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Hetalia Axis Powers Season 3 (World Series) Anime DVD Review

13 min read

There’s more to the world than just the Axis Powers as the World Series proves to good form.

What They Say:
The awesome international incidents never stop in Hetalia World Series! All your fave Allied and Axis boys are back, and they’ve brought a bunch of new guys to the party. You like to party, right? Duh.

Feel the tension build as Prussia plots an invasion of Austria’s happy little place. Try on a codpiece! Share in Spain’s pain as he does his best to look after little Romano. Run with stampeding kittens! Swoon at the awkward new bromance blossoming between Japan and Greece. Eat a yummy churro! Listen and learn as France teaches Italy about the birds and the bees. Avoid Sealand! Cheer as America befriends space aliens and whales. Truly, no matter whose flag you fly, it’s about to get all SQUEE up in here. Like, big time.

Contains episodes 1-24.

Audio:
The audio presentation for Hetalia in a sense is kind of surprising as we get the norm with the Japanese stereo track encoded at 192kbps but also the inclusion of an English 5.1 mix at 448kbps. The show isn’t one that you’d think really needs a 5.1 mix and what we get here doesn’t really add much to it other than additional volume for the most part. There’s some sharper clarity to some of the wacky sound effects but it’s a minimal enhancement overall and it doesn’t change the way it feels overall. The show revolves almost exclusively around dialogue, which comes fast and furious at times, and both tracks handle it well with no noticeable problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1,.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Hetalia’s short form nature has it split into a few segments here where it runs just over thirty minutes or so each and then followed by a group block of translated credits. The original credits are kept during the individual episodes which makes sense since you don’t want to be updating 24 of them for such a short run show. The feature disc runs just over a hundred and twentyminutes total and has a fairly high bit rate average overall. The show looks good here, certainly better than the streams I was watching, but it’s not a show that has high production quality to begin with. What we have here looks good with generally solid colors and a lack of cross coloration. There’s still some line noise during various panning sequences but it’s fairly negligible overall. Hetalia’s not a show that looks jaw droppingly gorgeous, but what we get here is definitely good and about what you’d expect the show to look like.

Packaging:
Hetalia gets a bit of a nice package with a couple of little extras. With it being a very short run show on two discs with the second disc being just extras, it fits easily in a single keepcase with hinge inside. The keepcase comes inside a slipcover that’s a bit wide than the case as it comes with a little extra. The slipcover has the same character artwork unlike the previous seasons and it goes cute here with Germany being accosted by a couple of the other countries. The back cover runs with a white background that works well as the various colors of the text stand out well here, from the taglines to the basic summary of what’s going on. The breakdown of episodes and extras alongside a small selection of shots from the show works very nicely while the very bottom has the usual production credits and technical grid. While some of the text can be a little awkward to read with the color combinations, overall it has a very light and appealing design to it. The keepcase itself has artwork on the reverse side which brings in some of the newer characters introduced in the World Series season as they hang out together and look cute and in some cases adorable.

The added bonus to this set is that we get a purple and white bandana that has small bodied versions of many of the characters which look quite cute and fun here.

Menu:
The menus for this release are cute and colorful static pieces that uses the character artwork style as seen on the cover of the packaging while tying it to the soft colors that populates it, with the blues, greens and yellows to make it quite appealing yet not identify with any particular flag for the most part of any of the major countries involved. The character artwork works quite well here as we get Sweden’s coffee house where Russia is trying to get Germany drunk as some of the others look on in wonder. Navigation is quick and simple though the font looks a touch too small in my opinion. Submenus are problem free and language setup is a no-brainer, though I dislike that it doesn’t use the players language presets and defaults to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
This release has some extras on the show disc in the form of three English language commentaries but it also has a separate disc of extras where most of the really lies. And there’s a good deal of material there similar to what we saw with the previous releases. The first is the hidden history within Hetalia in which we get some extensive real world history about various things that occur in the series but also goes up to present day ramifications. One of the big extras here is a nearly 40 minute piece from the 2010 Tokyo International Anime Fair in which they had a lot of the talent involved in the production come out and just have fun with their fans, talking about the show and more. It’s actually fun to watch, especially when Japan’s voice actor is involved as he’s one of the few people that I’ve seen that felt comfortable in actually working the crowd.

