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Hetalia Axis Powers Season 4 (World Series) Anime DVD Review

12 min read

The worldview expands once more as we see how other countries have fared over the centuries.

What They Say:
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.

This limited edition comes with an orange bandana featuring the entire main cast.

Contains episodes 25-54.

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 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 twenty 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:
Hetalia finishes off its run with another 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 the main cast of the show overall they hang out together and look cute and in some cases adorable.

The added bonus to this set is that we get an orange 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 reverse side 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 the main men of the series hanging out together in a pleasant yard like situation. 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:
Unsurprisingly, there’s a slew of extras on here that’s just as expansive as the previous editions. One of the more fun draws are the five commentary tracks that are here for several of the episodes as the dub cast gets into the fun of it all. The same can be said for the always too brief yet enjoyable outtakes. The episode by episode liner notes continues in this set as well as we get a lot of good fun and knowledge about the series spread out. We also get something on the opposite end to complement it with a thirty minute video sessions done while the four leading men of the series were at Otakon and sat down with the brand manager, Charlene Ingram, to talk about the experience. We also get the inclusion of the Chibitalia material and the America’s Cleaning Storage segments, bilingual, for easy viewing here. There’s an overabundance of interviews and set talk kind of segments from the shows premiere in Taiwan and an after the film release talk as well with the people behind it. The amount of footage and fun is just overwhelming once again, similar to past volumes. Add in some clean opening and closing bits and a great little music video sung by Italy and it’s more than a Hetalia fan could ask for.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Similar to the third season, or really the first half of the World Series when you get down to it, Hetalia’s main problem with this run for me is the way it expands the cast and has little in the way of a cohesive story to it. Not that Axis Powers really had a story mind you, but it had a sort of overall theme where it dealt with the various big powers and what they got involved in with some nods towards other countries, past and present. With World Series, the core does get its time, but it focuses on moving about so many other countries at times with their bits of history thrown in that it just gets to be a bit much. There’s nothing to tie it together like the World War II theme does.

So when the series shifts back to the original main trio of characters, I do find myself smiling more. This set thankfully does open with Japan hanging out with Italy and Germany, there’s a lot to like. Japan ends up getting put through some intense training as Germany wants him in tip top shape and ends up not liking just about everything that Japan does when it comes to food and exercise. With Japan being fairly old and not even remembering how many birthday’s he’s separated, having his medical report come across wrong and being put into such a regimen is definitely fun to watch. Much as is watching Italy narrate a small story about cats who have nationalistic aspects to them, taking the whole Hetalia gag to another level.

Germany gets an interesting episode in addition to this as he’s got a problem after dealing with Japan in that he’s unable to have a beer in his presence now. His older brother can’t believe it, nor can anyone else, and they do their best to push it on him and get him to drink. I think this is the first time we’ve seen his older brother and he definitely is amusing in how he deals with his younger brother and the statements about how beer is simply the blood that runs through a good German’s veins. What makes the whole ordeal even worse, especially for Germany, is that Italy is the one that points out the foolishness of it all in how they’re approaching their diet and exercise changes. And that only reinforces what they’re doing since they can’t be seen backing down, especially from something that Italy has pointed out.

The focus on Germany is particularly strong early on and in other areas as we also see him dealing with Austria a bit as he’s still essentially freeloading at his place. Austria’s aloof style continue to be very amusing when played in contrast to Germany and his brash outwardness, especially as he starts to have an influence on Germany and you see him getting all serene and sophisticated. Having France show up in the midst of an argument they’re having puts them on the same side for a bit and it only serves to once again highlight a side of Austria that he doesn’t want seen, especially as it was England who sent him off there to spy. Austria can be so decidedly cute at times that it’s too much.

Hetalia hasn’t spent too much time with China in the first half so getting him for a bit is definitely fun, especially as it’s during the period of discovery for them as they’re getting all around the world. China’s explorations, on “unnecessarily huge vessels,” is amusing since they get around a lot and see a lot of sights. But they also bring back a lot of animals for the country to see and delight over, including a giraffe which seems to be a particular favorite. And understandably so since there’s really nothing else like it out there. It’s cute to see how China is about all of it and then to have that particular episode capped off with another Nekotalia piece where the relationship between Germany and Austria is simply too adorable. Germany is frustrated in just about every form it seems.

