Hellsing and the Horror

By Nomad(Marlin Brando makes the least believable malaria victim ever)Otto

I’m aware that this is an anime blog, rather than a “crap Nomad Likes” blog, if it were, it would have a lot more about politics, historical military shaz, and, of course, endless waves of board and strategy games, along with the occasional fighter. However, because this is an anime blog written (in part) by me, there will be discussion about the intersection between anime, manga, and politics, military crap, board and strategy games, along with the occasional fighter. This post is mostly a reaction to re-watching Apocalypse Now after having just gotten caught up on Hellsing (I’ve had volume 8 in Japanese for a while now, but it’s really hard to get the full impact of it until I read it in English, mostly because Hellsing is a bitch to read). Afterwards there will be a small newspost regarding various Doujin games and other crap.

How is this like Apocalypse Now?

Alright, so, I should probably start off by saying that Apocalypse Now is one of the most disturbing, beautiful and awesome movies I have ever seen; every time I watch it, I still feel shakey all the way down. Hellsing is pretty good, but it’s no Apocalypse Now. There are glaring weaknesses in the plot and pacing, and Alucard is (at least until the latest volume) not a character that I had any emotional reaction towards, other than mild annoyance. This is a huge problem, because he’s the main character in the largest sense, driving a vast amount of the action. I should feel something towards him, admiration, disgust, vicarious enjoyment, something. But Alucard just feels like a cipher, a stand-in for the power fantasies of the author. Moreover, the artwork isn’t bad, but it’s not good enough to justify me reading Hellsing on that basis alone, especially since Hirano likes to use “magic action lines” which enable him to get away with almost no background for most panels, and, sometimes, not even characters, just action lines.

You may then ask why I’m still reading it, let along with enough enthusiasm to try to read it in Japanese. Well, what really captures Hellsing for me, other than the whole “Nazi Vampires Invade London” angle, is the tone of the work, especially with how Hirano handles violence, namely, chaos and madness. If there’s another manga that strong on this suit, it’s Blade of the Immortal, but while Blade has been toning the level of horrific, Dyonisian maiming, in recent volumes of Hellsing, the level of intensity has been going straight up. You see, normally in the visual arts and literature, violence is abstracted by at least a couple of levels. Action is presented in a clean, dramatic way, able to be witnessed from a slightly distant point of view and processed at a mental level. The problem with this is that it takes the immidiacy out of the action, because, in most situations of violence, you don’t know what the hell is going on. You’re operating with almost zero information, surrounded by panic, horror, acting based on a weird, constantly fluctuating combination of reflex, emotion, and higher thought.

This means that violence becomes much more sedate, and, so, to stick the trauma back in, filmmakers use “shakey-cam” (one of the single most annoying camera techniques ever), authors use short, choppy sentences and break flow, and visual artists, like manga writers, use freakin’ action lines. The problem is that all the action lines and shakey-cams in the world don’t do anything but to give a pale shadow to the chaos and horror of most violent interaction. Hellsing, Apocalypse Now, and a couple of other works, mostly in the genre of war movies, some horror movies, and underground comics are able to keep the level of dynamism high by sacrificing, at times, reader/viewer understanding of exactly what is going on. THIS IS OKAY! A panel with nothing but explosions and mangled limbs is alright (well, provided it’s done right)! Men screaming while firing blindly into the darkness after an unseen enemy is the point. It’s a feature, not a bug! Anyway, if you haven’t seen Apocalypse Now, I suggest you do so immdiately (Heart of Darkness, the book the film is based on, isn’t bad, but the writing skips over so much that you don’t get the same level of impact, instead, you have to dig through the text for clues as to what happened, and it takes away from the claustrophobic feel of the movie). If you haven’t read Hellsing, you might want to give it a shot.

I love the smell of Napalm in the Morning.

Enough with that shaz, time for some talk about doujin games. French Bread has magically decided to release another Melty Blood version in the next couple of months, which I’m looking forward to. I spent a good percentage of my sophmore year playing RBO, Eternal Fighter Zero, and Melty Blood with “Negishi,” BigN, and Kawaiiguy. Also of note for you dedicated BMW fans is that the soundtrack is being released (old news) and BMW 4 is in the process of getting made (also slightly old news, but awesome none the less).

On the subject of slightly less doujin games, Disgaea 3 is going to be coming out in the near future, and I will be up a creek without a paddle, because I have neither a TV nor a PS3, so my chance of playing it is on the order of zero for a non-trivial amount of time. I’m not that interested in most of the other stuff on the game horizon, other than some visual novels that look vaguely interesting, and, of course, the traditional holiday assortment of board games (whenever I go back home for the holidays, I always try to get in a couple games of something, either Arkahm Horror, Brittania, or something new that I’ll be picking up folks for X-mas.)

On the subject of the hollidays, I find that I’ll have a couple of weeks with nothing really to do, so I have two options. Option 1 is to work on some side project of mine or another (It’ll probably end up being a set of board game rules or finishing up one or another of the short stories I’ve got floating around). This option sucks, because it involves creative work, and after the joy that I’ve experienced at grad school, I need to give my brain a rest. Option 2 is much better and involves wandering the east coast visiting folks. Since I get the feeling that a significant percentage of the readership of this blog is college students who might theoretically have free time over the holidays, a “drastic blog meetup” might be in order. Anyway, that’s all for now, as I have huge programming project to finish up before finals week, when I’ll have to slave over an enormous pile of final exam papers from undergrads who don’t seem to understand how physics works along with my own final exams. Until next time, all!

5 Responses to “Hellsing and the Horror”

  1. 1 TheBigN December 6, 2007 at 10:16 am

    I’ve had Melty Blood Act Cadenza for a while, playing by myself, and miss playing our favorite Nero player, since even at level 5 the computer is easier to defeat. :/

    But still… Actress Again?! How the hell did they come up with that name? 😦

  2. 2 animanachronism December 12, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    ‘Mistah Brando . . . he dead.’

    Your suggestion that a chaotic, mad portayal of violence which refuses to give the reader a full understanding creates palpable panic and horror is very convincing.

    I think I may have seen the same sort of thing used in a small way in FPS games – I’ve noticed that the Call of Duty series likes to hit the player with a scripted shellblast to disorient them at the beginning of certain missions. I’m not an expert on games, though.

    If action is especially horrifying when we don’t understand what’s going on, can this be linked to the way that horror films generally generate horror by using the unknown? I know Lovecraft is noted for his efforts to make his monsters seem essentially incomprehensible, and maddening (as in, liable to drive you insane).

  3. 3 shinji December 13, 2007 at 1:04 am

    IMO the “fear of the unknown” is the best element/plot device in presenting horror/suspense/mystery stories. It tends to make readers/viewers think rather than accept everything as it is. You mentioned Blade of the Immortal, well I think it’s one of the best manga I’ve read in terms of artwork and storyline. ^^

  4. 4 Hellsing OVA 8 July 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Here we are 4 years later waiting for the release of Hellsing OVA 8. I love the original series but man I can’t wit till the new OVA is out next week. Nice blog btw, you should update it with the new stuff.

  1. 1 Demonbane, Nanoha and the Cosmic Horrors « The Animanachronism Trackback on May 21, 2008 at 5:39 pm

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