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This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia. (June 2013)
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The character roster is large and far from complete, but the main cast could be said to be the countries which made up the Axis powers and Allies of World War II - namely Italy (North Italy in particular), Germany, Japan, United States, England, France, Russia, Canada, and China. Hetalia(ヘタリア?) is a portmanteau combining hetare(ヘタレ?, Japanese for "useless" or "pathetic" in a cute or endearing way) and the Italian word for Italy. The main storyline's events occur during World War II, but the vast majority of the comics take place during other historical events, modern holidays, or at no specific time whatsoever. The series often uses satire and light-hearted comedy to reinterpret well-known events as well as less common historical and cultural trivia. Historical, political, economic, and military interaction between countries is generally represented in Hetalia as social and romantic interactions and misunderstandings between the characters.
Himaruya originally created Hetalia as an online webcomic, and so far five tankōbon have been published by Gentosha Comics, the first on March 28, 2008, the second on December 10, 2008, the third on May 20, 2010, the fourth on June 30, 2011, and the fifth on July 31, 2012. English translations of the first two volumes have been published by Tokyopop in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Both printed volumes published so far have topped The New York Times manga best seller list. As of May 2012 the English-language version of the manga was published by Tokyopop via Right Stuf. The series was later adapted into drama CDs, and an anime series created by Studio Deen has also begun streaming online. As of January 8, 2010, the anime series' international distribution is being handled by Funimation Entertainment. A fifth season of the anime has been announced on the cover of Comic Birz. The October 2012 issue called it The Beautiful World and released its first episode with new Studio Deen designs on January 25, 2013.
So far, over 42 countries and territories have been depicted.
The Axis Powers group of characters consists primarily of Germany, Italy, and Japan, who are also the protagonists of the series. The representations of countries also part of the historical Axis powers, such as Hungary, make additional appearances.
North Italy, the primary protagonist and the title character, is a bright, energetic and sweet young man. He is depicted at various points in the story as the grandson and successor of the powerful but deceased Roman Empire (known as Grandpa Rome), and is recognized as the weakest character in the series who is a carefree and cowardly soldier that relies on Germany to resolve issues. His artistry and extreme love of pasta and pizza are references to Italian cuisine. He uses his adorable ways and cute face to charm any girl he meets and is intended to be a "lovable loser". This Italy represents the northern half of the country of Italy, while his older brother represents the southern half. Hence, their full character names are Italy Veneziano (North), and Italy Romano (South). The brothers and other normal Italians seen in the series have a strange hair curl sticking out, which Himaruya says represents the "sexual something" of Italians. When pulled, both of the Italian brothers turn red and are rendered speechless for once. Compared to his older brother, Veneziano has lighter auburn hair and amber eyes. Both Italies are voiced by Daisuke Namikawa in Japanese. North Italy also stars in the Chibitalia sub-story, about his childhood as part of the Holy Roman Empire, run by Austria. In English, he is voiced by Todd Haberkorn and Romano is voiced by Ian Sinclair. Young Italy, known as Chibitalia is voiced by Aki Kanada in Japanese and Brina Palencia in English.
Germany is hard-working, efficient, bureaucratic, and the designated "serious" character of the series. In the series, Germany is primus inter pares among the Axis Powers, and takes responsibility for the training of Italy and Japan. Due to his hard training and regulated life, he is depicted as an extremely muscular man, who was initially supposed to be "ugly" (as Himaruya jokingly reflects in the additional sketches of the Volume Five Special), but instead turned out handsome "in a different way" to other characters. He considers the deceased Roman Empire as his hero, and so is understandably shocked when he discovers what a wimp his grandson is. Another aspect of his character is his relative inexperience with relationships, leading him to be a very literally by-the-book person with the belief that things will go wrong if people do not follow instructions to the letter. His extreme devotion to the military lifestyle would make him an effective leader, if not for the fact that he is constantly baby-sitting Italy. Despite this, as the series progresses he forms a close relationship with Italy. Germany has no memories from before the formation of the German nation in the 1800s, while a child resembling Germany personified the Holy Roman Empire and co-starred in the Chibitalia storyline. The personification of Prussia, meanwhile, (somehow) still exists even in modern settings as Germany's older brother, and seems to represent East Germany during the days of the Cold War as he calls Germany "West". Both siblings enjoy beer, potatoes, and wursts immensely, and although Germany is laden with his responsibilities concerning Italy, he admires the culture and scenery of Italy very much, to the point that he goes sightseeing regularly (which frightens the Italians). In stories with modern settings, Germany is shown to be a hard worker concerning economy and environmentally-friendly schemes, the latter to the point where he is obsessed with recycling. In the anime series, he is voiced by Hiroki Yasumoto in Japanese and Patrick Seitz in English.
