Moving on from noir, I instead want to discuss a medium that is very near and dear to my heart: manga. Manga is the Japanese equivalent of comic books, and more often than not a new chapter of each manga series will release at the same rate as each issue of a comic book series, if not faster. There are magazines, such as WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP, that actually publish a chapter each of sometimes 20 different manga series each week. Imagine a phone book sized comic collection that is released every week! That's a lot of reading! Manga is a deeply ingrained part of the Japanese culture, and within the past decade especially, it has exploded in popularity in the United States, along with its animated counterpart anime. Series such as DRAGON BALL, NARUTO, ONE PIECE, BLEACH, and more are household names. Each month, I am going to discuss a particular manga that I recommend. Not every series recommended is kid appropriate, but that doesn't mean they aren't still great series. This month, I want to talk about a series that has recently seen a revival in popularity thanks to a new release of its anime: HELLSING.
HELLSING is a 10 volume series written and drawn by Kouta Hirano. It is unique in that much of the series takes place in London, England. The majority of manga and anime series are set in Japan. London itself becomes an important character during the length of this series, but obviously, living entities make up the actual cast. We'll get to that in a minute. Breaking down the plot for this series can be done in 5 words: BEST VAMPIRE MANGA SERIES EVER! The series begins at a brisk pace and rarely slows down. The series does not sacrifice characterization for action and manages to find an easy balance between the two. The series focuses on the Hellsing organization, a supernatural agency assembled by the monarchy to protect the country against other worldly entities such as vampires, werewolves, ghouls, and demons. As the series progresses, readers are shown that there is a greater evil at work. As the evil makes its presence known, the stakes get higher, and $#@% hits the fan. Our main cast of characters will be introduced week to week in this column. For my second column, we will be focusing on the organization known as Iscariot and the members of said organization.
The Iscariot organization, also known as Section XIII of the Vatican's special forces, is a secret organization formed under the principles of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who ended up betraying Jesus. It serves the same purpose as the Hellsing organization: the extermination of demons, vampires, and other supernatural evils. However, Iscariot follows the beliefs of Catholicism, and therefore finds itself at odds with Hellsing, which follows a more Protestant belief system. The Pope is in charge of the Iscariot organization but leaves the dirty work to the priests and paladins within that organization. The most well known paladin of Iscariot is a man named Alexander Anderson.
Father Alexander Anderson is Iscariot's most skilled and motivated paladin. When at home in the Vatican, he can most often be seen attending to the needs of his flock or caring for the orphans. However, he takes his job very seriously and will stop at nothing to see that all evil beings meet their ends by his hand. He equips himself with blessed stakes, silver bayonetes, holy water, and barriers enhanced with scripture to finish off his opponents.
Little is known of his childhood or his recruitment into Iscariot, but he rose up the ranks within the organization to become a paladin. During one of his missions, he encountered the vampires Alucard and Seras Victoria and engaged them in battle. The battle ended in a draw, and since then, Anderson sought to send Alucard to the afterlife.
As the series progresses, Anderson and Alucard form a rivalry and find that though they would rather obliterate the Millennium organization than one another, they will still eventually find themselves locked in final combat.
Enrico Maxwell is the leader of Section XIII and Alexander Anderson's handler. He holds Anderson in high regard for having raised him since childhood after he was abandoned. However, he appears to have never truly recovered and holds onto his pain even into his adulthood. He sees himself as Integra Hellsing's rival and will stop at nothing to see that Iscariot succeed in a mission. He is not without mercy. When the Millennium organization resurfaces, it is Maxwell who relays this information to the Hellsing organization.
When Millennium takes its chance to declare war on England, the Pope raises Maxwell to the rank of bishop and then arch-bishop. This newfound power drives Maxwell to the breaking point and eventually leads to his downfall in an unexpected way. How? Read the manga, or watch the anime for more details.
Yumie and Wolfe
Yumie Takagi and Heinkel Wolfe are Iscariot's most successful paladin team. They actually make their first appearance in CROSSFIRE, a manga that Kouta Hirano had written before he began work on HELLSING. They make their first appearance in HELLSING in volume 4 and are seen working alongside Iscariot's army and Alexander Anderson in the battle against Millennium.
Yumie appears as a shy young nun with a flair for kindness and pacifism, but due to her multiple personality disorder, she is not to be trifled with. Her second personality makes her perfect for high risk missions against supernatural forces, as does her skill with a blade.
Wolfe is Yumie's devoted partner in the field and can most often be seen at her side. She prefers to use firearms and is quite talented with them. She awaits the next Crusade so that she can take part in tearing down the Hellsing organization, especially Sera Victoria, who she sees as a rival.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed this look at the Iscariot organization and its main members. Next time around, we will look into the Nazi organization known only as Millennium.
HELLSING is an absolutely amazing series, both in terms of the manga and the anime. Kouta Hirano wrote what I consider to be the best addition to vampire lore in the past 50 years. I highly recommend it to anyone just looking for a fantastic jaunt through the realm of the supernatural or anyone looking for a great story to read. The manga is only 10 volumes long and has completed its release in the United States, thanks to Dark Horse. The anime version I would recommend is called HELLSING ULTIMATE and has just seen a new Blu-Ray/DVD Combo release, thanks to FUNimation Entertainment. There are two sets thus far: one contains volumes I-IV and the other V-VIII. IX saw its release in Japan this past January, with X to follow in December, meaning we will see a release next fall at the earliest. Whichever format you prefer, you are in for one HELLsing of a ride.
Until next time, pray for mercy, but you shall receive none from Iscariot.
Labels: Counter Monkey Steve Review