In Defense of Axis Powers Hetalia

Stringed here again, this time with a rant for an update. Anyone that knows me very well at all knows that I am a huge fan of Axis Powers Hetalia. This series, which is basically a retelling of history with the countries involved depicted as anthropomorphized human characters, has sparked a lot of controversy since it first started getting popular.

If you are unfamiliar with Axis Powers Hetalia, these links give some more information:
Axis Powers Hetalia anime – ANN
Axis Powers Hetalia manga – ANN
Hetalia LiveJournal community <– the main hub of Hetalia fandom. This is where all of the scanlations are located, etc.
Hetalia Wikipedia article
Hetalia scanlation index

Now, what is the big deal with Axis Powers Hetalia? Why is there such a huge controversy? A big issue that a lot of the people who are anti-Hetalia have with the series is that its main subject matter is WWII, and it’s told with the main characters being the Axis Powers, as if that isn’t a bit obvious from the title. They feel that this series is making light of one of the most horrible events in world history, and is thus disrespectful, etc. They argue that the atrocities committed during WWII should not be made into a joke.

I have several arguments against this viewpoint. The primary argument I have is that a lot of the people claiming Hetalia is offensive, insulting, and whatever else they state is wrong with it have never actually sat down and read a single chapter of the manga or watched a single episode of the anime. They simply read a summary or hear someone else complaining and instantly jump up and raise a call to arms against a cartoon, without ever bothering to see if it’s really as bad as they think it is.

Also, the argument about war crimes and atrocities really is not reasonable. Hetalia does not go into things such as the Holocaust or the Rape of Nanking. This is not because Hidekaz Himaruya (Hetalia’s creator) is trying to “gloss over” these things. It’s because Hetalia is a comedy, and Himaruya agrees with the people that are so offended by his work in the fact that there is nothing funny about those events.

Those against Hetalia also like to complain about the fact that the Axis Powers are not portrayed as wicked and evil people. “How can Nazi Germany be a nice guy and a bishounen?!” they say. The problem with this argument? Ludwig, the character for Germany in Hetalia, is NOT Nazi Germany. Ludwig is Germany from the birth of the country all the way up to modern day. Also, he is not the German government; he is Germany overall. Before and after WWII, Germany was not evil. Even during WWII, Germany was not evil. Hitler and the Nazis, perhaps, but not Germany itself. Thus, Ludwig is meant to portray Germany as a whole, not just Nazis.

People that have a problem with it ‘focusing’ on the Axis Powers, or it being written by a Japanese person need to step back and realize that the focus on the Axis Powers does not mean that they are being portrayed as the “good guys”. Hetalia portrays every single country as a decent person deep down, though they all also have negative things about them. There are no “villains” in Hetalia. They’re all neither completely good nor completely bad, which is really how it is, isn’t it? As for Himaruya being Japanese, it’s hardly fair to say that he can’t poke fun at history just because his country was on the “bad” side. Himaruya wasn’t even alive during WWII. Why should a mistake that his country’s government made in the past dictate whether he should be allowed to write a satire or not? In my opinion, it’s a bit racist to say that he shouldn’t be allowed to write WWII satire because he’s Japanese. Being Japanese does not mean that he wishes the Axis had won or anything like that. Honestly, people.

Finally, if Hetalia is so offensive to people, why aren’t other things of a similar nature considered the same? Hellsing, for example, is a Japanese series that has Nazis in it. Actual Nazis. But you don’t hear anyone complaining. The Great Dictator is an incredible Charlie Chaplain movie that makes fun of Hitler. No one complains about it, even though a Jewish main character gets sent to a concentration camp and escapes in a ridiculous way, which brings it much closer to making light of the atrocities that happened. Mecha Musume and Afghanis-tan are very similar to Hetalia, except for the fact that most of the characters are female. They don’t get hated on so hard. So really, what makes Hetalia so awful?

So if you’re reading this and haven’t actually seen or read any of Hetalia, I’d like to ask you to read some of the manga and/or watch some of the anime before making a decision on whether or not it’s offensive, and whether or not you enjoy it. If you actually give it a shot and it still bothers you, fine, but don’t try to say fans of it are immoral just because they’re not offended by something that offends you. That’s just obnoxious, honestly. Also, this post only covers one sort of argument against Hetalia. The stuff about fans only liking it for BL and bishonen because they didn’t see the comedy is too ridiculous for me to even comment on.

In closing, here’s a MAD for Hetalia that always makes me smile:

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16 thoughts on “In Defense of Axis Powers Hetalia

  1. Before and after WWII, Germany was not evil…

    I agree.

