My experience with Hellsing before now was seeing the first three episodes of Hellsing Ultimate and reading the manga (I’m halfway through the manga). As such, I haven’t seen the original anime adaptation that gave the series it’s initial popularity. That’s what I’m doing now. And I’ll start with my first complaint.
The night sky is NOT RED! That’s a minor complaint, though. The series was done by studio GONZO, meaning that the budget went into making Last Exile look better. Hellsing is barely animated, with dark scenes and moments of stillness taking over to save on the budget in obvious ways. However, that would be better if the pacing was good. Here goes my major complaint, mostly with these first four episodes (I watch the rest after this).
This adaptation was written by Chiaki J Kanoka, an otherwise brilliant writer who has also written Digimon Tamers, Princess Tutu, Rahxephon, Serial Experiments Lain, the 2003 Astro Boy series, and The Big O. If that list of credits tells you anything, it is that he is a writer who works best when writing slow, methodical, deliberate series that either explore psychological conclusions of desperate circumstances (Rahxephon, Serial Experiments Lain) or deconstruct a genre or story to horrifying effect (Digimon Tamers, Princess Tutu). The original source material for Hellsing, however, is not a good match. The manga is a serious devil-may-care, no-holds-barred, don’t-care-who’s-offended, ridiculous ball of insanity and fun that never seems to take itself seriously. This anime is not that.
Rather than follow the badass Alucard (the protagonist of the manga), we follow Seras Victoria, the girl he turns into a vampire. We see how she sees this new world that she’s become a part of from her eyes and see her struggle with becoming a vampire completely. The pace is slow for this series and Seras isn’t the same character she is in the manga. Here, she is whiny, angsty, and perpetually horrified by all that she sees. Alucard is made more mysterious, but that doesn’t help his character. It instead makes him a Dues Ex Machina to save Seras from whatever danger is coming. Even episode 3, which is the first appearance of Alexander Anderson (the badass priest who kills vampires for the Vatican) is handled as slow and tediously as it could.
These first four episodes do not showcase the energy or excitement that made the manga, or Hellsing Ultimate, so fun and utterly watchable. Hopefully it finds that energy, because it moves like a slug now and is ever so disappointing because of it.