Outside of Manga Entertainment's canon there are relatively few action horror titles, and being a fan of the genre (to an extent) I was quite looking forward to seeing Hellsing.
The background plot is quite simple - secret British anti-vampire agency Hellsing, headed up by the cold and calculating Sir Integra Wingates Hellsing, fight against the legions of darkness in a battle to protect our fair land from the forces of darkness. However, her organisation harbours a terrible secret weapon - an immensely powerful vampire known as Arucard, who serves and obeys Integra Hellsing in her battle against his kin for unknown reasons.
The series begins (as animé series are wont to do) by dropping the viewer straight into the middle of a standard mission for the Hellsing agency, as Integra dispatches Arucard to hunt down a rogue vampire priest on the outskirts of the quiet village of Cheddar (not the one famous for its cheese apparently). The mission is complicated somewhat by the disappearance of a police squad dispatched prior to Hellsing's arrival, and it is onto a member of this squad - young policewoman Seras Victoria - that the plot shifts. Captured by the priest, Seras agrees to sacrifice her life to enable Arucard to kill him and in return she is brought back to life as one of the undead. In a way this episode is a bit of a weak start, as it contains about 50% of all known vampire film clichés and the action is not that great, however, the first episode of a series is often its weak link, so things are bound to improve in the second...
Sadly however, they don't. The second episode revolves around Seras trying to come to terms with her vampirism and also on a Bonnie and Clyde style style pair of serial killers, who are, of course, vampires getting kicks out of killing. Apart from the strangeness of location (the duo are found on the road to Birmingham) there isn't really much to recommend this episode for - it contains the remaining 50% of vampire film clichés missed by episode 1, and the villains are so one-dimensional it's untrue. Some of the scenes of Seras' struggle to deal with her new life are quite good, but there isn't enough focus on them which lets it down.
Thank god then for episode 3. It seems the Vatican have decided to try and undermine Hellsing's activities and dispatch an agent of their own - a seven foot tall sword wielding priest by the name of Anderson. This episode rescues the DVD to be honest, with some great action and at last an enemy who is more than just cannon fodder, as well as some insight to the politics Integra deals with behind the scenes. The only downer is the strange opinion the series seems to take of England's religious slant, which seems to take cues more from the sectarianism of Northern Ireland than the relative disinterest of England.
I did have mixed feelings after watching this DVD. On the one hand the animation and character design is great, as is the music, but it is let down in the first instance by some predictable plotting and heavy reliance on cliché. At the end of the day though it must be said that the final episode is excellent and hints at better things to come from the rest of the series, and there are also hints towards a bigger plot on the horizon which should hopefully give the series some focus. A special note also must be made of the English dub, which is one of the few to use English accents as opposed to American ones, and manages to avoid Dick Van Dyke-isms. In fact it is one of the few English dubs that I have watched in complete preference to the Japanese one. Fans of the vampire genre will love Hellsing, but for most others the jury would still be out after this volume.
Best Bit: Arucard's battle with