Japan is a reclusive, painfully polite, and hard-working character. When he introduces himself to Italy, he says that his hobby "is to read the atmosphere of a conversation and answer in the least offensive way possible." He has a habit of answering difficult demands with vague replies, such as "Perhaps next time", "I'll think about it", and "I will try my best". The answer for all of these means "No". He seems to have a problem with others being in his personal space, for he gets uncomfortable if anyone touches him or gets too close. In the series, he is shown to be inexperienced with the Western world, and prone to culture shock. Having stayed in isolation for almost 300 years, he is also depicted as a "hikikomori", and is shown to have holed himself in his room, under blankets for so long, that when Holland comes to warn him of America's Perry coming, he states that he will "melt in the sunlight". He looks young, but claims he is very old, he is in need of a mirror, and his character design features dark brown eyes and jet black hair. He often tries to adopt the cultures of other countries he meets such as France, but ends up secretly shocked or awkwardly confused in the end. In such an episode (with France) we learn that Japan is left handed by the way he is holding a pen and notepad. Although Japan has trouble understanding "western culture" and the things he believe is "normal" generally isn't, he is very good with technology, and is especially proficient in making things smaller and compact. He enjoys watching the seasons change and has many occasions for almost every month, which keeps him busy the whole year. Generally quiet, he is often depicted with the attitude of a businesslike old man. Japan also has an Otaku side to his usually quiet character. Like China, he loves cute things and is shown to have had a guinea pig and a dog at one point (when he came out of isolation/hikikimori), and is the owner of Japancat, which he calls Tama. In the anime series, he is voiced by Hiroki Takahashi in Japanese and Christopher Bevins in English.
The Allied Powers, primary characters within the series. From left to right: Russia, England, America, China, France.
The Allied Forces group consists primarily of the characters America, Britain (also known as England), France, China and Russia. These characters are often depicted as comically failing to reach consensus in their war meetings. The representations of countries also part of the historical Allies of World War II, such as Canada, make additional appearances.
America is the personification of The United States of America, but is better known as America. He is very hyper and headstrong but also an incredibly powerful and adventurous character who has a very strong and fixed sense of justice. As a child, he was found by Captain Arthur Kirkland, known as England, on the New World. He is known to have Matthew Williams, known as Canada, as an adoptive brother. He is the 'leader' of the ‘Allies’ (much to the other Allied countries' discontent), which consists of him, England, France, Russia and China. America’s catchphrase is “I’m the hero!”. His ideas for solving international problems are often absurd, but he is usually oblivious to the opinions of others. His fear of ghosts is at odds with a grey alien named Tony, who lives in his house. America is a hamburger maniac, trying to eat burgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He also seems to love milkshakes and drinks them frequently. He seems to not know what Japanese "tissues" are as when he was handed some he thought that they were actually tissues.In the anime series, his actor is Katsuyuki Konishi who also voices the character of Canada. America's English voice actor is Eric Vale.
England, also known as the United Kingdom, UK, or Britain, is depicted as an irritable young man with big, bushy eyebrows. A former pirate, he is now a cynical and sharp-tongued gentleman. Some of his notable character traits include his terrible cooking skills, inability to hold his liquor, foul mouth, ability to see supernatural creatures ("imaginary friends"), and ability to perform magic curses on his enemies. Britain is most antagonistic towards France, with whom he shares a long rivalry, and has mixed feelings towards America, his former charge. He's usually recognized for his rather large eyebrows, blond hair (more in a punk-like style), green eyes, and his green RAF uniform. In the English release of the anime, when asked why they opted to choose the name "Britain" over "England", Funimation explained that it was a request from the Japanese studio. Tokyopop, the English publisher of the manga, refers to him as "England." In one strip he notes that he has an older brother named Scotland. Himaruya has confirmed that England represents both the UK and England, while Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales are his siblings. Among England's other 'relations' are Sealand, a micronation whom England considers to be an annoying little brother due to his continued attempts to get other countries to recognise him as an independent country. England's voice actor is Noriaki Sugiyama, and his English voice actor is Scott Freeman.
France is a romantic and carefree character. In the series, he is shown to have a long-held rivalry with Britain. Parodying the cliché of the romantic French, France makes sometimes romantic passes at many characters. France explains away his military defeats by attributing them to a joke from God. He regards himself as the eldest brother among the European nations and is actually referred to as such by some of them, though he calls Spain his elder brother in turn. However, he gets very upset when another nation refers to him as an 'old man', as he claims he's still young. He wears a long blue cape with a capelet over his coat and a red pants, brown boots and a belt worn over his coat. When he is happy, the way he laughs is intended to be a stereotype of him being French (in English dub only). He is voiced by Masaya Onosaka in Japanese and J. Michael Tatum in English.
