I know a bunch of this blog’s readers have been waiting for this review since the movie came out last year, so finally, here it is! Why this took so long to get on DVD I have no idea. But being the collector I am, I got hold of the Special Edition so I’ll be talking about that too. This review is going to be huge, but remember there will be spoilers, so if you don’t want anything in the movie spoiled either don’t read it or just read the part at the start where I talk about the Special Edition.
The Hetalia movie has to be one of the strangest ideas to come out of the anime industry in a while. I’m not sure what thought process lead to “why don’t we turn a series of short comic strips that tend to only work in 5 minutes bursts into a movie feature?” but I’m guessing it was probably just “FANGIRLS=MONEY. SO, SO MUCH MONEY.” Add in a bunch of promotion for the event – special icecreams and sweets in Ikebukuro, merchandise, soundtracks and of course the eventual DVD (and special editions)…and you basically have a license to print money.
Now, there are 3 editions of the film, like the DVDs of the regular series. The boring, bare-bones regular edition, the Special Premium Edition (which I got) and the Special Premium Edition you can only get from Animate which has some extra stuff. The Animate one is by far the most attractive, but not being in Japan right now I couldn’t get it (Animate don’t ship oversees). The special edition has the lovely cardboard sleeve slip-cover over the DVD itself, with a very nice picture by Himaruya. (I’m really glad for this, because with the DVDs of the series themselves, you can only get the Himaruya art with the Animate version). The DVD itself looks like this.
Of course, the Animate version comes with another DVD case, meaning the SE slipcase is thicker as it’s made to hold two DVD cases. (In that DVD case is pretty bookmarks and a CD with Ukraine/Belarus’s character song. Sucks that you can only get that as an Animate exclusive. I really wanted those bookmarks too :C)
Besides the movie itself, the special edition has inside the movie case another disc, with Iceland’s character song on it. The song is…pretty hilarious actually, and quite long. He sings a rather pretty ballad (with techno at the start) until the puffin starts singing and turns it into death metal. Surprisingly, that sentence makes much more sense than most of the Hetalia movie did. There’s also that booklet which has some pictures of all the promotional stuff that went on for the movie, such as those awesome looking sweets, plus a postcard to send away for the chance to win some signed goods. Something really neat with the special edition; every one gets a little film-cut from the movie itself, so no two special editions are the same. It comes in that little red and white envelope with Japan on it. So what was my one?
Personally I was hoping for Italy and the Funny Looking Cat, and America is my least favourite of the main 8, but damn if that isn’t a nifty freebie! There’s one more bonus with the special edition which is on the movie DVD itself, a special ending sequence that wasn’t in theatres, but I’ll talk about that later. There’s also another bonus on the DVD with one of the seiyuu events plus director Bob Shirota, which is fun as the seiyuu always look like they’re having a great time. I’m not sure if this is on the special edition only or on the regular one too, though. anyway, for now, it’s time to review the movie itself.
So here’s our plot. Weird stuff is starting to happen all over the world, and, naturally, the main 8 Hetalia characters are the only ones who can do something about it. Aliens from the planet Picto – completely featureless, pure white aliens, are stealing all the colour and joy out of the world – locale by locale – and turning every person (personification of a country or otherwise) into featureless aliens as well. They have nothing to do with America’s Tony; even Tony himself is powerless to stop them. They can render all attacks useless by making all weapons used against them look like they came from a children’s colouring book.
Eventually, most of the world has been transformed into a drab, featureless, boring looking place and Our Heroes are forced into a hideout they manage to build in a wasteland somewhere. Eventually the Picto spaceship comes to round up all the newly transformed Pictos and Italy of all people has the idea to sneak aboard the ship dressed up as the aliens. With costumes, that he made out of white flags, in the blink of an eye. O…kay. (Not the last time a massive suspension of disbelief will be a requirement for this movie though).