Another good sized extra and just as diverse when you get down to it is the two part fan event in Toukishima in which the series director is involved. There’s some fun mall event style material to it and a good natured Q&A session as well, with both parts running just over 30 minutes. Similar can be found in another 19 minute fan event from some unknown location which is focused on the voice actors interacting with the fans for a Q&A. Admittedly, my favorite extra here is the just over six minute section featuring dub outtakes. With the dub going above and beyond already with what it does, this just shows more humor and the kind of silliness that didn’t always work but had some striking moments. Add in a few trailers and you’ve got a solid second disc of extras here that should really please any fan of the original work.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a rather enjoyable first two season, Hetalia returns with yet another season, entitled World Series, which brings us more wacky hijinks with history and countries as characters playing off of each other. The whole concept, with its origins in the web comics to manga and to the original anime, simply struck a chord with me and proved to be a lot of fun, even if it does seem a bit toned down and mainstreamed for the anime incarnation. The first two seasons spent the bulk of their time dealing with World War II issues and settings which is definitely a lot of fun because of the way everyone antagonizes each other, but they also played it well with some small segments taking place in the present and others that went far into the past, particularly with Italy and Holy Roman Empire.

The World Series season essentially pick up where we left off before and runs with the same kind of humor, which is definitely a plus. Why change a winning combination, especially with it all working within the five minute timeframe. A bit more history is brought into it as Japan gets a most amusing education about how Sparta operated, with its immense amount of nakedness, which is something that really throws off Japan in a way that’s amusing. The two are pretty good friends as Greece becomes a bit more of a player in the game, particularly as the two have a similar laid back and almost slow approach to things. Greece takes it a few extra steps, when you take into account the not necessarily lazy attitude but the more sleepy mindset, and it makes a certain amount of sense considering the lengthy known history of the country and how outgoing it all was for so many centuries.

Some parts of the World War II perspective are very amusing to watch play out. There’s a lot of humor to be found with the way France deals with Italy over some “borrowed” paintings as well as how Lithuania reacts to overhearing Russia talking about Poland. Considering the way things played out, hearing any large nation talk about other small countries of a similar status makes them very wary of what might happen to them. Lithuania looks like he’s constantly jittery and he even puts a regular watch on Poland’s house, which is only exacerbated by the fact that Poland no longer responds to any phone calls from Lithuania. The way that Lithuania looks throughout this is highly endearing because of all the shaking lines around him. This is only outdone by a young Italy in the same kind of position earlier in his life.

The portrayal of America in the series continues to be a high point for me since it plays with a lot of basic stereotypes that has their root in truth. There’s an amusing segment that involves England being down for the count for awhile with a cold and others try to help him, such as France, but the solution America comes up with is to slap a hamburger on his head. And he puts quite the great hamburger on there as well and can’t understand why it’s not working. Contrasted with the big characters, watching how secondary ones are abused is just as much fun. Canada’s near invisible nature gets him hurt easily by America as well as he tries to play baseball with him and just wallops him. And poor China can’t catch a break as nobody really meshes with his lifestyle and the way his history has defined him over the centuries.

When the show dabbles more seriously in the past, it’s both amusing and a little chilling as you wonder how things will play out in this form. Prussia’s grudge against Austria is getting more pronounced and we see the royalty of Austria dealing with the situation as a carrier bird has brought the warning. The brief history lesson is definitely useful as it’s done in a cute narrated way that sets the stage nicely as well, and explains away the tensions that everyone is feeling. There’s a definite cowardice among many though about getting into this fight since they all have other things to do that are music related. The results of it, with Austria in uniform, faces off against everyone who pretty much look like they came with a pitchfork mentality.

Where things get really amusing is when Hungary enters the picture and decides that it’s going to aid Austria in this fight with a fair bit of brutality to it, enough so to push away the alliance that came after Austria. Hungary fights so hard that it actually pretty much frightens Austria a lot which makes it easy to see them being a bit nervous about everything. Seeing Prussia’s reactions to the loss is even better though as he does his best to convince himself that he actually won in the end. The power of self delusion is one of the greatest things people have.

