Hetalia: Axis Powers, Season One – DVD Review

Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $34.98 US
Running Time: 130 minutes
Genre: Comedy
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

What the world needs now is love … and pasta!

Having begun life as a web comic and translated on paper in proper manga fashion, Hetalia is one of those rare comic gems that gained a loyal following and developed quite a fan base that an anime was finally made that brought the antics of each country to life. Season One of Hetalia: Axis Powers is like a delightfully warped history lesson given by a hilarious but great inappropriate professor who just goes way too far.

Hetalia’s 26 episodes are like short vignettes that take us through world history events that eventually leads up to World War II as seen through cute guys (and one or two cute girls) that represent different countries. Italy, for example, is a charming kid who is lively, easily frightened and loves his pasta while Japan is shy, direct and traditional. Oh yeah, every stereotype in the book is covered in this series.

The first season begins in the future during a world conference as all the cute guys are too unruly and Germany is the only who is able to put them all in line. As it turns out, Germany has been the calm and collected since the first World War when Germany first met Italy (who was packed in a crate of tomatoes). Since then, a friendship was born … although Germany found himself annoyed by the pasta-loving Italy.

The series takes us through some interesting periods in Germany and Italy’s long life as well as their interactions with other European countries such as France, Russia and Sweden just to name a few of the countries that dealt with Germany throughout the years. Eventually, the first World War took place and the aftermath of the war had Germany on uneasy terms with France (who makes an interesting and comical proposal to Britain).

Things really get fascinating when World War II comes around when Germany has formed a friendship with Japan and continues its relationship with Italy to form the Axis powers. At the same time, patriotic America, stiff Britain and a devious Russia form the Allies. All six countries begin an unusual interaction with each another and somehow America ends up using China … by calling China over Pokemon-style.

Wedged in-between the vignettes are Chibitalia, a retelling of the history of a chibi version of Italy and its relationship with the Holy Roman Empire. We also get an interesting glimpse of Britain’s relationship with the United States as America cleans out its closet and reminisces about their falling out, the Revolutionary War and finally their reconciliation and friendship during the World Wars. There’s also a brief and cute tale about Liechtenstein and her love for her “older brother” called Switzerland.

The heart of Hetalia is not only the interesting take on historical events but its ability to be inappropriate to the point that the humor might offend some thanks to the fact that all stereotypes are covered (e.g. Canada being nearly invisible to the world). Personally speaking, as a citizen of the United Kingdom, I found myself laughing at most of the stereotypes about Britain. I was also surprised by the inclusion of Sealand, a platform-like principality that nobody really recognizes as a country.

Just about the only scene that does cross the line is when the Roman Empire happens to cruise by singing a song about his idea of hell being that all cooks are English, all engineers are French, all the police would be German and all lovers be Swiss.

Yes, there are moments that will not fail to offend but, in the end, Season One of Hetalia also manages to be the madcap comedy anime series that will make you laugh out loud. The character representations of each country might be stereotypes but they’re actually likeable enough that you can’t help but enjoy their zany, touching and comical moments that make this an anime series you should definitely check out.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B
Using cute guys that represent various countries, we witness the history of the world as it unfolds as well as a brief (and downright cute) history of Italy throughout the ages. Concentrating on the events that led up to World War II as well as the relationships between the Allied and Axis forces. Plus, there’s a brief look into the relationship between Britain and the United States.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The animation is true to the manga series and downright cute at times thanks to the Chibitalia segments. This is certainly one of the more unique-looking comedy anime series around.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The voice acting on both sides are over-the-top and just simply too hilarious, although the English dub cast earns extra points for their high-energy delivery and for crossing the line when it comes to offending each country.

EXTRAS: A
There are extras aplenty that go beyond adding a clean closing song and a few trailers. There are short audio commentary tracks for Episodes 2, 9, 12 and 16 that feature the voice talents of Patrick Seitz, Jerry Jewel, Todd Haberkorn, Eric Vale, J. Michael Tatum, Scott Freeman, Clarineeeeee Harp and Christopher Bevins.

On top of that, the second disc is dedicated to extras such as three-part show comments feature with Japanese director, Bob Shirahata who goes through different parts of the series while showing us the storyboards. Then there’s the Hidden History Hidden Within Hetalia feature that allows us to read all the fun tidbit comments that flash on the screen throughout the series.

OVERALL: B
While it will no doubtfully offend viewers on different levels, Season One of Hetalia still manages to be hilarious and way too much fun to watch either way. It’s also a cute and funny view of world history that, while distorted, manages to be a faithful to the manga it is based on so if you’re a fan of the manga you will definitely enjoy the anime.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

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