Nazis, vampires, religious struggles, and near endless blood. This is the story that I fell in love with as a young teenager. The Hellsing manga (by Kohta Hirano) is a dark and bizarre tale of two Christian organizations (one Catholic and the other the Protestant organization, Hellsing) discovering that Nazis are not a thing of the past. In fact, the Nazis are behind the rising death count and the creation of numerous artificial vampires. Hellsing is a delightful blend of historical fiction and futuristic themes, while tackling philosophical topics.
When I first discovered Hellsing I was too young to be reading it, so I snuck in readings at the bookstore. Knowing that the next volume might be on the shelves filled me with excitement. These readings became formative for me. Over the top? Absolutely. But the villains are true villains, unapologetic for their crimes and in love with their own depravity while our heroes are faced with near impossible odds and show steady growth. Not to mention, the psychology that is found throughout the series is brilliant. I devoured it.
Hellsing taught me in both pictures and words that extreme violence can be tempered with in-depth explorations of the human psyche. It was the first example I had where everyone was clearly a hero in their own story, yet not actually a hero; a concept that’s talked about frequently but hard to pull off with grace. Perhaps the most important concept that Hellsing explores is one that has wormed its way into my subconscious: embracing one’s darkness doesn’t mean that one has to give up their humanity; perhaps one can only be truly human after exploring it. And explore it I did.
I’ve been a morbid soul since I was young. Reading Hellsing allowed me to give myself permission to explore my own darkness and the stories within. While my first short story is a light, heartwarming romance (according to reviewers), there was a tinge of darkness in it. This darkness was greatly expanded upon in my short story, “Of Secrets Letters and Lions.” In the sequel, Of Secrets and Sound, I felt like I was truly delving into that darkness I so love. Whatever comes next will follow that path.
When I first discovered Hellsing I wasn’t interested in writing. Looking back I can see how the series has impacted me as a storyteller. Hellsing showed me that the most intriguing stories can be found in dark places. Because it’s over the top, people often miss the subtle nuances of the story. I’ll probably never write something as gory as Hellsing, but I hope my stories can be flavored with hidden themes and subtly similar to what I found in the series. After all, good horror is suspenseful because there’s more at stake then just losing an arm. But perhaps the most important thing I learned from Hellsing is that no matter how dark, people will gravitate towards a well told story and life-like characters.