Hellsing: Impure Souls

Hellsing: Impure Souls (2002)
Pioneer Entertainment
Extras: Music Video, Alternate Opening Credits, Concept Art, Action Figure Info, Bonus Trailers

Pioneer continues their commitment to bringing anime to the masses with their latest release. ’Hellsing’ is an OAV from Japan and this DVD contains the first three episodes of the series. The title of the show is taken from The Hellsing Organization, an agency founded by Sir Integra Hellsing, a direct descendant of the original vampire-hunter, Van Helsing. (No explanation is given as to why the spelling is different. Nor is it entirely clear, why ’Sir’ Hellsing appears to be a woman.) The story takes place in modern-day England, where the Hellsing Organization is fighting to rid the world of vampires. Their greatest asset is Arucard (who is actually called ’Alucard’ in the dialogue, which in turns is the word ’Dracula’ spelled backwards), a rogue vampire who has taken side with the humans. In the first installment, Arucard is dispensed to the Village of Cheddar (?!) to stop a vampiric priest. There, Arucard meets police officer Seras Victoria, and through a series of unfortunate events, is forced to transform her into a vampire. The second episode focuses on Seras’ adjustment to life as one of the undead, as Arucard pursues a pair of young vampires who are on a cross-country killing spree. The final episode on this disc has Arucard squaring off against Alexander, a blade-wielding agent for a Vatican-sponsored group which hunts vampire. This segment also offers more details of Seras’ new existence.

’Hellsing’ doesn’t score a lot of points for originality in either story or visual style (it’s based on a Japanese manga), but the action is non-stop and the plot is engrossing from the outset. Overall, this plays as a hybrid of ’Blade’ and ’Vampire Hunter D’, and the look is very reminiscent of American comic artist Mike Mignola (who did the comic adaption of ’Bram Stoker’s Dracula’). The palette here is very dark for the most part, but there is a very creative use of reds that gives the show a vibrant look. The show is very violent and doesn’t hesitate to destroy the ghouls in creative ways. The Arucard character is intriguing, as we don’t learn a great deal about him in these first three shows (presumably his backstory is revealed as the series progresses). The character desing for Seras Victoria resembles that of less-serious anime (she’s got huge eyes), but her descent into vampirism gives the show a much-needed human hook and allows it to rise above the standard horror fare. Fans of other horror-based anime series and films will certainly want to give ’Hellsing’ a look. At only 75-minutes long, the $30 price tag is a bit steep, but this introductory volume certainly left me wanting more.

With this DVD, ’Hellsing’ is presented in its original full frame format. The image is sharp and clear, highlighting the aforementioned creative use of colors. The blacks are rich and true, making the reds and blues stand out all the more so. However, with bright white objects, there is some oversaturation and video distortion. The transfer shows no defects from the source material and the image is stable for the most part. The Dolby 2-channel stereo audio track offers clear dialogue and sound effects with no hissing or distortion. But, the lack of true surround sound hurts this release, as it would have added another dimensin to the proceedings.

The extras found on this disc are scant. First, we have a repeat of the opening credits, but without any text. Next, is a music video, which is made up of images from the show. Then, we have two still galleries, one offering concept art for the various character and the other showing images of a Arucard action figure. Finally, there are bonus trailers for other Pioneer animation titles.