Hetalia: You Should Read This Manga Even If You Don't Want To

I’ve been dying to get this post out for a little while now. I was hoping to do it sometime this month as the print version of Hetalia Axis Powers isn’t out until late September, but since TOKYOPOP has announced that the digital version is already available, I’m going to go for it.

Disclaimer: I’m not going to lie to anyone, I worked on this manga as a script editor. In case you don’t already know, I work as an independent contractor (read: freelance editor) for TOKYOPOP. The fact that I’m breaking my own personal ethical standards to write this post? That’s how much I want you to read Hetalia Axis Powers. (The OFFICIAL versions, please.)

So you’re kind of skeptical about picking up Hetalia Axis Powers. I understand. There’s a lot of screaming fangirls, you hear a lot about pairings between the different (male) characters, it doesn’t seem like your cup of tea. Here’s why you should read it anyway.

1. This manga is funny even if your least favorite subject was history: It really is. It’s all about humor, whether that be humor about the historical behavior of the countries (i.e. wars, alliances, random incidences), humor about the stereotypical behaviors of the country and humor about the interactions between countries. That’s why the countries are drawn so cutely. YOU CAN’T HELP BUT LAUGH WHEN THEY LOOK SO SILLY AND CUTE!! (Ahem. You see why the fangirls act the way they do?)

2. It’s not a boys love manga, I promise: I can understand why people don’t want to read BL or yaoi. It’s not for everyone. But this manga is NOT about little gay countries. There are less instances of the characters “acting gay” to each other than fingers on your left hand and there are even boob jokes. Everything else is implied. Sure, you can look at the manga that way, but if you don’t HAVE to. (If you want to, by all means.)

3. It’s really not that offensive: If you’re adamant about getting hurt by the stereotypes perpetuated in Hetalia, fine. There are a million bad traits that Himaruya could have touched upon with any country in his manga, but he generally avoids going into dark territory. Hetalia is a yonkoma (gag strip) manga with light-hearted humor, which is pretty typical for most yonkoma manga. Having worked on the first two volumes already, I can only think of one really dark moment in the manga and it has NOTHING to do with stereotypes. Actually, I think America gets the worst jabs out of all the countries in the book for being weirdos. (My opinion is that Americans kinda deserve it. This country can be totally backwards sometimes.)

4. You’ll learn stuff you’ve never known before: Hetalia isn’t going to help you pass your history classes, it’s more like a Wikipedia page than a historical tome, but it’s still pretty fun. Let me tell you: fact checking this manga was super fun. I love history left, right and sideways, but I’m not a super-serious historical scholar. Still, Himaruya’s notes throughout the manga help clarify the strips as well as give you an excuse to go explore the history behind Sealand (and many other things). Many hours will be spent with multiple tabs of Wikipedia open and you will find yourself enjoying it. (Unless you are the type that is so turned off by learning anything new, you just can’t bring yourself to find out what the hell Sealand is.)

5. It really is funny, you guys, just try it: I understand why people don’t want to get into over-hyped series. I understand that Hetalia may not be your type of humor or your type of manga in the end. But it’s still worth a shot, even if you only flip through a friend’s copy or check one out from the library. Don’t pass something off you haven’t even read, especially something that’s really popular because it certainly has to be popular for one good reason or another. You don’t have to be a fangirl if that crowd turns you off, that’s fine. Just take the time to try it out. I promise that a lot of you will be happily surprised. (Cute and funny, it’s like the most powerful combo ever.)

I know I would love to hear your feedback on Hetalia and so would TOKYOPOP. Let me know, let TOKYOPOP know on their facebook page, twitter or anywhere else you can get a hold of them. Have you read it yet? Do you like it? Why do you like or dislike it? I want to hear it all!

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33 Responses to Hetalia: You Should Read This Manga Even If You Don't Want To

  1. Will definitely check it out. By the way, what do you think of that U.S. military manga released in Japan right now?

    I read the first volume at the military’s website and I’m suddenly thinking “Hetalia-inspired, perhaps?” Was it possible the troops read some Hetalia and told the higher-ups?

