Reviews: Axis Powers Hetalia
I don't see why it needs to be in WWII
If you a) know a lot about WWII's atrocities or b)have been affected by WWII in an emotional way, you'll likely not like this series. Having lost relatives in WWII, I hate it with a passion. However, if you enjoy anime (I don't) and homoeroticism (instead of character development, imho) then you will likely enjoy this series. It's fairly standard in most ways, focusing on the "wacky" adventures of the Axis and Allies. Almost all of the characters are bishonen males, and I greatly feel that the series would have not earned my ire if it didn't have the WWII as people premise. The characterization of several characters is at odds with what the country was actually like during WWII. The most glaring example would be the USA as a foolhardy country ready to dive head-first into war to be a hero. During WWII, the USA originally envisioned itself as a supplier of the Allies with an isolationist streak. The USA was also extremely racist. Canada was also not just "America but more British", but a major presence throughout the war, alongside the other British colonies. I also find the portrayals of various battles extremely distasteful, especially Nanking being a stab in the back. I also find the community/fandom of this series incredibly low quality. I've heard that it used to be filled with history buff weeaboos, but now it's primarily slash-writing fangirls. Not to mention the fangirls. There is NO EXCUSE for dressing like the characters and posing at monuments to WWII heroes. That kind of behaviour is inexcusable, in ANY circumstances. tl;dr Hetalia's translated name would be Axis Powers Sh Italy and I hate it (the series, I love the name). Also, the art is pretty sucky.
I really like it
I was actually a little apprehensive about getting into this series, as before reading it all I'd heard was that it was inaccurate and offensive, but a friend of mine recommended that I give it a go, and since we usually have fairly similar taste in things, I decided that I might as well. I'm sure as hell glad I did, because I ended up enjoying Hetalia a lot. Although they are partially based on national stereotypes, the characters are wonderful and original, and every country is depicted as being good at heart despite their faults. The storylines are fun and interesting, and while Hetalia is by no means a replacement for history lessons, it has inspired me to do some research and find out more about the history of countries that I had barely given a passing thought to before getting into the series. As for the fandom, well, Hetalia fans are definitely more... enthusiastic... than the fans of other shows and animes I've come across, and while that means we have a lot of vocal ignoramuses and weaboos, we also have so many nice, friendly, intelligent members of the fandom, many of whom are extremely talented at writing, drawing, cosplaying... anything you can think of! I know the fandom has a bad reputation, but my experience with it has been wonderful. TL;DR, it's a wonderful series with some wonderful fans, and I'm so glad I gave Hetalia a chance.
Inoffensively boring. Episodes are 10ish minutes. 2 of those minutes will consist of the opening and closing theme songs, both of which are annoying. I watched an episode where the countries were all bumming around on the beach, when suddenly Rome appears out of nowhere and takes the rest of the show to recite the "In hell, the English are cooks..." joke you've all doubtless been forwarded. And that episode is a perfect summation of the series. Bland national stereotype "jokes" (sometimes just plain ol wackiness will suffice!) stretched out over 10 minutes in place of actual content. There is no plot. Despite the fact that it is set in WWII. The main appeal of the series is in the Ho Yay and the thrill of seeing countries personified, which wears off quickly; the countries have about as much personality as you can expect from a cast of 20-odd national stereotypes. Main problem is abuse of stock footage. Absolute abuse. Count how many times America goes to clean out his shed or closet or whatever in the episodes preceding the closet-cleaning episode. You will be shocked and appalled by stock footage. And why, why do you need to have "next episode on..." segments when your show is only 10 minutes long? There simply isn't enough content in Hetalia to make the jump from silly manga shorts to silly animated shorts.
It was better as a webcomic.
That simple, really. Hetalia in comic format was funny and suprisingly informative, with actual 'plots' in at least some strips, but the anime kind of screws that up. The animation quality isn't that great, the ending song lasts longer than the actual episodes, and stock footage abuse abounds, which lets it become dull and repetitive pretty fast. As for hetalia the manga/webcomic itself, it's better than you'd expect. At the very least, the national personification concept was and still is interesting, and while Himaruya re-uses the same old stereotypes, what else would you expect? It falls into pure randomness on occasion, which is irritating, but there are enough historical strips to make up for it. And besides, a little fluff is good for the soul! The fandom is awesome, probably moreso than the source material. While, yes, there are a bunch of yaoi fangirls, the majority of hetalia's fanbase is incredibly intelligent and insightful, and come out with some cool stuff, usually based around the history Himaruya doesn't touch. They make the series, really, and fanon abounds. As for the dub, the accents are funny for five seconds, before they become painful engrish.
