Kohta Hirano – Dark Horse – 2010 – 10 volumes
I reviewed this for the weekly Manga Minis column at Manga Recon, but I also went a little overboard when writing this post here, so… here’s some ramblings. The mini is a little more concise.
This and Trigun. I associate the two of them together, for many reasons, but one of the better ones is that they both ran in Young King Ours at the same time. Both are classics in their way, both have amazing ideas… both have problems with execution. Trigun crashes and burns just a little bit harder at the end of its life, but it was more ambitious. Hellsing was never trying to be anything but super violent. In the final author note, Hirano notes that he took ten years to draw it, and because he got to draw breasts and butts and whatnot, he was happy. I’m happy too, because it’s clear it wasn’t trying to be anything that it wasn’t.
Alucard… Alucard was a little more magnificent than the series strictly allowed. They do defeat him here, the Nazis, which I was not expecting. Even less obvious is the way in which he was defeated. It actually goes against nearly everything in the series so far, except for its chaotic nature. I mean… if anything can happen, if Nazis can ride zeppelins into London and firebomb the whole city and send hordes of zombie vampire servants to wipe out all of humanity, why can’t they defeat Alucard however they please?
They… they just can’t. It wrecked everything, and I’m very sad.
Everything else was pretty awesome, though. The Major’s true nature was a nice surprise… also against the nature of the series, somewhat, but his rationalizing of everything made more sense with him like that. Sort of. Not really. It sounded good when he was saying it. The battle between the Major and Integra was great, and more or less what the entire series was leading up to. I wish it had been longer. Integra really needed more scenes like that, but I think the final scene was even more spectacular because there were so few.
The epilogue was a nice final word. Seras finally got some respect, Heinkel gets a little scene at the end (Heinkel is a girl?), and we get to see Integra once again. I really like Integra. Not only is she a complete badass, one of the strongest female characters ever, she’s also the one lone note of sanity in the whole thing. The series makes sense because Integra is there. She stands by what she believes, and while she’s got her two vampires going crazy all over the place and she’s blowing Nazi’s heads off, she just is. She’s simply doing her job.
The Alucard thing almost ruined it for me, but it’s still Hellsing. It is what it is, and I loved every page of it. More than I liked Trigun. It’s also shorter, now that the whole thing is out, and easier to understand if you’re reading all the volumes together. It’s… not good, but it is awesome. One of the most awesome manga in English, in fact.
Yeah… this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, even after reading all the volumes back to back, but that’s okay. That’s not why I read it. Really, I read it for mindless violence, which is exactly what I get, and that’s just fine. That’s all I can expect out of Hellsing. Mindless violence and cool art, anyway.
The fight with the demonized Anderson doesn’t last very long, which is kind of a bummer since I like Anderson a lot. The aftermath is respectable, until the peace is shattered by… Walter. You’ll remember that the Nazis took him a volume or so back. He fights Alucard.
If you had any lingering doubts as to the coherency of the plot, they will dissolve at this point. The whole… reason behind all this makes NO GODDAMN SENSE. Literally. It is out of left field, and it is nonsense. I mean, it would be all right, maybe even a little awesome, if there had been any hint whatsoever, or any reason, or ANYTHING at all to make this click into place. But… there’s not.
But that’s okay. I think there’s only one volume left.
Seras is fighting the captain… or the mute guy with the hat at the end of the volume. That fight’s pretty cool, which is about all I can say about it. I mean, lots of zombies die? Big guns are used? The hat guy can transform and is a match for Seras, a full-fledged midian at this point? These details don’t really mean anything, but they do make for a cool fight.
Well, one year to go until the end.
Two things happen in this volume. Alucard lands on the ship Rip Van Winkle has commandeered, and London is invaded by Nazis. Both are truly epic in every sense of the word. If there’s one thing that this series does right, it’s take things way over the top in the most stylish and powerful way possible, even if that doesn’t always make a lot of sense.
Rip Van Winkle’s story parallels that of “Der Freischutz,” which the story explains as her role unfolds. Well, maybe just the ending parallels it, I don’t know, but she sings the songs from the play and fires magic bullets, so that’s good enough for me. They keep mentioning that she’s a werewolf, but I’m a bit sad she doesn’t get to use her supernatural powers other than her bullets. That’s okay, because she has an appropriate reaction to Alucard consuming an experimental jet with his being and crashing it into a battleship at mach 3, something none of her subordinates quite grasped the severity of.
Aaaaand… the invasion of London. Once again, the Major has a nice speech, and he really does know how to make an entrance. The invasion is, again, one of the most epic things I’ve seen in a manga. He sends Zorin out with an invasion force to the Hellsing compound with a warning not to take Integra or Seras Victoria lightly, but something tells me Zorin is just going to disregard him. I’m not sure how she does it, being a human and all, but Integra is truly terrifying and somehow manages to hold her ground in any situation. She scares me more than Seras and Walter combined, maybe only a little less than Alucard.
I’m going to read the next three, but since I’ve alread posted reviews of them here, I’ll leave any other comments go until I get volume 9 on Monday or Tuesday. I THINK that’s the second to last volume, and I’m pretty excited about reading the ending even though the story sorta kinda dissolves after awhile. Of course, I think YKO runs about a year behind for graphic novels once the installments have appeared in the magazine, so for all I know there’s two more coming. Either way, I’m definitely looking forward to the end.
