Ah, yes. This show. A show that everyone either loves with a passion or can’t stand. A show with enough fanart to outdo any other show ever seen. A show with possibly the most possibilities for gay pairings I’ve ever seen in any anime. And a show with a reputation of having a fearsome fan base.
Yes, it can only be Hetalia: Axis powers.
The premise of the show is rather simple. Every country of the world is represented by a character that is stereotyped to the extreme and each episode mostly revolves around their random adventures and their interactions, with lots of historical in-jokes relating to historical events. Or just jokes in general.
Y’know, it’s rather strange. Whenever asked what my favourite animes of all time is, I say Hetalia without a second thought (listing several others as well). But when asked why, that’s where I draw a blank. I sit, thinking. There are shows out there with undoubtedly better stories, better animation, better music and even better characters from a development and complexity standpoint. So what is it about this silly little, five-minute long comedy fest that I hold so close to my heart? Why is it that when I watch a show that is really fantastic and that I will undoubtedly remember and respect for years to come, it still loses the number one place in my heart to this childish, silly, plotless funfest? Well, before I analyse that, I’ll talk about the technical aspects of the show before getting into the nitty-gritty of things of why I continue to list this anime as one of my favourites even now.
In terms of the animation, all I can say is that it’s fairly good. The backgrounds are simple and, because this is a comedy anime, chibi expressions are used frequently. Despite this, the animation is still bright and colourful and the character designs are all unique to the country in question, further exaggerating their stereotypes. Animation is pretty solid and consistent.
Musically, Hetalia admittedly doesn’t have much memorable background music. In truth, the only song you’re going to remember is the ending song, since the show only has an opening of roughly ten seconds (then again, if your show’s five minutes long each episode, I suppose you wouldn’t have time for that). And speaking of said ending song… Good god, once it’s in you head, it burrows and makes a little nest there and decides never to leave it. People who’ve heard it know what I’m on about.
In terms of voice-acting, sub-purists can hiss and snipe me for saying this but I’d honestly have to say, the English dub is much more fitting. It isn’t better acted, no, the acting’s just as good in both languages but the English language has a huge advantage with this kind of show because it can properly portray something that the Japanese language cannot; Thick, thick accents. Every country/character has an extremely exaggerated accent and, if this were any other show, this would fail miserably, but, in this case, it was an absolutely inspired idea. Additionally, Funimation casted pretty much every voice actor they had since the show sports such a large cast, so it’s pretty fun to recognise voice actors that you’ve heard in a lot of other dubs all coming together and having as much fun as possible.
I’d also have to applaud the English dub for its adaptive script. While the Japanese certainly had a lot of funny moments as well, the adaptive script writer just went crazy with the script, adding in a ton of additional jokes and almost all of them hit bullseye with me, churning out some of the funniest one-liners I’ve ever heard in any medium, never mind just anime. Special kudos also go to the narrator woman for the English dub, turning a normally boring role into a hilarious one. There’s honestly far too much wonderful talent in this dub to mention it all but, overall, I just find the English dub much more appropriate for this show.
Story/ Character/ Personal thoughts 9/10
And now we get into the meat of things. What is it about this show that resonates so strongly with me like no other show can? Well, first I’ll talk about the things that everyone else loves about the show that are also reasons I love it as well. Firstly, the humour. Hetalia is a riotously funny show. If you don’t know much history, you’ll probably laugh every so often. But if you love history, like me, this is laugh-a-minute stuff. Almost every episode features some kind of history in-joke, be they blatant or subtle. And even when they don’t, the interactions between the characters are enough to get you laughing.
Secondly, the characters. Almost every character is memorable, even if they only have a few minutes of screen time. Hell,Prussia is arguably the most popular character in the show despite only appearing in roughly seven episodes so far in the series (and this is including the second season). The reason these characters are so memorable is because every kind of unique character you can think of exists in this show and yet it somehow manages to make every one of them loveable. And it also gives people the opportunity to be able to laugh at themselves and the country they come from. Every time I see the personality and interactions of the UK, for example, and his fights with France and his disagreements with everyone, I just laugh to my self because I honestly do know a lot of people with his traits in my country. Not to say they’re all like that, of course, and those traits are extremely exaggerated in his character, but that’s one of the shows strengths. Every character is so over the top and so silly that it’s impossible not to laugh at either your own country or someone else’s. After all, if we can't laugh at ourselves, what can we do?
And now we come to why I personally love the show so much and I honestly think this maybe comes from me taking it too seriously and loving it for maybe different reasons than the original author intended. So be warned that the following may be incredibly heavy and over-dramatic.
For me, it mostly stems from the characters for the reasons I mentioned but there is another aspect to them. It’s one thing to be able to make characters which are impossible to hate but the fact that these characters represent countries suddenly gives the show so much more weight to me. Let me put it in incredibly dramatic terms:
Before Hetalia, I didn’t think much of the world. I just thought all other countries and my own, for that matter were all just under the control of governments who only cared about power and no good would ever come of it. And when I found Hetalia in my local DVD store, I remembered one of my friends mentioning it and thought I’d pick it up. And, while halfway though marathoning it, I realized something. All my negative thoughts of the world had just melted away. When I looked at the interactions between all the countries, I noticed that none of them really hated each other. They bickered and fought like brothers and sisters but there was never any hate. And that, for some reason, really hit home with me. There was no hate in any of them and there was a genuine feeling of love and harmony between them. Things like this are why I have absolutely no patience with those who call this show insulting or racist. I’m perfectly fine with those who don’t like it, of course, but those who call it racist or insulting are truly missing the point and, in reality, the show is anything but. It’s stereotypical, yes, but hear me out.
I can’t bring myself to hate a single one of these characters. There are, of course, ones I like more than others but overall, I can’t hate a single one of them. And, for some reason, I began to stop hating the world and I began to adore countries that I’ve never even been too. For example, no matter what stupid choices theUKgovernment makes, I can never bring myself to hate my country because he is represented in this show by one of the most funny loveable, characters I’ve ever come across.
And with that new found love of the world and all its countries, came a desire to end the suffering of them. Granted, I was always very anti-war before Hetalia, but seeing it awakened a passion in me to stop all conflict between countries. And, at the risk of sounding very clichéd, I can safely say that Hetalia has turned me into a full on world-peace enthusiast. And I’m not the only one. I’ve talked to many people within the Hetalia community and almost all of them say that they want peace between countries as well and I think this is reflected in the fanart. Hetalia is responsible for turning out some of the most beautiful fanart of any fandom, as just one Google search will tell you. So I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this.
For all those reasons and more (if I even needed more) I can safely say with pride that Hetalia: Axis Powers is, and probably always will be, one of my favourite anime. Is it childish? Yes. Is it silly? Good god, you have no idea. But I think if people can find it in themselves to look a little deeper at the show, they will find the will inside them to draw that circle and discover the will to end the conflicts between these countries that we’ve come to hold so close to our hearts.