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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith
Hellsing, Vol. 01 - Duane Johnson, Kohta Hirano There was once a time in which I was going through a particularly embarrassing vampire phase. I would read anything and everything to do with vampires, whether the content was good (Bram Stoker's Dracula), boring (L.J. Smith's Vampire Diaries), or so bad that its awfulness has now become the general consensus (Twilight)....I also went through a particularly embarrassing manga phase around then.I don't quite remember how I got my paws on Hellsing, but I do know that once I did, I was hooked. The anime was cool as hell (to my thirteen year old mind, anyway), Alucard was a badass, and it was dark. Because, apparently I'm still a sucker for a well-handled dark storyline. Re-reading Hellsing, however... it still holds up! Quite frankly, I'm surprised. This is a manga that gleefully sails the ship of bat-shit ideas, and makes them all work. The Nazis were experimenting with technology to create an army of vampires! They've been hiding in South America for sixty years! England has an Order of Protestant Knights who valiantly defend the Queen from supernatural threats whilst practicing occultism themselves. The Vatican have a group of genetically-augmented 'Iscariot' soldiers to hunt down any supernatural threats to the Pope. Oh, and lest we forget: Count Dracula has been rechristened Alucard, and is now the Hellsing Organization's trump card against the supernatural. (And yes, the 'Hellsing' organization's name is not only spelled wrongly, but it is also the legacy of Abraham van Helsing from the Bram Stoker novel. Genius.)The story starts out in Cheddar, which is apparently in Northern England. If England consisted only of the West Country and you were standing all the way down at Land's End in Cornwall. *coughs*Apparently, a priest strolled into town one day, and became appointed as the local vicar. Because the parish council really works like that. Anyway, this vicar was the type to hold sermons after dark, and only go out on cloudy days. Oh, and random members of his flock had a tendency to disappear. Finally, he was caught in the act, but he's basically turned on everybody in the village and turned them into ghouls. Of course, the Hellsing organization are drafted in from Plymouth (hey, if Cheddar is in northern England, you've got to make do with the few medium-sized cities here in the West country), and Sir Integra Wingate Fairbrooks Helsing taunts the local DI. She (yes, she) tells him his riot squad are hopefully unprepared, and the only person who can sort out this vampire menace is a fellow bloodsucker.Meanwhile, an 19 year old female officer is running around in the forest, and... I've got to say, she's made it pretty far for a 19 year old! Coming from a British police background myself, I could tell you that a 19 year old probably wouldn't be an armed officer. I know later in the manga it's explained that Seras really threw her all into becoming a police officer after her childhood trauma of being unable to protect her parents when they were brutally murdered, but still: she's 19. She'd probably either just have graduated police academy, maybe been a Special for a bit, or... at the very luckiest, gotten a job as a police constable. Eh, I'm in a nitpicky mood.So yes, Seras then happens to run right into the arms of the vampire priest who's been wreaking havoc in the village.Luckily, Alucard shows up in the nick of time, but Seras is being used as a human shield by the vampire guy, so Alucard just shoots through Seras' chest to pulverise the vampire priest's heart (using a silver bullet melted from the cross of Lanchester Cathedral (page 27)). Alucard gives Seras a choice: die there and then, or live as a vampire. Naturally, Seras chooses to live.Thanks to her new supernatural predicament, Seras is drafted in as a soldier for the Hellsing organization and placed under Alucard's tutelage.Now the plot's got going, Kohta Hirano keeps it trundling along at the same pace, throwing in these amazing fights, bits of dialogue, bat-shit characters, and it all works very well. Heck, midway through volume 1, Alucard and Seras are sent off to Northern Ireland to take out a vampire. They're very surprised to find the Catholic branch of monster hunters have gotten there before them, and they just so happened to send in the bloodthirsty 7 foot tall Paladin Alexander Anderson. Who proceeds to beat the hell out of both Alucard and Seras. It is awesome....However, speaking of Anderson, I think the translators went a little bit overboard when rendering everything he says into a Scots dialect."A' richt, thas enough furth a' ye twae! Just whit's the matter?" (Page 89)"Fighting wi' yer freen... Thas terrible!! Ye'll ne'er get 'til Heaven thon way! Listen tae me. The only yins ye should e'er get rowdy wi' are demons and heathens." (Page 89)"My, my, what ae sweet voice. Thon maun really hurt, lassie. Tha' on its laine widna' be enough tae kill yer kaind, thoo. Because no ae yin o' thae went through yer hert. It's been ae lang time since Ah went vampire hoontin'! Got tae hae some fun." (Page 129)Also, the Britishisms get a little bit annoying after a while. It's not so much how British people talk, but how people stereotype British people as talking. If you're not sat up in a mansion exchanging remarks of “jolly good show” with your similarly posh-accented 'chums', you're just a regular pleb with a broad accent. (Hellsing's side characters seemed to range from Cockney to some vague Northern accent.) It just grated on the nerves after a while.While I really do enjoy the Hellsing manga, it isn't flawless. Volume one shows quite a few flaws in the artwork. I know it was created in 1996, around the beginnings of Kohta Hirano's manga career, but I can just imagine him cringing nowadays at imperfections such as this:(Either Alucard is the world record holder for the longest arms and legs, or the tiniest torso.)I'm also not quite sure why Seras (who also has huge boobs) almost always looks like she's had a bucket of water thrown over her Hellsing uniform. Stylistic choice, I guess. Or, y'know. Maximising the fanbase with a bit of fan-service. Who would I recommend Hellsing to? Not sure, really. Alucard is this mad power fantasy who can utterly decimate those who wrong him after he's let them think that they won. The idea of a secretive organization that hunts the supernatural is a concept that's been done to death, but I think Hellsing manages to balance the dark elements with the silly stuff. Generally. Hirano did throw in all the things he found really cool in horror and exploitation movies/comics/other media, but it manages to work at least, and the nostalgia I have for this series certainly factors into its new rating: 4.5/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/hellsing-volume-1-by-kohta-hirano.html)