Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Oct 8th 2012
Hetalia World Series
DVD - Season 04 [Limited Edition]
The anthropomorphized nations of the world are back for another round of history lessons! Thrill to Spain's attempts to relate to Chibi Romano! Sympathize with Hungary's gender issues! Behold the heartbreaking relationship between Lithuania and Poland! Watch England try to escape from Italy! Plus cats! Wait, what?
History may be chronological by its very nature, but that doesn't mean that Hetalia's fourth season will follow suit. Jumping all over the place in time, this most recent DVD based on Hidekaz Himaruya's manga is a wacky, at times difficult to follow, trip through European history with an increased focus on the Scandinavian countries and some interesting tidbits about eastern Europe. It doesn't always make sense, but it's still an awful lot of fun.
Among the story arcs on this single disc (a second containing extras is also included, as is the latest bandana in a shade of orange guaranteed to go with nothing you own) is an interesting section about the relationship between Poland and Lithuania. Lithuania has previously been shown as one of the quivering Baltic states, living in fear of Russia, and in general isn't a place many Americans think about unless that's where their family immigrated from. Apparently Poland and Lithuania spent some time during the late medieval period united, and these segments show a very different set of countries than we have previously seen on the show. It's rather a fascinating little arc, and to make matters even more interesting, it involves a dragon. That dragon is far from the only animal to make it onto this disc, as a new feature has more or less replaced the “Chibitalia” segments from earlier seasons. Now we get “Nekotalia,” a series of shorts about all of the countries of the world as cats. To be perfectly honest, it's more than a little weird, and it doesn't seem to serve any purpose. Is it Himaruya's sly wink at the Internet's apparent obsession with felines? A statement about how cats are kept in nearly every culture? Possibly, but it is more likely simply a cute gag meant to round out the series. While it doesn't contribute to the overall enjoyment of the show, it also doesn't detract, and feline Belarus is pretty funny. It is also worth noting that Neko Japan is clearly a Japanese Bobtail, so cat aficionados may be able to spot other international breeds in the mix with some observation.
The medieval era actually features quite a bit this season, as at least two other stories deal with it. The longer one is about Prussia and the Teutonic Knights meeting up with Hungary, who is desperately trying to conceal her gender, or in fact may not even be aware that she is female. This opens up the field for all sorts of penis jokes, which will be funny or not depending on your sense of humor. Turkey also plays a bigger role in this segment, helping to give us some variety from the earlier seasons. The other notably medieval storyline returns us to the rivalry between France and Britain as Britain tries to look as cool as his neighbor across the channel. This is a bit more familiar than the other medieval plots, as most of us are aware of what happened in 1066 and the notion of the French being more fashionable than the British. Notes for this section (on the extras disc) go fairly in depth, even giving a breakdown of the English language's components.
Naturally Italy, Japan, and Germany are not absent from the tale, although their interactions have grown a bit stale with repetition. One of the better moments is when England is trying to escape captivity during World War Two and Germany thwarts him time and again. It is genuinely humorous without having to deviate too far from what really happened with English POWs at the time, and as an added bonus, we finally get a Scottish character, although not Scotland himself. Also appearing for the first time is the island nation of Seychelles, although she only shows up once at the end.
The English dub remains funnier than the subtitled track simply because we are more familiar with the accents being overdone. The subtitled version, however, has the bonus of being able to actually catch all of the quickly spoken lines, so it really depends on whether you prefer silly accents or knowing exactly what is being said at all times. Both have their definite benefits. The animation remains simply and lacking in impressive qualities, but the frenetic qualities of the show and the general wackiness of it make up for that. Funimation has included a lot of extras along with the historical notes, such as outtakes (which as usual feature Patrick Seitz goofing around and Christopher Bevins trying to maintain his accent), an Otakon interview with the English actors for Britain, Germany, France, and Egypt, and both the “Chibitalia” and “America Cleans his Storage Room” segments in English and Japanese. Hetalia's schtick is wearing a little thin, but it still provides some good laughs and an entertaining glance at history that, if not always entirely easy to follow, at least opens our eyes to something that we might not otherwise have known.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : C
Art : C
Music : C
+ Still funny, has some interesting historical tidbits viewers might not be familiar with. Lots of extras.
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