Several years back I chewed my way through the original Hellsing anime and enjoyed it. I read some of the manga afterwards which I enjoyed, but hadn't managed to get round to Hellsing Ultimate until recently when I bought the first four volumes on the cheap.
For the confused, Hellsing Ultimate is not a continuation of the original anime, but a reboot that follows closer to the manga plot line. You don't need to be aware of the original anime or manga to enjoy this. Each volume consists of one OVA at just under an hour.
The plot of Hellsing revolves around the Hellsing Organisation - an organisation devoted to protecting the country from vampires and the undead. Alucard, a vampire who works under the organisation, is called out to eradicate a vampire priest. A police officer, Seras Victoria, is fatally injured in the process of Alucard attempting to bring the vampire down. He gives her a choice: die as a human, or live as a vampire. She chooses to live and, by doing so, becomes Alucard's servant and the newest member of the Hellsing Organisation.
Plot isn't an issue. It's the same gripping start that the anime and manga uses. Seras Victoria's turning acts as a good device for the audience to be introduced to the world of Hellsing, but the problem with this first volume is everything moves too fast. We don't really get a feel for Seras honing her new abilities, or attempting to adjust to her new lifestyle. There are moments here and there, but she seems to get over it so fast that it's irrelevant.
And whilst the plot itself isn't an issue, the amount of it that we get is. This one fifty minute volume covers the first three episodes of the original anime, and it feels exactly as if three episodes were jammed together, rushing through each one without giving us enough time to identify with the characters. The arc that should have brought the entire thing together - Seras joining Hellsing - is rushed over so briefly that the episode feels less like an entire piece and more like some sort of spliced together 'best of' moments. By the end of the first volume, we don't really care for Seras or Alucard, they are merely figures carrying out their assigned roles.
The English dubbing is abysmal. I'm not normally one of these people who is fussed and I'll happily watch pretty much anything in English, but as soon as Integra (leader of Hellsing) came on, I immediately switched to Japanese. The accent is so painfully stereotypically British that by the time I managed to find the remote, I had already made several cups of tea and consumed a couple of scones. To further add insult, she constantly sounds bored. She's not the only one either. It's a shame as there are a few characters that were voiced well enough, but the rest dragged it down too far for me to want to put up with it.
Whilst this review may seem pretty negative, I want to follow it up with a good note. As I had already bought the first four volumes, I decided to give the second volume a whirl just to see if it gets any better. Good news: it does. The pacing of the second volumes feels much better and the characters feel more genuine. I can only presume this volume feels so rushed due to the creators not wanting to spend too much time treading over ground that has previous been covered by the original anime.
So on the whole, this particular volume isn't all that great, but don't let that deter you from the entire series if it sounds like something you would enjoy. From the strength of the second volume I'll be continuing on and enjoying the series, but I'll probably never revisit this particular episode, as it appears to exist purely to set the scene.