Hetalia is an interesting success story. It began as a webmanga by Himaruya Hidekaz. Due to its popularity, it was adapted into a manga and published by Gentosha. This was quickly followed up by an anime version by Studio Deen and the series is still going strong. It’s on it’s fourth anime series, had a PSP game, a movie and a ton of merchandise. I may do a proper review of one or more of the series eventually, we’ll see. That being said, I do have reservations about the film. The anime themselves are made up of short episodes that are made up of a series of short sketches, which may or may not be connected to each other, based on historical and political subjects. With a five minute runtime per episode, that kind of thing can work. However, this film is slightly over an hour and a quarter long. How could it possibly maintain the aesthetic of the series? And even if they do manage, is it really a good idea to do so for that long or does it overstay its welcome? Let’s look at Hetalia: Paint it White and find out.
A group of aliens invades Earth with the intent of turning all of humanity into faceless, bland looking beings like themselves. Our main group of countries, America, England, China, Russia, France, Japan, Deutschland and Italy meet to discuss the situation while Canada is in the room going unnoticed because that’s pretty much Canada’s schtick in the series. The group immediately starts arguing and goes their separate ways to try to fight the aliens off on their own, or surrender to them in the case of Italy. Shenanigans quickly ensue.
The major problem with the film is that the main plot is really stupid. Which could work for the franchise, but it’s also largely devoid of funny moments. There are a few but it’s mostly just uninteresting and dull. They also clearly didn’t have enough ideas for what to do with it since it’s padded with a large amount of short gags. It wouldn’t be so bad, except that all the short gags they pad it out with are ones taken directly from the anime proper. They seriously were so devoid of ideas that they couldn’t even come up with original jokes for the film. They had to take jokes wholesale from the series. That’s pretty inexcusable even if the padding gags are the funniest part of the film.
They include all the standard Hetalia characters and give most of the side characters small cameo appearances, at least. The trouble is that they don’t really take advantage of them. They have a really zany cast in the main series and yet most of them ultimately do very little and a lot of the character gags they do have are just recycled running gags that you could get by watching the main series.
The artwork does look like the series and it looks pretty good. My only real issue is with the aliens and their technology. They look really bland and their flying saucers look equally boring, inside and out. I guess that’s supposed to provide tension since these dull beings want to replace all of these zany and visually interesting characters with boring carbon copies of themselves, but therein lies the problem. We know that it’s not going to happen because it’s a comedy and not anything resembling serious. Even if the comedy does fall short. Studio Deen could have at least given us something visually interesting to look at under the circumstances.
If you’ve seen Hetalia then you know what to expect from the actors. The performances veer into over-exaggeration quite a bit but they’re all solidly done and they do suit the characters. The music is pretty good as well with the same style that you’d expect if you’d seen the series.
Italy and Deutschland get quite a bit of homo-eroticism. To the point where one of the other countries comments on it. There’s also a little bit between England and France, playing up to their love/hate relationship.
As someone who generally likes Hetalia, this film is a major disappointment. Most of the jokes that work are directly taken from the main series and used for padding. Trying to have a longer story could have worked, but not with the execution they have here. They simply don’t take advantage of the comedic potential of the situation or of the individual characters. What you ultimately get is a stupid, lazy film that doesn’t even seem to be trying. My final rating for it is a 3/10. If you’re interested in Hetalia, I would recommend watching one of the main series and just skipping the movie since all the really funny bits are in the series proper anyway. I’ll continue film festival week tomorrow with a look at Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo.