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Hetalia: Axis Powers, Volume 1 by Hidekaz…

Hetalia: Axis Powers, Volume 1

by Hidekaz Himaruya

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Hetalia: Axis Powers (Volume 1)

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World politics, history, and geography communicated as interactions between anthropomorphic personifications of nation-states based on national stereotypes. Tends to take a lighter tone, and favors hilarity over complete accuracy. ( )
  Excelsa | Apr 15, 2018 |
Crap. ( )
  TheInvernessie | Nov 26, 2013 |
This manga is hard for me to write about. I liked it, for many of the same reasons I liked the anime. It's funny, the characters are appealing, and it makes history and the relationships between countries more interesting and memorable, even for someone like me, who had to struggle to remember anything for history tests. However, I read a review that said this manga has "a strong whiff of pointlessness," and I think I'd have to agree with that. I didn't dislike this volume nearly as much as some of the people who commented on the review seemed to, but...it felt like the manga equivalent of potato chips - enjoyable enough while it lasted, but basically just empty calories.

I wouldn't mind reading more volumes of Hetalia, but only if I got them via the library. I do still want to buy the anime, but only if I can get it for a lot cheaper than its current price. Both the manga and anime are good for some laughs, but the anime, for reasons I can't quite explain, is just more enjoyable for me than the manga. This is quickie entertainment, with the draw being, in large part, what you make out of Himaruya's basic idea - I still find some of the results of Hetalia fandom to be incredibly awesome, more so than either the manga or the anime, but none of that awesome fandom output would exist if it weren't for the original work.

The first thing I noticed when I got this volume via ILL was its quick, sketchy artwork. My first thought was that, visually, I preferred the anime, and I still felt that way after I had finished the volume. I did get used to the manga's look and developed a preference for the comics with ink (or something that looks like ink) sketches over the comics with pencil sketches. There were even some panels I fell in love with (like the big panel with Austria on page 38), but, overall, I prefer the cleaner look of the anime artwork.

I do think certain things were easier to follow in the anime than the manga. This is really a personal preference, and probably due to some embarrassing gaps in my knowledge. Since I had so much trouble retaining historical information in high school and college, sometimes I wished that the (very helpful) footnotes throughout the manga were more extensive - the footnotes explained what inspired a particular comic (a historical event, or a cultural stereotype, or possibly an interesting factoid), but, if Himaruya decided to move on to something else, which happened often, I was left saying, "But what happens next to that country?!" That's what history books and guidebooks are for, I guess, and Hetalia has increased my desire to read both. It's too bad that the volume didn't include a list of recommended history books.

My other problem, at least in the beginning: my embarrassing lack of knowledge about country flags. The volume starts with several lovely full-color pages dealing with a meeting between all the countries (the same meeting the anime starts with). If I remember correctly, the anime identifies the countries by name. The manga identifies the countries by flag, with certain details in the dialogue also identifying the countries. Had I not already seen the manga, I probably would have been lost. Later on, throughout the volume, there are country profile sections that provide brief information about each of the countries (as characters in the series), so I probably would have read those and then gone back to reread the beginning.

I consider this the most quotable manga I've ever read - my notes, which I took as I was reading the manga, are filled with quotes that made me laugh. Some of my favorites:

- "Germany, I have terrible news! It's a disaster! Italy has become our ally!" (27)
- "I am Japan. My hobby is to read the atmosphere of a conversation and answer in the least offensive way possible." (32)
- "Your anger is Chopin." (38) - This makes more sense in context. Austria was angry at Germany for being allied with Italy, a cowardly idiot, so he decided to express his anger by playing the piano.
- "Eat lead, you potato-sucking bastard!" (40) - I think these are Romano's first words in the whole volume. Romano (South Italy) is speaking to Germany.

Unlike many manga, Hetalia has numbering on almost all of its pages, making it easy to point to an exact quote. Thank you for that, Tokyopop!

Another thing I enjoyed was the little factoids, although I was sometimes doubtful about how true they were. Himaruya's perspective on American ice cream was amusing, though ("These legendary super-sized portions are NOT urban legends" (53)), not to mention embarrassing for my country.

