The movie involves a mysterious force causing unusual incidents to happen all over the world, and the nations having to try to ward off the threat of human extinction from the alien race known as Pict, who seek to transform mankind and drain the color from the world (with America deciding that the world will be saved under his command).
Axis Powers Hetalia (or Hetalia: Axis Powers, if you prefer) has much to be proud of for itself. Starting off as a webcomic in 2006, it has since spawned a manga, a Drama CD series, an anime series, and now a theatrical film.
The movie makes several departures from the main series, most notably having a storyline as opposed to simple sketches, although a few appear in the beginning to ease the viewers into the movie. This new approach brings a few interesting twists to the Hetalia mold, but unfortunately, the movie tries too hard to stay true to its roots, giving very little new
experiences to fans in regards to characters and humor.
Aside from knowing that Hetalia is about making cultural stereotypes of several countries into characters representing their respective homes, some of the basic quirks of each "nation-tan," and the fact that it's a comedy, there's not much need for prior knowledge to understand this movie. Being a fan might make you appreciate it more, however.
Story (no spoilers): (5)
The Hetalia movie stylistically deviates from its sketch-comedy roots in the anime for a plot-driven story, and this decision brings a few ups and downs. For one, seeing the characters outside of sketches and finally into a full fledged adventure can be quite a thrill for long time fans. Now, here's where the issues start, and there's (unfortunately) a few of them.
The plot of "Ginmaku Hetalia Axis Powers: Paint it, White" is a fairly typical alien invasion story, complete with faceless invaders, UFOs, and extraterrestials speaking perfect Japanese. Trying to balance plot and humor, the movie never gives the viewers a sense that the characters are ever in any real danger, and the resolution to the entire movie was rather anti-climactic with very little catharsis in the end.
Humor in the movie also took a hit. The focus on plot means that the edutainment aspect of Hetalia loses out to situational comedy, relying on the established character gags to make funny reactions when the time comes. The unfortunate part is that the movie never makes an effort to be funny without the established character gags. Virtually no jokes or gags in the movie haven't been done already in the anime (Canada's invisibility, China's numerous Chinatowns, so on and so forth), even though the setup in the movie is completely different. More on this in the characters section right up ahead.
What made the Hetalia series so successful has undoubtedly been its large, quirky cast of characters. Embodiments of cultural stereotypes made for hilarious interactions, especially in the skits. Staying true to the stereotypes, the movie doesn't spend much time developing each character, and that becomes a problem. The characters, completely driven by established quirks, become ridiculously predictable. While this isn't a problem in sketch comedy, watching the same character gags over and over for a full hour becomes a chore. Be prepared to watch the entire movie with England and France constantly beating each other up, even in the most crucial moments, America laughing for 60 straight minutes, Japan struggling to (and failing) to ever raise his voice, Italy running away from everything, Germany yelling at everyone, and so on.
The movie focuses almost entirely on the main players of World War II (Russia, China, America, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan) with very little appearances from anyone else aside from small cameos, which was a little disappointing. Iceland is the only new character introduced to the anime here, though he eventually made an appearance in Hetalia: World Series anime as well, so he's probably already well known to anime audiences in the West.
Art and Animation: (8)
Okay, since the last two sections have been a bit critical, let's look at some of the more positive aspects of the movie, shall we? The art-style remains virtually unchanged from the anime series aside from new costumes for the main characters, which means that for the most part, it's pretty good. The animation takes a step up for for the movie incarnation, though it's not particularly noticeable outside of the more fast paced scenes.
The voice-acting cast is the same as from the anime, and they still do an excellent job of portraying the personality of each character to a tee. The music takes on a more theatrical, epic sound for the movie as opposed to the usual happy-go-lucky pieces that are used in the anime (though they're still there in the light-hearted parts, don't worry). Whilst the music isn't very memorable, they do a good job of setting the mood, which is the most important part anyhow. With that said, the theme songs "WA! Wa!! World Ondo" by the 8 main seiyuus and "Mein Gott" are songs that will stick in your head for a while.
Even with the promise of a plot, the Hetalia movie doesn’t do much to distinct itself from the series it spawned from, and gets repetitive quickly. While this may come as a disappointment for those who sought to see some completely new Hetalia materials, as I did, fans that are a-okay with a little more of the same of what they love will probably find the movie enjoyable. Chances are, that’s most of the fanbase.
Hetalia is an interesting success story. It began as a webmanga by Himaruya Hidekaz. Due to its popularity, it was adapted into a manga and published by Gentosha. This was quickly followed up by an anime version by Studio Deen and the series is still going strong. It's on it's fourth anime series, had a PSP game, a movie and a ton of merchandise. I may do a proper review of one or more of the series eventually, we'll see. That being said, I do have reservations about the film. The anime themselves are made up of short episodes that are made up of a
series of short sketches, which may or may not be connected to each other, based on historical and political subjects. With a five minute runtime per episode, that kind of thing can work. However, this film is slightly over an hour and a quarter long. How could it possibly maintain the aesthetic of the series? And even if they do manage, is it really a good idea to do so for that long or does it overstay its welcome? Let's look at Hetalia: Paint it White and find out.
A group of aliens invades Earth with the intent of turning all of humanity into faceless, bland looking beings like themselves. Our main group of countries, America, England, China, Russia, France, Japan, Deutschland and Italy meet to discuss the situation while Canada is in the room going unnoticed because that's pretty much Canada's schtick in the series. The group immediately starts arguing and goes their separate ways to try to fight the aliens off on their own, or surrender to them in the case of Italy. Shenanigans quickly ensue.
