Axis Powers Hetalia
Axis Powers Hetalia is a neat anime I’m into. It’s a comedy series based on a webcomic by Hidakaz Himaruya and stars the nations of the world personified as people. At first, the series takes place in World War II and follows the Axis characters, Germany, North Italy (South Italy is a whole other character), and Japan. It also follows the Allies, America, Britain, France, Russia, and China. Since then, the series has expanded into other historical events and introduced a plethora of characters, all countries of the world. As opposed to most mainstream anime, the episodes are five minutes long, likely because it was based on a webcomic. Also, it’s not for kids. Funimation gave the series overall a mature rating for the stereotypical jokes and overall weirdness when they dubbed it. There is some cussing in there from time to time but nothing totally horrendous. Nothing you haven’t heard at least once in a movie.
This series is a double-edged sword because it’s rife with national stereotypes and a lot of (fan-perceived) Ho Yay. I say fan-perceived because, hey, they’re nation-tans. Not real people. I may be a huge fangirl of Germany and America but I abhor Ho Yay and I only ship two couples in the whole series (both hetero). I would suggest you keep an open mind on the stereotypes and remember that it’s not meant to be taken seriously. For instance, America’s a loudmouth braggart who really wants to be the Hero. He likes to eat a lot of junk food and he thinks he’s better than everyone else. Surprisingly, I find that to be accurate. Other Americans may find the portrayal insulting. We as a nation are young compared to many other nations and we’re always poking our noses into other people’s business. America’s portrayed as a young upstart who wants to boss others around. Hilarity Ensues when you remember this is a light-hearted comedy. It’s okay to laugh at your nation.
The English dub was very well-done by the talent over at Funimation. They took another step and gave the characters their own accents (presumably stereotyped accents as perceived by Americans). Hetalia is the only anime I’ve seen in both English and the original Japanese. From the start, my favorite characters have been America, Canada, Germany, Austria, and Romano (South Italy). Let me tell you a bit about them.
I’ll do another spot on America later so let’s start off with Canada. Canada is a quiet guy…too quiet, really. He’s practically invisible but he’s a sweetie. He’s constantly getting knocked around by other nations who mistake him for America (which is a lot). Cuba is apparently a good friend of his but even he mistakes Canada for America most of the time. He talks quiet and yells quiet. I honestly don’t think he knows how to yell properly. He’s overshadowed a great deal by his brother, America, and other nations tend to forget who he is. As a matter of fact, so does his talking pet polar bear, Kumajiro. It’s a Running Gag. In both the Japanese and English versions, the actor doing America does Canada as well. Eric Vale voices them in English and it’s so much fun when he invokes the trope Talking To Himself whenever Canada and America are interacting.
Germany is one of the tougher nations. His appearance brings to mind the kind of “race” his crazy WW2 boss was hoping to bring about, i.e. blond hair and blue eyes. I personally don’t think Germany agreed with his boss (indeed, most Germans didn’t like the Reich either) but he was just following orders and the series avoids the Holocaust like the plague. Germany is often very frustrated by Italy, a total ditz, but came to appreciate the fact that Italy was his first friend. He gets along well with Japan, who’s a well mannered Engrish speaking nation. He loves his beer. Germany’s one of the taller nations. I think he’s as tall as Russia. It’s pretty much agreed on in the fandom that he was the Holy Roman Empire in his childhood (if true, then he’s amnesiac) and he looks up to Italy’s grandpa, the Roman Empire.
Romano is also known as South Italy (named for Rome) and having two Italies references the years the two halves were divided. North Italy is known as Veneciano (named for Venice). Unlike his brother, Romano’s not really a ditz. He’s got something of a bad mouth in English but if you can laugh at that, he’s pretty hilarious. He hates Germany for being close friends with Veneciano. Thanks to the fact that he lived in Mr. Spain’s house when he was younger, Romano has a fondness for tomatos. He’s utterly terrified of France. Romano is thought to have an inferiority complex because he feels Roman Empire paid more attention to Veneciano and because Romano doesn’t have his artistic talents. But the things the Italy brothers have in common is that they’re weak and they both love pasta and women.
Austria (whom I affectionately call Mr. Austria) is a refined, piano-playing man. Like America and Canada, he wears glasses. He was once married to Hungary (a rare female personification) and they both serve as one of two couples I ship (the other being Switzerland x Liechtenstein). Mr. Austria is a beast on the piano, a well earned stereotype since many of the greatest composers of all time were Austrian. He lived in Germany’s house for a time and his marriage to Hungary was representative of an old alliance the real nations made and later dissolved. He used to be friends with Switzerland but things between them are passively hostile at best. In-series, he’s a bit of a cheapskate like Switzerland as both are a bit over the top in frugal-ness. His English voice I had to take time get used to because Chuck Huber didn’t do an Austrian accent that I’m used to (my basis being Arnold Schwarzenegger). But eventually, it grew on me.
America is my all time favorite. I loved my nation before this series but Hetalia made me love it even more. America is everything I stated above. As state in Austria’s spot, America wears glasses. They apparently represent Texas, which makes sense. During the Revolutionary War strips/episodes and other spots where he was a newly-discovered child, he didn’t have glasses. Since the series started in WW2, it’s pretty much truth that America started wearing glasses after Texas became a state. Being represented by his glasses may even be a nod to the fact that Texas, being the largest state in the continental US, has it’s own power grid. If the power went down everywhere else, Texas would still shine. America also has what is called an idiot hair (it sticks up) that represents Nantucket, since it’s a hot spot for tourists. He hates ghosts but his best friend is an alien named Tony who crashed in Roswell. He’s pushy and egotistical but he has his periods of weakness and insight, like when he was considering Britain after the latter lost the Revolution.
All in all, I love this series. I can laugh at my own nation and generally, it’s a fun way to learn some history. It may not always be accurate but it’s well researched. The anime is currently at four seasons (Axis Powers and World Series) Funimation has done the two Axis Powers seasons already and will be releasing season 3 (which kicks off World Series) January of next year.