Russia is a large nation who at first appears to be innocent and sweet, but is mentally cracked from the strain of his bloody history. He adores vodka and sunflowers. His primary target of resentment is General Winter, because despite using the cold to his advantage in war, he is also attacked by him every year. Despite his brutalities towards others, he truly means well and wants to live with everyone in a warm place surrounded by sunflowers. The other nations are terrified of him, especially the Baltic Trio (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia). He also has two sisters: his older sister is Ukraine who is kind but easily upset, while his younger sister Belarus absolutely terrifies him. He becomes gloomy and depressed when either of them is on his mind because Ukraine left him to try to make friends in the European Union and Belarus is obsessed with the idea of forcing him to marry her. Russia happily promises that eventually "all will become one with Russia". Another favorite phrase is "kolkolkolkol", used when he is angered. Russia is often seen carrying a water faucet pipe (may be a gas pipe, as a reference to Russia's monopoly on energy exports to European nations, including Poland). Poland is not afraid of him, owing to their shared history of territorial conflicts. He is voiced by Yasuhiro Takato in Japanese and Jerry Jewell in English.
China is one of the oldest nations, depicted as nigh-immortal and over four thousand years old (which makes him the oldest living character in the series). He is disturbed and distrustful of Russia, reflecting the Sino-Soviet split that actually occurred after the war. He is a big fan of Hello Kitty (which Japan gave him) and tends to end his sentences with the suffix -aru, a Japanese stereotype of how Chinese people speak. However, he replaces the customary -aru with the suffix -ahen, which means opium, when speaking to England, as a reference to the Opium Wars. After China's defeat in the Opium War, he became the cook for England and France. During the fight between the Axis and Allies, China fights Germany and Japan with a Wok (round cooking pan) and ladle, which became his weapon of choice that also serves the stereotype that China serves good food. China's boss was introduced as a green Chinese dragon with an intimidating appearance, but in reality, he is quite relaxed and moderate as well as shown to be bullied by China in a comedic way. China is often depicted speaking with pandas. He is voiced by Yuki Kaida in Japanese and Clarine Harp in English.
The original Hetalia: Axis Powers web comic was adapted into five tankōbon and published by Gentosha Comics under the manga imprint Birz Extra. The first volume was released on March 28, 2008, the second on December 10, 2008, the third on May 20, 2010,the fourth on June 30, 2011, and the fifth on July 31, 2012. Every tankōbon except the first were released as a standard edition and a special edition that included an extra small booklet.
In January 2009 Anime News Network reported that the series would also begin serialization in Gentosha's seinenmanga magazineComic Birz starting in the April issue, but this was later announced to be a publishing error. The Gentosha press release on which ANN had based their article actually referred a new series by Himaruya, Chibisan Date.Amazon.com has listed Hetalia: Axis Powers as being licensed by Tokyopop for a North American release, with the first volume released on September 21, 2010. After Tokyopop withdrew from the English language market in 2011, Right Stuf has been publishing the Hetalia manga in English since May 2012. On July 7th, 2013, Tokyopop announced via their Facebook page that Tokyopop and Right Stuf are teaming up to being out Hetalia Volumes 4 and 5 in Winter 2013. 
Hetalia: Axis Powers has been adapted into a series of drama CDs, and so far nine have been released. An independently produced CD that was recorded prior to voice casting of the anime (Axis Powers Hetalia: The CD) was released on September 14, 2008. The first official CD (Hetalia Drama CD: Prologue) was released on August 29, 2008, the second (Hetalia Drama CD: Volume 1) on October 24, 2008, the third (Hetalia Drama CD: Prologue 2) on December 29, 2008, the fourth (Hetalia Drama CD: Volume 2) on June 3, 2009, the fifth (Hetalia Drama CD Interval Vol.1: The CD Of The Awesome Me) on August 15, 2009, the sixth (Hetalia Fantasia) on August 27, 2009, the seventh (Hetalia Drama CD Interval Vol.2: Boss CD) on December 8, 2010, and the eighth (Hetalia Fantasia 2) on December 10, 2010. A ninth official Drama CD based on the Gakuen Hetalia PSP game was released in 2011.
An anime adaptation of Hetalia: Axis Powers was announced on July 24, 2008. It is directed by Bob Shirohata (Gravitation, Diamond Daydreams) and is animated by Studio Deen. It was originally scheduled for broadcast on Kids Station on January 24, 2009 but was later canceled. The cancellation only affected the Kids Stations broadcasts; plans to make the series available through mobile phone and Internet streaming were not affected. The controversies arose when numerous Korean protesters called for the cancellation of the series, claiming that the personified character of Korea was an insulting representation of Koreans. Kids Station claimed that the Korea character does not appear in the anime and that it was "unaware of the criticism in Korea," and cited "various circumstances" as being behind the decision to cancel its airing of the anime, but they did not provide further information as to the nature of these circumstances. A second 26-episode season of Hetalia: Axis Powers was announced on April 16, 2009, and a third was announced on December 10, 2009. As of March 7, 2010, the title of the anime has been changed to Hetalia: World Series. A fourth season had been announced for Hetalia and premiered on September 10, 2010. This season featured the new characters Denmark and Norway.