The source material for Hetalia is generally non-existent which generally is a very bad thing so if you're just looking at the official stuff you're not going to get much fun from it. The really amazing part of Hetalia is the fandom. They're all totally insane and the part of the fandom doesn't consist of crazy weebs consist's of people who are amazing. Clever, creative and outrageously funny! That lack of source material gives the fandom space to take the show's premise and run with it until it takes on a life of its own and becomes their Hetalia. Anything the creator missed out (God bless that man but he is SO silly) some fan will be kind enough to fill in. Fanworks are the heart and soul of this series and the fans are so charming but if you're afraid of fanfiction then this isn't the series for you.
Has a lot of potential.
The premise is amazing, and is an idea that can be played with endlessly. The author decides to take it in a silly direction, and present information in the borders instead of always acting it out. There are also some historical easter eggs hidden in the dialogue that gives Historians something fun to look out for, like an inside joke. Information is presented in an easy hysterical manner that many could find enjoyable. Himaruya's silliness is also the downfall of Hetalia. You could lso take it in a much more serious direction, and many of Hetalia's own fans wish it would have been more serious. True, there are serious moments (America cleaning out his shed and remembering the Revolution, Russia's people coming after him, Holy Rome's short speech about his downfall, a decent part of the movie, Paint it White. and so on...), but they're so far and between that you forget to count them when you sum up about the show's presence. However, that brings us to another fine point: The Fandom. Yes, I said it. True, there are crazy yaoi fangirls who don't care what's actually going on and just look for the "hints", but a lot of the Hetalia fandom are really creative people. The seriousness that the series lacks is actually brought up with the fandom. The fandom also makes their own hilarious add in of events and make some funny things themselves. Hetalia's possibilities bring out so much in you. It's like a story that someone outlined, and you get to fill it in. All in all, Hetalia itself is enjoyable. Don't let the creepy side of the people who like it get you down. The characters are on point and fun, having a dynamic the world has, the music from the cast is BRILLIANT. (I suggest Le Pasion no te Detiene. It sounds like real Spanish music sung in Japanese, as you can say for all the songs. They're nationally appropriate.) Be wary of the playing around, and try to relax. Oh, and do research after you watch. Sometimes it's funnier when you understand it all. And the dub is really funny. The narrator is just...you should hear her. and it has accents. And dialogue that's funnier to an American. Oh, and she's really good at poking fun at the viewers and the scene itself. If you don't go for anything else, go for her. ...and Flying Mint Bunny.
Great Premise Ruined by Execution
When I heard of this series, I thought it sounded really good. I haven't read the webcomics or know too much about it. So I checked out the first season on Netflix. It had potential, but too many little problems made me not want to watch it again. Problems: First is the art style. Normally this is not something I care about, but the constantly blushing, super round faces kind of annoyed me after awhile. That's definitely a case of preference, but it's something to consider. One of my biggest problems was the fact that episodes are only five minutes long. The ending song is very annoying, and there are previews for such minor events. If the dvd of this series allows a feature to watch all the shorts at once in about an hour, that would be so much better. Also, the Chibitalia segments are very annoying. I don't mind a little Ho Yay, but this kind of ramps it up to uncomfortable levels, and Italys voice in those segments is really grating. Good part: The humor. Oh my god this series is hilarious. You probably have to be okay with stereotypes, but if you don't give a crap about that you will love this series. All the characters have great quirks and the accents the actors give them adds to the hilarity. Favorite character? America. And that says something when you can laugh at the pastiche of your culture. In conclusion: Give it a try, it might be your thing, but at the end I was left unimpressed and disappointed, but still laughing.
Has Issues, But Worth a Try
This anime alternates between being genuinely funny and really really annoying. Much of the humor comes from randomness, which is a hit or miss (Italy's "Pastaaa!" moment, coming after some actually interesting things other characters said is a definite miss, while summoning the Devil and having Russia appear, or Austria's "He was there THE WHOLE TIME!!" actually made me laugh). When it deals with actual history and not bland Ho Yay or crazy, unmemorable antics from various characters who you really can't care about, the series is not bad at all. Arcs that actually give some characters and their relationships more meaning are a true redeeming quality for the rest of the series. If you can see past these flaws you will probably enjoy this series, and while I did not like it I think it is worth a read. You notice I said read. Well, that's because I wouldn't watch the anime, and would go with the web comic or manga. Apart from the really annoying closing, the animation is frankly rather appalling. It abuses sock footage and panning of still frames to a rediculous degree.