    Even during WWII, Germany was not evil…

    I disagree. German people supported Hitler, they were brainwashed ok, but they supported him and the Nazi.

  2. soramai: Can you truly say that every single German person supported Hitler? I highly doubt that. Hitler rose to power because he promised to restore Germany to greatness after its humiliating defeat in WWI. He was apparently very charismatic.

    By the time Hitler really began doing the horrible things he’d planned like murdering Jewish people in cold blood, he was already too powerful for the Germans to rise against him. They wanted to survive. Not to mention an uprising would be next to impossible since there was no safe way to plan one without the Nazis to find out and kill them for treason.

    Also, it’s not like the German public really knew what was happening in the concentration camps. Hell, no one but the Nazis and the few that were sent to one and managed to escape really knew until the Allies freed the survivors from them.

    But then I have a problem with calling any entire nation “evil”. It’s beyond a strong term, and blanketing an entire country with such a term is just horrendously unfair to the ones that didn’t agree with the evil being displayed. ‘S just my way of thinking.

    Either way, thanks much for reading and taking the time to comment!

  3. I don't understand why anybody would take satire so seriously? To be honest, I can totally see Aristophanes rolling in his grave. It's totally ridiculous – what happened to freedom of speech? What happened to all those hate!Bush sites and those silly calendars counting down to the end of his presidency? What happened to Jay Leno and co. making fun of celebrities? Are they all so different at all?

    Besides, I'm a huge lover of humor and see comedy wherever I go, even through tragedy, because I believe that if we don't try to stick in a bit of funny every now and then how would we live? We'd be nations of overly serious deadbeats. That's exactly what I think Hetalia is all about – trying to make light of a situation is a way of letting go. The depressing times have already come and gone; they've already passed us, and it's certainly foolish to keep crying over it.

    And you're right, I've seen more WORST stuff that makes Hetalia look like a Charlie Chaplin short :/ Seriously, dude, wtf

    And I've definitely seen stuff like this happen. The Filipino government for instance tried to make a couple of media shortcomings a serious issue, but the Filipino people in general commented on how ridiculous the government's outcry was. I'm a Filipino person and I only waved at all those ridiculous stereotypical jokes because, firstly, they're actually partly true (and truth hurts) and secondly, they were just doing it for the sake of comedy. Jimmy Carr, people.

    There's another issue which presents itself – the possibility of all this negative media to influence the people's thoughts. Seriously, we're not children, and that's what educational websites, textbooks, and stereotype breakers are for. Besides, the stereotypes in Hetalia are just the usual stereotypes found in any other media that I find it hard to take it seriously at all.

    Maybe I'm just a lighthearted person who loves being laid back, but I dislike it when simple (and I do mean simple) things like these gets thrown into the fire and becomes known as a major issue that's, and I quote: 'a national crime', just because it's easier to target.

    Again, seriously dude, wtf

    You're correct – people should look into this more closely and make their own opinions of the matter before having fun gun-shooting a bleeding cartoon, when they should be tackling more serious subjects. It's a cartoon. A satire, a spoof, a parody. A CARTOON satire with amazingly lovable characters despite their flaws. Oh my, did I just mention something positive about Hetalia? Read it twice: 'lovable characters despite their flaws'. I'm gaining a lot of interest on many countries (and believe me, I'm learning a lot of history too thanks to the author's interesting footnotes XD) that I'd love to learn more about their culture, and I keep seeing them more as their human counterparts that I can't help but look up to (Russia!). I sincerely say that I've definitely gained more respect and interest for all these countries.

    Hating people is definitely a ~powerful~ thing, and branding a country as evil (period) without looking into the gray areas is just being unfair, which reminds me of what lead to Hitler's movement in the first place. I mean, my best friend's German for pithy's sakes! Let's not regress – the history subject's there to make sure that we learn something from our past mistakes.

    Just laying down my 2 cents! πŸ˜€ Oh my, it's certainly too long, isn't it. Oh dear… Anyway, glad to read your article! I (obviously) fully agree πŸ™‚

    Zed

  4. @amoreblack: Thanks so so much for the comment! What you said was beautiful and I couldn't possibly agree more. I'm glad you liked my initial article. Thanks for reading and thanks even more for commenting! I was beginning to wonder if anyone was even out there reading, so it's nice to see I have at least one reader that likes what I have to say!

