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Hetalia Axis Powers Complete Series Anime DVD Review

11 min read

Interactions between nations was never so much fun.

What They Say:
Forget everything you learned in history class, and imagine all the nations of the world as cute guys hanging out on a wildly inappropriate reality show. Now, toss in every stereotype ever and prepare to pledge allegiance to your favorite superpower in Hetalia Axis Powers!

Maybe you’ll surrender to Italy’s charms. He’s a sweetie who’s always got a noodle in his mouth and he’s BFF with blue-eyed Germany and shy Japan. Sounds nice, right? Of course, their friendship sort of causes World War II, but is that really such a big deal? Not if it means those adorable allies France, America, and England will be stormin’ the beach!

Contains episodes 1-52.

The Review:
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 2001, 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 three 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 26 of them for such a short run show. The feature disc runs just over a hundred minutes 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:
This Hetalia collection brings together the two half season sets into one clear thinpak case with a slipcover that uses the same artwork The front cover goes with the big group of primary characters as they toss Italy into the air, complete with him holding up a little white flag of surrender. With the bright rainbow colors in the background, it all ties together well and looks bright, fun and outgoing. The back cover uses the same kind of color scheme in a different form but with a lot of white along the top where we get the logo and the taglines. The concept of the show is really well laid out here as it pushes the fun aspect of it. The bottom half gives us a few cute shots from the show and a very good breakdown of all the discs extras that can be checked out. The set doesn’t have any pack in items or show related inserts but it does have artwork on the reverse side that shows off the same cast of characters hanging around together and enjoying each others company.

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 looks really nice and the combination of it with the colors gives it a slightly soft but warm feeling that relaxes you. 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 several English language commentaries but it also has a two separate discs of extras where most of the extras are. The extras are made up of a series of three “talk” sessions in which the series director talks with the voice actors during the Japanese production run. He gets some face time with the actors for Prussia, Chibi Italy and the main man Italy himself. In addition to that, the voice actor for Prussia does a segment that commemorates the announcement of the movie itself. The Talk sessions come from the extras on the Japanese releases and run about 35 minutes combined across the three. The announcement piece is cute and runs about six minutes as Prussia sort of becomes the official spokesman for the movie which is fun. In addition to this, we get the clean versions of the closing sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hetalia’s an interesting series as its origins as a webcomic had it moving to both an anime and manga series. The anime series ran in early 2009 for fifty-two episodes, which would be pretty impressive until you find out that each episode runs for just over five minutes each. This is actually ideal because it’s all short bursts of humor as it tackles international issues in the past and present with a bit of wit and humor as it essentially mocks the hell out of everything. It’s a very skewered view of history as it takes the numerous countries of the world and personifies them in human form as they interact with each other.

Nobody makes out well here, particularly those in the Axis of Bromance. The series opens with a brief bit in the present as we see numerous nations around the table trying to work out the big issues of the day, such as environmental concerns, but it invariably turns into creating new disputes over other things, many of which goes back centuries or millennia in some cases. The US kicks it all off by saying the best way to save the world is to create a huge protector for it, something for which he’s easily mocked. It’s from there though that we go back much further in time and learn about Roman Empire, who had ruled the world and all its riches for some time before simply disappearing. When that happened, all the children states that existed then began squabbling and causing problems for everyone else.

These start of the series focuses on little Italy, a young man who lived through great ages of peace, art and intellect until the other countries started bullying him and the other members there in the broken up nation states. His victimization is shown throughout the episodes which explains a lot of his personality. When we see him in the World War I phase where Germany scouts across his lands, he’s hiding in a tomato box and eventually is glad to be captured as Germany feeds him and takes relatively good care of him. Germany can’t figure him out but tires of him easily with his constant pasta and pizza moments and the way he’s so flirtatious with all the women he knows. Suffice to say, as history enters World War II and Italy wants to be an ally, it goes over even less well. Songs of friendship do not help either.

As it progresses on we do see Japan arrive into the whole World War II scene, though he’s essentially a very polite young man who is big in miniaturization while being wary of Italy since he’s not exactly an upstanding person. There are numerous other countries that get brought into play over it as well with France and England arguing a lot at the beginning and a few other smaller countries. Much of the initial focus is on Italy and Germany though and the two have a very uneasy relationship that does stem back hundreds and hundreds of years. I loved seeing Roman Empire taking Italy away from all the others and working with him on art and literature, which in turn later sets up the scene where Italy talks about feeling so very Renaissance. Much of the show plays with these little things when it comes to its humor to balance the kind of way the show gets all silly with how Italy acts in general when it comes to Germany. You can sympathize with Germany a lot over this and certainly understand why he’s propelling Italy into orbit on a regular basis.

