Otakon 2011
Hetalia: Paint It, White Press Screening

by Gia Manry,

On Friday night at Otakon, Funimation held a press-only screening of the upcoming film Ginmaku Hetalia - Axis Powers Paint It, White [Shiroku Nure!]. If you don't like jokes about America being dumb, bossy, and hamburger-loving, France being flamboyant, or Canada being quiet and overlooked, you probably already know that Hetalia - Axis Powers isn't for you. If you love them, you probably already watch the show. But for the rest of anime fans, many of whom aren't quite sure what to make of Hetalia and its impressive fandom, the upcoming Hetalia: Paint It, White! anime film could make a decent point of entry...but it's not without flaws.

The film opens with faceless aliens arriving and turning the planet into their own all-white, expressionless forms. The characters— all personifications of World War II-era countries, for those unfamiliar with the series' concept —hold a world conference in order to determine how to combat the threat, which of course results in chaos as they all get into their usual petty squabbles.

There are two major issues with Paint It, White that could prevent newcomers to the franchise from enjoying themselves fully: first, there are a lot of characters and while the identities of many are obvious (Italy, America, France, Japan, Germany, etc.), some will leave them scratching their heads. There's also a problem with some of the gags being overplayed. For example, the audience sits through a half-dozen scenes of each country attempting to combat the aliens and failing...followed by another half-dozen scenes of each country's famous monuments being taken over. This issue may bug even established fans, since it cuts into some of the gag time.

The movie's story is told primarily in a standard narrative form, but occasionally the scenes are broken up by a bunch of gag animations shown in rapid succession. Many of these bits that may be lost on new fans, as they're too short to have time to go over who all of the characters are.

But there are plenty of gags that fans can get behind without knowing much about the franchise, such as bits about China's attempts at anime and Canada's ongoing failure to be noticed. There are a couple of gags, like one with France trying to force England into a marriage, that fans might miss (although the version screened for press did not feature subtitles on a couple of title cards, which might have explained the scene). There are also quite a few weird tangents (or maybe longer gag bits?) that, while cute or funny, start to feel like a pretty long distraction from the main plot.

As fans of the television series already know, the English dub features each country's character with a ridiculously exaggerated, stereotypical accent. It works with the goofy jokes, since they're so referential, but undoubtedly there are people in the wide world who find it offensive. Meanwhile, the animation is mostly top-notch. (Perhaps the extended scene on the aliens' all-white spaceship saved some money used elsewhere.)

All told, Paint It, White is certainly the goofy, over-the-top movie that established Hetalia fans will buy by the bucketload. New fans looking for a silly experience (hopefully with a helpful Hetalia fan in the room) can definitely enjoy it as well, although there are other, cheaper/easier ways to sample the series if that's what you're going for.

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