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Breaking Into Manga: ‘Hellsing’

Eric Gaudette ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

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While vampires were once terrifying mythical beasts, plaguing the minds of the superstitious and cowardly, they’re not especially scary today. They’re more human than they once were, becoming romantic and relatable figures in contemporary mainstream fiction. Today’s vampires are neutered, becoming mainstream heartthrobs with no trace of their unholy aura that once made them so terrifying.

Not so with Hellsing.

This manga, penned by Kouta Hirano, centers around the vampire Alucard, the most powerful vampire in existence. He works for the Hellsing family, who has an organization dedicated to hunting down any supernatural threat against the British Empire. He receives orders from Sir Integra Hellsing, the current head of the family, as well as Seras Victoria, his recently vampirized protégé. They occasionally butt heads with the Vatican’s anti-supernatural outfit called Iscariot, whose top fighter, Alexander Anderson, serves as Alucard’s primary rival. An army of Nazi vampires stand in the way of the organization, headed by the mysterious Major, who intends to invade London. Their attempted conquest of the city is the primary focus of the series. The result is a massive battle sequence with enough action, drama, and twists to keep the reader entertained throughout the entire ride.

The vampires in this story are complete monstrosities, especially Alucard himself. For he is more than just a vampire—he is an entity that defies reason. While he normally resembles a tall man in a zoot suit, when he has to reveal his true form, he inspires the same sort of dread that vampires are supposed to inspire. People are shocked that such a creature like Alucard could even exist. Sure, he may look like a tall guy in a zoot suit, but his true form defies comprehension. But he’s not just a one-dimensional boogeyman either—as the story unfolds, he comes off as a tragic character who is tormented with immortality and yearns for death.

The series opens with Alucard eliminating a vampire priest that took over a town when he meets Seras Victoria, a police officer. Alucard fatally wounds Seras during his confrontation with the priest and offers her a choice: become a vampire or die. She chooses the former, and throughout the series, we see her grow to accept her vampiric nature. She serves as a foil for Alucard, believing that she doesn’t have to give up her humanity entirely, and usually is on the moral high ground in comparison to Alucard. In a way, she’s the real main character of Hellsing, since she’s the most dynamic character of the series and introduces us to this strange world.

Strange it is, because some aspects of Hellsing relish in unexplained absurdity. For example, one of the antagonists has a musket which fires bullets that are powerful enough to take down aircraft and can also change direction midair. It’s never explained how this villain was able to acquire this gun, but ultimately it doesn’t matter; it’s just cool. While Hellsing is not brainless entertainment (there can be surprisingly profound moments in the series), these strange aspects of Hellsing are what make it as amazing and watchable as it is.

Well, that and the violence. Hellsing is NOT for the faint of heart—most actions scenes are riddled with blood and gore, with decapitations and dismemberment aplenty. It’s like a Tarantino movie in that it has this aesthetically pleasing, bloody violence.

You will find some of that stereotypical manga art style in Hellsing—exaggerated expressions, distortion—but most of the time the art is quite detailed – horrifyingly so. The art style varies on the mood that the story currently has. That means the story sometimes slows down to incorporate more comedic moments to take a break from all of the dread that’s happening for most of the time. There’s something for everybody in Hellsing—well, provided that you’re a fan of horror.

For those wondering, Hellsing is complete and have all been translated into English. There are ten volumes in all, and it has been adapted into an anime twice (!). The second anime series (Hellsing Ultimate) is far better and far more faithful to the original manga than the first anime.

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