The major problem with the film is that the main plot is really stupid. Which could work for the franchise, but it's also largely devoid of funny moments. There are a few but it's mostly just uninteresting and dull. They also clearly didn't have enough ideas for what to do with it since it's padded with a large amount of short gags. It wouldn't be so bad, except that all the short gags they pad it out with are ones taken directly from the anime proper. They seriously were so devoid of ideas that they couldn't even come up with original jokes for the film. They had to take jokes wholesale from the series. That's pretty inexcusable even if the padding gags are the funniest part of the film.
They include all the standard Hetalia characters and give most of the side characters small cameo appearances, at least. The trouble is that they don't really take advantage of them. They have a really zany cast in the main series and yet most of them ultimately do very little and a lot of the character gags they do have are just recycled running gags that you could get by watching the main series.
The artwork does look like the series and it looks pretty good. My only real issue is with the aliens and their technology. They look really bland and their flying saucers look equally boring, inside and out. I guess that's supposed to provide tension since these dull beings want to replace all of these zany and visually interesting characters with boring carbon copies of themselves, but therein lies the problem. We know that it's not going to happen because it's a comedy and not anything resembling serious. Even if the comedy does fall short. Studio Deen could have at least given us something visually interesting to look at under the circumstances.
If you've seen Hetalia then you know what to expect from the actors. The performances veer into over-exaggeration quite a bit but they're all solidly done and they do suit the characters. The music is pretty good as well with the same style that you'd expect if you'd seen the series.
Italy and Deutschland get quite a bit of homo-eroticism. To the point where one of the other countries comments on it. There's also a little bit between England and France, playing up to their love/hate relationship.
As someone who generally likes Hetalia, this film is a major disappointment. Most of the jokes that work are directly taken from the main series and used for padding. Trying to have a longer story could have worked, but not with the execution they have here. They simply don't take advantage of the comedic potential of the situation or of the individual characters. What you ultimately get is a stupid, lazy film that doesn't even seem to be trying. My final rating for it is a 3/10. If you're interested in Hetalia, I would recommend watching one of the main series and just skipping the movie since all the really funny bits are in the series proper anyway. I'll continue film festival week tomorrow with a look at Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo.
I'm VERY happy to finally write this review of the Axis Powers Hetalia Movie. Why? It means I will never have to review anything else Hetalia related ever again!
Wait a minute...does this mean APH actually has a plot?! For the movie adaptation of Hetalia, yes it does! Do they finally do what the series was allegedly created for and finish telling the story of WW2 with our anthropomorphic Yaoi countries? Hell NO! Instead we get a plot about aliens invading Earth. So Hetalia went from being all about WW2 to being about space aliens? (Insert joke about the History Channel here)! The aliens wish
to end conflict on Earth by erasing all the world's unique cultures and making every nation completely bland and homogeneous. Yes, the Hetalia movie is a long rant against the forces of globalization and the erosion of traditional cultural heritage. (slow clap). It may have been a REALLY obvious allegory that would make even Frank Herbert facepalm, but at least the Hetalia writers tried harder than usual this time. That is to say the Japanese writers tried harder. The American script was written entirely by Funimation voice acting legend Chuck Huber, who just makes gay joke after gay joke. Honestly, at least Chuck appreciates who the fanbase is and WHY the show is actually popular. Chuck gave the fangirls exactly what they wanted, so I can't really blame him.
The art and animation for the official movie was honestly WAY better than the series. The use of CG was surprisingly well done and we even get a fight scene that looked decent! I'm serious, it looked better and was better choreographed than some of the later episode fights in Bleach!
"Italy...WHY DID YOU BRING A CAT WITH YOU!!!" Literally about 95% of Hetalia's entertainment is derived from Patrick Seitz's absolutely incessant yelling and over the top German accent. I'm not quite sure why Americans seem to believe that Germans just yell at the top of their lungs all the time. Probably because of that one short, Austrian guy that died 70 years ago. The closest the movie gets to honestly being funny was when the various countries tried to impress the aliens with their own native cultures. America takes them to Vegas, China cooks for them, Russia forces them to watch ballet against their wills, and England nearly causes the annihilation of mankind by trying to give them a sample of his horrible cooking. That was almost funny!
Was it a surprise to anyone that this movie wasn't very good?! The art is an impressive upgrade, the voice acting is fine, and the bare bones of a decent allegory and cultural commentary on globalization are...almost there at times. The latter being sort of like a rejected episode of South Park that was never quite finished. However, the humor is pretty awful and the movie quickly gets tedious and annoying. Honestly, if you want to watch a stupid comedy featuring ethnic stereotypes and horrible German accents, I would recommend Beerfest. At least it is WAY better than Hetalia.
If you've never watched Hetalia before, then you are guaranteed not to have the slightest foggiest on what is happening. Even if your Hetalia-crazed best friend is sitting beside you and giving you a running commentary on what is going on. #experience
That aside, this was actually a decent movie - but again, if you've never seen Hetalia before, you won't get a lot of the inside jokes (e.g. best friend is laughing out loud at random pieces of dialogue that you didn't really notice). If you're a fan of Hetalia, then you shouldn't miss out on this.