Friday, May 29, 2009

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:

28 comments:

  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.

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    1. The National Socialists weren't much worse than the Western Allies, and positively saintly compared to the Bolsheviks...

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  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!

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  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! :D Oh my, it's certainly too long, isn't it. Oh dear... Anyway, glad to read your article! I (obviously) fully agree :)


    Zed

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  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!

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  5. StringedSonata: Thanks! :D

    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 XD 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?

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  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.

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  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.

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  8. I loved this article. That's all I can really say. Stick it to those people who open their big mouths without even knowing what they're talking about! Personally, I think the show's a perfectly fine interpretation of history; it actually helped me remember some facts for my history class.

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  9. I'm glad Korea isn't going to be in it. I don't like the racist imagery towards Korea. He wants all cultures to himself, this is a racist stereotype towards Koreans from Japanese racists. during WW2 Japan destroyed and stole Korea's culture, and now this manga is implying Korea is simply stealing cultures. Aniki is not a word as friendly as brother as is implied in the manga. it's more accurate to having a comic book where they portray blacks inferior to whites, and the black person calling the white's "Master" Japan denies raping and murdering thousands of Koreans and people are calling the victims of rape and murder childish for not "getting over it" even though these words are coming from people who were never raped or have mothers and grandmothers who were never raped or murdered. the manga implies Dokdo island (Korean territory) is truly Japan's territory but Korea tries to claim it for themselves (grabbing Japan's breasts) if it were Japan grabbing Korea's breast then Japan would have been pissed. Korea wears the Japanese flag. this is an insult to Koreans. the current Korean flag is not the original. because Japan destroyed it along with alot of their culture. Korea is chilish and never matures in Hetalia. Japan before Korea was freed banned any modernization in Korea the manga portrays this as Korea not being able to mature on his own because Koreans are childish. Korea may be all cheerfull and stuff. but he always tries to claim stuff for himself. always talks about himself, and is a pervert. (perverts aren't a problem in Korea but they are in Japan, why isn't Japan perverted?) Japan betrayed Korea before WW2, why is Japan loyal and kind. Japan can't apoligize for what they did in WW2 and won't teach about that part of history in their text books. why are they portrayed as kind and cool? other countries weren't abused by Japan like Korea was, sure China was raped and murdered, but they still have all of their culture and Japan acknowledges what they did to China. so Korea had the right to protest against Hetalia. if you still want to deny this and say nothing will change if Korea doesn't get over it. then I will say Japan must first apologize before anything can change. it seems people hold Japan to a different set of rules just cause they give them their anime and stuff. they let them get away with stuff they wouldn't let others get away with. but I don't buy that. if it's something that shouldn't be taken seriously it should be based on a subject that is very serious.

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  10. Hmm... Maybe. I don't really get why they emphasize the "copycat" element of Korea (I do get it, such as the Yakult). I mean, I see Korea more as an angry guy proud to the point of hating on others rather than a breast-groping incestuous guy who actively steals (after all, Korea got its originals). If that should be the case, I definitely believe the nasty side of every country should be presented: Japan hiding its war crimes for instance (maybe less so with the active political ploy of apology to Korea in the China-Japan dispute over some islands).

    As the anonymous guy said above, freedom of speech DOES include the freedom to protest and freedom to exclude. I defend APH, although I also push for revision: make Korea perhaps deluded or angry (and henceforth make it more neutral Japan-wise) rather than use it to beef up Japanese ego.

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  11. I agree with your article in every way. I don't have anything else to say on that matter <3

    ~Axelai

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  12. I've just stumbled across this post on the internet by chance, and wow :D *applauds*! Everything you've just said is completely spot on, and you've put the anti-offensive argument for Hetalia just too brilliantly for words! I personally would find it hard to be offended by Hetalia, not just because of Himurya's tactful avoidance of sensitive areas, but I'd find it hard to be offended by something that is done in such good natured humour. Hetalia satirises history and different national stereotypes, but it's never malicous or vindictive. It's not about laughing at and taking the piss out of other cultures, but rather joking about stereotypes - under the full understanding that STEREOTYPES is all they are. Yes, Italy may eat pasta for all three meals of the day, and Russia may not be able to function without vodka, but it's poking fun at the stereotypes, not making a statement about actual Italians or Russians, or doing it under the ignorant assumption that those stereotypes are actually true. I can only think of one joke in the whole of Hetalia that kind of offended me, and that one wasn't race related, but rather a somewhat dodgey strip that was cut out of the start of Chibitalia. I can also sort of see why Korea got upset, but I do think that was blown out of proportion. I think the thing to remember about Hetalia is that it is all done in good natured humour, and I think it's more about celebrating different cultures than laughing at them.