    • I couldn’t say that I know what to think of it. I heard the mangaka’s previous work involved a lot of ridiculous swearing coming out of the mouth of cutesy girls. I’m glad that the military has embraced it, although why our military is sponsoring comic-books in Japan is beyond me. They don’t need to spread propaganda in Japan or anything…

      I know anthropomorphism (called gijin-ka) isn’t uncommon in Japan, so Hetalia was still coming off of another larger idea, but no one had done it with countries. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were American manga fans stationed in Japan. I know one such marine, but I don’t think he’d read Hetalia without some persuasion.

      • A U.S. major was quoted as saying that manga is a “common way of communicating” and that “everyone loves reading manga”.

        The mangaka is already getting an overwhelming dose of hate mail from Japanese so far. He explained that it’s the will of the military, not his.

        At least Hetalia doesn’t go into truly sensitive issues like this manga seems to.

        • Very interesting. I know there are plenty of reasons for people to hate the US military, but I wonder why he’s getting so much and just what exactly the people who are writing to are complaining about.

          Poor guy, though. I’m sure this isn’t the response he was hoping for.

          On that note, Hetalia has gotten some flack for it’s treatment of Korea. Apparently the bad blood between the two nations means that Korea is particularly sensitive to how they are portrayed in the manga, but I’m personally not getting it. So far Korea hasn’t been put down or otherwise subjugated in the manga (as far as I’ve read.)

  2. Warrior Bob says:

    This is the not-yaoi series that all the yaoi fans love 🙂 I’ve only seen some of the TV show but it’s great fun. Congratulations on getting your name in the credits! I’m definitely looking forward to the stateside release for all us Americanese people.

  3. Reason number 6: The fandom is AWESOME. Other series are lucky to get ONE multi-chapter footnote-laden alternate history fanfic. Hetalia has DOZENS.

    • Um, well, I don’t want to insult Hetalia fans, but they can be a bit scary sometimes. I was sitting around at a con when a Hetalia panel let out and the huge (It was really really big, I promise. Bigger than your house/building/whatever) lobby I was sitting in was filled with deafening fangirl screams. It was a little crazy!!!

      That being said, wow, I cannot believe Hetalia has such a huge, huge fandom and it’s totally awesome that this series inspires such passion! I just wish such passion wouldn’t try to break my eardrums. ;_;

      Also, I can understand the plight of people who feel intimidated by the fandom or do not feel the need to join it to enjoy a series. This post is for those people who are as of yet uninterested and perhaps a little put-off by that extreme amount of passion.

      • Oh, certainly, there are fans who take things a little too . . . whatever the squealy version of “seriously” is. Alas!

        • I like to call it passion, which is certainly what it is! So much passion. *_*

          • Apple says:

            I was volunteering for Otakon back when Gravitation was the big yaoi thing, and there was an incident where the yaoi fans actually commandeered the room that was hosting a Gravitation panel.

            Right Stuf was there, and had offered a free DVD or something, and the crowd actually stampeded the front and broke a projector. Then we tried to get them out of the room because the hentai fans that were supposed to be doing something there (“something”) were getting upset because the yaoi fans refused to leave.

            This went on for about 2-3 hours.

            It was annoying at the time, but looking back on it it’s actually quite hilarious. Yaoi fans in numbers have the potential to be a terrifying ordeal. XD

          • Wow, that’s intense! Yaoi fans are definitely enthusiastic… But Gravitation was also one of the first in the US. I’m sure a lot of those people had been holding in their love for pretty gay men and it was super-awesome for them when Gravitation hit the states.

          • Apple says:

            That’s a good point; the “squee” had been building up in them to the point of bursting. ^o^

          • Yeah. It was new, it was exciting, it was finally their’s. Lots of reasons for serious fangirling. 😀

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  5. Alex says:

    Sorry, you still haven’t convinced me.

    • May I ask why you remain reluctant to read it?

      It truly is a funny series. Sure, it’s cutesy, but it’s a lot more toned down than the anime (in case that’s why) and there actually some pretty badass scenes, especially between America and Britain.

      I’m not going to tell you to buy it, but perhaps you can at least flip through it when you see it at the book store. (Or take a look at the free preview on Zinio.)