One aspect I like to the show is the various incarnations of Italy we have, with the Holy Roman Empire, Romano and Italy itself, all of which have very different personalities. I like the stories about “grandpa” that Italy comes up with at times and some of the history pieces we’ve seen and Italy himself is one of my favorites, if not my favorite, whether he’s in his normal pasta loving form or his chibi form. Romano is the one that feels a bit odd at times with how he acts and reacts to things, but there’s a nice little nod here as to how he doesn’t quite fit in with the other two. There are similarities across all three of them though, but it’s easy to understand why Romano isn’t sure he’s really a part of this family at times.

The Hetalia world hasn’t done much with holidays but they do tackle Christmas this time around, which is really amusing since it starts out with Germany waking up to find Italy in his bed promising him a present. A present that’s in his pants. Italy’s nature is so positive that he can’t see what’s wrong with his present which makes it even more amusing since he’s sincerely doing something he thinks is good. Germany’s so put off by it that it’s hard for him to cope with it all, especially when Italy gets all cute and sad looking. The show does a nice job of showing off some of the other countries as well with a party being put together that highlights a lot of the little quirks of each of the countries and how they are as people, especially with American’s grand nature about things.

Hetalia’s moving around the various points in time can make it for a fun show, though confusing if they aren’t clear when certain things are taking place. One segment of episodes takes us back to 1902 when England was doing what he could to make some new friends and re-establish friendships elsewhere as he’s concerned about how Germany and America are becoming more powerful. He does try to make friends with Germany first, but England is simply so tense and frantic at times that he’s not able to approach people easily. When he visits Japan though, it’s a bit different after the first introduction since Japan comes across as so calm and peaceful, which puts England at ease for a bit. Unfortunately, Japan has a boss who wants him to be friends with Russia instead and that goes to cutely complicate things.

Watching the two of them and the various back and forth that comes up is pretty amusing, especially when England starts teaching him some English. Japan’s writings are a quick bit at the end of one episode, but there’s a whole lot of hate in there for America from him which surprises England. Similarly amusing is when we see that Germany has been assigned to take care of Austria for awhile and bring him into his home. The orders, which Germany can’t ignore, are even more priceless as it gives him the okay to beat him up. Such an assignment really gets to Italy though who doesn’t want Austria to be annexed and has to watch Germany storm into Austria’s place to do it. What’s surprising to everyone is that Austria seems pretty cool with it, which is strange considering the fights that had gone on before involving Hungary.

The show spends some time in this arc dealing with Romano and Spain who are getting along pretty well while out on a walk with each other. Unfortunately, Romano gets pretty much abducted by Turkey who looks positively comical like this and certainly threatening to the child Romano. Little Romano in this form is so adorable and cute, especially with Turkey basically tormenting him and just holding him up with one hand. Spain’s attempts to rescue him are even more amusing though as he has a bull go riding in to help out and he stands up strong to Turkey, who is actually pretty powerful at this stage of history. Spain comes across as pretty manly throughout this and it does a lot to elevate his position overall.

In Summary:
The World Series season of Hetalia definitely has a lot to offer, but I have to admit that it underwhelmed me in comparison to the first. Part of it is that there’s just so many more countries involved now and things jumped around in the time frame more frequently that it left me unsure of when was when, especially as I have no history major. It kept me from getting completely into it at times since I was trying to break that down. And I did miss the more focused aspect of the Axis Powers characters since I felt that grouping really works great. But there is a lot to like here and they do have involvement to varying degrees. The humor is largely the same, simply expanded to more times and more characters, so there’s greater opportunity for laughs but also missteps. When it works, it’s firing on all cylinders. When it doesn’t, you just wait a minute or two and it’ll be back to where it should be, which for me meant more Italy scenes.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 1 Commentary (Narrator/ADR Director, Prussia, Romano), Episode 4 Commentary (Narrator/ADR Director, Poland, Lithuania), Episode 6 Commentary (Narrator/ADR Director, Britain, France, America), The Hidden History Hidden Within Hetalia, Hetalia Fan Event at the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2010, Hetalia Event in Tokushima Parts 1-2, The Sunshine 60 Observatory Fan Event, Textless Closing Songs

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A+

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: January 17th, 2012
MSRP: $34.99
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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