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Hetalia Axis Powers Season 5 (This Beautiful World) Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Hetalia - The Beautiful World Cover ArtNo school is as cool as Hetalia school

What They Say:
They said it couldn’t happen, but they were as wrong as a stack of pancakes in a cage full of bears! The adorable boys of Hetalia are back with some new friends and a super sparkly new look. Not to mention the long-awaited Buon San Valentino OVAs!

What’s more fun than Germany squatting in a dandelion patch? How about the Axis Boys joining the witchcraft club? Or maybe Russia suffering through a traumatic hamster flashback? Any way you slice the spaghetti, every cute boy enjoys a little quality bath time, and Turkey and Greece can’t wait to start splishing and splashing! Belgium throws a mouthwatering waffle party, and America shows off his sweet dance moves! And when Santa Claus goes missing, Canada (who’s that?) tries to replace him with a polar bear!
POLAR BEAR!?

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 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1,.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. 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 puts together another season with some good consistency with the previous ones while also having a couple of little extras. With it being a very short run show on one disc 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 and uses a good piece that puts the core trio together in a clean and simple way with the familiar background. 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 blue and white bandana that has small bodied versions of many of the characters which look quite cute and fun here. We also get a great little selection of individual character stickers that are just plain adorable.

Menu:
The menus for this release are cute and colorful static pieces that uses the character artwork style to good effect as we get the core trio together walking along while Italy is chasing after things and the others are their usual fairly stern selves. It’s set against a blue sky with blue clouds that manages to work well enough while also having some of the rainbow aspects from the cover slide along the corners as well. 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:
Extras are a big part of the Hetalia package on disc as we’ve seen with past seasons and this one is no exception. We get six episode commentaries this time, up one from the previous season, and those are obviously short and easy to do but definitely a lot of silly fun. We get an extensive bit of liner notes with the Hidden History piece that breaks down a lot of the gags that are spread across all of the episodes, with multiple pieces in most episodes. There’s another one that’s shorter that goes through the horror story side of the season and breaks down what horror films are like in a lot of the countries in a good way.

We also get a good video commentary this time around with several of the actors as they come together to provide a commentary for episodes twelve through sixteen, which means we get a 25 minute piece of fun as they try and cope with the weirdness on the screen and, well, each other. There’s a good selection of dub outtakes included as well, which are always good for a laugh. There’s over seven minutes of them here and that is simply a wonderful thing. The last extra here is definitely welcome as we get a text interview with the director, Watanabe, talking about the ending animation for the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As the years have gone on, Hetalia marches along to its own tune. It’s an interesting property to watch in a lot of ways because it feels like it’s ebbed a bit in terms of the vocal anime crowd going on about it, but it still has a very busy and engaging life on the various social media sites and places like Tumblr. It’s also, speaking of anecdotes, very popular with a lot of the teenage girls that I know and that continues to amuse me. The show is one that worked really well for me in its first two seasons but it lost me a bit as the World Series went on as it just felt too top heavy. The shift away from the core characters and expanding with so many other countries makes a lot of sense, but it sacrificed too much of what made it work, especially in the 1940’s era setting. With The Beautiful World season, we do touch on a number of countries but it’s much more focused on the core cast and what would largely figure into the G8 nations. And that’s a plus.

Beyond that change, there’s not a lot different when it comes to Hetalia. The focus this season is one that works with Germany, Italy and Japan more as they go through their lives and various situations and it touches on lots of others as well, though often going back to that group. The dynamic between the main three is definitely the best though simply because of their personalities. Italy continues to delight and his delight frustrates Germany to no end who continues to try and find some sympathy and solace from Japan. Italy actually has some really neat things going on in a few places as we see him with Romano in a great way and a little history that comes to light for Germany that has him reevaluating what he thought of Italy in terms of his ability to deal with enemies. Pasts are varied and there are always surprises that come up, which is good to see how it changes perceptions for some.

A show like this is one that I do admit is hard to review because it’s so gag based. So I’ll just talk about what works in a general sense. There are some really good episodes and arcs to be had here alongside some of the forgettable ones – and those tended to involve countries I just don’t find appealing as characters. The end of the season has a great dream episode that has the characters all done up as women and that provides some really radical re-thinking of how to interpret them, something that made me wish they went a few more episodes than just the one. We also get the little mochi-like bumper pieces throughout with the flag waving and catch phrases and very short gags that are quite cute, though again they’re largely forgettable outside of the overall sense of what you think about them. The big pieces that worked for me was the early arc in having the cast as a part of Hetalia Academy and our core trio in the newspaper club going around interviewing all the other clubs and their quirks, which of course is highlighted the best by what Italy does in his free time. There’s a lot of fun with this and how the cliques form in a school setting.

The best arc for me though involved the bits involving everyone coming together to show America that his horror movies are the weirdest out of them all. We get a decent exploration of this in the extras as well, but mostly we start off with the American way of making horror movies that they rag on and then multiple characters start presenting how horror movies are done in their countries. Each of them is definitely unique and there’s some hilarious nods to overall genre stylings, but you have to love the way it unfolds as it just nudges them a bit beyond. Having Germany’s always filled with a guy, a big bosomed woman and a gay guy that get involved with things plays to their tropes well. The same with Italy, China, Japan and especially Russia with its darker tone. France doesn’t get off easy either with the way they deal with sex and entrails. There’s a lot of things covered here as it delves into the cultural aspects and it worked better than a lot of the other throwaway gags throughout the season did.

In Summary:
The more of something there is, the harder it can be to recapture the magic after awhile. For Hetalia, there’s certainly some element of that here, especially since the show seemed so sharp and cutting edge when it first came out. This season shows that it can still be sharp and fun after a weaker World Series season for me, but it’s also a bit trapped under the weight of so many characters and trying to appeal to that wider audience. There’s also the problem in that for a lot of the heavy and hardcore early fans, it was focused around the World War II phase, something that there’s far less of as the show progressed. You can do only so much with that, but once you move away from it to the near-present, it just felt like it was a bit more listless and without its bite since it was doing what it could to be lightly playful and little more than that. This is definitely a season with some strong episodes and a lot of fun that’s in a solidly put together package that should delight fans, especially those that are more wary like I was after the World Series seasons. Definitely worth adding to the shelf for a Hetalia fan.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentary (3, 7, 10, 11, 17, 18), Episode Video Commentary (12-16), Outtakes

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 22nd, 2014
MSRP: $39.99
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480 i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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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