Welcome back to Anime Horrors – a column dedicated to exploring new and classic works of anime and manga.
A good anime protagonist excites us, while a great one makes us feel. Think Goku of Dragon Ball or Serena of Sailor Moon – each fight for justice, care deeply for their companions, and offer an air of inspiration. Anti-heroes offer similar elements, while bringing some moral complexity into the mix. Their overall efforts are geared towards justice, but they also don’t mind getting their hands dirty. Personally, I find that anti-heroes allow for unique storytelling; it is interesting to see the impact they have on the world and the characters around them. I’ve come to enjoy several of these characters throughout anime. But in all the shows I’ve ever seen, no character gives me chills like Alucard.
As the central character to Hellsing, Alucard is a vampire assassin that serves the titular organization. For the uninitiated, Hellsing exists to fight off the enemies of the dark – ghouls, vampires, and other supernatural threats. Though the organization has various tools and other agents to assist in battle, Alucard is their ace. He is pure devastation; while there are several anime characters who exude tremendous strength, very few come close to Alucard’s terrifying being. So, for this month’s installment of Anime Horrors, I want to examine and speak to what makes Alucard so nightmarish.
Please note: for those familiar and not familiar with Hellsing, I will be referring to Alucard as he is depicted in the OVA, Hellsing Ultimate (since that is my favorite way to watch the show). Minor spoilers are present in the form of character abilities and brief story elements.
When we first meet Alucard, he is chained up in a basement. It is only when the heir of the Hellsing Organization is attacked, her blood spilling onto him, that he awakens. With his consciousness intact, he tears into the assailants going after the young girl, bowing down to her afterwards and stating his allegiance. Given his extraordinary strength, Alucard is loyal to his master, biding by her command – but don’t mistake that for a dog on its leash. She is fully aware of how strong he is and trusts him with no doubt in battle.
Hellsing Ultimate does a profound job capturing the ferocity of Alucard’s combat. The manga artwork is already stunning in its detail, but Ultimate brings to life all the bloodshed. Bodies jumping about, limbs falling apart, weapons clashing – it’s delightfully chaotic. While the dramatic elements of the show are entertaining, the big appeal are the battles. Whether it is Alucard tearing into human baddies or supernatural ones, the viewer can always expect carnage.
As a vampire, he has several qualities. His physical talents are remarkable, his fists being able to slice through bodies, his speed faster than the human eye can follow. Other supernatural gifts come in the form of regeneration and the power to summon familiars. These familiars can be demons or defeated enemies whose souls he has taken. And to cap things off, he is equipped with two pistols (each loaded with rounds that leave immense holes in their victims).
Alucard’s skills rank him high among the bad ass characters in anime. When it comes to comparing him against his opponent, it’s like comparing a mountain to a mole hill. And this difference makes for one of the most interesting aspects to his character; for while it’s cool to see him unleash all kinds of dark magic and attacks, it is equally as intriguing to see the emotional and psychological impact he has on his foes.
Think of a time you watched one of your favorite anime heroes go up against a truly menacing villain. Consider how the hero felt in that moment – the stress and fear surging through them. Intense power levels have been a means of creating excitement and suspense throughout anime for decades. Typically, the villain will level up, instill fear, then beat up the good guys for a time (until the central protagonist or a specific character comes along and levels up beyond the bad guy). In Hellsing however, this concept is turned on its head, with Alucard proving to be a horrifying confrontation for his antagonists. Episode two has one of the best fights that highlights this.
A force of ghouls, led by two men, invade the Hellsing headquarters. One of the men, Luke Valentine, makes his way into the headquarters and seeks out Alucard. He eventually finds him in one of the building’s lower levels. Luke shares how he has been modified to not only match Alucard, but to exceed his strength. After words are exchanged, the two draw out their pistols, each shooting the other in the head. After some brief silence, the two begin laughing. Luke jumps about the room shooting at Alucard. As blood spews from his body, his head dropping back, Alucard continues pulling his pistol trigger, his face wearing a haunting expression of joy. At this point in the story, the viewer is aware of how powerful Alucard is – that said, it is what comes next that really amps things up.
After several rounds of gunfire, Alucard gets up and addresses how interested he is in Luke. He states how he wants to see more and acknowledges his talents. He then begins uttering an incantation of sorts that will increase his power. However, this isn’t as straightforward as an increase – it’s the fact that he is unlocking a restriction placed on him. This guy is so friggin’ strong that he has restrictions on how much of his dark magic he can use. With new abilities available to him, he overwhelms Luke, tearing off his legs. As Luke strives to scramble away, Alucard screams out for him to regenerate and fight back. Luke won’t though, for he knows there is no hope.
Coming up against Alucard is like staring into the eyes of an existential threat. No matter how hard one pushes, no matter how long they last in combat, they are never going to exceed what Alucard is capable of. His presence has the means to shake one’s core. There are several occasions where a supernatural being will come Alucard’s way and threaten him. Against any other individual, these beings would be a real challenge – but to Alucard – they are bugs. To see these bad guys walk in all sure of themselves, to then drop to their knees in horror, is brilliant and chilling.
Outside of battle, and for lack of a better word, Alucard is chill; not friendly exactly, but relaxed. It is only when things heat up with a foe that his mannerisms rise to aggressive heights. When it comes to his bloodthirst and excitement for an adversary, his movements hit like a strike of lighting. In a sense, Alucard is like a mutated Shonen protagonist who loves battle. For him, combat is very much a sport. It excites him to go up against someone who can deliver immense blows and push him. It is as if he wants to know he can get close to death.
The shock that comes over characters when facing Alucard is an element I absolutely love about the show. It not only makes for awesome deliveries of drama, but it also sells how frightening he is. There is saying a character should be feared, and then there is having their actions establish a reason to fear them. Alucard is a presence that not only scares humans, but supernatural beings as well.
Talking about Alucard’s terrifying presence is one thing, but seeing it is a whole other thing. If your interest is piqued by what I’ve shared, and you’ve never seen the show, then I encourage you to check out Hellsing Ultimate. The series takes place over 10 episodes. The original anime and manga are solid as well, but Ultimate’s animation and direction are incredible. You can find Ultimate on Hulu and Funimation at the time of this writing.
Battle is an easy, yet effective way to display how bad ass a character is. Having a protagonist use a few iconic moves and deliver some speedy punches creates the sensation that they are a force to be reckoned with. Then there are characters that make us feel – and not in the cozy inspirational sense – but in a cold, tense, and unnerving way. Alucard is a being who does not just live in darkness, but who exudes it and casts it upon his enemies. The fights throughout Hellsing are nothing short of astounding, and yet, it is those quiet moments of an enemy’s defeat that offer a sensation like no other; witnessing these characters look upon a being of extraordinary skill, knowing that annihilation is upon them.
In their last moments, they realize they are facing a monster like no other.