Monday, February 28, 2011

Manga Review: Hetalia Axis Powers (volume 1 & 2)

The Waldenbooks in this small town is going out of business (as well as the Borders in my home city, booooo) so one of my friends snagged the first two volumes of this during their going-out-of-business sale and then loaned them to me*. I've seen a lot of the anime (the first two seasons at least and part of the third I think, none of the newest season or the movie) but got a bit burned out by the fandom a while back so I was curious to see if I still enjoyed the series or if it had just been a fad for me.

Hetalia Axis Powers by Hidekaz Himayura
Summary: The original webcomic that grabbed the hearts of fangirls the world over, it's the countries of the world personified and stereotyped! Jumping all around historical periods (from the Roman Empire to modern day), watch them interact with each other in funny ways.

The Good: The second book has a lot of similar strips grouped together (like the creation of America or a bunch of strips of Italy bothering Germany) and I liked reading that volume more than the first. Yes this is a set of 4 koma (panel) comics but I still like a bit of continuity between strips and Himayura has a thousand years of history to work with, plenty of room for connected strips.

The Bad: As you probably guessed, I didn't like the first volume as much since it was jumping all over the place like a five year old on a pixie stick. The series also tries to introduce a lot of characters at first (about 20 different countries or so) but then only focuses on the Axis and Allies, I really wish they had only introduced them in the beginning and then brought other characters in later. I know I always get the Baltic states mixed up and they appear so infrequently that they really didn't need to be introduced this early. And, as I alluded to in the summary, some of the humor here is a bit off color** so you'd better be able to laugh at your own countries faults before you go and laugh at someone elses.

The Art: One big complaint for this series is that the characters look really similar to each other. I didn't have as much trouble distinguishing them but I think that's because I'm already familiar with what a number of the characters look like. Be prepared to rely on hairstyles to tell them apart! The art isn't really fantastic (actually, there are a few strips that are horribly pixelated, as if Himayura forgot to save a higher resolution of the strips and they put it in there anyway, all the webcomic artists I know would never do that for their print books) but the story moves at a fast enough pace that it isn't as big an issue as it could be.

I'm not sure if I ended up enjoying this more or less than the anime (I still really want to see the dub actually) but this didn't make me want to run out and buy the series myself. So, glad I got a chance to read it (one reason I got fed up with the fandom was because the bigger it got the fewer scanlations there were) but doubt I'll be rereading it anytime soon.

*As a side note, she is not happy to finally figure out why one of her friends called her Ukraine, my friends always said I was like Switzerland, ironic since I always wanted to cosplay Lichenstein who looks just like him.
**Nothing as bad as the dubs Jew joke but I still can't believe they did that.