On board the ship they bumble around in 3 groups until England and France’s fighting alerts all the aliens and they eventually end up trapped together. Before the aliens ‘attack’ they have the plan to appease them, by showing what their world can offer. China and France prepare them a feast, America lets them play in a casino, Russia has a ballet show, courtesy of the Baltics, Germany has…some beer, and Japan has a very energetic Ondo dance, which they seem to enjoy a lot. All seems to be going well until England offers his scones, earning the alien’s wrath back, and everyone evacuates into the sea. They are washed up onto a deserted island (what, you thought it wouldn’t turn up in the movie?), and soon meet up with Sealand, who seems to have gained the power of self-propulsion. The aliens soon find them again and a Dramatic Battle begins.
Even Germany’s badassery isn’t enough to fend off the aliens, and eventually everyone loses and is turned white and featureless. Everyone except Italy that is, who has hidden in a bush with his cat. As the aliens come for him, all hope seems lost……so what should appear to give Italy hope other than an apparition of Rome? …How about an apparition of Rome in a death metal get-up, singing the metal version of “Heaven is where…/Hell is where…” which somehow results in a magic marker being…magic’d into existence by Italy’s foot. The world is then saved by Italy, who uses his mad art skillz to draw faces on all the aliens to make them feel better about being featureless. This also revives everybody else, and Italy is personally thanked by the princess (queen?) of the aliens, who admits that their method of bringing fun to their own planet wasn’t really that fair to earth. She also wants the magical magic marker as ‘we don’t have them on our planet!”. The aliens leave peacefully. (Or presumably, until the ink in the marker runs out), and Sealand takes everyone home via China’s trading route. THE END.
Right, so now that the ‘lolwat’ synopsis is out of the way it’s time for the actual reviewing segment. It goes without saying, of course, that the plot is totally stupid. Most canon things in Hetalia are stupid anyway, so one can hardly go into a Studio Deen Original Plot expecting something that isn’t outrageously stupid. That said, Hetalian stupid is stupid in a fun way. It’s Dumb Fun at it’s finest, and if you come in expecting that, you shouldn’t be disappointed.
Firstly though I want to get the negatives out of the way first, because they are there. The Deen Fail tag is on this for a rather big reason. If you’ve watched a lot of Hetalia, or even just read a lot of my reviews on it you should know that Deen are absolutely notorious with devising evil ways to pad things out as much as possible, and they did it here too. What the Fail is, is that what Deen have padded the movie out with are actual freaking episodes. Words fail me on this. I’d heard about it beforehand and was all ‘wat, deen y u so dumb’, but there was far more than I thought there’d be. It’s like this; at random intervals of the film, as if they are ‘ad breaks’, it’ll suddenly skip to a random skit from the series. (not a full episode, just a few skits, and then the Hetalia eyecatch, and then back to the movie.)The total length is about 1 hour and 20 minutes, but the total length of the episode segments all up has got to be at least 20 minutes. Thankfully, a lot of anime movies (particularly ones based on anime series, anyway) only go for an hour anyway so it doesn’t feel too much like it’s stealing the movie time , but it’s still an absolutely baffling move that I hope someone at Deen got fired over. Of course, the skits have nothing to do with what’s going on in the movie (like I said, they’re like ‘ad breaks’), and even worse, I don’t think it’s actually possible to skip past them (unless you fastforward. I’ll admit I didn’t try because I was trying to see exactly how much time it was taking up). When Funimation bring the movie out I really hope they decide to either take these parts out entirely or include an option to play the movie without them. On the plus side, some of these random segments aren’t reused footage; one is a (very) short ‘commercial’ for Spain’s Cafe (which is funny. If they were going to do some kind of ‘ad break’ thing, couldnt it be all stuff like this?), the other was a slightly humorous piece with Chibitalia and HRE saying each other’s names over and over and over (“Italia!” “Shinsei Romaaaa!” “Italia!” “Shinsei Romaaaa!”) which seemed mostly like a parody of the entire Chibitalia arc.
The other downside involves your own brain’s ability to think. For maximum enjoyment of this movie you really have to suspend all disbelief, I am not even kidding. The leaps in logic here are insane, and that’s even for an anime about personified countries. For example; everyone’s trapped on the alien ship, and yet they are somehow able to magic up an entire damn restaurant, casino, waiters and bunny girls and performers and not to mention a feast for thousands, in the blink of an eye. Where were Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia the whole time? Who knows, they just popped into existence when Russia needed them, before disappearing again. Not to mention how everyone magically teleports outside for Japan’s Ondo Dance. Don‘t think about it. Just don’t.
