When I was first offered the chance to review this, I wasn't really sure I was the proper person to review Hetalia: Axis Powers. It was a show about cute guys doing cute things – and also history inspired. Frankly, I'm not interested in men and history isn't my favorite thing ever, so my initial reaction was to reject it. But when no one else stepped up to the plate, I offered to cover this incredibly popular show.
For those not in the loop, Hetalia began as a webcomic (later published as three tankobon) that was eventually adapted into a series of streaming web shorts animated by Studio Deen. It's still going strong, with the anime currently in its fourth season. It has a huge following online, and you'll often see huge crowds of Hetalia cosplayers at anime cons. Suffice to say, it's a pretty big phenomenon.
Click through for my full thoughts.
If I had to sum up Hetalia in one word and potentially invalidate this review, I'd choose "light."
"Light" as in, light on story, light on the art, and humor that's fairly light. Let me explain.
As far as the story goes, well, the story is history. Every character in this show is a parody of a country and are referred to as such. If you ever hear a fangirl 'squeeing' and saying "Germany is so kawaii~" then I suggest you leave her alone. She's not talking about the shape of the nation or its geography – she's talking about Hetalia. So when you take all these characters such as Italy, Germany, France, China, and Japan, toss them into situations that vaguely resemble or can be considered an allegory to events of WWI and WWII, you get... well, something of a story. What it boils down to though, is this light framework of history is a vehicle for the jokes.
Ah, the humor. When I say light humor, I mean that quite literally: you're not going to see any jokes about the Holocaust or the Rape of Nanking. Hetalia opts to deftly leap over any dark or "off-limits" points in history, and instead we get another joke about how Italy is a wimp who surrenders all the time. I don't mind light humor, but picking the World Wars as the setting seems to be in stark contrast to the jokes it's delivering. Again, nothing wrong with it, but I am curious as to the thought process behind this. Aside from a few exceptions, the deepest joke we get is Italy groping Germany's ass.
The art... well, I will cut the show some slack. After all, it is a web show, and it is Studio Deen. There's nothing spectacular, and nothing particularly terrible. Instead, it sits in the pit of mediocrity. Boring camera angles are used plenty, repeated animation is the norm, and reverting characters to chibi form is commonplace. And why wouldn't it be? It's cute! And it's done a lot. A lot.
Hetalia, for me, never reached the point of actually getting me to laugh. At best it ran a smirk across my face, and at worst I was pounding my head on my desk, yelling "Why did I offer to review this!? STUPID BEN HUBER! STUPID!!" I took the episodes in small doses so as to not inflict much more pain than I was already going through.
What I'd like to say in conclusion is that –
Actually, I'm doing just fine, thank you. I already spend enough time with you each week, what with making a weekly comic and that whole Twitter thing...
What, why are you hesitating?
So, in conclusion, what are you trying to say, Yotsuba?
Well, that's your perspective on the show. I'm not sure most fans will agree with you, Yotsuba. Anyway, if you're looking for something cute, light, and fluffy, Hetalia fits the bill. However, I can't honestly recommend it, especially after having such a hard time pushing through it myself. Cute? Sure, but the humor was mostly empty, and I never could truly say it was "good" or that I enjoyed the time I spent with Hetalia. If you're looking for a good new anime series to pick up this holiday season, grab Birdy the Mighty: Decode from FUNimation (an excellent show that needs more love) or perhaps Gundam Unicorn vol. 2! Honestly, anything other than Hetalia is good in my book. And Yotsuba's.
Also, if I have to hear any more damn PASTAAAA jokes I'm going to kill someone.
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