  6. Pingback: Tokyopop goes digital-first with Hetalia | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment

  7. Sesho says:

    I’m gonna buy Hetalia tomorrow, not because I’m a fanboy of the series. It’s been getting a lot of hype but I don’t trust hype. I’m really gonna try it more to support a new method of delivering manga. I think it’s kinda cool.

    • I’m glad you’re going to check it out! I can understand wanting to read something despite the hype and the crazy fandom, so I hope that it is a worthwhile purchase and you enjoy it anyway. (Especially the fact that it’s a digital version!)

      Please let me know what you think of everything and anything after you’ve read it.

  8. Oliver says:

    It definitely looks interesting, and the artist represented a lot of countries in the colour pages alone (saw preview at Zinio, but prefer print). I’m just wondering about the smaller page count and higher price tag?

    PS. Is Canada in there somewhere?

    • Comparing it to other manga published by the company, the page count is not that much lower. Just about twenty pages. That’s just how the Japanese version is as well.

      Also, the $12.99 price tag is wrong. The manga will actually be $10.99, which is the standard price, but there was a mistake a ways back that accidentally got passed off to solicitors.

      I believe Canada comes in during the second volume, but I’m not 100% sure. (He has quite a few pages dedicated to him in the second volume, however.)

      • Oliver says:

        Great! 10.99 is even better, especially since it will include all those colour pages. I was on board before you mentioned Canada was going to be in there, but it certainly sweetens the deal.

        T-pop’s lineup has just improved exponentially since the company shake-up. It went from licensing anything to licensing selective and great titles. Have you also read Maria Holic? It’s my fave.

        • Yup. You’re getting more for your buck, I think. A lot of work went into it too (although I guess I’m only one of a few who really know how much) so there’s also that to factor into the cost. I’m glad you’re going to read it. ^_^

          Although I don’t really have any say in the licensing part of things, I’m glad you like their line-up right now. There’s certainly quite a number of series that are great in my opinion. I’ve only read a few volumes of Maria Holic, however. It’s not my fave, but I don’t know how it can compete with something like Karakuri Odette. (My current fave.)

  9. deludedboy says:

    Just bought Hetalia from Zinio. I probably won’t be able to read it till this weekend though. I will definitely do a podcast review about not only the comic but what I thought of the opportunity to get it a month early online and the Zinio reader.

    I think it would be a good idea to try more Japanese manga titles online like this and see if there is a big enough audience that wants the physical book. THEN print the first volume with the second volume as one book, like a double tankoban, so the reader will be double buying but getting the second volume too.

    • Awesome! Will you send me a link to the podcast once you record it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

      I know TOKYOPOP is definitely going to put more Japanese manga online like this, it’s just a matter of when and what titles. It might be hard to put some of their currently running series because they may not have negotiated for online distribution rights or they may have been refused those rights by the Japanese publishers. It will be easier for them to put newer licenses online as the Japanese publishers recognize it’s importance and as more people adopt it.

      I don’t know about the idea of an omnibus edition and it’s already too late for Hetalia in that sense, but more people might be turned off by not having a choice in the matter and being forced to double buy. (Even though most omnibus editions are priced lower than two books.) Just a thought.

      • Oliver says:

        Honestly, omnibuses are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you get lots of manga at once. On the other hand, their spines are notoriously weak, and for me, too much manga all at once means I’m bored at the end of it.

        Releasing manga volume by volume is good, because it’s just enough reading material and it gives you more time to re-read it between new releases so you can really absorb the series. Plus, only certain types of series can be released as omnibuses.

        I think Hetalia certainly works well being published at a volume-by-volume basis. There’s currently only 3 in Japan, so if you got an omnbs. you would not get another release for more than a year! Omnibuses seem like overkill to me, as if 150-200 pages wasn’t enough!