One of my favorite characters continues to be Sealand simply because of how it was created and the whole history of it, which this show got me to look at more. The character here is in a way far pushier and more annoying than most any other since he wants to be liked but hasn’t a clue how to really do it. He’s pretty out there with it and you can see how much he frustrates everyone else which explains why they ignore him. Italy is still my all time favorite though and these episodes have fun with him. Particularly when he ends up capturing England by accident and puts him in prison. There’s a whole raft of jokes in there about Italian prisons based on what we know of Italy and England certainly makes the most of it. Italy and his older brother are just far too much fun to watch as they cope with this situation.

The show doesn’t spend its time in any one area for too long, but there are some fun things happening in the past. There’s a lot of powers on the move in the fifteenth century period of Europe and the Ottomans in particular are lining up their plans since there’s a lot of players and potential plans to be laid out. Some of what gets dealt with at this time with power consolidations and the like are fun pieces such as seeing the arranged marriage between Poland and Lithuania, where we see Poland so completely against it since he doesn’t like other people and gets all panicky in their presence. It’s fun to watch the way he reacts while everyone tries to soothe him and urge him along. There’s even a decent little history lesson attach to it afterwards that shows where the two countries went and how the whole arrangement worked out.

There’s a really cute episode about the two that focuses on them telling stories about each others’ capitals and their history. Poland tells a tale about a scary dragon that used to reside there and caused all manner of problems until a prince went into the cavern to deal with it. It’s a serious story told with humor that works well since the two don’t mesh up. Lithuania’s story tells the tale of a time when the king went into the Sacred Forest and had a dream about a wolf wearing armor, which like the story with the dragon is done seriously and looks really neat as he tells it. Of course, Poland can’t be bothered to listen to anything anyone else has to say and he spends his time doing something with his body that should only be done in private.

The tales of the Allies continue to be the most charming for me, and seeing France wandering around a deserted island with a pretty bird flapping around him is entirely appropriate. It’s the kind of life that France leads even in the most dangerous of times where he’s beautiful and appealing. There’s something charming about him being cool about everything as he’s stranded on the island, only to discover that he’s not really alone because Italy is there as well. Italy continues to look up to everyone in an adoring way, even in the midst of a war between all of them.

The two have a pretty lengthy history so having them spend time together makes a certain sense even when taken into the larger context. What makes things even more amusing though is when they finally come across Germany who is being incessentally poked by America and England while various other characters look on from the bushes. Italy’s panic over everyone poking him is pretty darn amusing though, especially as Germany just stands there and stoically takes it. America and England are very cute as they go at it though, poke poke poke away.

In Summary:
Hetalia is a series that overall I do enjoy a heck of a lot, but the World Series run of it has a lot of dead weight for me. The new characters introduced have their quirks and they’re definitely fun as they play off of each other, but they feel oddly disconnected from the rest of the core cast which minimizes things for me in a way. When the series brings the Axis powers out to play, there’s an extra sparkle in the show, whether it’s in the past or the more current setting as them being the G8. I do like the new characters that come in, but the time jumping makes it awkward and the connections to each other lacks something stronger to bind it. But I do get more Sealand and that makes for some very, very fun times. The final set of the series brings a whole lot of things together and fans are definitely awash in a huge amount of extras here that should make them blush, it’s such an embarrassment of riches. Consistency is key to this series and FUNimation did a bang-up job of bringing it out in style and fancifulness for its fans.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary for Episodes 26, 32, 36, 41, & 45, The Hidden History Hidden Within Hetalia, Outtakes, Chibitalia, “Marukaite Chikyuu,” America’s Cleaning Storage, Hetalia in Taiwan Parts 1-2, Fan Event in Roppongi, Special Talk Between Bob Shirihata and Hiroki Yasumoto, Draw a Circle That’s the Comment Corner, Interview After the Hetalia Movie Premiere Welcome, U.S. Cast Interview, U.S. Trailer

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 3rd, 2012
MSRP: $39.99
Running Time: 140 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480 i/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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