Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Secret Services: The Hellsing Organization and Vatican Section XIII

Today's entries in the list of Secret Services comes from Japan ("entries" because there's actually two of them here). Both originate in the pages of the long-running manga series by Kouta Hirano, Hellsing, and were featured in the later anime adaptations, as well.

In the world of Hellsing, supernatural monsters like vampires and ghouls are real, and Bram Stoker's Dracula is a more-or-less accurate historical account (though clearly the ending must have been a little different). Someone has to stand in the breach to civilization from being overrun by blood-drinking fiends, and that's where the Hellsing Organization comes in.

Here's the description of the outfit from the wikipedia entry.
More formally known as the Royal Order of Protestant Knights, the Hellsing Organization is a fictional group from the Hellsing universe. The Hellsing Organization was founded by Abraham Van Helsing shortly after the events of Bram Stoker's novel as a response to the threat posed by vampires such as Dracula. The Hellsing Organization is traditionally headed by Abraham's descendants, as they are the only individuals who can control Alucard, the ultimate undead created by the organization for use in their continuing struggle against supernatural threats. After WWII, it was decided that Alucard was too powerful or potentially too dangerous to continue to be used as a weapon, and was locked away in the basement of the Hellsing mansion. Upon Arthur's death, his daughter, Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, became the director of the organization. Integra's uncle, Richard Hellsing, attempted to assassinate her and take control of the organization, but was defeated in part by Alucard, who was accidentally released on vague instructions from her father. Integra herself fired the bullet that killed Richard. During the timeline of the manga series, ten years have passed since Integra became director of the Hellsing Organization and Alucard was released.

In the Hellsing universe, the organization is an integral part of the true power-structure of Great Britain, which is, according to the story, still ruled by a hidden aristocracy and the monarchy. The organization is tasked with defending the country's shores from any and all supernatural threats and often faces controversy over the highly unconventional methods Hellsing chooses to do this, such as the use of "anti-Christian" powers and creatures. In the TV series, Hellsing is portrayed much more like a paramilitary or counter-terrorist organization armed with Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns and GKN Saxon or VAB APCs used to transport Hellsing soldiers to areas where there are reports of supernatural outbreaks in Britain. The paramilitary aspects are rarely mentioned in the OVA or the manga.

But the Hellsing Organization isn't the only clandestine monster-hunting outfit out there. There's also the Vatican's Section XIII to consider.

Also known as the Iscariot Organization, Section XIII (and there's that familiar prime numeral again) fields "paladins" with swords, holy water, and holy writ to dispatch vampires and other nasties. Naturally, they take a dim view to the Hellsing Organization's pet vampires, Alucard most of all. And given the history of friction between Catholics and Protestants in the UK, there's some doctrinal tension between the two organizations, as well.

If you've never seen the Hellsing anime, but are familiar with Japanese animation in general, it's pretty much exactly what you'd expect. I kept seeing echoes of Vampire Hunter D, myself, in a setting not a million miles from the UK series Ultraviolet (about which more very shortly).


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