Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hellsing and Hellsing Ultimate Reviews (English Dub)

Today, we're going to play a little game. It's called how long does it take before Stephanie decides to not watch Hellsing anymore. Any guesses?

Hellsing is an Action/Supernatural anime based on the manga written by Kouta Hirano and published by Shonen Gahosha. In the U.S., the publisher is Dark Horse Comics. Studio Gonzo took up the anime, and was aired in late 2001. It is currently licensed by Funimation. There are thirteen episodes in all, originally airing from October 2001 to January 2002.

Hellsing is named after and centered around the Holy Order of Protestant Knights, originally led by Abraham Van Helsing. The mission of Hellsing is to protect Queen and Country from the undead and other supernatural forces of evil. This organization is currently led by Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, who inherited the leadership of Hellsing as a child after the death of her father. She is protected by the faithful Hellsing family butler and former Hellsing "trashman," Walter C. Dornez, and Alucard, the original and most powerful vampire that swore loyalty to the Hellsing family after being defeated by Van Helsing one hundred years before the story takes place. These formidable guardians are joined early on in the story line by former ploice officer Seras Victoria, whom Alucard turned into a vampire. As the scale and frequency of incidents involving the undead escalate in England and all around the world, Sir Integra discovers that the remnants of a Nazi group called Millennium still exist and are intent on reviving the Third Reich by creating a battalion of vampires. Millennium, Hellsing, and the Vatican section XIII Iscariot clash in an apocalyptic three-sided war in London, and Millennium reveals its true objective: to destroy the vampire Alucard, ending a feud begun during World War II.

The look of the series is full of darker colors, with red being used in a lot of cases; mostly when it comes to Alucard. Then again, since the series is dealing with vampires, there's going to be a lot of dark color. There are a lot of soft lines, and some things seem to be a bit faded. The animation isn't lazy either, it's actually pretty well done. The overall quality could be better, but it's not a complete flop.

The story of Hellsing.... Uhm.... Well.... does not follow the original manga (Actual plot in description above), at all. Only in the beginning it's relatively similar to the manga series, but the main plot is completely missing. There's one part in the second episode where you see two teenage vampires killing families and drinking their blood, and then the female vampire decides to go lower on the male and decides to....... Yeah...... To answer the question from the beginning of this post, one episode and about thirteen minutes of the second episode.... Yeah. Sadly, however, I had to keep going. Luckily they die shortly after so I don't have to see any more oral sex or hear their terrible voice acting ever again.

The dialogue is, at times, very poor. With lines such as "I am so fucking hard right now", it begs the question as to who wrote the scripts for the series. It also doesn't help having swears every five to ten minutes or so. On the flip side of things, Hellsing is supposed to be a mature show with mature, adult content; so some of the pieces in this anime are understandable. However, this heavily handed, and just plain appalling delivery takes any charm that watching a mature show presents. Plus, it doesn't help the production company of Hellsing when the manga they're basing it off of has pretty bad dialogue as well. Still, in any case, I almost feel like bashing my head against the wall.

The voice acting, however, is well done. Looking for English (As in England) voice actors to fit the roles of Integra, Seras, and Walter is a major task, and Victoria Harwood, K.T. Gray, and Ralph Lister are perfect matches. Especially Integra; she is the best English actor of the series. Most of the voice acting was done by lesser known actors, but the one name that you might know is Crispin Freeman, who plays Alucard (Blood+, Eureka Seven, Wolf's Rain). Freeman gives off the right amount of dark and sinister along with slightly sociopathic.

So, the only real redeeming thing about Hellsing is the choices in major voice casting and a bit of the animation and overall look of the series. Well, makes me wonder how much worse the OVA really is...... Ugh. Alright, time to find out.


*The heavens open and angels sing*

Holy cow! I never thought an anime would improve so much the second time around!

Satelight and Geneon Entertainment started production of Hellsing Ultimate back in 2006. Episodes are actually longer then the original run time, clocking in at about an hour rather then thirty minutes. The episodes are being released yearly, with the eighth episode out of ten to be released this June. Funimation also licenses Hellsing Ultimate.

