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DVD Review

DVD cover

Hetalia - Axis Powers
Complete Series 1


Starring (voice): Daisuke Namikawa, Hiroki Takahashi and Hiroki Yasumoto
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: 15
Available 13 December 2010

Hetalia: Axis Powers (2009) by anyone’s estimation was a bonkers idea for a manga and anime. Based on the original comic by Hidekaz Himaruya, he eventually translated his idea across multiple media.

The show, which consists of five minute vignettes, takes a look at world history between the First and Second World War. Each country is represented by a human character who takes on the national characteristics as personality traits.

The pace is fast and furious with gag upon gag being offered up, both visual and contextual. The show doesn’t hold any punches in its visual humour either. Watching the show is like an assault on the senses.

Now this all seems like a little bit of harmless fun until you pay attention and discover that the show is full of the most awful racial and national stereotypes. Being a Japanese show the Japanese character is represented as a somewhat naive, but hard working character, always willing to take on other cultures and even adopt some traits into itself. Given Japanese imperial pretensions and its appalling behaviour during the Second World War, this is nothing short of an attempt to rewrite history.

The other characters do not come off well. Italy is portrayed as a pasta and female loving coward, who always needs the protection of Germany, a bombastic militaristic young man. England is portrayed as a foul mouthed former pirate who can’t cook... the list goes on.

If you ignore the poor grasp of history and the blatant attempt to rewrite Japan's part in it there is a lot of fun to be had in the show. The gags are scattered indiscriminately throughout, there are even moments of melancholy, but given its inaccuracies, it’s hard to take these seriously.

The picture is soft and uses a number of different animation styles across the seventeen episodes of the first series. You get a choice of either a 5.1 English dub or the original Japanese 2.0 with subtitles. The disc comes with some pretty good extras, including audio commentaries on episodes two, nine, twelve and sixteen. The Hidden History with Hetalia is text based explanations of how the episodes reflect world events. Bob Shirohata, the director, provides three commentaries on the show, as well a commentary on the ending sequence.

If you ignore the propaganda aspects of the show, this is a fine slice of surreal fun with some good extras.


Charles Packer

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