Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Peculiar Olympians: Sir Integral “Integra” Fairboork Wingates Hellsing

“The Peculiar Olympians” is a series of blog posts about my most favourite fictional characters. They are each here for some combination of sympathy, empathy, inspiration, humour, quality, staying power, and/or significance to my relationship with fandom. These are not all the characters that I like, but they are the ones that have stood out to me the most. The list is also alphabetical and nothing more.

It’s another conundrum: how do you stretch “She’s awesome” and “this is another cliché” into a full blog entry? Unlike many characters on this list, my interest in Sir Integral Hellsing was sharp and immediate, and there is little about my feelings towards Integral that really sticks out among her legions of fans.

Descended from supernatural expert Abraham Van Helsing, Sir Integral Hellsing carries on the family tradition of heading the Hellsing Organisation, a group dedicated to the destruction of England's supernatural enemies. She inherited the mantle at age twelve, having to thwart an assassination attempt by her usurper uncle by finding underground the "fruits of the Hellsing family's labours", the vampire Alucard (spell the name backwards). Sir Integral Hellsing will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

In Integra I could see the things I understood, such as female-centred androgyny (which means having a definite and matching physical and psychological gender but not bound by the old rules of how one of said gender should act), glasses, and deskwork. In addition, I saw what people universally covet in our heroes: emotional strength and control, steely nerves. There is something about a stoic female character, standing tall and serene, eternally ready, which I admire intensely.

Granted, Sir Integra is religious and patriotic while I am neither of these things, and as the manga progresses she engages in increasingly vicious behaviours in the name of her duties. Yet because Integra doesn't exist, there's no moral objection to admiring a character that isn't entirely clean or would likely disagree with me on certain matters. Besides, good heroes should have flaws, even if they are flaws that make the character actually "bad" on some levels instead of simply making them more approachable or giving them dilemmas to solve.

I first encountered Integra through the TV anime adaptation of Hellsing, which was one of those works that seems great until you review it more deeply and then make the inevitable comparisons with the original manga. My interest in the Gonzo-produced anime has been eroded down to a persistent nub, but this is still where I discovered Integra. She’s not that different in the manga but a secret part of me is still drawn to the Gonzo anime’s slightly more cool-headed and stoic characterization of Integra, at least in the early parts, before she is a cripple for the remainder of the show. And then there’s that snazzy green suit/blue ascot combo which is still striking to the eye. All of this lingers pleasantly in my memory even though I am a Hellsing manga die-hard.

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