Well, I like it.
Okay, before we begin, if you're easily offended or overly patriotic then don't even bother remembering the title of this series, because you will hate it. If you or your family were very seriously affected by the Holocaust, the same probably goes. For others, then you will probably enjoy it, especially if you keep in mind that Hetalia is in no way serious business, and your country will certainly be the butt of numerous jokes- if not now, then in the future. Although this began as a gag history series which chronicled the First World War, Hetalia tends to stick with interesting cultural notes and gags involving the relations between countries (England and France constantly fight) and the formations of some countries (Sealand, Italy and others). The initial focus on the most terrible times in all human history in such a light-hearted manner is what puts people off Hetalia, however, it is important to remember that the focus shifts to less offensive subjects later, like Anglo-Japanese relations. In fact, Hidekaz has basically given up retelling WW 2- not that he got very far in retelling it, anyway. The artwork does start off as rather ugly at first, Hidekaz Himaruya has improved greatly, and new comics are of an obviously far better quality than the beginning of the series. Also, the personification of countries begins as a rather 2-D stereotypical view which is either annoying and offensive or brilliant and hilarious. Yet, Hidekaz does manage to add in some fantastic character building even though the countries are so obviously jokes in themselves. For many, Hetalia has helped them discover a previously-unknown love of history- myself included. Also, the fandom might seem weird and crazy at first, there is a place for everyone- there are numerous cosplay and RP groups, as well as fanart battlers and fanfiction, challenge and kink meme writers. Not to mention, there appears to be a slightly higher percentage of good-quality fanfiction/fanart than in many other fandoms, despite its controversiality and slightly limited appeal- probably because although the series is a comedy, it contains some surprisingly accurate history. Basically, Hetalia can be very offensive, but it can also be fun and interesting. It's far better than it initially sounds, especially if you don't take it seriously.
Not for everyone, but if you like it, you'll love it
Like the title says, let me start off by saying Axis Powers Hetalia is not for everyone. It is not for the easily offended, the overly patriotic, those with little interest in history, or people looking for serious business. Because if there's anything Hetalia is not, it's serious business. It is, however, a witty, light-hearted look at history and international relations. If you know nothing about Hetalia, all you really need to know is that it is about personifications of countries. The characterization is based largely on national stereotypes, and how other countries view their neighbors in our world. The anime, though derived from the original webcomic, focuses mainly on the Axis Powers (Italy, Germany, Japan) and the Allies (America, England, France, Russia, China.) Though Hetalia is not the leading scholarly agent, the author did most definitely do the research, and manages to be both educational, and for the casual or knowledgeable history buff, hilarious. Within the show lie endless Easter Eggs from Historical in-jokes, but you don't need to be a history major to enjoy the show for what it is. It draws some comparisons to the western animation show Hysteria!(If anyone but me remembers that.) But it is aimed at an older audience. Fangirls (or boys, I happen to know a few males who love this series) will find delight in the intentional yaoi subtext, or the innuendos actions of more than a few of the characters. However, Hetalia is potentially offensive. Though I myself find the antics amusing, others might find the stereotypes that come with the characterization unfunny. The author tried as best to his ability to avoid Ethnic Scrappies and the making extra fun out of certain countries, the backlash is inevitable. For those who aren't into the whole 'history is moe!' shtick, fandom twists and turns things into their much darker counterparts in fanwork. Use that if you need a reminder, but the show itself is a pleasant diversion from the ugly reality. Though it's personal opinion whether you think the jokes are funny, or that it's worth all the moe, for those who like this sort of thing you will find you love this sort of thing. For those who most definitely don't, it's worth the look at least. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Love it or Hate it type of deal; seems to be little middle ground
Before watching or reading Hetalia, ask yourself two questions. Can history be silly or even funny in the right context (could it be used for jokes or gags?), or is it always serious business no matter what? Am I fond of, or atleast okay with Ho Yay? If that answer is no, Hetalia is not for you. The series flows like World History: The Abridged Series (now with extra Ho Yay and moe), thrives on fluff, moe, general silliness between Anthropomorphic Personifications of world nations, another dose of moe, and liberal applications of the MST 3 K Mantra. It shows interesting bits of history in an absurdly silly light, some fun cultural notes, and seems to have an abnormally high quantity of good fanart and fanfiction in comparison to other series. If you like the series, you will love it, and the fandom is nothing short of HUGE. That said, avoid Hetalia if you are very patriotic, or have issues with the Ho Yay or Moe Moe tropes. Every country is personified as their national stereotypes turned Up To Eleven (England can't cook and has a weird combo of Mean Brit/Tsundere, America is obsessed with freedom, heroes and his weight, Japan's got Yamato Nadeshiko and Otaku tendencies, Germany is very serious and loves beer, etc)and treats a serious subject in a very light hearted manner. Everyone has strong shipping overtones/subtext with at least one other male country (Blue Bishonen Ghetto is partly to blame for that). You can enjoy the series without shipping, but it may be hard with the fandom.Banned in South Korea for the portrayal of the Korea character. In conclusion, Hetalia is not for everyone, and it seems to be an either Love-It-Or-Hate-It kind of show. Contains a large fandom, Fan Dumb, Hatedom, and Hate Dumb. Be careful where you step. And more importantly, remember that YMMV.
