Hot as Hetalia: webcomic-based anime phenom explodes

Photo: Shannon Cottrell

Liz Ohanesian reports from the Anime Expo in Los Angeles, where Hetalia was hot stuff this year—"from cosplay gatherings to artist alley booths to panel sessions." It began as a web comic, then became a series of five-minute anime episodes. At the Expo, Funimation announced plans to release the first season of Hetalia: Axis Powers on DVD this September. The response? Nonstop screams from a packed room of fans. And a panel the following day on "Hetalia History" drew a capacity cosplayer crowd. Snip from Liz's photo essay:

In the Hetalia universe, countries are personified as young men and women with a variety of flaws. The emphasis isn't on war so much as it is on the relationships between the characters. Italy always relies on Germany for protection. Japan offends China upon first meeting him. America and England are brothers with a rocky relationship. Canada is irritated that he's frequently confused with America. And then there's poor little Sealand, who might be considered the world's smallest country if only the others would recognize him.
Anime Expo 2010: 'Hetalia' Draws Legions of Fans at Anime Expo (


  1. why is the lady in dark clothing choking the lady in brown clothing and yet both seem pleased about it? is it some sort of allegorical thing?

    1. They are England and Prussia, probably they were acting the ‘War of Austrian Succession’ xD
      And probably they are smiling in that photo because it’s fun!!

    2. The anthropomorphic personification of Prussia choking the anthropomorphic personification of the United Kingdom, it can be considered allegorical in a historical context.

  2. Two years too late on this one. Hetalia has been all over the anime convention scene for a loooong time now.

      1. Why thank you.

        Also, don’t judge Hetalia based on the animation, judge it based on the original comic. I’m not really a fan of either one, but the web comic is the better of the two. I know quite a few huge fans who really don’t like the anime.

  3. Surprised that nobody’s talking about the Hetalia fanbase’s use of NAZI regalia in their costumes.

    1. Yes, Nazis were bad people, but even my mom (who fled Germany as a child) grants that they were snappy dressers.

      1. I actually rather like some aspects of Nazi style, considered purely aesthetically. Then they had to go and ruin it for all of us.

    2. If your commenting about the photo the only Nazi thing about it is the collar tabs, they’re based off of SS ones, but they’ aren’t historically accurate. The uniform itself is an East German People’s Police uniform, it’s not close to being Nazi, but yes there are people who take it too far. The girl in the photo didn’t even come close to doing so.

    3. As a person from the fanbase. We don’t. We absolutely don’t condone any use of Nazi regalia. Even in the anime and the manga, there’s not a lot of references to the swastika if any.

      Look at Germany’s uniform:

      Notice the lack of swastikas.

      Albeit there are some rather obnoxious cosplayers and some who don’t know any better, trust me when I say, the fanbase hates it, just as much as anyone, when Nazi regalia is paraded around.

      Hellsing’s Schrodinger has more swastikas on him than our Germany.

      1. I feel like noting that I have a planned cosplay for SS Panzer Prussia. But my own rules: It is not to be worn at large conventions. Only smaller, private conventions (and I’ll call the hotel ahead of time just to make sure). Before leaving the hotel for food or whatever I will change into something else. Swastikas are only to be worn for EXTREMELY private shoots (in a private room) of very serious pictures that seek to present an accurate representation of history (usually inspirational). Said pictures will only be posted on deviant art, and blocked for controversial content.
        But I still pride myself in not being afraid to represent history where acceptable. Without bias. It honestly pains me that so much attention is paid to the Nazi party and the Holocaust and so little is paid to such subjects as the Soviet Death Camps or American carpet-bombing. They are all equally evil, but instead we direct all responsibility for a collective evil onto the losing party and to this day we bear an intense grudge. WWII was a smear on history caused in part by the thoughts and charisma of one man and his ability to coerce a people and carry out ulterior motives.

        Yet we blame a whole people and dissolve a country that, in all honesty, was ripped apart from the inside by the force that we have damned it for.

