The Bottom Line
History can seem so dry and dreary. But all that changes when you turn each country into cute boys with country-specific personality quirks. That, in a nutshell, is Hetalia, the goofy, fangirl fave by Hidekaz Himaruya that has made military uniforms and flags fashionable at anime conventions from coast-to-coast.
Wildly politically incorrect and not concerned with historical accuracy when it doesn't suit its purposes (which is to make you laugh or give you some pretty boy eye-candy to ogle over), Hetalia isn't for everyone. But if you can overlook its faults, it's actually lovable, fun and vaguely educational.
- Unabashedly goofy, politically incorrect humor that bashes each country equally.
- Dresses up geo-political history in a humorous and human way.
- Cute boys. Really, do you need an excuse to have more of that?
- Wildly uneven image quality, from crisp linework to utterly muddy, pixilated messes.
- With so many similar looking characters, it can be hard to keep the nations straight.
- A simple "Poland" or "Estonia" to identify the less-familiar flags in the notes would be helpful.
- Glosses over the horrors of war by making it as significant as a pillow fight.
- I know it's all in fun, but Italy is a total ninny. Heck, I'd smack him too.
- Original Title: Hetaria (Japan)
- Author & Artist: Hidekaz Himaruya
- ISBN: 978-1427818768
- Cover Price: $10.99 US / $13.99 CANADA
- Age Rating:
OT – Older Teens, Age 16+
for some cursing, mildly ridiculous violence
More about content ratings.
- Manga Genres:
- Yonkoma (4-panel) Manga
- Anime Tie-In
- Bishonen (Pretty Boys)
- Historical / Biography
- US Publication Date: September 2010
Japan Publication Date: March 2008
- Book Description: 152 pages, black and white illustrations, 8 color pages
Guide Review - Hetalia: Axis Powers Volume 1
Oh History – do you have to be so dreary? Well, not necessarily if you're reading Hetalia, Hidekaz Himaruya's silly but adorable re-imagining of the countries involved in World War II as very cute boys.
In the world of Hetalia, countries have personalities, neuroses, rivalries, and even troubled childhoods. Take a look at the Axis Powers countries: Germany's a hard-ass, Japan is shy, and Italy is a pasta-loving buffoon. Meanwhile, U.S.A. is an arrogant, burger-scarfing bully. England is stuffy but eccentric, and France would rather be a lover than a fighter. And did I mention that they're all very cute boys (except for Hungary, who's a cute girl)? All those fangirls in military uniforms at anime conventions aren't just squealing because they think bilateral treaties are sexy.
But for all its goofy slapstick and fangirl-pandering eye-candy, Hetalia does something interesting: it makes history relatable, humorous and… human. For example, America cleans out his attic and is overcome with memories of his bittersweet confrontation with England during the War of Independence. Russia is a huggable but powerful hulk who keeps the Baltic States quivering in fear of his next move (which isn't all that far from the truth).
This probably says something terrible about the U.S. educational system (and my information retention skills as a student), but I got a better grasp of European history by reading this single volume of Hetalia than I got in all my years of high school. Even better, it made me want to learn more. When's the last time a comic book did that?
But before you use Hetalia as your super-cute Cliff's Notes, you should know that it's not entirely historically accurate. The Tripartite Pact was not signed while Italy, Japan and Germany sat under a kotatsu (heated table), nor did China ever bonk Germany with a wok in a Christmas skirmish. Hetalia glosses over unpleasant things like war, death and torture by making global conflicts about as serious and impactful as a pillow fight.
Mussolini would probably throw a fit if he saw how Italy is represented here. Koreans probably don't like being seen as brats who throw tantrums when they miss their favorite K-dramas either. But Hetalia's willful omission of historical unpleasantries and liberal use of politically-incorrect stereotypes are done in the name of fun. If you can't swallow your national pride long enough to laugh, Hetalia's probably not for you.
The other downside to Hetalia? Its wildly inconsistent image quality. Hetalia was originally a webcomic, but given that the Tokyopop editors brag about working closely with the creator, it seems inexcusable to have low-rez artwork that is so pixilated and blurry.
But if you're willing to excuse its lapses of political correctness, historical accuracy and image reproduction, Hetalia will probably make you giggle... and that's all it ever wanted to do. And if it makes you think a little and gives you some boy toys to drool over too, well, that's just a bonus.