Hellsing Ultimate is notable for its ultra-violence and… a couple of other scenes that many would find disturbing. This anime is a remake of Hellsing that more closely follows the manga, or so I have heard. It’s worlds better than Hellsing, although not particularly spectacular in any way.
Purpose: Decent. The purpose of this anime isn’t really to explore the greater mysteries of mankind and it’s not about sending a profound message. At its basest, it’s really little more than stylized and flashy blood sport. Actually, you could probably liken the series to a vampire in that it revels in excesses of blood. That said, they don’t exactly disappoint. There are certainly many over-the-top displays of violence and gore and they are varied, to a certain extent.
For the narrative side, there is a definite story going on in the background. The first third of the anime seems like it has nothing to do with anything, but is eventually, loosely, tied into the overall happenings. Although this is both a strength and a weakness, the various aspects of the story are really vehicles to increase the scale and scope of the body-count. Literally. It’s a strength because that’s the whole point of the anime. However, they take some odd and unnecessary detours that end up damaging the mood they were building.
Characters: Good. The characters were, for the most part, insane. Part of this, though, was that the characters were mostly one-dimensional – very singular in personality and purpose. For the most part, the characters’ personalities were their purpose in that the two were inseparably blended. In Hellsing Ultimate’s case, this wasn’t a bad thing since it didn’t get in the way – it kept in line with crazy, ultra-violent nature of the world.
If it were just the above, the characters would be merely Decent. However, they did attempt to go into some character depth later in the anime. Though the developments came late, they gave many characters a second dimension. In other words, they had multiple goals or motives for acting that occasionally put them in cross-purposes with other characters. They also touched on some characters’ backstories as well, adding bits of depth. Unfortunately, for the ultimate villain, the development actually weakened him as a character, because it added an ulterior motive that took away from the scope and scale of his actions.
World: Good. Sadly, we didn’t really get anything approaching a full development of the world. We got hints and glimmers of a massive, and scary, supernatural world. Vampires, werewolves, other fearsome immortal-type monsters to name a few. They were set-pieces to add interesting new twists and powers to fight with and, ultimately, shed blood. We knew of several organizations acting, but they were mere serving trays to deliver bloodshed. It’s perhaps more of a personal preference to know why everyone wants to kill each other. As it was, the world set the stage for odd and interesting ways to shed blood. That’s why the world is Good – it faithfully serves its purpose, but doesn’t really explore the field.
Plot: Decent. Rather simplistic, to put it plainly. The overall plot was to beat the bad guys, similar to most fighting-type anime, actually. There were a few character-related sub-plots floating around here and there, but they ultimately didn’t go too far. There were a couple of spoon-fed plot twists and broadcast trajectories. Don’t get me wrong, the plot did its job. It provided an appropriate pretext to exponentially increase the scale of bloodshed and show off the main characters’ skills.
Storytelling: Good. Here is where I’m most conflicted, wavering between Good, and Not Really Good. For the most part, the storytelling was very ham-fisted and blatant in execution. Everything was pretty much telegraphed and in-your-face. One one hand, it does match the tone and nature of everything else – over the top, simplistic, yet flashy, bloodletting. However, what I’m conflicted about is whether it needed to be that way. Rather, whether it was “stupid” or “intentional and purposeful.” Perhaps the best example is the fact that one opponent is a bunch of vampire-Nazis commanded by a warmonger Nazi. Now, in the west, America especially, just mentioning that a character is a Nazi is sufficient “development” to tell you he’s a bad guy. It certainly doesn’t really require a monologue about how much and why our bad guy loves war. In Japan, it may not be enough. I remember being shocked that most college-age kids I met in Japan were barely aware of World War II, let alone that the US and UK were at any time enemies of Japan. And yet, textbooks increasingly don’t mention it or mention something to the effect that there was a war that Japan lost. In fact, the significance of even the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima seemed lost on the youths there. It seemed to be more about a “peace day” than anything else. So it makes sense that the director might need to “shock away” that notion in the most direct way possible. That’s what makes it a conflict.
What makes me lean towards Good, in line with the “shock away” theory, is that the violence wasn’t exactly glorified in any way. Yes, the bad guys were doing ugly violence. But so was the Vatican and so were our heroes. No one was pretty while committing all the bloodletting, even the series “darling,” Seras. Perhaps that was the overall point of the storytelling – all violence is ugly and can be shocking, even “necessary” violence. The last little bit may shed some light on the issue – it was talking about monsters appearing human and humans appearing to be monsters. The takeaway is that everyone’s a monster to a certain extent or another.
Pace: Good. There wasn’t really a problem, overall. The earliest parts of the anime go the slowest, though it smooths out once we hit the London… incident. Actually, much of the earlier portions were flown over, so that ended up affecting the depth. Some weird decisions affected the pace, especially throwing in some silly scenes, with animation change. When they did it, it often brought the pace to a screeching halt.