Hetalia Axis Powers anime review

Hetalia Axis Powers anime review
Italy, once home of the strongest empire in the world, has changed. This is the story of Italy, now a cowardly pasta-loving fool, and his friends (other personified countries of the world) as they live through strange moments in world history.

Lately it seems the only show you hear about is Hetalia. It’s always Hetalia this, Hetalia that, and you can’t go to conventions without seeing a plethora of people dressed up as the characters. The hype machine isn’t always indicative of quality, and the question remains, does this cult series have what it takes to hit the mainstream?
To be perfectly honest, when I started watching Hetalia: Axis Powers I didn’t know what to think. If you follow my tweets at all you probably caught me bitching about how the first couple of episodes gave me a headache and left me annoyed. To be perfectly honest, that did happen. The pacing was so erratic, the concept so off-the-wall, and the animation so frantic that it left me feeling completely spun around. I didn’t know what I had just watched and frankly I didn’t want to go back. But then I realize this review wouldn’t be nearly as good if I just sat through the first two episodes and didn’t give it another shot. So I braced myself popped the disc back into my PlayStation 3 and forced myself to watch. So I watched. And watched. And watched. Until it was 3:00am and I realized I was hooked.

 

Hetalia’s premise is completely and totally “out of the box” kind of thinking. Then again, it’s the kind of thing that could only come from Japan and could only be anime. Basically it’s all about the Earth and it’s various nations. Each nation is represented by an individual who acts as an avatar of sorts and goes by the name of that country. So that means there are characters like America, Japan, Italy, Germany, Russia, and so on. Get that? Cool.

The one thing that makes Hetalia so gosh-darned addictive is the way it approaches storytelling. Basically it’s split into two parts. There is the main story which follows the exploits of Germany, Japan, and Italy during the World War and World War II eras. It goes on to show how they form their axis and even shows how America, England, China, and France join forces as the allied nations. The twist here is that since each nation is represented as a single person there are downright hilarious interactions between them as they act out historical moments. Sound weird? That’s not all! There’s even a side-story about the history of Italy in a segment known as Chibitalia.

 

Anyways, back to the main storyline in Hetalia. The focus of the series is mostly on the exploits of Italy and Germany and the friendship that forms between them. Italy is portrayed as the world’s whipping boy who only cares about pasta and Germany is the ruffian with scary looking women and a mind for war. Actually, all the nations are portrayed in some manner of stereotype. France is a wuss who can’t fight to save his life, America is a hamburger eating airhead, Russia is nice on the surface but evil underneath, China cares only about food, and England is full of himself.

With this premise in hand Hetalia: Axis Powers crams a whole lot of story into a five minute timeframe. The series flies at you in short bursts and by the time a full episode has been run through you’ll have gone through five mini-sodes. It makes the show easy to pick up in pieces and doesn’t require a whole lot of investment. Unfortunately it does mean that since the first episodes throw you right into the thick of things you’ll probably be initially overwhelmed like I was. Just stick with it and the charm will grow on you.

 

The series is presented on DVD with all 26 episodes of the first season presented on one disc. The second disc in this release is designated for bonus content only, though I’ll get into that in a minute.

Hetalia looks pretty good on DVD with its 1.78:1 aspect ratio and anamorphic presentation. The show is bright with vibrant colors and a style that’s sloppy, yet refined. There’s almost a watercolor-like nature to the show at times and it’s a series that constantly changes its look. As far as the technical quality is concerned the show is presented well on DVD with little in the way of flaws. There’s some light ghosting at times, though I can’t quite tell if it’s a matter of the way the show was animated or a byproduct of the transfer.

 

The audio here is solid as well with English and Japanese languages. Both dubs have something to offer, though really the Japanese dub with subtitles is almost too fast for its own good at times. Have fun trying to read some of the lines as Italy goes on a rant as fast as he cant. The English fairs a little better in that sense but it’s a bit of give and take as the nations are given goofy accents. Both are worth listening to, however.

The content on the second disc is nice and varied with some clean animations for standard fair, and the rest being unique to the show. There’s a feature entitled “The Hidden History Hidden Within Hetalia”, which is textual and gives a look at the subtle historical references that make up several scenes in the show. After that there are three parts of “Show Comments by Director Bob Shirahata”. Combined these three last over 30 minutes and feature Bob talking about the show and giving us some nice insight into the program. These were originally featured on the Japanese DVD release. And finally there’s a feature that once again comes from the Japanese DVD release and features Bob talking about the ending sequence. In it he refers to the Japanese DVDs getting a special CD with music from the show, which will undoubtedly leave American fans feeling jealous.

Whether or not you were anticipating Hetalia: Axis Powers‘ Region 1 release, this DVD set is worth checking out. The show is so strange and addicting that once you start watching you won’t stop until the final episode. Even then you’ll probably want to start all over again and show it to your friends. This is a high profile release for FUNimation and I’m pleased to say their treatment of the show is a success.

Better than review, is a Trailer video of: Hetalia Axis Powers. Watch it now:
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