On January 8, 2010, Funimation announced it had acquired the rights to release the first and second seasons of Hetalia in the United States and Canada. Funimation later began streaming Hetalia on their website, Hulu, and YouTube with Japanese audio and English subtitles and announced that characters would have accents in the English dub. Via Twitter, Funimation clarified that the series was rated TV-MA due to "some instances of profanity, crude humor and adult situations", and that they base ratings on entire series rather than individual episodes. The first DVD was released on September 14, 2010. Funimation have announced at Otakon 2010, that they have the license the Hetalia World Series and will simulcast the episodes and release them on DVD in 2011. In the UK, the series will be distributed by Manga Entertainment.
Certain Animate stores will carry Hetalia-themed Purikura booths for a limited time, with a total of 10 anime sticker options.
The fifth season of Hetalia, titled Hetalia: The Beautiful World, was announced in the November 2012 edition of Comic Birz. It was announced that it would be produced by a new staff and utilize a new illustrative style. Romania also appeared as a new character. On June 21, 2013, Hetalia: The Beautiful World concluded. It will later be released in English.
A feature-length animated film adaptation was announced on September 23, 2009, and was released on June 5, 2010. The film is entitled Paint it, White! and the eight main characters as well as supporting characters such as Liechtenstein, Sealand, Prussia, Finland, Cuba, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Romano, Belarus, Ukraine, Greece, Poland, Canada, Iceland and Baltics are set to appear in the film - the main plot of the movie involves a vast majority of characters being transformed into grey-white faceless aliens called Pictonians. At Otakon 2010, Funimation Entertainment announced the license of the film. The English dubbed version made its premiere at the Anime Weekend Atlanta convention, taking place from September 30 to October 2, 2011. It was released on November 22, 2011, and each DVD came with a green bandana as a bonus.
A single-player video game based on the anime titled Gakuen Hetalia Portable(学園ヘタリア Portable?, lit. Academy Hetalia Portable) of the action/adventure-comic genre was released on March 24, 2011 on the PlayStation Portable in Japan. It was developed by Otomate and published by Idea Factory.
Both volumes of the printed manga version of Hetalia: Axis Powers have topped The New York Times manga best seller list. Volume 1 topped the list on October 10, 2010, and Volume 2 topped the list on January 16, 2011. Volume 1 has been in the top ten for twenty-one weeks and Volume 2 for fourteen weeks.
Readers reviews of the British magazine NEO gave positive to mixed reviews for the anime version. One reviewer, Ellis Wylam, said that: "The animation is very colourful and cheery, and makes you astonished how they managed to create something so hilarious, fun, light-hearted and enjoyable out of a World War." However, Wylam also said that: "Unfortunately, some jokes (particularly in the first episodes) didn't make me laugh hysterically 'laugh out loud', as much as was expecting when I bought the DVD. However, the humour seemed to develop in later episodes, making you give out giggles that translate as "did he actually just say that?!"
The second reviewer, Lara Garnermann, said that: "Hetalia is an extremely intelligently written anime, suited to anyone with an interest in world history or international politics, and of course anyone who wants to laugh for 26 episodes straight." However, the third reviewer, Rohan 'Amuro' Hine, was more critical saying: "It is a very funny series, but a lot of jokes will go over your head, due to Japan having different stereotypes than us. For example, while we think the French are white flag waving cowards, in this, it's Italy who is the coward, and hides behind Germany for protection. And some jokes can go over your head if you don't have a PHD in history as well."
A review for the second season of Hetalia, also in NEO by Matt Kamen gave the DVD of the season four stars, each for the program and the DVD extras. Kamen wrote that: "Despite its risqué jokes and abundance of national stereotypes, Hetalia thankfully manages to stay on just the right side of casual comedy racism - maybe that's why we don't feel too bad laughing uproariously at the dub, particularly Japan's heavy "Engrish" accent! It's best not to ask too many questions of this show - instead, just sit back and enjoy while Hetalia conquers your world."
Hetalia won the 2011 NEO Award for "Best Manga" in a public vote.
Fans of the series have spawned a yearly meetup titled "Hetalia Day" where fans gather at various locations to celebrate the series. The meetup started in 2009 and every year since then, coinciding with United Nations Day (October 24) or the weekend closest to it if UN Day falls on a weekday.