        • I certainly understand that. The most recent omnibus I bought (Mushishi 8/9/10) was three volumes long! As it is, I have trouble reading through single volumes of that manga in one sitting, so it took me awhile to read it… I’m not sure I like the 3-in-1 idea, but the 2-in-1 is still fine by me most of the time.
          Overall, I think people don’t really mind when it comes to omnibuses as long as they get some kind of savings out of it. You can always re-read the series in the mean time because omnibus editions take longer to come out usually.
          Anyway, I was more opposed to the idea of using omnibuses to force people to double buy. That’s just not fair… Plus, it would actually be a gamble for manga that doesn’t already have a large fanbase here. You never know which series are going to flop in that sense. Having that fanbase is an enormous comfort to publishers, but not every manga has it!

  10. Ahavah says:

    Oh, I *completely* understand why many Koreans are offended by this manga. The Japanese government never issued official apologies for the atrocities that they incured against Koreans and the Chinese during WWII. This is certainly not the authors fault; I don’t know what his views about Japan/Korea relations are at all, but if the time period he focuses on makes *me* nervous, how much more sensitive will the decendants and relatives of the victims of those atrocities feel?

    I’m the daughter/granddaughter and close relative of Holocaust survivors. The German government has denounced the Holocaust, officially apologized for it, made it illegal to deny the Holocaust in Germany, and has paid reperations to individual Holocaust survivors as well as to the country of Israel. All of these actions help forster positive relations between Jews and Germany, and in fact, there is a growing community of Jews in Germany right now.

    I don’t know how I’d feel about Germany or Germans if they hadn’t decried what they (or rather, Hitler and the Nazi Party) did officially, and I can only imagine the pain of Koreans who were personally affected by the Japanese occupation during the war and never got any recognition of their pain and sacrifice. A Manga that makes light of WWII as a whole, no matter how comedic or innocuous (or perhaps because it is comedic and innocuous) is bound to open very real wounds.

    As citizens of a world in which hate still leads to violence and genocide, I feel we should all be able to understand where the Korean protesters are coming from.

    I’d love to see the author step out of his comfort zone for a bit and write about more serious and dark topics. Aknowledging war crimes is better than ignoring them, IMHO.

    • I still completely don’t understand because I have read Hetalia and it seems like you haven’t yet. Korea is included in Hetalia, of course, but even so I’ve yet to see ANYTHING that even remotely touches upon the past grievances between the two countries in the first two volumes of the series that I’ve worked on. Just getting upset over nothing, however, is pointless. Why get upset at a man who is more history-conscious that most of his fellow citizens and not even remotely responsible for any of the atrocities committed? For writing such a manga? Wouldn’t it be more offensive if your country was purposefully left out because he didn’t want to approach the issue?

      I don’t think I have to tell you, since you’ve posted here before, that I’m also the daughter and grandchild of Holocaust victims. I wasn’t exactly about to give the manga a free pass on it’s portrayal of WWII until I read it through and saw that Himaruya treated it with a lot of care and sensitivity. I’m actually really proud of that moment. It showed a lot of thought about how sensitive the issue at hand is.

      Taking the side of the Koreans is fine by me, but having read this manga, I say attacking it for portraying “Korea” in a historical manner (and trust me, Himaruya is researching what he writes about) is nothing short of unnecessary. You’re whining about racism and unfair treatment that doesn’t exist here, every character in the whole damn manga acts based on some stereotypes (usually not the bad ones.) Even in Hetalia, Korea dislikes Japan, but Himaruya doesn’t ignore that Japanese and Korean pop culture exchange trends and various other things. He doesn’t ignore that Korea has a bright future in technology, the arts and many other things. He doesn’t make Korea out to be a bad country at all, which is the beauty of what he’s doing: every country depicted has it’s own problems, strong points and personalities. Sure, every country also has it’s bad points, but Himaruya is fair in this treatment as well. Every single country gets bad points. No one is free from blame.

      If you’re going to hate on Japan for not making things right with Korea, please do it AWAY from this post and AWAY from Hetalia itself. This isn’t a manga about hatred and violence at all and if you think for a second that it is, I would like to kindly suggest you read it before you keep doing so.

      Also, it’s up to Himaruya whether he wants to do manga with darker themes, but I do not think Hetalia is the platform he should do it on. There’s just too much that could be taken as offensive in that sense. While there are some tense moments in the manga, I feel the light nature of the storytelling prevents Hetalia from being truly offensive.

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