The character comedy-drama of many nations across the ages continues with another season of the web manga series.
What They Say Forget everything you learned in history class, and imagine all the nations of the world as cute guys hanging out on a wildly inappropriate reality show. Now, toss in every stereotype ever and prepare to pledge allegiance to your favorite superpower in Hetalia Axis Powers! Maybe you'll surrender to Italy's charms. He's a sweetie who's always got a noodle in his mouth and he's BFF with blue-eyed Germany and shy Japan. Sounds nice, right? Of course, their friendship sort of causes World War II, but is that really such a big deal? Not if it means those adorable allies France, America, and England will be stormin' the beach!
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.
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 three 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 26 of them for such a short run show. The feature disc runs just over a hundred 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.
Hetalia gets a bit of a 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. But you need a little more for it to stand out on the shelves and to try and get people who watched it online to pony up the cash. The keepcase comes inside a slipcover that's a bit wide than the case as it comes with a little extra. The slipcover has different character artwork than the keepcase which makes it worth keeping as it features several of the primary countries on it with the cute logo and nod towards it being the second season along the top. 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.
Inside the slipcover we get a similarly designed keepcase and the cover artwork is spot on as it has France and America back to back each holding out an item, France with a rose and America with a hamburger. So appropriate. The back cover has a great sideways image of several of the characters against the familiar color stripe scheme while the reverse side of it features a two panel piece featuring more of the characters looking all suave and cool against a similar background. The added bonus to this set is that we get a blue and white bandana that has small bodied versions of many of the characters which look quite cute and fun here.
The menus for this release are cute and colorful static pieces that uses the character artwork style as seen on the 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 looks really ncie and the combination of it with the colors gives it a slightly soft but warm feeling that relaxes you. 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.
This release has some extras on the show disc in the form of several English language commentaries but it also has a separate disc of extras where most of the really lies. The disc is made up of a series of three “talk” sessions in which the series director talks with the voice actors during the Japanese production run. He gets some face time with the actors for Prussia, Chibi Italy and the main man Italy himself. In addition to that, the voice actor for Prussia does a segment that commemorates the announcement of the movie itself. The Talk sessions come from the extras on the Japanese releases and run about 35 minutes combined across the three. The announcement piece is cute and runs about six minutes as Prussia sort of becomes the official spokesman for the movie which is fun. In addition to this, we get the clean versions of the closing sequence.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hetalia's journey is one that was definitely fun to watch across the first half of this series, termed the first season though it's not exactly a show that really feels like it had a season considering the length of episodes. This second season, running a total of just over a hundred minutes, brings us back into the world of countries as characters going through all sorts of adventures in past and present, as well as various times in the past rather than just one. Having watched all of this in streaming form in batches of four to five episodes, watching it all in one sitting definitely can alter the feeling of it.
What makes Hetalia work is that it has a lot of fun with its cast of characters. The first and second seasons focus heavily on the core cast around the World War II time period but also shifts back and forth a bit and delves a little more into the supporting characters. The WWII period with Germany, Italy and Japan is what I find to be the most fun though. Germany's constant struggles with Italy are a real highlight for me as is the way Germany can't help but to feel like he's growing closer to Italy even after all the trouble that he causes him. Italy has that feeling about him that can easily cause people to want to protect him, though you can't help but laugh when France and England sneak past Germany and take turns bopping him repeatedly. Japan has a weaker role this time around, but there are some good moments for him from an earlier time period in which England visits Japan and sees things that he can't since Japan is becoming modernized and letting go of much of the past.
Some of the characters that pop up throughout here definitely make me smile. Russia has a great parachuting moment into the snow with some very fun comments about his relationship with snow. He later has an extended story that deals with the introduction of his older and younger sisters, Ukraine and Belarus. Both are well handled and the creepy nature of Belarus is perfect as is the almost motherly nature of Ukraine. I also really liked how they went to the recent time period by showing how the Soviet Union was and the way it changed as his family members went away. Though Belarus always seems to come back into his life.
The past is well covered in this set as well. Though far too short, there's a great sequence where Roman Empire arrives to look over Italy as he sleeps, except that he's sleeping with Germany that night in his bed. Roman Empire has long been a favorite and seeing him making an appearance, almost like a dream, is a lot of fun. The best of the episodes dealing with the past involves the birth of America, or at least his younger years, as England started to take on the role of a big brother to him, though not without his own issues over such a naming. Add in the other countries that are fighting over who America looks like the most and it's just good fun, especially as America is so completely cute and adorable in this form.
Hetalia's a show that I found that I liked more in its first two seasons because of its focus on the big characters and all the World War II fun. That side is definitely here, though subdued a bit, as it takes a look at the characters across different periods of time and continues to expand the overall cast more. The expansion of Canada alone is worthwhile but Russia gets what he needs to be more firmly defined as well. And that's what makes up a lot of this season as it takes what we've known, builds more of the comedy and character interactions into it, but also starts to beef up the cast overall. Coming back to this season reminded me of why I felt it worked so well the first time around and that it holds up well even when watching it again within the same year. Hetalia's got the right idea for short form comedy without overstaying its welcome and this season is definitely a lot of fun.
Features Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Audio Commentaries for Episodes 31, 36, 42 & 46, Director Bob Shirahata & Atsushi Kosaka (Prussia) Talk, Atsushi Kosaka Commemorates the Announcement of the Hetalia Movie, Bob Shirahata & Aki Kanada (Chibi Italy) Talk, Bob Shirahata & Daisuke Namikawa (Italy) Talk, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song
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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