Speaking of embarrassments, I know there are some people who have been offended by how their country is presented in Hetalia. The characters are based on stereotypes, both good ones and bad. As someone with one parent who's American and one who's German, I felt an affinity to the characters representing both countries. Not every German is like Germany (the character), but the way Germany is presented is fairly inoffensive, I think. America is another matter. However, I never actually felt offended, so much as mildly embarrassed about how others view my country. I didn't feel as if any of the characters were presented in a mean-spirited way, and, in fact, I think a certain amount of affection for all the countries must have been necessary for Himaruya to create so many countries that are likable, even when they're not shown at their best.

Still, I can see how some people might be offended. This is probably not a good series for the thin-skinned, or for those who think they might take issue with a series that chooses to soften or sidestep the more horrible moments in history.

In and of itself, Hetalia isn't much, but it makes for an awesome jumping-off point to other things. I think I'm going to have to find some history books that might be to my taste.


I forgot to write down all the extras, so I have to do this from memory. As I've already mentioned, the volume begins with some full-color pages. The volume ends with a section explaining honorifics using examples from the manga, a section with translator's notes (which, as far as I was concerned, barely scratched the surface of all the things it could have covered), images of cosplayers dressed as Hetalia characters, and editor's notes.

(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Sep 24, 2013 |
I had bought this back in 2010, from Zinio, for P270. I can read it in browser or from Zinio's offline reader. But before I could buy vol. 2, they were no longer available from this seller.
  MagicCapslock | Mar 30, 2013 |
Once upon a time, the Roman Empire ruled the Mediterranean. But one day, the Roman Empire simply…disappeared. In his place stands his grandson, Italy – but Italy isn’t interested in building a great empire. He’s perfectly content to flirt, paint and eat all the best foods. When World War I strikes, Italy has no idea what to do, so he hides in a tomato crate until he is discovered by Germany, who came prepared to fight the heir to the Roman Empire. They become allies – or does Germany become Italy’s babysitter? – and as World War II approaches, they join with Japan to create the Axis Alliance. But meanwhile, America, England, France, China and Russia are creating their own alliance to strike back!

Hetalia has got to be one of the strangest graphic novel concepts I’ve come across this year. The various countries of the world are personified into young men who adopt the traits and stereotypes associated with their culture. Thus, Italy is obsessed with women and food, America is loud and brash, and Japan is quiet and refined. The book is theoretically focused on the relationships of the countries during World War II, but the plot is extremely episodic and wanders all over the place, exposing quirks about the world’s cultures.* At times, it was surprisingly educational, too – the book actually helped to clarify the wars and nations of 17th and 18th century Europe in a silly, entertaining way.

Y’know that song from Avenue Q, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist?”** If not, here’s some sample lyrics from the chorus:
Everyone’s a little bit racist, okay,
Ethnic jokes might be uncouth,
But you laugh because they're based on truth.
Don't take them as personal attacks.
Everyone enjoys them - so relax.

This is the underlying sentiment of the manga. Everyone in the world is quirky and strange, so have fun with it! I mean, I love the Hetalia version of America. He’s obsessed with being the hero, he constantly pigs out on soda and hamburgers, and his youthful enthusiasm wears out the other, older countries, but they appreciate his positive outlook and pioneering spirit. Seems accurate enough to me!

The comics themselves vary considerably in quality from one panel to the next. Hetalia started up as a webcomic by a student, and while some of the stories were cleaned up and redrawn for the print version, not all of them were. So one sequence might have crisp and clear inks, screentones and perfectly symmetrical panels, while the next will be drawn with pencils and sloppily shadowed with MS Paint! These unpolished comics have a rawness that is fun, but when reproduced on paper they can be difficult to read, too.

Hetalia was initially brought to America and translated by Tokyopop, but after they closed up shop in the US the price of Hetalia skyrocketed. Individual volumes were selling at $50 or $75 on Amazon.com! Earlier this year, Rightstuf.com struck an agreement with Tokyopop and began printing more copies of Hetalia on demand, so the books can once again be found at a reasonable price. It’s a very funny series and definitely worth checking out!


* For example, in one of his footnotes Himaruya notes that in America, there are ice cream trucks patrolling neighborhoods so that one can always easily find ice cream. It never occurred to me that this was particularly noteworthy, but to the Japanese author it’s apparently rather fantastic.
** Also, go look it up on Youtube. It’s a HILARIOUS song and Avenue Q is an awesome musical. ( )
  makaiju | Jul 8, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hidekaz Himaruyaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kowalsky, YukiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Offers a collection of four-panel comic strips which, depicting the world's powers as stereotypes, presents a politically incorrect comedy of the relationships between the Axis and Allied powers during the World Wars.

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