        Personally I have an EXTREMELY STRONG sense of neutrality and responsibility to not limit myself to researching one view or opinion. Perhaps it helps that I’m dissociative and I view things in a broader spectrum than most do. I don’t believe in focusing on one moment in history and that’s that. If I’m going to inform myself of a moment in history I’m going to look at that country’s history as a whole from beginning (development) to today (or whenever said country ceased to exist) and at least gain a general knowledge of the history of other countries involved. I tend to move from broad to specific. To be honest, it’s a never-ending process, but its a hobby that keeps my mind grounded at least somewhere close to the real world. The fact that I will never complete my research before I die means that I will forever have something that serves as some excuse for a purpose.

        But at the same time in viewing the modern take on the events that I try so hard to comprehend to the fullest it makes me want to stay in this area barely within reality. With Hetalia, cosplay photographs and acting of a serious nature are my own ways of attempting to express these historical views and emotions that can never be fully explained by words in a manner of time convenient for those who hold no particular interest in them or even some who are interested. And are often ignored because they are controversial, when they NEED to be recognized as having happened, and be accepted as belonging to the past. Not forgotten, but not a source of blame.

        As for the series, and it’s comical nature. As well as the comical antics of the fans. That kind of lightheartedness over something that when viewed head on makes the world seem so horribly bleak, the ability to joke about something yet still be able to take something seriously then joke about it, is like the perfect harmony of two seemingly opposing actions. And for me, it keeps me believing that in spite of everything there is still a potential for a happy end somewhere at the end of time.

        Take it as the rantings of a dissociative lunatic if you must. (it’s likely true) But this is my view and my reasoning.

  4. I found Hetalia to be relentlessly stupid, which was disappointing given a potentially smart history-based premise. The show’s fanbase seems to skew pretty young.

  5. There’s the awkward moment when Japan rapes and murders China’s sister, but he later just acts like nothing happened and wonders why everyone hates him so much. Comedy gold!

    1. The Hetalia manga or anime never rises from a PG-13 or PG-15 rating, it never shows anything explicit. Yes, it doesn’t go into full detail of some historical events in WWII, but if only for fear of handling the subject wrong.

    2. Japan, in the anime or manga, was never shown to raping anybody or killing anybody.

      I don’t know where you got that, but please show me a link, because never in the manga or anime was Japan shown doing those actions.

      The Hetalia manga or anime never rises from a PG-13 or PG-15 rating, it never shows anything explicit. Yes, it doesn’t go into full detail of some historical events in WWII, but if only for fear of handling the subject wrong.

      1. I believe snakedart isn’t talking about the manga at all but rather actual history. Most likely, the rape of Nanking. Wikipedia has an extensive article about it.

  6. My problem with all this is these girls know nothing about flag etiquette. They were just waving them around, letting them drag on the floor, it was horrible.

    The show may be 2 years old, but this year it was especially prevalent.

    1. I was the England in the picture, and we were some of the only ones who WERE making sure to take proper care of flags. I even went up to people who were dragging them and told them to pick them up off the ground. Every time we stopped, we made sure to wrap them up or we set them on our laps, but never ON the ground. Sometimes we were a little haphazard but we were honestly doing our best to make sure they were properly taken care of.

  7. Is it bad I find Valkyria Chronicles to be a more faithful rendition of WWII than Hetalia despite using fictional locales and history?

  8. Ah, Hetalia fandom. You mean the same fandom that had some it’s members do the Nazi salute in front of the Holocaust memorial, right? The one where one member of the fandom insists that Hetalia is supposed to OFFEND! OFFEND I TELL YOU, because right now it’s TOO FUNNY, right?

    That fandom? So edgy.

    Yeah, you know what? I heard about the work from the antics of the fandom itself, and after hearing that and reading a synopsis of the storyline, I never want to see it.

    I’m sure whitewashing atrocities by having them acted upon by prettyboy bishies makes everything so acceptable. But it’s okay, what! We live in a post-racial age. It’s hip to be edgy. Can’t I take a joke?

    1. I’m sorry, but you cannot seriously be generalizing the ENTIRE Hetalia fandom of being Nazi supporters or people who want nothing but “serious history”.
      When news of the Anime Boston incident reached the fans, their reaction was one of both disbelief and disgust. They could not believe a group of people would do such a thing, and so close to a Holocaust memorial as well (and not to sound nitpicky, but your info on the location of the aforementioned incident did not take place directly in front of the memorial, but rather about a 30 or so minutes walk away. This in no way makes this any less offensive, however).
      I cannot make much of a comment on the second link, as I did not hear of this before you posted. But not all of us wants a movie, or an episode, or a comic strip detailing brutal war crimes that ended in the death of many innocent people.
      Please, do not judge the entire fandom on the actions of a few.
      Thank you.

