The Hellsing series by Kouta Hirano is perhaps best known as a ‘continuation’ of the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker, where instead of being killed by Abraham Van Helsing and his team, Dracula instead becomes his loyal – and creatively named servant – Alucard. And 1999, one hundred years after the events of the novel Alucard is the most powerful weapon of Van Helsing’s descendant Integra Hellsing and the Hellsing Organisation.
What makes Alucard the most powerful weapon is not his strength or ability, but rather his durability. He lives by the motto that “It takes a man to kill a monster” – As long as he believes himself to be a monster and his enemies to be nothing more than monsters like him – or dogs – he is fundamentally immortal. He refuses to die unless one he considers a man is a person to drive a stake through his heart – nothing divine, demonic, supernatural or anything in between. Until he takes the final stake through the heart by a human being, he will (un)live on.
And despite Hellsing‘s ultraviolence and wacky humour, there’s a message that can be taken from Alucard’s talk of “It takes a man to kill a monster”, that of humanity. And if we could somehow find the humanity in Alucard, could we use whatever sliver we found to kill him?
It’s unlikely you or I could ever get a shot at killing Alucard as Van Helsing or Alexander Anderson did. We normal human beings are unfortunately not what Alucard considers a man, we are dogs. A ‘man’ is a being who has surmounted the pinnacle of what it means to be normal. Going as far as to face Alucard at his full power with no fear, traits shown only by the men who Alucard considers his nemesis; Abraham Van Helsing and Alexander Anderson, that is what makes you a man in the eyes of Alucard. The Archangel Gabriel or Lucifer could never hope to slay Alucard, he would not grant them the privilege.
On his life (Or his unlife) Alucard places the highest value not because it matters to him, but because his continued existence matters to humanity. He stands there, prodding us on, goading humanity to come to him and prove to ourselves that we have worth.
But we must be humans in order to end his life. Because if a monster is slain by another monster, what has humanity gained in the process. We have lost a monster and gained a monster for a net value of zero. As the Arbiter rather awesomely said in Halo 3: “We trade one villain for another.”.
… Is but a man…
So, in discussing his monstrous qualities and how this benefits humanity I have been overlooking the most important aspect of this article, Alucard’s human qualities. For that, my friends, are how we will kill him.
So, how exactly do we know Alucard is a man himself, despite claiming over and over again that he is simply a monster. Our first hint is in Hellsing Ultimate Episode 8, where it becomes obvious that Alucard is clearly depressed at his choice to become what it is. When Anderson stood before him holding Helena’s nail in his right hand, prepared with all his might to impale himself Alucard pleaded with Anderson to not do it, to retain the good things about himself that made him human, to not surrender himself to the power. He later goes on to explain that he thinks of himself as a “creature of such weakness that [he] could not bear the weight of a human life.” And finally: “Don’t do it, human. Don’t become a monster. A monster like me.”
What I note that is special about Alucard’s final battle with Helena’s nail powered Anderson is the way it begins. For the first time in the entire series Alucard – in a rage and without any of the sadistic giddiness he usually shows – attacked first. He moved with a single motive to shoot Anderson in the head with the Jackal, the only gun that can do permanent damage to the catholic priest.
Like a good cowboy of the West, Alucard has never shot first. With the Cheddar priest and the first wave of soldiers in Rio, it was not until he was riddled with bullets that he dare launch a retaliation. With his first battle with Anderson, it was after he was stabbed with the blades and after his fledgeling, Seras had been stabbed multiple times that he attempted to kill him. With Alhambra, he attacked first, but for the poor soldiers he sent in?
Alucard shoot first if Integra ordered him to do so. As Crispin Freeman said in an interview “Even when people are coming to attack [Alucard] he’s like ‘Can I kill them? Can I kill them? Can I kill them?'” Integra has complete and utter control over the way Alucard acts. While Alucard has power over some of his lower Control Art Restrictions, if he wants to engage his full power, and therefore take his most monstrous form he needs Integra’s order to do so.
… And he’s not Dracula
“But Dracula is a monster!” I hear you cry “Just look at how Bram Stoker wrote him”. And you would be right, but this also addresses my main problem with the novel and how I praise Kouta Hirano for his own writing. Stoker never wrote Dracula as anything more than an evil monster, with no motive for his goals beyond just being evil. In an age where Shelly was writing Frankenstein, we are presented with little less than a “monster with the trappings of a man.”
And you would be right if Alucard and Dracula were the same person. But Alucard is not Dracula. After he has absorbed the essence of the Catboy Schrodinger (More on him later) he states that “Every time I die, this is the vision that greets my eyes. And every time I think, how lovely that sunlight, which I forsook so many centuries ago.” When he died as the king and hero of Wallachia Vlad the Impaler, he saw the sunrise and was reborn as Dracula. And when Abraham Van Helsing defeated him and took Mina Harker back, Dracula was killed and Alucard was born. The transition from Dracula to Alucard was not a ‘real’ death in the sense of the world, but rather it was a symbolic death. The great vampire count who took so many lives was killed, and in his place, the loyal servant of the Hellsing Organisation, Alucard, was born.
“A monster all the same”
At the climax of the battle between Alucard and Anderson as the Monster of God, after ripping the source of evil our of Anderson’s chest he breaks down and starts crying, telling Anderson that:
YOU AND I ARE THE SAME! You are me… I was just the same! Don’t you understand, this is how I became what I am!
To which a near dead Anderson tells him not to cry, because monsters do not cry. People becomes monsters when their tears dry up and they can no longer cry anymore. Taken literally, this could imply the reason they both became monsters. Alucard to continue his fight against the Turks, Alexander to continue their fight against Alucard. Their mortal bodies could no longer allow them to continue, but they still had an enemy before them they needed to surmount. And the only way to do that was to become monsters. Taken metaphorically, Anderson is implying that Alucard, despite all these years still has his humanity inside him, repressed as it may be.
And he realises this, which inevitably brings his downfall. After Anderson fades away to dust (He literally went dust to dust Anderson) that he is a human underneath it all. In this moment he disregarded his motto of “It takes a man to kill a monster”, which was what allowed the Catboy Schrodinger – a creature Alucard would not obviously regard as a man – to kill him by having Alucard drink his blood, and therefore gain part of his powers.
Cut off his head (And this article)
“Cut off his head? That’s step one, but what about two, three, ten?” Integra asked in the brilliant first episode of Hellsing Ultimate Abridged. And while in the actual Hellsing series killing Alucard wouldn’t ever be that simple as a “Ten steps to kill Alucard” guide, the result is much less complex than the vampire may make the task seem at first. He is Everest, a hurdle at first, but surmountable. What makes you a man, and what makes Alucard a monster is a subjective thing, and if we could see Alucard as human, and also make himself seem human, then piercing his heart with a stake is not as impossible a task as it first seems.
Of course, this would require you to sit down and have a chat with Alucard, and hope that Integra doesn’t see you telling Alucard about what a monster she is and have him kill you. Good luck with that. I’m going to go run in the opposite direction.