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A disappointing second act after the excellent vol. I-IV
on 6 September 2014
Hellsing Ultimate Volumes I through IV were some fantastically choreographed pieces of animation, and had some truly impressive and unique setpieces. Sadly in Volumes V-VIII the series creators seem to have forgotten the difference between violence and action.
V-VIII essentially collects the episodes centering on the siege of London and Hellsing's headquarters by vampires and later the Vatican. It's a pretty interesting premise and could have let to a thoroughly entertaining set of episodes, but unfortunately it just devolves into mindless carnage. Gone is the spectacularly innovative sequences seen in the first few volumes and instead we have cannon fodder fighting cannon fodder in battles which essentially boil down to one side opening fire and then cutting to the other side being bloodily and messily gunned down. This is what I mean by the difference between violence and action: action without context or meaning just becomes a lot of white noise of blood and guts and fails to entertain or maintain tension. We don't feel anything for either side because they are just background characters for the express purpose of being gorily devoured by vampires, or vampires being gorily shot to pieces by mercenaries.
I want to be clear at this point that I am not saying excessive violence in a series is a bad thing, but if it's done without any sense of aplomb (again as with the opening volumes of Hellsing Ultimate) then it doesn't really add anything to the plot or enjoyment value of the episode. Volume V is the worst offender here, with the episode almost entirely depicting vampires slaughtering the civilians of London in an orgy of destruction. This entire episode could have gotten its point across in about 10 minutes, but instead we see an extended bloodbath repeated over and over for nearly 3/4 hour.
However, it is not all bad, subsequent episodes certainly fare better, improved somewhat by a thoroughly hateful antagonist in the form of Zorin Blitz. This is also where actual characters start coming back into the mix, and so they are actually given the gift of visually interesting fight scenes. The finale of volume VII is an extremely cathartic and chaotic demonstration of what Seras Victoria can really do. Volume VIII is a considerable improvement overall, with the return of Alucard/Arucard and some insanely over-the-top sequences the strain credibility, that the Hellsing audience has come to know and love. The volume ends on an epic cliffhanger, with the stage set for a whopping conclusion with the upcoming volumes IX and X and I can only hope they improve on the lackluster volumes V through VII and follow the suit of VIII.