Less Italy means better Hetalia
“Hetalia” has grown on me since the first season. Aside from just getting used to the style of the series, I really appreciate the shift in focus away from the Germany/Italy/Japan trio and more towards the minor countries.
When watching the second season, I realized that one of my main issues was that I hated the titular character. The word “Hetalia” a portmanteau between the word for “useless” (“hetare”) and “Italy” (“Italia.”), and that is pretty much how I feel about the character of Italy; he is useless. He doesn’t add anything to the plot, his jokes are one-note, and his voice is just plain irritating. In fact, I did something I almost never do and switched over to the English dub only to discover that the English voice actor was even worse. The less Italy there is in the “Hetalia,” the more I like it.
This second season is in the same style as the first, a series of 26 5-minute episodes on one DVD. That gives you a little over 2 hours of animation in total. I have the same complaint that I had in the first season, in that each 5-minute episode has the full opening and closing credits which means I spend a lot of time on the skip button on my remote. It would be nice if Funimation provided a Marathon Mode that would automatically edit out the intros and outros, but I suspect that they are padding out a bit a DVD that is already short.
There is a much better balance of stories here, alternating between serious and silly. The “Christmas Around the World” episodes were a lot of fun, with Finland flying in as Santa Claus and Russia’s scary Christmas. I loved the scene with Japan and the kappa in the onsen, talking about how Japan is slowly losing touch with its heritage and how the magic is going away from the country.
Anyone thinking they are getting a history lesson from “Hetalia” is gravely mistaken. While the country names are correct, and some of the history is, the primary focus is on entertainment, not education, and things are wrong just as often as right. The countries, also, do not truly capture the character of the nations. I have been to Estonia, and it is a beautiful, pastoral country not at all in tune with the Baltic Idiot Trio as seen in the show. Also, showing Belarus, one of Europe’s last tyrannical dictatorships and a relic of Cold War politics, as a cute and simpering little girl was quite off the target.
The second disk in this season boxset contains a few interviews with the director and some of the cast members, as well as textless versions of the opening and closing. After skipping over the opening and closing animation so many times, I really wasn’t in a hurry to watch them again. The interviews are fun, but not something I would watch more than once.
This boxset also comes with a “Hetalia” handkerchief. It is a pretty standard blue-and-white cloth with the various country characters printed on it, but with the small size of the series it was nice of Funimation to toss in an extra.