Manga Minute Monday Part 4
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.
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. Column 4 will focus on some of the main foes that Alucard must
face down from the Millennium group before the final confrontation with
"Just what in the
world is Millennium?!", you ask. Did you forget to read the third colum?
*sigh* Well, to explain that, I need to reference World War II. Adolf
Hitler's Nazi party sought to found a new kingdom. They would call this
kingdom the Thousand Year Reich. A millennium equals one thousand years.
The Millennium group was, in Hellsing, one of Hitler's various attempts
to prolong his rule through experimentation. Millennium dealt
specifically with the supernatural and the occult. Alucard and Walter
were said to have completely decimated Millennium and brought their
organization to an end, but it appears that this was an exaggeration.
Jan and Luke Valentine
Let's start off with some of the lowest of the low in Millennium's ranks.
and Luke Valentine are two brothers who fancy themselves to be more
powerful than they actually are. Yes, their arrogance far outweighs
their actual power. These brothers had the audacity to attack the
Hellsing manor in full force, hoping for an easy victory, With them,
they brought an entire bus of ghouls and their own special brand of
believes himself to be quite the comedian and enhances his speech using
the age old dialect of the gentleman. Translation: He spouts expletives
excessively and makes as many adult and crude gestures as possible as
often as he can. Though powerful in his own right when compared to your
average human, he still sheathes his vampiric powers and allows the army
of ghouls that follow his every order to do all the heavy lifting. He
takes great joy in watching the decimation of Hellsing's forces...until
he encounters Walter and Seras in the hallways of the manor. Even Sir
Integra and the Convention of 12, the organization that allows Hellsing
the authority into supernatural matters that it does possess and also
grants Hellsing its government funds, manage to get a few good shots in
at Jan before he meets his end. The only true contribution that Jan
makes to Hellsing as a series, besides all of his over the top humor and
violence, is the reveal of the word "Millennium" in an attempt to have
his final word frustrate Hellsing. He goes out with a mystery...and a
is more refined than Jan, but he is also more arrogant. Where Jan races
towards his death without a care in the world, Luke believes nothing
can send him into the next world, even when he is at his lowest, Luke
sees himself as Alucard's end and does not hesitate to invade his inner
sanctum. After Alucard tests Luke's abilities, he turns on his charm and
literally unleashes the dog of the underworld upon him. Seriously.
Alucard releases some of the blocks on his power and transforms part of
his body into what is best described as a Hellhound. Luke ends up as dog
food, but he reappears unexpectedly later in the series as one of
Alucard's many familiars.
Rest in peace, Valentine Brothers. You are equally amusing but also equally hopeless. Nothing could save you from your own doom.
Tubalcain Alhambra AKA The Dandy Man
Hellsing is a series full of rich and colorful
locations. From the wonderfully historical land of Great Britain, to the
Ermerald Isle of Ireland, Hellsing takes you where the stories decides
it is necessary.
Following Hitler's complete and total defeat and
cowardly suicide, many members of the fallen Nazi party fled to
different areas of the world. In Hellsing, we venture to Argentina, one
of the many countries that was used as a base of operations for a
potential revitalization of the Third Reich. Alucard is ordered by his
master to travel to Argentina with Seras Victoria and Pip Bernadette, a
new addition to the Hellsing organization at the time and the leader of
the Wild geese mercenary team, to eliminate any and all traces of
Millennium. Alucard travels under the guise of a businessman in order to
avoid alerting Millennium to his presence and to keep the general
public in the dark. It would not bode well for the average man on the
street to know that supernatural beings and Nazis bent on the
extermination of life exist.
Unfortunately for our heroes, there appears to be a
mole within the Hellsing organization or within the Convention of 12,
Alucard is identified within hours of his arrival, The entire police
force is revealed to have been convinced to cooperate with Millennium
with the promise of eternal life. Tubalcain Alhambra AKA The Dandy Man
arrives on the scene and issues a challenge to Alucard, after sending an
entire SWAT team to their deaths, of course. The Dandy Man is one
Millennium's most gifted lieutenants, but despite this fact, he feared
defeat at Alucard's hand. He intentionally sent the SWAT team after
Alucard in an attempt to weaken him. Uh...yeah. That plan did not work
out the way he had planned.
Combat between Alucard and Alhambra commences
outside of Alucard's hotel and advances to the roof, with the deaths of a
few onlookers occurring between blows. Alhambra's weapon of choice
draws a similarity to the X-Men's raging Cajun, Gambit. He uses
weaponized playing cards. These cards do not explode, however, They have
been developed to The Dandy Man's specifications and are sharpened to a
point so insignificant that a microscope must be used to see it.
Despite this, The Dandy Man stands no chance against Alucard and is
punished for his failure, bursting into something akin to hellfire upon
the Major's command to the Doctor. This does not prevent Alucard from
adding him to his arsenal as a familiar as he slowly but surely absorbs
Alhambra by drinking his blood.
Fare thee well, Dandy Man. You were just dealt a very poor hand.
Next week: The Millennium has arrived, Let's keep it going,
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 in January 2012 and X,
the final volume in this absolutely amazing epic, followed on December
26, 2012, meaning we will see a release in Fall 2013 at the earliest.
Whichever format you prefer, you are in for one HELLsing of a ride.