  5. StringedSonata: Thanks! πŸ˜€

    It's just really funny (yes, I meant funny in a 'hahah' good natured kind of funny XD) how people get riled up over these things when there's barely some solid basis for their outcries, but if they actually got into it (I just got -into it- today and read -all- the comic pages, and I'm currently watching Episode 11 as we speak. No, my eye is not twitching in an obsessive manner, nope.) they might really like it. It's just too funny to miss… it's too funny to -feel- offended at all. Heck, it might even help them with their studies and/or their world history πŸ˜„ It sure made politics a lot more interesting.

    I would have loved to watch this while my school year's semester was still on. Tourism would have been a lot more fun with Hetalia, especially since we had to research and present every country's stereotypes, their political history and whatnot (I actually laughed at Austria's musical talent since we had to mention their Mozart attractions and music festivals in our exam, and I could have used the image of Austria conveying his feelings to Germany with Chopin during those dreary days, hahah).

    That said, I'm really sad that the show's Korea won't appear (I think – or is Wikipedia misleading me again?). I would have paid a buck and a tooth to see him grope Japan's… eh… chest. Did he appear in the episodes, though?

  6. @amoreblack:

    Yeah, it really is a shame that Korea won't show up in the anime now. All because a bunch of people from Korea had to throw a fit. Sigh.

  7. This article is so good I just couldn't come up with a proper reply (I've spent 20 minutes writting and eracing ^^;) I guess I'll just say that I agree with you and that people shouldn't get so annoyed by a cartoon. I've seen far worse cartoons that have the worst influence on children ever, while those lovable hetalia characters don't only let you in on small interesting details of history you might never find in a school history book, they also can actually make you like a country you never liked before (it really made me love a country I previously disliked <3)… ofcourse there were some parts that can make you headdesk because it's simply so stupid, yet it's the whole fun in hetalia. Hetalia is just hilarious if you set aside your grannies ouchies and turn on your sense of humor.

  8. I agree. No ones really evil, their just people or extremely stupid and racist (those two words just go together).

    Gosh, I love France’s character. Heh. sense

  9. You’ve probably moved totally away from this topic so my opinion is probably moot at this point but I think much of the Hetalia hate comes from people who’ve looked at the fanbase.
    I must admit that Hetalia is pretty silly and I don’t really care for it much. What I do care about is what the fanbase does, an example being a multitude of fanart with Germany in SS uniforms and general Nazi paraphernalia. Much of this is drawn with little thought on what the uniform means and near no proper understanding of what actually happened before and during the war. Fanart is all fine until it hits something that can be very controversial and unfortunately a lot of fanartist have done this with their portrayal of Nazi uniforms in their fanart and in a sense it makes light of the true connotation of the uniform and what it stands for. The counter argument for the fanart is usually 1) Its only fanart, 2) Germany was controlled by Nazi’s so it’s in context and 3) Like a WWII survivor will actually see this. Sadly a lot of fanartists can’t grasp the sensitive nature of what happened and why it’s inappropriate to make light of that part of history. Drawing Ludwig in Nazi regalia is in very poor taste people and that is a fact. As I said before, I’m not offended by Hetalia but instead its fanbase at times. I’m not saying the whole fanbase is like that but there is a vocal minority that end up giving the rest a bad rep.

    • I’m still just as obsessive over Hetalia as ever, so no, your point is not moot (In fact one of the biggest reasons why this blog hasn’t been updated since December is because Hetalia took over my life pretty much to the point that I’ve watched/read very little else, and I doubt anyone would really be pleased with this becoming a Hetalia blog, including my blogging partner).

      However, I still don’t think your argument quite cuts it. Here’s why:

      1. Judging a series based on its fans is always silly. Even if some fans don’t get or don’t care that their fics/art/whatever may be crossing the line, that doesn’t mean that their values or lack thereof match up with the series itself and the creator.

      2. By this token, Hellsing should be considered a base and immoral series to watch, and anyone that likes Hellsing is a heathen. There are actual full-blown Nazis in Hellsing, and people draw said characters in Nazi uniforms, and even cosplay as said characters in Nazi uniforms. But I’ve never heard such an outcry against Hellsing. And no, arguing that “Hellsing takes it seriously and so do the fans” doesn’t cut it. There’s plenty of Hans/Schrodinger fanart out there and plenty of fangirls that like said characters solely for being hot. And even then, there are other works of fiction that make fun of Nazis. The Great Dictator starring Charlie Chaplain is a prime example. If you’re going to consider one form of fiction that slightly alludes to Nazis immoral, then you really have to do the same for any form of fiction containing Nazis, or else you’re being a hypocrite.