    ~Hoshiko_2000

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  13. i know im late to this post but there are specific incidents in this anime where they make jokes about the holocaust...
    Italy: I got you a gift!
    Germany: Another jew?
    ------------------------------------------------
    Germany: Dont make me turn you into an experiment.

    Do your research bud....

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  14. Italy: I got you a gift!
    Germany: Another jew?
    ------------------------------------------------
    Germany: Dont make me turn you into an experiment

    these sentences offended me too but they only exist in the english version of the anime! japanese manga and anime are totally without hints of holocaust or (orrible)jokes about jew and nazism, blame funanimation for this not the original series!

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  15. This one person was saying something about Hetalia and Nazi and I said, "but Germany wasn't necessarily a nazi". Her: Then explain why he wears a nazi uniform. I gave her explanations of why she's wrong, but I was like, woooowwww, you're retarded.

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    1. Thats a traditional German style Uniform, similar to those used by the Reichswehr (Weimar Germany), Wehrmacht (during Nazi Germany but not part of the Nazi Party), Nationale Volksarmee (Commie prussia). The Waffen SS, a bona fide party organ, also used dark collar uniforms but that was not as prevalent.

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  16. Oh. My. God. Every one who is picking out the racism on the countries needs to STFU!! Every contry in this anime gets a piece of it. Even Japan. and The creator is Japanese! Its not like only one country is being picked on. Its a joke. Im sure all of you have made stereotypical jokes about racism before so dont be so hypocritical. Its just an anime. Its not real. Its for entertainment. And as for Korea, I like Im Yung Soo the way he is! No I dont really think he depicts the actual country but he is one of my most favored characters in the anime. America is a total dumbass but i dont care, and im american. so quite hatin!!

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  17. I can actually answer your question about why Axis Powers Hetalia gets criticized where "The Great Dictator" and "Hellsing" don't. You said it yourself: Hellsing "is a Japanese series that has Nazis in it. Actual Nazis." However, the Nazis are also depicted as the villains of the story, rather than (as some people understandably read "Hetalia", accurately or not) as simply going out and about and getting into lighthearted, largely blameless scuffles with the other countries during World War II. That's what "makes Hetalia so awful" -- if it were the same thing, then they would be treated the same way.

    Mind you, I like the anime, I enjoy history, and I've heard good things about the source material in the interim, but there are reasons that "Hetalia" gets picked out like this.

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  18. In one of the episodes, they had France and Britain making up and then spreading rumors about Germany having concentration camps therefore implying that those were fake and made up. I stopped watching it after I saw that 'cause I was really disgusted.

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    1. In context, that was before they found out that said camps actually existed (and MUCH worse than the propaganda). And what made it all the more haunting was that it was pretty much based on what the Allies actually did for propaganda reasons.

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  19. Well, Nanking WAS KMT propaganda...

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    1. Tell that to the victims.

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    2. You are a terrible person.

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  20. Even Nazis weren't all bad people. When my great-grandfather's plane went down in WWII, he was taken prisoner. He claimed to have been the pilot, rather than being executed as a bombadier. One winter night, he escaped from the prison where he was being held. A blizzard was blowing in, and the Nazi soldiers keeping guard over him risked their own lives to go out and hunt for him in the snow, so that he wouldn't freeze to death. He spoke very highly of the guards in his letters home.

    A little OT, but I feel an obligation to let people know that Nazis were not all evil.

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    1. There is a difference between nazis and the rank and file german solders. Your grandfather was probably rescued by the Wehrmacht.

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    2. +1
      I doubt a hardcore party member would be so kind. Or a member of the SS

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  21. FREELY PLAY ANIME FOR EVERYONE AT http://www.anime4you.com/

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