A bloody good manga.
Recently I've gotten myself addicted to the manga version of Hellsing. I've probably mentioned this title in the past- it's a horror-action series set in a dark, gothic England where creatures of the night are beginning to pop up all over the place like bad cavities on British people. To combat the bloodthirsty vampires and their resulting ghouls, the government turns to the mysterious Hellsing Institute. Led by the imposing Sir Integra Van Hellsing, a young but stern woman who inherited the post from her father, the soldiers and agents of the Institute set out to exterminate the undead scourge in the name of god and country.
Of course, a couple of things stand out in Hellsing. One is that the Hellsing Institute's 'trashman', or their most potent weapon against their targets is a vampire himself- Alucard, an awesomely powerful vampire whose terrifying powers are matched only by his loyalty to Integra (the reason for which should be revealed in the manga in time). Aside from Alucard, there's Victoria Celes, a young rookie policewoman and newly-created vampire (she was vampirified by Alucard to save her life from a vampire vicar in the first episode) who tries desperately to hang onto her humanity as well as getting used to her new undead existence. Oh, and there's of Walter, Integra's butler and former Hellsing trashman who's almost as deadly as Alucard despite being a normal human.
The second thing that you'll notice about Hellsing is that they take religion pretty seriously. Hellsing itself is a Protestant-backed organization, and that puts them into competition with the Catholic faith- embodied of course their opposite number on the Vatican's side: The sinister Iscariot Organization whose agents also work to stamp out undead in the name of Christianity. The competition between the two rival organizations makes for some pretty violent action and even some humorous banter (and insults), but you just know that when real evil makes it's appearance, these two parties will have to come together.
And Big Evil WILL indeed make an appearance, in the form of the enigmatic Millennium, a cabal of Nazi Vampires who are out to remake the world in their own fanged image. These are pretty cool villains previously glimpsed only in that awesome Hellsing MTV included in the US-released DVDs (the bespectacled guy in the shadows who mockingly claps Hellsing's efforts is the Big Boss), and includes a female villain named Rip Van Winkle- How cool is that? Heheh. Will there be any good, or at least humanity, left after all is said and done? We'll just have to see.
A cool extra in the manga is a side-story at the end of each book on the adventures of a pair of Iscariot agents: Gun expert Heiffer Wolfe and Yumiko, a shy nun who, when danger calls, unleashes a persona known as Yumie- a 'berserker' like swordswoman who can use a katana like a bloody Stradivarius. Radical.
Hellsing the Manga is a hellishly good read- it's a lot better than the original Hellsing anime (which diverged from the manga's story after the first several episodes) story and gets deeper into the characters. Integra in particular comes off as a bit kinder and more human in the manga than in her first anime appearance. The art is sharp though with parts looking a bit too cartoony particularly when Victoria's case. Still, this is a great manga with both black humor and action satisfying to the extreme. Anyway, I'm two book deep into the series, and three chapters are already lined up for reading (the series so far has 7 installments out).
You can get Hellsing manga graphic novels at Comic Quest or at Fully Booked. Anime enthusiasts can also look forward to a new Hellsing OAV (based on the manga) from Gonzo later this year. Lots of dark, bloody good fun coming very soon. Hoho!
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