Review: Hetalia The World Twinkle (DVD)

Hetalia The World Twinkle is the sixth season of a web comic adapted into an anime about the countries of the world as living, breathing people. While the ‘people’ part of that sentence may be up for debate as they don’t seem to age that much, and when they do it’s sporadic at best, the series fluctuates between presenting interesting historical and cultural events with the countries involved personified as people, while also presenting mundane every day activities of characters who don’t seem all that interested in politics despite representing entire nations. I’ve described the series in a very dry tone, which it really isn’t despite its somewhat historical basis. But after reading the back of the DVD box and having to read the word ‘squee’ twice, six years of my life have disappeared, three years a piece, and I’m not in the mood to be frivolous.

Hetalia The World Twinkle is made up of VERY short episodes, five minutes apiece and without much plot structure between them. The exceptions to this are some episodes set in Africa during World War II and a brief stint with the Micro-nations as they look for more friends, but other wise expect to be thrown around the historical timeline a lot. The episodes are short, sporadic, and without much connective tissue in between, just like the web comic Hetalia The World Twinkle is based on. So don’t come into this show thinking you’ll get a play by play of any specific historical events. If you ARE interested in the historical factoids the series does have, make sure your finger is hovering over the pause button because the walls of text about army rations and such are on screen for less than a second.

I watched the series in Japanese first, and then English. I personally prefer Japanese because the series tends to emphasise the historical tidbits and is generally more toned down, but both version are fine (although the Funimation dub’s humour is sometimes cruder). That being said, if you watch the episode ‘Davie’, please watch it in Japanese. ‘Davie’ is an episode that attempts to examine what it might actually be like to be a nation as they are portrayed in the Hetalia universe- representing a whole country of people and essentially being ageless. It’s a serious change of pace from the other episodes with very few spoken lines, and some music playing in the background as the story unfolds. So please watch it in Japanese, because there is nothing more distracting than watching this episode and hearing an adult’s voice come out of baby America’s mouth.

The humour in Hetalia The World Twinkle fluctuates from absurdist to loud. Unfortunately, much of it relies on either knowing the relationships between the characters (if this is your first jaunt into the Hetalia series then you’re fresh out of luck because they won’t be explained to you) or accepting the absurdist premise and not being put off by the premise of the show itself. I’ll admit I laughed hard when England was chasing Italy in an African desert, screaming that he couldn’t outrun the glorious, pasty white legs of the British Empire, BUT that was one of the few jokes that worked for me.

Hetalia’s saving grace and biggest detriment is that it is not satirical. Rather than commenting on broad sociopolitical issues or sensitive historical topics, it instead spends time showing personified nations of the world attending Halloween parties and (in a strange twist of events) as cats discussing canned cat food trade agreements. This makes the series light-hearted and fun, but means it cannot offer any thoughtful opinions on actual significant historical and cultural events which are sometimes the topics of the episodes. It certainly tries to be serious every now and again, and it even works sometimes, but if you’re looking for a series that offers historical and social critique Hetalia The World Twinkle isn’t the show for you. If you don’t mind a series that focuses on historical factoids through humanised countries that are primarily European, blonde, and male, then sure, give it a go. You may learn something neat about army rations during World War II and the assortment of Micro-nations that exist (two of the characters in this season are actually Australian, but be prepared to cringe at the accents) and there’s even an over the top sense of humour that might get a laugh out of you every now and again. You will know immediately if Hetalia The World Twinkle is for you once you hear the premise, and if the idea of history being told from the perspective of conventionally attractive, over the top, human shaped nations that shout a lot doesn’t interest you in the slightest, maybe this is one to skip.

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A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.