To Be Approached With Caution
First off, I am a fan of this series. If, like me, you enjoy comedy based on history and stereotypes then there is a fair chance you will enjoy this series. There is a surprising amount of accuracy in it, despite the premise, and the humour is - for me - usually good. I also think the artwork is extremely good (apart from the early strips, which look very odd). However, many will find the premise offensive. I myself am a little disturbed by one or two of the strips and what they deal with. However, the series itself stays away from the worst atrocities of history. For some, this probably makes it worse. The fandom isn't so shy, and so deserves more caution than the actual series. One thing that may scare people away from the series is the apparantly ridiculous amount of Ship Tease and sexual based jokes; this is not as prominent as this wiki, the fandom, and other places make out. For the most part, I find it can be ignored. However, it's there, and sometimes blatant. A lot of people in the fandom are apparently obsessed with pairing off countries, and aren't particularly sensitive in their works, but a lot of others aren't like this, and research everything indepth. Just be careful where you look. I do not find the characters themselves offensive; despite being built on stereotypes, they are, in my opinion, extremely well characterised. All are in some way sympathetic. Once again, some may believe this makes it worse, considering the main setting of the series (incidentally, although WWII is the period most frequently visited, the strips can be set in any time from the days of the Roman Empire to the modern day). The way the nations work is that they have to obey whoever's in charge of the country, and they have been shown resisting orders. Once again, however, it is perfectly understandable people would find this offensive. Overall, I believe this is a well done series, with good humour, but if you feel it may offend you, it's best to stay away.
(Mostly) Silly series, "interesting" fanbase
Just for the sake of convenience I'll let myself be called a fan of Hetalia, but it's actually the fandom and fanmade works that are the fun part of this series. First off, let me tell you that this series is not for the easily offended, not at all. And be warned that the dub is even more offensive than the original material, since Funimation chose to go the Gag Dub route and ended up with a lot of Holocaust jokes that just rub me the wrong way. There's no such thing in the original Japanese (especially in the original strips, where Germany is shown to be resentful of Hitler), and I'm most informed about the strips, so my review will be for those. My main complaint about Hetalia isn't that the series is OFFENSIVE, but that it is often DULL. Quite a few of the strips are just silly fluff or the artist being a goof, which, while nice now and then, can get repetitive. That being said, there's a few genuinely funny moments. Not to mention some surprisingly serious and dramatic ones, which run the gamut to melodramatic (Cleaning out the Storage) to genuinely harrowing (Bloody Sunday). So the series itself is a mixed bag: sometimes you'll find something good, and sometimes you'll just find something unremarkable. The fandom is where the real action's at. On one end of the spectrum, you've got a bunch of immature fangirls, but the same can be said for any popular series. The other side of the Hetalia fandom can actually be surprisingly insightful and clever. Most fanworks of the latter revolve around historical events and culture, and the best give these all the respect they deserve. Check the Fanfic Recs page for more: it's here where you'll find some gems. Hetalia isn't purely historical by any means, but the concept of it is a great launching pad to further historical research. The funner parts of the fandom have this in mind, so if you can get past the principle of the series and its moe, it's actually not too shabby. Series gets 3/5, fandom gets 4/5.