While the trio regularly acts like the world revolves around them (more so for Italy in his dreams), they’re not the only ones out there. The Allies are getting their act together, barely, as there’s a humorous scene where USA tries to lay out their plan of attack but have a hard time doing so in between mouthfuls of food or drinks. The other Allies want to get in on the action as well and France even makes his way in secret into Axis territory, though when he comes across Germany he freaks out and runs away. Which is doubly amusing as Romano, older brother to Italy, is there and sees France and freaks out himself. So many longstanding issues between these countries exist and there are all sorts of fears that got tossed out into it.

As the series progresses, we do start to get more time with other nation characters as time goes on and this batch of episodes introduces us to a rather cute one with Sealand. Essentially a manmade location in the ocean created during the war, Sealand is an upbeat and energetic young man of a country the size of about 207 square meters that has a population of about four. There are grand plans in Sealand’s mind to become huge and rich over time so as to challenge England after England abandoned them and watching how Sealand is so earnest in this quest is far too cute. It’s a nice little diversion that adds a bit more to the overall cast of characters and the world.

The flashback material we get elsewhere that deals with Holy Rome leaving little Italy at home so he can go off on his own is pretty amusing. He’s a bit mocked for what he takes with him since there’s a lot of paintings to move but also because some of them are really cute paintings of Italy. Italy is obviously saddened by the loss of Holy Rome since it’s such a good friend that’s going, but you can see the pain of the loss on both sides. Italy’s such a little cutie and so honest and earnest but it also explains easily why he’s such a wuss in the World War II period where he practices showing off the spirit of Italy by working so very hard at waving a white flag. Germany’s mental sigh can practically be felt around the world.

In addition to Sealand, which did lead to some fun reading online afterward, we also get to see Sweden and Liechtenstein get involved. The two of them have a nice familial relationship with each other and it starts off with Liechtenstein cutting off her hair, something that concerns her older brother Sweden because it’s very unlike her. There’s a nice relationship between the two though because she cut her hair, she’s now being easily confused for a boy because of her body shape and how much she looks like her brother. It’s a simple and cute episode that deals with these two, but it’s beautifully balanced out by Italy giving a very bad impression to Germany that he’s being… um, abused by someone in his bed and he needs Germany to help him before something is put somewhere.

Some of the characters that pop up throughout here definitely make me smile. Russia has a great parachuting moment into the snow with some very fun comments about his relationship with snow. He later has an extended story that deals with the introduction of his older and younger sisters, Ukraine and Belarus. Both are well handled and the creepy nature of Belarus is perfect as is the almost motherly nature of Ukraine. I also really liked how they went to the recent time period by showing how the Soviet Union was and the way it changed as his family members went away. Though Belarus always seems to come back into his life.

The past is well covered in this set as well. Though far too short, there’s a great sequence where Roman Empire arrives to look over Italy as he sleeps, except that he’s sleeping with Germany that night in his bed. Roman Empire has long been a favorite and seeing him making an appearance, almost like a dream, is a lot of fun. The best of the episodes dealing with the past involves the birth of America, or at least his younger years, as England started to take on the role of a big brother to him, though not without his own issues over such a naming. Add in the other countries that are fighting over who America looks like the most and it’s just good fun, especially as America is so completely cute and adorable in this form.

In Summary:
Hetalia’s a show that I found that I liked more in its first two seasons because of its focus on the big characters and all the World War II fun. That side is definitely here, though subdued a bit, as it takes a look at the characters across different periods of time and continues to expand the overall cast more. The expansion of Canada alone is worthwhile but Russia gets what he needs to be more firmly defined as well. As much as I do like the cast as it grow, the fact of the matter is that I like it when it focuses more on the core Axis Powers. This group is just a lot of fun to watch and even when I revisit the show multiple times it feels like I can’t get enough of Italy. Hetalia’s got the right idea for short form comedy without overstaying its welcome and this season is definitely a lot of fun.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Audio Commentaries for Episodes 2, 9, 12, 16, 31, 36, 42 & 46, Show Comments by Director Bob Shirahata Parts 1-3, Director Bob Shirahata’s Ending Sequence Comments, Director Bob Shirahata & Atsushi Kosaka (Prussia) Talk, Atsushi Kosaka Commemorates the Announcement of the Hetalia Movie, Bob Shirahata & Aki Kanada (Chibi Italy) Talk, Bob Shirahata & Daisuke Namikawa (Italy) Talk, Textless 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: March 6th, 2012
MSRP: $44.98
Running Time: 260 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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