Hellsing: The Dawn is a prequel to the Hellsing: Ultimate OVA series and an anime adaptation of the one-volume prequel manga of the same name. It was included in certain DVD releases of Hellsing: Ultimate and is only available in Japanese with english subtitles (atleast as far as I know). (Warning, Spoilers)
The story centers around teenage Walter and Alucard being sent to Nazi-occupied Poland in 1944. Their mission is to wipe out the Millenium organization and it's army of artificial vampires.
Now, this is not a bad setup, though it has it's problems. For one thing, we already know how the mission will turn out because of Ultimate; The Major fails to win the war with his vampires because Walter and Alucard kill them all, yet they don't suceed in killing The Major or his subordinates either. So pretty much there's no suspense in how things turn out.
It could still be entertaining to see how things happened though. But now we're getting to the big problem: IT'S TOO SHORT! The special is only three episodes long and doesn't even completely cover the one-volume source material. It doesn't help that the last half of the last episode is basically just a commercial for Kouta Hirano's other series Drifters. The story lacks even a basic conclusion and I, personally, felt cheated.
Several old Hellsing characters appear but development is virtually non-existant, due to the aforementioned story problems. The best part is easily seeing how different Walter was in his youth. We also get to see Arthur Hellsing when he was head of the oganization and he was far different from the breif glimpses of him in Ultimate (so I geuss those count as development in reverse?). And the Major is still the same war-hungry bastard we all love to hate. Alucard also seemed mostly the same, for his half a minute of screen time. Seriously, He's in his coffin the entire time and only appears just before the last episode ends! So, the characters have good bits, but weren't given the time they deserved.
The animation of Dawn is on par that of the original Hellsing: Ultimate. And therefore isn't worth dwelling on because the original animation for Ultimate was excellent. The only flaw (like the original) is the ocasionally distracing thick, black outlines around the characters. But that's just nitpicking. I think Graphinca & Kelmadick worked on the animation for this but I'm not certain.
The Dawn's soundtrack is just music recycled from Hellsing: Ultimate, which was also good and doesn't need discussing.
Sound quality is good and the voice acting seems good, though I try not to judge Japanese voice acting since I don't speak Japanese.
In the end Hellsing: The Dawn Left me feeling disappointed (and maybe a little ANGRY). It had good potential but the same standard and effort as Ultimate just wasn't put into this.
While seeing Walter in action again after the events of Hellsing Ultimate was a treat, I didn't feel that it answered any of my questions about Walter's character, and more importantly, (SPOILERS) his betrayal. We got to see a bit of young Aurthur's and Isles's interactions, as prevoiusly mentioned in the ending of Ultimate episode 5, but, as prevoiusly stated, didn't really answer any questions or, in my opinion, add to the characters.
It didn't even have a proper ending, turning out to be only a trailer for Drifters.