usual writeups soon.
-Sends Hellsing off in high, bloody style
-Extras good mix of entertaining and more informative than I expected
-Final battle, while visually impressive, really could have been tightened up
-While the commentaries are enjoyable, they’re really just about all the extras have to offer