    2. The fandom…has some issues. The fandom *knows* this very well, for the most part. But fandom can be ignored. Fandom misrepresents a lot of series, unfortunately.

      Please keep in mind that the series is not just about WWII (it jumps ALL over the place), nor does it ever whitewash any atrocity, because none of them are ever brought up. It’s not like the series takes Germany and the Holocaust and parades them around like it’s “no big deal.” :/

      If you’ve actually seen the show and made judgement–fine, you’re entitled to your opinion, and I will definitely respect that. But if you’re judging something you’ve never given any kind of chance? If you’re judging something based on actions of the fans–actions the fandom *itself* condemns? Well, then I don’t take much stock in your opinion.

    3. I think its unfair to judge the entire fanbase based on the stupid acts of a few people. It’s the same as any fandom; there are always some people that take things too far. Most people in the fandom are just as offended by the antics of those cosplayers as people outside. If you don’t like the show, fine, I won’t argue that. But don’t judge the entire fanbase over a few idiots.

    4. I like you exact wording of “one member of the fandom”. Still you seem to insist that everyone who likes the series has the same mindset.

      Also it could do you some good to read the responses of the fandom at large to the Anime Boston incident. It collected hundreds of anti-Nazism reproaches, several discussions and a personal(!) apology from those involved, and eventually a code of conduct for future cosplay events. Every fandom has some rotten apples, mind you.

      Altogether, it both appalls and amuses me that people find a bunch of anime fans more threatening than the actual neo-Nazi organisations out there. Good job with your priorities, people.

    5. Seems you’re also bringing up months-old grudgewank and pimping out your whining on JournalFen in an attempt to stir things up more here, I see what you did there.

    6. thats really not fair to say
      the Anime Boston incident was a terrible mistake and no one n the fandom condones it.
      and the comic doesn’t try to belittle the issues of WWII or condone Nazi’s it just concentrates on the characters. i works around most of the big things.
      Besides, fans are always far worse than the actual comic/manga/anime/whatever, and to tell you the truth, i think the hetalia fandom is a lot more well behaved than most.

    7. Actually, we were all very outraged and disappointed to see what had happened at that point. It won’t occur again, not after the way things happened.
      So, thanks for your *glowingly positive* and *generous* input on our subculture, but you have no idea what went on and how we handled it, so with all due respect just shut the hell up.

  9. There’s a lot of pretty good fanfic too, though it has a tendency to get darker than the original. The premise is well-suited to it, between the vast number of available plots to adapt (ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY) and the friendliness to original characters. There’s even a story that crosses Hetalia with 1984 out there somewhere.

  10. This show also pissed off the Koreans. It was moved to mainly web broadcast mostly because of Korean protests.

  11. I thought most of the fans were less interested with the nazi and neo-nazi tomfoolery than they were interested in the slash pairings.

  12. Hello, this is the Prussia AKA lady in the dark clothing. First off, I just want to clear up that we were asked to strike that pose by the photographer (or one of them), and we are smiling because we’re friends and trying not to laugh, much like you would if you were trying to give a serious speech and your best friend was making funny faces at you from the audience.

    Secondly, my uniform is authentic East German Transportation Police and my cross is the 1870 replica for a specific reason that the commenters have so kindly brought up for me. I did have a few people try to salute me, make Nazi jokes etc., which was annoying but understandable. I did not put together the costume with the intention of specifically offending anyone, although I knew such a thing was inevitable due to general ignorance alone, I just wanted to bring to life the character design for a nation with a history that I happen to be interested in. And like my friend mentioned before, we also both tried very hard to respect the flags we were carrying as best we could.

  13. I like how people are judging the fandom as a whole just because of the actions of some people.

    Nice to know that ignorance prevails.

  14. I think I missed the part when it was decided that the value of a piece is measured in the appropriateness of its fans’ behavior.

  15. Ah, the “Hetalia History panel” itself, is in 7 parts starting at:

    but does not mention those images I linked above.

  16. Yes exactly, history is an evil evil thing that better rests unnoticed in old libraries, only visited by well studied people so that they write the same old essays about it over and over again.

