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Otakon 2010
Hetalia US Premiere and Cast Panel

by Crystalyn Hodgkins,

Funimation presented the premiere of the Hetalia dub track and had a Q&A session with seven of its cast members at Otakon on Saturday. The panel was slated to start at 1:30 p.m., and just as Brand Manager Charlene Ingram was getting ready to start the video to a packed house, the fire alarm went off, and everyone was forced to evacuate the convention center. Two hours later, the fans packed the large panel room again, completely undeterred by the long wait outside in the heat, and were more excited and geared up than ever to watch the first 10 episodes of Hetalia.

As announced earlier, the Hetalia dub included accents for each of the anthropomorphized characters. The accents were laughably stereotypical, and for a show like Hetalia, which purposely displays the most stereotyped characteristics of the citizens of each country, this fits. France laughs like the French chef from Disney's The Little Mermaid. Italy sounds like Mario from the Super Mario video games. Japan replaces every "l" with an "r." But as J. Michael Tatum would explain later, the humor from these accents is not that people from these countries actually speak this way, but that they are making fun of those who think people really talk like that.

There are, predictably, moments where the accents slip in and out. However, J. Michael Tatum and Jerry Jewell, as France and Russia respectively, did a particularly notable job at keeping their accents throughout each word they spoke.

The dub track is purposely vulgar and offensive. There is a clear reason here why the rating for this show is 18+. The characters curse frequently, and the dub adds in small humorous digs throughout each episode. One character refers to Germany as "Hasselhoff." Germany makes a remark about Jews and Catholics, and America comments on Italy not being able to drive. France comments on the sexual tension between America and Britain. And the first words out of Southern Italy's mouth is something that most definitely cannot be reproduced here. Bevins later noted that during the recording process, there was a lot of ad libbing, and said he would just say more and more offensive things until the director asked him to reign it in. It is clear the entire staff had a fun time with the series, both creating the English script and recording it. But if a watcher of this show is not careful, they may find themselves too offended from the vulgarity and the offensive jokes to continue. Hetalia clearly caters to a certain demographic. But for that demographic, the dub will be exactly what they're looking for. This was evident from the almost-constant screams from the audience throughout all 10 episodes. The audience even chimed in to sing the ending theme song (in Japanese) for each episode.

After the premiere there were seven cast members on hand for a Q&A session:
Jerry Jewell - Russia
Clarine Harp - China
Christopher Bevins - Japan
Todd Haberkorn - Italy
Patrick Seitz - Germany
J. Michael Tatum - France
Scott Freeman - Britain

But before the Q&A got underway, there was a special video message played from Eric Vale, the voice of America and Canada. Vale, surrounded by American flags and other stars-and-stripes paraphernalia, explained, in an America-like fashion, why he couldn't make it to Otakon (he just had other things to do) while stuffing his face with a cheeseburger and fries. He even took a phone call in the middle of the video and ignored the audience completely.

After this video message, each voice actor introduced themselves and their character, and some actors spoke part of their introductions in character, to the delight of the audience. This was something many of the panelists seemed pleased to do throughout the Q&A. Each panelist expressed how overwhelmed and impressed they were by the fan's reaction to Hetalia, and thanked the fans for their support. With that, the Q&A got underway, albeit cut a little short due to time constraints from the evacuation earlier.

When asked if the cast enjoyed history, Haberkorn and Tatum both remembered being history nerds in school, while the rest of the cast commented that their last history classes were quite a while ago. When asked if the cast had a hard time getting rid of their accents after recording sessions, they all agreed they did. Haberkorn mentioned that his DeLorean is voice-activated, and because the accent stuck he was unable to get into his car after recording sessions. It was also revealed that none of the cast knew about the series ahead of getting the parts. Each cast member then revealed a little bit about their first reactions to their parts and the series. Harp was afraid that her mother (who is Asian) would be offended by her playing China, but as it turns out she wasn't offended, she actually thinks it's hilarious. The cast was not put off by how offensive the show is, and noted that they think the jokes are very funny. And par for the course, there were also few questions for certain cast members to have them say lines in their accents, which resulted in near-deafening screams from the audience.

When asked why Funimation chose to use "Britain" instead of "England," Ingram noted that it was a request from the Japanese production staff. Ingram also revealed that there will be special feature on the first season DVD set that includes cultural and historical notes. Ingram noted the first season DVD set will be available on September 14 and the second season DVD set will be available on October 12. The panel concluded with a trailer for the second season of the series.

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