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Rated: 16+ (language, sexual situations, animated violence)
Running Time: 75 minutes
Written by: Chiaki J.
Directed by: Yasunori Urata
Retail Price: $29.98
Features: Trailer Music Video, Creditless Opening, Concept Art Collection, Action Figure Info
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Digital Stereo, Japanese Dolby Digital Stereo, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Scene Selection (15 Scenes)
Released: July 23rd, 2002
Let me start this review by saying that I'm not what one would call an anime "fan," and am thus either very well or very poorly suited to review it. I've seen Akira, and Hamtaro, and PokÈmon, and Princess Monononononoke, and I like them alright, but really - the cats at the school that say everything is kawaii ^_________________^ and learn Japanese and etc. give me the willies. I'm not sure if it's right nor natural to be seventeen or eighteen years old and wear a $50 Dragonball Z club shirt, and bring your Goku action figures to school with you. Anyhow, thankfully this DVD started from the beginning. Hellsing: Impure Souls is about vampires in the future. Or rather, a vampire killing vampires. It's like Blade. Except with a girl. But it was also based on a comic. Like Blade. And the girl isn't black. The disc has audio languages of both Japanese and English, though English is the default, and English subs are available.
Immediately when the disc is put in, a spooky Pioneer logo appears, then a spooky Gonzo logo, then a spooky menu that's on a bag of blood. Like, a medical bag. Following this, and pushing "play," we're presented with a not-as-spooky opening sequence and I come to the realization that the Hellsing is a gun (though, later when discussing with more knowledged friends and viewing the entire series, I realize that this was in err -- Hellsing is the name of the lady in charge of the organization of the same name, employed to kill the vampires.) Then they put in a prayer that verges on that border of trying too hard to be cool, one that Stigmata fell from and hit all the stupid branches on the stupid tree on the way down. Very soon hereafter, I learn that this, indeed, is a DVD not geared towards children.
"Order 1: The Undead" shows us that these cats are on a mission to kill some vampires. Also, the lead vampire hunter, a member of some elite club of vampire killas, is indeed himself a vampire. This effectively reinforces every vampire film/show stereotype ever. Anyway, our protagonist (the one armed with the long-barrelled gun; apparently named Alucard, which is a wacky play on the name Dracula) turns this police officer chick, Victoria, into a vampire, also in order to kill vampires -- in particular, this one priest newbie vampire who's been making 'ghouls', essentially helper, weak vampires. Episode 02, "Club M," follows Victoria's first night on the job as a vampire and killer of the same. Episode 03, "Sword Dancer," follows Victoria some more on the job, where an undead priest, as in the first episode, is the main antagonist.
Aspect ratio of 1.33:1, being the original ratio -- after all, this is a television series in Japan. While some shots appear too light, blacks are well-saturated, leading me to believe this matches how it was drawn. It's a bit on the soft side, also. While it won't win awards, it's a good transfer and I noticed no compression artifacts or other irregularities.
English and Japanese Dolby Digital is crisp and very listenable. Sound effects and dialogue are both good and at good levels (which is to say dialogue was never drowned out.) I recommend viewing in the original language of the series, Japanese. Subtitles are available in English only (and recommended, unless you're fluent.) Notably (and likely commonly), the English track isn't well-matched with the English audio.
There's a trailer music video, creditless opening, concept art collection, and a few pictures of the action figures. The action figure looks nice, though I wonder if this wouldn't have been better as a multi-angle shot than as a small (five picture) still gallery. The creditless opening (1:18) is nice, for what it is. The concept art gallery is fifty pictures, and it's nice to see the characters in a static context. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I started the music video trailer (3:42), but it seems that it's advertising a little somethin' called "Hellsing: Psalm of Darkness" in what appears to be 1.95:1 widescreen, featuring a techno background and scenes culled from the series and not just the first three episodes. Cinematography, again, is really nice to look at. Pioneer Previews (9:40) is a bunch of advertisements for some other anime releases from Pioneer. DVD Credits is a one-sheet credit list of companies and individuals who went into creating the DVD. Menus on this disc are pleasing to the eye, full of darkness and blood and bullets and such.
This is a nice show, from the looks of it. There's an instance of sex (with no nudity) and a whole bunch of violence, but the cinematography and story is fun and nice to watch. Even if anime isn't your thing, I'd recommend this. If I had one complaint, it would be that the episodes are only selectable by chapter and thus one has to skip over the credits manually (or endure them and the 80s buttrock-reminiscent end title theme.