      3. It’s just a uniform. Not everyone who wore that uniform committed atrocities, either. There were actually quite a number of Germans who joined the ranks of the Nazis in order to help the oppressed people and/or try to take out Hitler from the inside.

      4. In relation to 3, why is the Nazi uniform such a big deal if the Soviet uniform is perfectly okay? The Soviets were no better than the Nazis. Hell, if you ask me, they were worse.

      5. I don’t really even see fanart of Ludwig and Gilbert in SS uniforms that often.

      In short, I don’t think it’s acceptable to hate on one work of fiction out of many containing a certain controversial topic, especially when most of the stuff addressing said controversial topic is fanwork anyway.

      • I’m not saying I hate hetalia at all, I do read and enjoy it but its more of a vague interest. To better phrase it, I find that when I see Gilbert or Ludwig in SS uniforms I think that it detracts from the light hearted attitude that hetalia has and which is why I think its inappropriate.

  10. @Aura Mm, I see where you’re coming from there, but at the same time, the people that want to draw things like that are free to do it, and no one should really be basing their dislike of a show on its fanbase. Especially not if they’re going to dislike a show on moral grounds.

    I read your initial comment as trying to justify why some people take their hatred of Hetalia to a moral level, which is why I responded in the manner that I did. It seems I misunderstood you, but considering the specific topic of the initial post, you can probably see why that happened. Still I’m sorry for missing your exact point.

    That said, I’m guilty of saving quite a bit of art of Ludwig and/or Gilbert in SS uniforms. I don’t agree with the Nazis or Hitler in any way; honestly I probably hate them more than your average American for what they did to Germany’s reputation on top of their crimes against humanity. But, while the uniform is a symbol for them, it’s also a very attractive uniform design Also, if we continue to fear symbols of the Nazis, or really much of anything associated with them beyond their ideology, then we’re letting them still have some sort of power. They don’t deserve that. This is just my feeling on the matter, of course, and I completely understand and respect viewpoints like yours.

  11. I just wanted to add my two cents and say that I really enjoyed your article and i totally agree =) It made my heart smile that i finally read someone taking up for Hetalia in such an articulated way (…is that strange? lol)

    Ah, and also about the SS Uniform thing (yes i have a bit of extra change >_>;) I, personally, don’t see anything wrong with artists portraying the Hetalia characters in a bit of a darker side of themselves. I don’t think depicting things that actually happened is disrespectful at all, in face i think it’s more disrespectful to NOT depict the things that happened in fanworks. There’s so many wonderful artists in this fandom and i’ve seen so many well-done pieces (fanart AND fiction) ohmai, my obsession is showing *tucks it away*
    my point: I think that with all the talent we have in our fanbase it’d be a such a waste to not let them use Hetalia for artistic inspiration =)

    • Yes, I agree with all of this. I really don’t see how not drawing the German characters in SS uniforms is such a big deal. It was a period of history that really did happen, and this is a manga about history. Drawing them slaughtering Jews would be another story, but no one has done that, and I doubt anyone ever will.

      Besides, it’s not like there haven’t been any other depictions of people in SS uniforms in the media. The Springtime for Hitler scene in The Producers, Hellsing, the Mein Kampf manga, The Great Dictator, etc etc.

      Thanks for your comment!

  12. I was ok with hetalia up until the point were america came in. I was expecting an accurate representation of WWII and what i got was an anime trying to minimize the Axis’s atrocities and making fun of the allies. They literally protray the Axis as just “Eating Smores”. And all of a sudden, America gets all up in arms. The axis werent just enjoying themselves, they were commiting mass genocide and takeover. America didnt just say, “lets go fuck these guys up because im an asshole.”

    • I understand why there are people who hate Hetalia and are offended by it and I have no problem with that. So long as you aren’t calling fans idiots, racist, or whatever else for enjoying it, it’s all good. But there are a few misunderstandings in your comment, so I’ll address them.

      Hetalia has never claimed to be accurate, and I’m not entirely sure where you got that idea. As for the smores thing, America didn’t attack them because of that. He decided they should make smores the right way (the Axis neglected to use chocolate). They attacked later because uh…they’re at war?

      As for downplaying the Axis’s atrocities, it downplays the Allies’ atrocities too. Russia wasn’t exactly the most humanitarian nation during WWII either.

      In general, when Hetalia talks about war, it’s poking fun at tactical blunders. It’s trying to avoid the horrors of war in general, not just the Axis during WWII.

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