"Next big things" in anime and manga have been in short supply lately, but there seems to be one series in particular that has captured the hearts of fans (particularly female ones): "Hetalia Axis Powers."
Perhaps the appeal lies in the diversity of characters’ costumes, inspired by fashions from around the world. Or perhaps it’s because all characters are men, leaving plenty of leeway for a certain subset of fandom to do things with those characters in art and fan fiction that cannot be described in a family-friendly publication.
Whatever the appeal, the series itself is quite fun. Artist Hidekaz Himaruya takes a satirical look at world history, depicting nations as colorful caricatures interacting with one another during significant events like World War II. Italy, for instance, is depicted as a pasta-loving pacifist who’s ready to surrender at the drop of a hat; Germany’s a stiff-upper-lip kind of guy who always has to put up with Italy’s whimpering; and America is a hamburger-chomping, take-charge character who always ignores what the other nations are telling him.
Funimation and Tokyopop are handling the anime and manga versions, respectively, of "Hetalia." But while fans in the past would have had to wait for DVDs or books to be released first, fans today can partake of the goodies immediately — provided they have the computer power to handle them.
Funimation’s been streaming Japanese-language "Hetalia" episodes with English subtitles for several weeks now. Fifty-two, five-minute episodes are available, with the first five episodes with Funimation’s English dub recently becoming available as well. Best of all, it’s free to watch at Funimation’s site, bit.ly/acQdyK.
The first volume of Tokyopop’s "Hetalia" is available via Zinio, a service that also offers digital editions of magazines, books and a few other Tokyopop titles. Unlike Funimation’s offering, you’ll have to pay $5.99 (and come to terms with how the digital edition opens on the last pages of the book). This does, however, reflect a significant discount from the $10.99 retail price for the print edition of the book. You can find it at bit.ly/d8iSKG.
If you’re more a fan of classic, physical media, Funimation will release the first "Hetalia" DVDs, containing episodes 1 to 26, on Sept. 14, while the first volume of Tokyopop’s "Hetalia" manga will be released Sept. 21.
Take a good look at that picture of me at the beginning of this column. It’s either whimsically cute or incredibly dorky, depending on your perspective. It’s also 5 years old, a virtual eternity in this fast-paced digital age. I’ve updated my Twitter icon more often in the past year than I’ve updated that mug.
So it’s time for a change. Whether that change involves me donning another cosplay cap or going for a more professional look, I’m leaving that for you, dear reader, to decide. I’ve posted a poll on our blog for all things anime, manga and video games, "Otaku Ohana," along with a brief history of my current mug (and one that appeared, then mysteriously disappeared, over the years). Visit blogs.starbulletin.com/otakuohana/?p=1542 to vote by Sept. 3, and you’ll see my new look soon afterward.
» Oahu Anime Explorer: 6 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday at HMC Academy, 555 N. King St. Visit www.oahuanimeexplorer.com.