This volume is mostly exposition and an introduction to the various players in the Millennium Nazi group or whatever. Their teleconference is pretty awesome, if only because Integra orders Schrodinger’s head blown off and then orders Seras to blow up the monitor broadcasting the Major.
The series is good for nice speeches. Integra gave a good one last volume that I failed to mention, but the Major gave another in this volume. It’s not terribly interesting, but it is notable that he goes on for around four very articulate pages about how much he loves war.
Things start up at the end of the volume when we see how it is the Nazis operate and how they have plants in the military et al. We also get to meet the first of the… commanders (?), miss Rip Van Winkle. I like her character design a lot, and I also like that there are so many powerful female characters in Hellsing. Not that some and/or most of them aren’t riddled with some stereotype or other, but I like that the ladies are there at all. Hopefully that has little or nothing to do with the fact Hirano used to draw H manga.
The terrible end pages in the past two volumes have had weird Saint Seiya references that I now understand. The fact that I understand them is pretty novel, but that doesn’t mean the references themselves make any more sense now.
So yes, I like these stories that take up most of a volume. This time around, we get a little “Elevator Action,” which is also a fine Taito game.
I actually didn’t think this took place until next volume. It’s yet another gratuitous and over-the-top action scene, but this time it somehow tops the one from last volume. Probably because it’s almost all Alucard taking on a crowd of unprepared humans, and seeing him work against so much force is pretty awesome. Plus, he declares war against Millennium at the end, and the Major (whose real name is Montana Max? what the hell) sees it as a fine gesture, as does Anderson, Maxwell, and a few other people. It is certainly violent, and a very awesome panel.
One thing I always fail to mention is the fantastic lettering in this series. There is nothing else that compares. I’m not sure how much of it is in the original and how much is touched up, but I suspect a lot of it is just Kohta Hirano writing in English and it works anyway. It’s not even so much the sound effects, which are surprisingly bland compared to the speaking text in a lot of the action scenes. It’s really quite great, and I wish I could see more of it in other series. It’s a very welcome flourish.
It also makes me wonder about the original edition. There is obviously a lot of English used, and some of the text here was written in German too, so it makes me wonder how frequently English comes up and whether or not the Millennium guys speak with German interjections in the original, too. With that in mind, I also thought it was kind of odd Spanish wasn’t used more in this volume, seeing as how it was set in Rio and such details are obviously looked at closely. I also am a big fan of the accents. I still don’t know what Anderson is saying sometimes, but I love that he has such a thick accent. You don’t see things like that very often, and I think it’s a great detail. It adds just a bit more personality.
I decided to re-read this series in anticipation of the 9th volume coming in the mail within the next few days, plus the fact I finally got ahold of the original 12-episode anime series and have been going through that. Re-reading the first volume did not do much for me, and actually put me off quite a bit due to the… well, the silly anatomy and just the weird and choppy pacing of the story (which may have been more obvious after watching the anime, where a lot more focus is given to Seras and her hesitation about doing vampire things). The art is still quite good, but I was sad to see the story just didn’t hold up after all these years. I think I liked it a lot less in the first volume because there were a lot of short one-shot chapters that could have used more story development.
I liked the second volume a lot better, though. Most of the volume was a story called Dead Zone, which was about the Hellsing mansion coming under attack by two vampires and an army of ghouls while the committee that runs England was upstairs meeting with Integra. The attack pretty much wastes the compound, but the reactions to the attack by Walter, Integra, and Alucard are still pretty awesome, especially since it seems like the enemies were having an easy time of it. The final confrontation between Integra and one vampire and Alucard and the other was also very well done. This is also helped by the fact the art is still very awesome and works best in epic action scenes like this, as opposed to some of the lesser confrontations in the one-shots of the first volume.
The rest of the volume is mostly for introducing the Millennium organization (the eventual antagonists) the backup guard/mercenary group Wild Geese, and for showing off Maxwell, who is still one of the most insane characters I’ve ever seen. I’m still in awe of him.
Ugh, I’ve been swamped at work the past couple weeks, which explains the light posts. I need to read these things, because they’re piling up, and apparently I’m being sent around $200 more manga (discount price! I don’t even know how many volumes that is), so I need to read this stuff like right now.
Some of it I’m not particularly fired up about, so I have to save things like Hellsing to read and break up the monotony. I’ve been waiting SO LONG for this volume. It doesn’t pay off in conventional ways. Let me be the first to tell you that the plot of Hellsing isn’t terribly good. But one doesn’t read Hellsing for the plot, just like one doesn’t read Stephen King’s books for a weepy “How Green Was My Valley” experience. This volume of Hellsing pays off with a really long action scene that takes up almost 3/4 of the volume.
THE BEST ACTION SCENE EVER.
I forgive the non-plot in this volume because Alucard finally shows up and just… kills everyone in the most spectacular fight scene in any manga ever. This was grandiose. There was a certain poetry in the way that all the random stuff happened to… lend Alucard more badassness than any character can handle. And Alucard can’t handle it. He turns into another character high on my list of badasses.If I had to pick a word to describe this volume, it would be badass. Yes. Not a whole lot of sense, and it really suffers from all the random elements, but badass enough that I didn’t care.
Also, what the hell, Kohta Hirano. The blatant reference was totally out of left field. I just finished that book about two months ago, and I don’t want the Harkers et al in my manga. I’m sick of them and their teary friendships.