Anime: Anime on PSP Roundup: Hellsing (UMD), Samurai Champloo (UMD), and Gungrave (UMD)

Vandemar

While I’ve ragged on Sony’s PlayStation Portable for having a paucity of actual games, there’s no denying it is the hot place to be for anime. Geneon, among others, is stepping up to the portable plate, releasing tons of big-name anime for the itty-bitty UMD platform. Appleseed was only the beginning. Rather than do three separate reviews, I sat down and compiled one big article compiling three of the biggest new UMD releases.

imageHellsing: Impure Souls

Kickass vampires and a rockin’ score highlight Hellsing: Impure Souls, the first UMD installment of the fan-favorite Hellsing series. Awesome/crazy vampire Alucard battles undead monsters, other vampires, and even the Catholic Church, all in the name of Britian’s Hellsing organization, which fights to protect the Brits from an undead menace, and the occasional wayward Paladin-vigilante.

Episode 01: The Undead

Hellsing begins in awesome fashion. A slinky woman strips down to a tight dress, while a leering businessman looks on. And then a man with a huge gun appears and blasts her into oblivion. Meanwhile, zombies are roaming around a quaint little village, and the police move in to investigate, but when they turn out to be in onver their head, Alucard intervenes in his usual explosive fashion.

Episode 02: Club M
Police Girl settles into her new role with the Hellsing organization, fighting undead with the rest of the troops. In the meantime, a pair of teenagers are terrorizing the countryside, killing people left and right. Hellsing moves in to investigate.

Episode 03: Sword Dancer
Seas Victoria, the Police Girl, learns from Alucard about hunting vampires and other undead, but trouble is brewing. A crazed priest from the Vatican who prefers swords to guns is after vampires. Even vampires working for humans.

Hellsing is one of the coolest series ever and a UMD release merits purchase for on-the-go vampire awesomeness. The only gripe I have is the subtitles calling him “Arucard,” which is silly, because the entire point of his name is that it’s Dracula spelled backwards.

imageSamurai Champloo Episodes 1 and 2

Hip hop samurai sword slashing series Samurai Champloo has also sauntered onto the PlayStation Portable. Episodes 1 and 2 make for an exciting intro and if you don’t like Samurai Champloo, check your pulse. You may just be dead. Half the reason to watch Samurai Champloo is the outstanding trip-hoppy soundtrack, and the other half is amazing sword fights that put major motion pictures to shame. The third half is the outstanding characterization, writing, and animation so smooth and fluid it’s breathtaking. Sword fights-mandatory in any series mentioning samurai-have a ballet dancer’s grace, with all the cuts and blood required for a truly satisfying duel. Yes, I know that’s three halves. Samurai Champloo is so cool it breaks the laws of physics by having three halves.

Episode 01: Tempestuous Temperaments
We meet our two heroes when they’re in a bad state: captured, on their knees, and about to be executed for sassing a local lord. The show flashes back to just a day before, when everything was going nicely and no one was about to be beheaded, and covers just how Mugen and Jin got themselves in trouble…

Episode 02: Redeye Reprisal

Our heroes manage to keep their heads, but Oniwakamaru, a dangerous criminal, is let out of prison to chase them down. It turns out some people just object to the cutting down of their masters, no matter how cool you look or how awesome it is when you do it. Meanwhile, Jin and Mugin have to contain their differences while they search for a mysterious samurai who smells like sunflowers.

imageGungrave Volume 1

What happens when a former streetfighter and gang member comes back from beyond the grave? Gunfighting action happens, that’s what. Brandon Heat was an every day kind of thug, but things went bad and…well, that’s about all we know this early in the series. Episodes 1 and 2 don’t do a lot of explaining, but they do set up this intriguing premise quite well.

Episode 01: Destroyer in the Dusk

Brandon Heat is introduced in explosive fashion, ripping through a simulation full of monsters with a stylin’ cowboy hat and two big ol’ guns. Though his name isn’t really Brandon anymore, it’s “Beyond the Grave.” What begins as a fairly straightforward yarn of revenge against the mob soon throws in some kind of creepy monsters, making for a very different experience. But he has a few tricks up his sleeve, which keeps things sort of fair…

Episode 02: Young Dogs

Episode 2 takes us back to the early, pre-Beyond the Grave days, back when he was street fighting with gangs and living a normalish life as a gang member on the streets. But it can’t just be fistfights forever, and when guns get drawn, people are going to get hurt.

Technically speaking, the PSP is impressive as portable platforms go. While Hellsing and Gungrave weren’t widescreened, Samurai Champloo used all of the PSP’s screen, and it was gorgeous for it. Subtitles can be a little pixellated and hard to read, and sometimes the action gets a little blurry, but we’re comparing a handheld with a TV here. So you have to squint to read the subtitles, but you can watch them ON THE MOON. The extras are sparse as well, previews if anything, but again…you can watch them on the moon. The UMD releases so far won’t stand up to a regular DVD release in terms of extras and visual quality, but they’re a good start.

Those craving still more anime after they survive this combo should check out the main Geneon page, which they’ve been busy setting up for maximum PSP pleasure. The games may be coming out in a trickle, but there’s a veritable flood of amazing anime being released for Sony’s handheld movie-anime watching platform. Which plays games, too, I’m told.

Shannon “Vandemar” Drake is the Community Development Manager for Warcry’s efforts in all things that aren’t games. He also serves as Site Manager for FMA Warcry and frequently contributes to the hubsite. He will talk about anime until you roll your eyes and walk away, which makes him sad. He’s currently watching Gankutsuou #1.

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