November 23, 2009
Vampires used to be evil. Then they turned into bad boys (Spike), or good boys except when they were bad (Angel), or at least functionally amoral (Milada). Then Stephenie Meyer came along and her good-guy vampires out-Jack Weylanded Jack Weyland! I say it's time for some dark contrarianism.
Hellsing [sic] is as contrarian as they get. Granted, it's far from perfect. Newbie Scooby Seras Victoria deserves more character development, and I would put Integra Helsing's backstory up front. A little subtlety in the monster-killing department wouldn't hurt.
I prefer the 2002 TV series to the gorier Ultimate OVA, even though veteran screenwriter Chiaki Konaka is vilified in some quarters for his creative additions to Kouta Hirano's manga. In any case, both get way too carried away with the whole X-Files conspiracy meme (which Japanese SF writers love).
The Catholic Church is a big part of the conspiracy as well, but as with the Grand Inquisitor in Witch Hunter Robin, you never get the feeling that there's some hidden agenda at play. It's just that as a worldwide religious organization that's actually organized, the Catholic Church coolly fits the narrative bill.
(Though the Mormon Church is certainly "international," it still lacks its own Dan Brownish worldwide conspiracy theory. I vaguely recall an actioner written three decades ago that tried to tie the Mormon Church to Carter's MX missile plan for Southern Utah, but both fell thuddingly flat.)
I like the idea of a Buffy-type series where the vampire slayer allies, not with good Angel, but evil Angel. Plus the Miltonesque implication that Alucard isn't simply "devilish," he is the devil. Like Lewis's Screwtape (and Buffy's Spike), he's appalled by modern evil because it is so nihilistic and dull.
Lesser demons get dispatched with Victoria's 30mm "Harkonnen" shoulder-fired cannon or Alucard's distinctive .454 Casull Longslide. It takes a real villain to amp him up to full-vamp mode.
The anime series could be easily stripped of the more flagrant anti-Papism and reset in the U.S. It would work well as a live-action series with the same irreverent tone as Reaper (the most theologically sound show on television), which also features a devil (the delightful Ray Wise) you love to hate.
And now that I mention it, Reaper is out on DVD. Once you get past the first couple of monster-of-the-week mode episodes, it turns into one of the smartest religious satires since The Screwtape Letters.
[Funimation has picked up the license from the defunct Geneon.]
UPDATE: watch the Hellsing ED by Mr. Big.