Opening a discussion about anime can feel a little risky. That’s not to say that every interaction is unpleasant: I find a lot of the time that one can have a reasonable conversation on the subject. It’s just the times where someone has an irrationally toxic reaction that put me off the subject. It’s a bit difficult to have a chat with someone who wants you to slot into their viewpoint and nothing else. As it happens, I have enjoyed some anime. An old school friend of mine introduced me to anime by getting me to watch Ichigo Mashimaro (Strawberry Marshmallow in English.) It was fun, silly and a joy to watch. I ended up then getting into Kashimasi: Girl Meets Girl and Hellsing not long after but one anime series managed to grasp my imagination and my heart: Hellsing Ultimate. An OVA version of the Hellsing manga, Hellsing Ultimate follows the British Hellsing Organisation who protect Queen and country from supernatural threat. They face not only antagonism from the Catholic church’s Iscariot organisation but a Nazi menace that could plunge the world into total chaos.
Hellsing Ultimate is rich with mythology that is both consistent and fascinating. The mythology is inspired by novel Dracula, the legend surrounding Vlad the Impaler, hermetic alchemy, the greek God Hermes and modern day vampire stories to name just a few influences. One of the central characters is Alucard (voiced by Jouji Nakata & Crispin Freeman). He is an all powerful vampire whose very clearly a depiction of Dracula if he had ended up ceding control and his power somewhat to the Hellsing Organisation. Along with the mythology comes exploration into philosophical ideas such as what it means to be human, free will vs fate and the complexities of monsters. All of this works in tandem to bring a layered, intricate narrative that allows for an enthralling experience for audiences.
There’s no use in sugar coating it: Hellsing Ultimate is exceptionally gory, bloody and graphic. The second half of the series is exceptionally graphic with some admittedly very horrifying moments that include necrophillia, rape and exceptionally brutal murders. These are very confronting topics that can be exceptionally difficult to view even in an animated series. Episode 7 in particular is full of tough imagery to digest. A lot of lesser series would treat some of the more serious topics with disregard, as a butt of a joke or glamorised the gore. The gore and blood is very over the top but it isn’t seen as glorious. They’re treated as they are: horrifying, traumatising and unjustifiable.
This somewhat brings me to a character arc that is one of the best ever seen on television: the journey of Seras Victoria (voiced by Fumiko Orikasa & K.T. Gray). She starts the series as a Police officer who ends up becoming a vampire after being caught up in the crossfire of a fight between Alucard and a vampire adversary. She struggles with her loss of her human life, her emerging vampire identity and the world she’s been thrust into without warning along with her traumatic childhood. Her journey to self actualisation is a slow burn but profound. As someone whose survived their own traumas, I identified with Seras in a way I’ve seldom been able to with any other television/anime characters before or since. It has helped me feel a little less alone and feel a bit more like I can keep going.
Not for those who struggle with difficult subjects or gory imagery, Hellsing Ultimate is a powerful anime that’ll leave a lasting impression on those who watch.
The complete Hellsing Ultimate series is available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray on Monday 15th July 2019.