Hetalia Axis Powers, Vol. 6

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?

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.

Hetalia Axis Powers, Vol. 3

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

For the first time in over a year, I get to review a new Tokyopop book. And naturally, it’s the third volume of Hetalia Axis Powers. It was a runaway bestseller, so it makes sense that it should come back. The translation for it had already been done, given it was scheduled to ship a mere month after TP initially went under. And, being one of the company’s few Gentosha books, I imagine the renegotiations were easier than with a company like Kadokawa or Akita, who might inquire about the 7-8 other abandoned titles that there is little interest in reviving.

The quality of the book itself is a huge improvement over the first two, at least production-wise. The paper is thicker and more durable, there are color pages, and it simply feels more ‘quality’ than the almost xeroxed feel of the first two volumes. As for Himaruya’s art, it’s always going to look a bit dashed off, as that’s just what he does, but it does look a bit clearer here than in prior books.

The series is less about World War II than ever before, but that’s absolutely fine. History buffs may like Hetalia, but in the end it’s not particularly written for them. It’s a goofy comedy starring a bunch of (mostly) guys who do dumb things around each other, and happen to be nations of the world. There’s a bit less reliance on stereotype here (though still a lot – don’t think it vanishes) as we have grown to know the characters and therefore the author can rely on simple character-based gags, such as tomboy Hungary not realizing that she’s a girl, or Japan’s crushing disappointment that Switzerland does not look like Heidi at all.

This is not to say that there aren’t plenty of historical strips, they’re just used as setup for the most part. Probably the best in the book is the analysis of the alliance between Poland and Lithuania in the 15th and 16th century, which also gives us a chance to see some actual action in the series, however brief, as the two nations battle against Prussia and Sweden (what an odd pairing. Are their fanfics? … yes, of course there are.) At times the history/gag comic balance can be upset a bit, but it’s mostly unintentional. When Prussia comes across an older Hungary lying beaten against a tree with clothes torn open, the unpleasant implication is that she was just raped by Turkey. While this is not entirely out of place given the actual history that happened between the two, it jars in a comic that mostly has a light touch with catastrophic world events.

There are a few new nations introduced here (including another rare female, Belgium), and some get a bit more development, such as the Nordics. But for the most part the main cast of 3 Axis and 5 Allies remain the focus, and they have lots of goofy times. Several of the gags fall flat, but the book reads quickly, and in the end you read it with a smile on your face more often than not. That said, this is only recommended to those very familiar with the series, and would be a wretched starting point for newbies. Let’s hope it sells well enough to get a Vol. 4… and perhaps inspire some other license rescues?