    And I still can’t seem to find the whitewashing of WW2 in the series. Have I missed something terribly important?

  17. Post a single article about something anime-related and boingboing turns into deviantart. Dressing up in flamboyant costumes and pointy wigs doesn´t get any more serious than this.

  18. How sad, that people are talking about stuff they have no clue of.
    I’m myself are german and a hetalia fan. Am I nazi because of that?
    The word nazi stands (in my opinion) for a discrimination of a small group of people.
    No matter if they are (f.e.) yews, black, muslims and so on.
    It’s a horrible thing, no matter how you see it.
    And of course, Nazi-germany is real. Ludwig was a nazi, and no one can say it’s wrong, it’s even in the webcomic. But people can change.
    Many people think (another example), that all germans (and even austrians) like Hitler, but to be honest: It’s illegal to wear an Hackenkreuz openly, drag a Reichsflagge aroung etc. And what it with the fact, that many things in the nazi culture were stolen from the germanic?
    No one seems to think about the fact, that many things stand for other stuff, than the things they showed and represented during the nazi time.

    To make it short:
    Nazis have a strange view of the things, and many people hate them, maybe with right, but just wearing an uniform or saluting or something like that doesn’t make you one (by the way, being german or cosplaying Germany doesn’t make you neither). We aren’t allowed to forget this things and this era, but still. It’s no reason to always be so offensive against people who have this in their history, point.

    Hetalia is a great Anime/Manga/Webcomic, and if you can’t deal with someone who isn’t shouting “oh bad nazi!!!” then just leave, really.

    (btw the cosplayers on the pic were not asked if the people here are allowed to use it. So fail. Really.)

  19. Hi, I’m the presenter of the “Hetalia History” panel linked in comment #38 and of the same panel at AnimeExpo. While it’s undeniable that Hetalia is 99% light fluff which of course glosses over almost all unpleasant details of history, the thing which interests me in it (and which was a central focus of my panel) is precisely that it is causing a number of teens to research various elements of history. Certainly not all fans, a lot of them are certainly in it for the yaoi slash pairings, etc., but enough of them to make it worthwhile. And, as Isaac Asimov observed, it doesn’t matter that they may be doing this research for “frivolous” reasons, i.e., as background info for a fanfic or a little known country to Hetalia-fy as an original character: the point is that new info is getting into the little grey cells, and that is great!

  20. Leave the swazzy alone and pick on the stars and stripes, silly “anti-nazis.” If you dislike fascism you might consider fighting against it in this decade.

    As for the manga, it’s called “context.” I assure you the readers are not spies for zee Germans.

  21. I was the Hungary who wandered up to you two and gave you Pocky on the last day of the convention hehe. I just wanted to let you know that you and your friend were one of the few professional & sane Hetalia cosplayers that I had the chance of meeting :)

  22. Hetalia is for fun and to teach people about history. Some people are too serious about it, but it is for people to enjoy themselves. And if you think hetalia is evil/pro-nazi/racist/offending someone, then you are wrong, and i suggest that you read the mangaka’s blog and see how happy he is that hetalia became so populair, and discover that he has no intention of anyone ever being negatively influenced by his/everyone’s manga.

  23. @Hungary

    Thank you! It means a lot. You were some of the few people that we met that were really nice to us the instant we met and weren’t rude or uncouth =D , which happened a lot sadly =C


    England & Prussia.

  24. I just wanted to point out that even Prince Harry (UK) has dressed up as a Nazi in the past. Yes it made the whole of England go crazy but you wouldn’t exactly call him a Nazi because he decided to wear a swastika for fancy dress.

    Just because a few Hetalia fans decided to be distasteful and disrespectful doesn’t mean the whole fandom is out of order, you tend to get dumb fans in any fandom. When they are wearing the uniforms, they’re playing a part, no different than when a actor does so in a movie. Is Tom Cruise a Nazi for playing a German Officer and wearing Nazi memorabilia in Valkyrie?

    [BTW, the WW2 Germany uniforms were designed by Hugo Boss the designer label for those people that mentioned their smart dress sense.]

  25. i thought hetalia would be stupid and racist, but then i watched it, and its really not.
    if you want to hate on it and youve watched/ read it, then thats fine. but if youve just read a bit about it on wikipedia, thats NOT FINE.

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