Hello and welcome back to Otaku Thursday! Today we’re going to be throwing back to a phenomenon that swept the otaku nation. I’m talking about none other than: Hetalia Axis Powers. Why though? Honestly, because it popped into my head ago–quite literally. Like I started humming Marukaite Chikyuu. Out. Of. Nowhere. Now, I was a big fan of Hetalia in the wayback–wayback meaning back in 2009 leading into the early 2010’s when it got its huge international BOOM.
Everyone was cosplaying Hetalia. You would see a million cosplayers at con, a ton of amazing artwork, Hetalia voice actors dominated guest lists, and pretty much anyone who was into anime had at least heard of Hetalia. The business was booming. The popularity of a show that took world history and applied it to good-looking anime characters in a short, gag-like episode format was beyond successful. Yet the show? Poked fun at so many different countries and their stereotypes in the process. Sometimes I wonder–how in the world did it ever become so popular? I feel like if it had come out in 2020, with so many toxic woke people (not to say being woke is bad–it’s a good thing, but some people take it too far), there’s no way Hetalia would’ve survived more than one season. But back then people LOVED it. Despite the stereotypes. And I always thought it was because it wasn’t doing it mean-naturedly. It wasn’t feeding into one stereotype to make a single country look bad. It poked fun at everyone. And honestly? That’s what made it so great. Laughter truly makes the world unite.
But Hetalia as a show was much more than just comedy, fun, and stereotypes. Because the truth of the matter was that Hetalia was always grounded in world history (well, at first). Despite the many jokes, I actually learned a lot of about world history–which was great because when Hetalia first came on the scene in 2009, I was taking world history as a high school class. And I kid you not–that show actually helped. Sounds stupid right? But what little history it did teach us, stuck with me–and believe me when I say I was the person who was most surprised when it ended up coming in handy on my final exams. Random facts and prominent years–all stored in my mind due to an anime. And I know I wasn’t the only one that it helped–I know it helped some other kids too. Genius.
But of course like all good and popular anime–you either hated it or you loved it. Haters were strong and would really REALLY hate it. An annoyance surely when it was all you saw anywhere for a good year or two. And those that loved it? Got obsessed. I like to say Hetalia was probably the OG chaotic fandom–the leader in what would be many chaotic fandoms to follow. Sometimes the chaos was fun, but untamed–chaos always turns sour. Because yes–as fun and enlightening and kind the Hetalia fandom could be…there were parts of that rotted away into a toxic mess. Thus was born the toxic part of the Hetalia fandom. For as many people who knew stereotypes were simply stereotypes and not information to base real interaction on–some Hetalia fans began to take those stereotypes as truth. Russians carried crowbars and loved violence. American’s only ate hamburgers and they all were obnoxious. Japanese were all quiet and withdrawn and secret otaku. Italians were all airheads that loved pasta. The stereotypes continued on for every country introduced…and the way that people began to take all of Hetalia as truth made the show, and I believe in turn the fandom, rot away like grapes on a vine. It kept rolling out new seasons, but the fandom quieted over time. I like to think it’s because the longer the show went, the less grounded in history it might have become–and thus the magic of Hetalia had faded. It could also be that in truth, they had glossed over all the important historic events and thus had caught up with modern-ish times. OR maybe quite the opposite took place and it covered so much actual history that the gags died down and it became less funny. Or maybe it was just because the fandom outgrew the humor of the show. But the fact of the matter is it did fade away, but it was still great while it lasted. It was, after all, historic and it always will be. Personally, I really did like the show for a bit and it was one of the only things I ever made an MMV for (and now I want to die because it’s still up on YouTube on an account I can no longer access. SMH).
ANYWAY–Were any of you part of the Hetalia fandom? Do you know anyone who is still part of the fandom? I would love to talk to someone still into or who have just discovered it for the first time. Does it still hold up? The questions are endless. I look forward to if I hear any responses. Anyway, that’s all for this Otaku Thursday!
P.S. I heard Hetalia may be making an anime comeback? Will the fandom return? Are you psyched? Are the rumors true?!