Hetalia Axis Powers, Vols. 4-5

By Hidekaz Himaruya. Released in Japan by Gentosha, originally serialized as an online webcomic, then in Comic Birz. Released in North America by Tokyopop in association with Right Stuf, Inc.

After a long wait, Tokyopop and Right Stuf bring us not one but two volumes of Hetalia just in time for the holidays. As you’d expect, there’s lots of historical in-jokes, wacky 4-koma humor, and stereotypes galore. You’d think that this would get tired eventually, but I’ve found myself enjoying the series even more, especially as the cast has widened from the main eight. Indeed, the back cover of Vol. 4 shows that Himaruya has done his best to add more female countries in order to balance things out – Hungary is a major player, of course, and Ukraine, Belarus, Belgium and Liechtenstein have had substantial roles. But in these two volumes we see Seychelles, Monaco, Vietnam, Taiwan, and even the Principality of Wy, though that last one may drive you to Wikipedia.


There seems to be a return to World War II after the previous volume, with many strips detailing the battles in Africa. These are all done with a light touch, of course, but there are historical facts sprinkled throughout – Italy’s poorly-designed tanks, Germany not realizing how hot Africa would be, and America barreling in ready to win at everything and getting his ass handed to him. There’s also examinations of prior military skirmishes, as Austria is forced to make a very dangerous decision when he’s on the verge of losing the Seven Years war and ask Russia and France to ally with him. And in the “Battle of the Ice”, a young Russia encounters Prussia and realizes that he is far too stupid to be allowed to live.

As you’d expect, there’s a lot of modern-day stuff as well. In fact, we get an alternate universe high school section in both volumes, based on the Hetalia otome game that came out in Japan a while back. Don’t worry, BL fans, Seychelles isn’t the star here. It has our three Axis Powers as the newspaper club, trying to do an article about the various school clubs and finding that almost all of them are eccentric and weird. In the 5th volume, we also get an examination of horror movies in many of the major countries, which vary greatly in mood and scare tactics.


There are two serious chapters in here, and strangely they both involve France, who is normally one of the most flamboyant of the Hetalia cast. In Volume 4 he runs into a young tourist visiting Paris, who is hinted to be a reincarnation of Jeanne D’Arc, France’s lost love. In the 5th, a construction worker meets France, and is somewhat taken aback by the fact that his grandfather had also met him, but France hasn’t aged a day. France has come to terms with it, but the man’s wife points out how sad it would be to never age while you watch your loved ones dying, and for a moment we understand the inner tragedy of what it must be like to be the personification of a country. (Himaruya has stated that Prussia lives on, by the way, first as ‘East Germany’ and now basically just as Prussia in modern times, living in Germany’s basement. I wonder how the nations face the death of a country.)

As long as there is history to be mined, there will still be Hetalia coming out, most likely. We get some development of Netherlands here as well, an amusing look at Southern Italy’s relationship with Spain, China dealing with a rebellious Hong Kong asking for more freedom, and Taiwan attempting to give Vietnam a makeover. There are character profiles which detail each nation’s flag, as well as the reasoning behind the design and colors of that flag. There are cute sidebars explaining weird laws in various countries, and a look at various foods. And we see Hungary forcing Austria to wear cat ears for Belgium’s festival, which satisfies the shipper in me. Those who find the premise rubs them the wrong way won’t want to pick this up, but fans of the series will find lots to love here. Definitely recommended.

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