Although it’s not really a downside perse, I didn’t really get why Liechtenstein and Switzerland werent affected; I know there was some kind of barrier around them ,was it something to do with the water? Whatever it was the ‘relaxing’ music it had the whole time they were being moe and being blissfully unaware that the whole world was in chaos was…actually really freaking creepy in a way.
So, you’re ready to ignore the random episode segments, forgive the silliness of the plot, suspend all disbelief and not think about anything. And when you do….the movie is fun. Really, really fun. The silliness of the plot actually works in its favour and as dumb as it is; it manages to pull off a sense of seriousness and urgency now and then. You can tell the animators had a lot of fun with things they knew fans were going to like, whether it’s some light shipteasing, the boys looking cool fighting the aliens, Germany being macho (yet battered) in the jungle, Italy being adorable, Prussia hosting some ridiculous TV show, Sealand doing something, and that funny-looking cat.
They’ve also made the effort to include ‘everyone’….but when I say ‘everyone’ it’s more like “everyone who had already appeared in the Hetalia anime series at the time the movie premiered, + Iceland”. Which means characters like Denmark and Norway, and even Sweden, who were properly introduced into the anime after the movie premiered, aren’t in it at all. (And Spain only appears in that cafe commercial…) However, most of the character’s roles are short cameos and it’s pretty obvious they’re just there for the sake of being crossed off a list of who appears in the film and who doesn’t. But it’s nice to see everyone, even if it’s not for long, and it’s great that Sealand got such a comparatively big role compared to most of the others.
Another plus is that it’s really quite funny, even if in a very absurd way. I don’t know about you, but Death Metal Rome was the highlight of the whole damn movie for me. While a lot of the humour relies on the long-established character quirks (America wants to be hero! England’s food sucks! People don’t tend to notice Canada!) there’s a decent amount of other things to laugh at as well, and a lot of good scenes (which is why I took so many bloody screencaps. It was hard narrowing it down.)
I was hoping that the movie would have animation that was improved over the animation in the series, and this is true. The characters definitely move much smoother than in the series and pretty much all the backgrounds look great and are far more detailed than even the ‘good’ backgrounds of the series. There’s definitely a lot more effort shining through…. but in the end it’s still not on par with other anime movies like the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (which I was lucky to see in cinemas while I was still in Japan; it really looks breathtaking on a huge screen). But, it’s probably the only chance we’ll get (unless there’s another movie) to see Hetalia characters moving with decent-quality animation. Nothing stood out particularly badly with the music, but nothing particularly good either. The Ondo dance song ‘Wa!Wa!World Ondo” is going to be stuck in your head forever though, and although I personally hated it at first it started to grow on me by the time I got to watching the Special Edition Ending.
It’s a fun movie, and I’d recommend all Hetalia fans to at least give it a go. However if you like Hetalia for its historical content only and aren’t all that fond of the crackier, lolwut aspects of it, you probably aren’t going to enjoy it all that much. Same goes if you think too hard about things and want everything to make perfect sense. I personally enjoyed it and think it has some good rewatch value (so long as I can skip the damn episode segments), and the Special Edition is a really nifty package to have.
About the two endings; at first I thought it meant there would be a new ending to the story that was only in the Special Edition, but it’s actually just alternative credits. On the DVD menu, you can select whether you want the movie to play with the normal credits or the ‘Premium’ credits. New credits don’t sound like much, but the Special ones are really awesome. In the normal version, the WA! WA! World Ondo song plays while chibi heads float in bubbles, but the special edition is made up of entirely new animation with every character who appeared in the movie doing the dance. It’s quite adorable, and after seeing it, it made me appreciate the song more. The dance is quite simple, but catchy, and it’s something I’d actually really like to see a cosplay group do.
One last thing – I compiled everyone’s dancing from the Special Edition ending into one big picture. Click to enlarge it so you can see everyone!