Hellsing

Hellsing 2001

Hellsing is something of a classic anime series and it definitely has some really killer elements… but as a whole it doesn’t quite live up to its reputation for me.

That’s not to say that I didn’t really enjoy some episodes or that I think it’s bad series, but the show strays between genuinely atmospheric, creepy and exciting to kinda trashy and even a little shaky re: its animation. And yeah, trashy isn’t always bad and I know the production team were soon working ahead of the manga on a smaller budget (and that’s always fraught with risk) but I think I agree with the general consensus out there, which suggests that the anime didn’t live up to the source material and later, suffered in some ways compared to the remake in Hellsing Ultimate.

But back to the 2001 series – it’s got blood and tension, some interesting music, great voice acting and at times distinctive direction (especially in the opening episode) along with a memorable cast of characters in its favour. The gothic elements were really welcome too and I liked Seras’s storyline – her struggles definitely deserved a little more screen time. Alucard himself is of course a great menace and fits the ‘monster hunting other monsters’ role quite well but the pacing of the series felt off to me and I grew weary of the recapping. And a small thing that also bugged me – the endless repetition of ‘amen’ quickly became odd rather than fitting for the characters.

Still, what this series definitely did was make me curious about a more complete adaptation of the source material and so on that level at least, it really works. And that first episode is pretty stunning, really – it’s just a shame that the quality for me fell away not too long after.

3 Stars

Origin: Spirits of the Past (Gin’iro no Kami no Agito)

Origin: Spirits of the Past (Gin’iro no Kami no Agito) 2006

In the years after Spirited Away won its Oscar it seemed that mainstream western journalists and reviewers suddenly had a benchmark they could refer back to in order to measure any subsequent release against – and I understand, it’s a clear reference and hallmark of superb quality, and one that a large readership would have recognised.

And all reviews are probably at least a little bit of a reaction to ‘what came before’ and I certainly do that myself and I like that approach when it contextualises a film. But what I think bugs me a little about bouncing any movie or series off a high water mark is that invariably, almost everything will fall short and then not be wholly judged on its own merits, and instead be discussed in light of all the ways it didn’t match the seminal text.

So I’ll try not to do that here and instead try and say that while Origin will make some viewers think of Miyazaki and Ghibli, it has its own problems that are unrelated to how much or how little it evokes Studio Ghibli.

And it’s not the animation or art, which is at times breathtaking, especially during the opening forest scenes or the fiery climax, but for me, a general flatness to the story drags it down. And I know that’s a vague, essentially useless descriptor for a review, right? But despite some great action sequences and big themes (around environmentalism and cooperation), the story didn’t captivate me.

Maybe it was a little rushed, because I wanted more time with the characters. I wanted to see them explore the world and magic and new societies a little more deeply too. And there were a few folks introduced that felt like they could have had a bigger impact on the story – but were somewhat reduced to cameos, like Jessica and Minka.

Still, I enjoyed Origin: Spirits of the Past despite my largely critical review here and maybe I’m most disappointed in how close it might have come to a real classic? There are some fantastic scenes throughout and again, wondrous imagery and animation to enjoy too, if you don’t mind a storyline that’s a little generic at times.

3 Stars