The story of the world told through the nations being portrayed as people serves up some skewered if highly amusing interpretations of history and stereotypes.
What They Say
When the nations gather to solve the world's problems, U.S.A. presents his solution to global warming - and it's a pretty stupid one. Then everyone argues for a while, just before a flashback to WWI.
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 first four episodes focus 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.
I wasn't sure what to expect on this going into as all I had seen before were some translations of the webcomic and a bit of reading on Wikipedia about the characters since I figured that this would never be a show that would be licensed. After watching the first four episodes which runs just over twenty-minutes, I'm completely sold on the remaining forty-eight. This is my kind of humor and it works very well in the short format with the quick gags and the overall character presentations. It's the kind of show that needs to be sold off to someplace like Adult Swim or convince SNL to run with it since it would be wholly offensive and highly humorous to a large segment of the population. It's the kind of show that would easily create controversy, even though it's pretty damn tame, and I'd love to see that play out on a national scale. Definitely something I'm looking forward to seeing much more of.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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.