So, where on earth do I even begin? The look and animation I suppose. There are several images taken directly from the manga volumes, with a lot of dark colors and sharper imaging. The downside this time around is the animation isn't 100%. With the amount of sharp lines and images, it manages to take its toll on the animation. It will be visually amazing at times and it has better quality then the original, but the animation takes a bit of a beating because of this.

The story is 100% better then the original! It sticks to the manga through and through, with each hour long episode, pretty much, following one manga volume at a time. You get better explanation, better villains that stick around for longer then three episodes (stupid Incognito), and even some actually funny bits in between. Plus, you get more of a look into Alucard's past, which the original didn't even take a second glance at.

The dialogue is a little bit better, but still not the greatest thing in the world. The lines don't seem as out of place at times, and the context of when it is said is better as well. Again, Hellsing is a mature anime with adult content; so the swears are still there at every five minutes or so. But I can at least grit my teeth and bare with the worse bits of dialogue this time, as opposed to bashing my head against a wall for every line of the TV series.

With a new version of an anime, sometimes you think the voice cast would change, not with Helling Ultimate it didn't! It kept the same voice actors for Alucard, Seras, Integra, and Walter. Every one else is voiced by completely different people, except for at least one other person. Steven Brand who voices Alexander Anderson returns for his role as well, and is one priest you certainly do not want to come across in a dark ally. There is one voice actor that deserves credit this time around, and that is the Major. Gildart Jackson must have loved war as much as his character, cause the Major is all about war and fighting, seemingly for it's own sake; and genuinely enjoys working to achieve it.

As I watched Hellsing and Hellsing Ultimate, I realized similarities with these two anime and two other popular anime. The Hellsing/Hellsing OVA pattren is the same as the Full Metal Alchemist/Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood anime. Both original series followed the manga very little and turned it into their own story, and when they both came back around the second time they followed the manga more closely. Both Hellsing and FMA were able to keep their main voice actors and make it seem like nothing changed but the story. The major difference between these two franchises is, Hellsing changed it's animation in the OVA while FMA kept the animation intact for Brotherhood. The other big difference between the two is the original FMA held up on it's own with it's completely different story, while the original Hellsing.... doesn't.

But for the major comparison, I broke it down to what I have been talking about during this review. Here's the more dominant breakdown.

Style and Animation:
For better animation and not so hard on the eyes artwork.

Hellsing Ultimate
For sticking to the original manga more, plus some actual humor.

Hellsing Ultimate
For better development, and villains. (Hooray!)

Hellsing Ultimate
For less bashing my head against the wall....

Voice Acting:
Hellsing Ultimate
For keeping its voice actors from the original, plus the acting of the Major kicks butt!

Based on my analysis, the overall winner in my opinion and without a doubt, is Hellsing Ultimate. The yearly release of episodes plus the longer run time for each episode proves, this time, they are taking their time with this anime and following it to a T. It still has it's flaws, like every other anime in the world, but it makes up for it with every other detail to make it even better then the original. I'm not saying the original Hellsing is the worse anime in existence, but it's not one I would be excited about recommending to my friends. Hellsing Ultimate, however, would be one I can tell everyone to watch.

Think the original is better then the OVA? Take the poll at the top left, or leave a comment below, and tell us which one is better and why. Poll closes, July 1st. Until next time, This is Stephanie for Lilac Anime Reviews. See you later!
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Samurai Champloo Review (English Dub)

"Some days, some nights/Some live some die in the way of the samurai. Some fight, some bleed/Sun up to sun down, the songs of a battle cry."
~Opening Theme "Battlecry"

Samurai Champloo is a Comdey/Drama based off the manga by Shinichiro Watanabe and was published by Kadokawa Shoten. The english manga is published by Bandai Entertainment. The twenty-six episode anime is from Manglobe and was originally licensed by Genon, but we all know what hapened to them. Since then, Samurai Champloo was rescued and relicensed by Funimation (if only they could do the same for Paranoia Agent).

