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.
I’ve generally enjoyed each volume of Hetalia I’ve read, and this new one is no exception. This is the first time, however, that I finished it with the feeling that the creator may have taken the concept as far as he can really go. After a brief resurgence last time, we already have less WWII than ever here, and while many would argue that’s a good thing it does sort of make the book feel a bit light. Discussion of tanks and battles has given way to discussions of customs and what the characters would look like as cats. It’s still fun, but something does seem missing here.
The Nordics are on the cover, and they also get most of the early and late pages in this volume. They’re not as well-defined as the other nations, however, with Denmark in particular finding it hard to separate himself from ‘Prussia’ clone every time I see him. I do think that focusing on Iceland’s self-consciousness was a good way to show off everyone at their best, though. A more interesting chapter is the one where Sealand tries to unite all the other micronations and make friends with them. This not only includes Wy, who we’d met before, but obscure places like Molossia and Hutt River.
We do get an African nation introduced as well, but oddly, we don’t know which country she is! Seychelles gets a visit from a fellow African nation, who seems to be landlocked, but that’s about all we can glean from her. I wonder if she’s meant to be a country like the Congo or Sudan, where Himaruya might want to err on the side of caution. (She can’t be Cameroon, we’ve seen him.)
As for the rest of the cast, most of the regulars get something to do, even if there’s little ongoing plot here, even from chapter to chapter. My favorite gags include Hungary trying to sing Prussia a lullaby (Gloomy Sunday, the famous depressing Hungarian song); Spain’s reaction on finding out he’s NOT getting the 2020 Olympics; Berlusconi being so appalling even Italy is ashamed to be talking about him (another ‘isn’t this supposed to be in World War II?’ moment); and of course seeing all the characters as cat personifications, which is not quite as adorable as it wants to be, but is still cute.
Still, at the end of the volume one wonders how much is really left in the tank. I know that we have more genderbending Hetalia coming our way soon, and the series still runs in Comic Birz, though it’s been far more irregular lately. But honestly, the original webcomic has the most obvious plotline to collect – the continuation of Buon San Valentino, and Germany possibly remembering his past – and has not adapted it at all beyond the first section. This could be partly as it’s more ‘obvious’ about its BL than we normally see in Hetalia, but it could just be that that story would lead to a natural ending, and I can’t see Hetalia ending anytime soon, given its cash-cow popularity. But where is it going from here?