Mugen is a fierce animal-like warrior with a unique B-Boying (break dance) inspired fighting style. Jin has a more traditional style but don't think of this as a weakness because his skills are amazing. The two contrasting samurai warriors are far from friends, yet their seperate paths seem to cross anyways. Mugen is wandering aimlessly through the city when he stumbles upon a teahouse where he meets Jin and Fuu (A ditzy waitress, but don't think she doesn't have anything hidden up her sleeves. Fuu convinces them both to come with her in search of a mysterious samurai that smells of sunflowers and their journey begins. The modernized hip-hop tale breaks the barriers of the common, historical, samurai anime. (Anime News Network)

The style is extremely well done. With wonderful use of color and lighting to give you the right mood at the right time, it is certainly a visual marvel. However, the animation isn't quite there all the time. There are moments where the animation does get pretty sloppy and out of place, so it can be sometimes irritating to watch. But, though irritating, the animators certainly took the time and effort into where it really counted. So, there is no way I am reviewing this anime without mentioning the music. Samurai Champloo is a period piece, but the music is very very modern; from Hip-Hop to Rap to even some Reggae. The question is, however, does it work? And, well it really does. The music seems to be used at the perfect time in the series, and adds an extra touch of awesome to it.

The story itself has it's major plot, to find the Sunflower Samurai, but that's not the plot of every single episode. A lot of the series is just different stories per episode, sometimes for a max of two episodes (some are labeled Part 1 or Part 2 in the title). Most of the episodes do not, in any way, fit with the time period the show is set in. However, it really does work for this series. The point of Samurai Champloo is, pretty much, a parody of Asian action/samurai films. With that idea in mind, the show may not make sense plot wise but, that's the point of it. You have the characters playing baseball in one episode, and, in another, there's a character who has beat boxing/rapping sidekicks. Yeah.... Makes no sense to the period, but it's still funny to watch.

Since this show is more about our three main travelers, they'll be the subject of my little character talk. All three don't have a whole lot of development, pretty mich sticking to their stereotypes from episode one. Sure, there is backstory and a few flashbacks here and there, but they're few and far between. As for the voice acting in the Dub, all three are played perfectly. Fifteen year old Fuu is played like a fifteen year old, thanks to Kari Wahlgren (Blood+, Witch Hunter Robin). Fuu just seems to be you typical young girl who is just keeping tabs on the boys, pretty much forcing them to get along. Jin, the rather quiet and very traditional samurai, is played by Kirk Thornton (Gungrave, The Prince of Tennis). He's played exactly how you would picture this character. He's all about honor and can become rather upset whenever he comes across broken tradition with the way of the samurai. Although he is to be seen as the most serious of the three, Jin really does have his share of funny moments. But the big show stealer is most certainly Steve Blum's Mugen (The Big O, Rurouni Kenshin). In the dub version, Mugen's slang and brash way of speaking are carried out so well by Steve Blum it's not even funny (Okay it totally is). If you're looking for the man of the show then look no further then Mugen. Certainly one of Steve Blum's iconic roles alongside Cowboy Bebop.

The dub itself has a few tiny problems when it comes to syncing with the character's mouths. There have been a few times where I would watch the show and see that they could be speaking in your standard Japanese turned English voice over movie. Where you have the Japanese audio going in the scene, but then that pause where there's poorly done English voice over mixed in. Luckily, it's not an extreme problem with Samurai Champloo. I'm probably just being a bit nit-picky. Also, if you want to pick between the Japanese and the Dub, my friend suggested the Dub; just for the slang and brashness of it all makes more sense in English rather then Japanese, and the voice acting works tons better. I've seen the English but haven't seen the Japanese, so I'll have to take his word for it.

All in all, Samurai Champloo makes fun of your typical samurai story and adds it's own modern pieces that work really well together. The Dub is well done, using, not only one of the greatest voice actos of all time, but some other well known actors who fit their roles perfectly. Again, a visual marvel, it has fun with what it's trying to accomplish and it's easily noticeable. Certainly one of those anime you just have to add to your viewing list.
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