I’ll try not to get hyperbolic about this. At the end of the day, it’s just a TV show. If I find it offensive, I can just ignore it and go ahead on my merry way. That’s what I’ve been able to do, so far, outside of the occasional run-in with a rally of pseudo-Nazi cosplayers at conventions. However, I was sent a bunch of HETALIA discs for review, so I’m obligated to comment on this show, at least once.
My comment: this is one of the grossest things I’ve ever watched. A show in the worst taste conceivable. Just the nadir.
If that’s the kind of reaction the creators wanted then, bravo, the joke must be on me. It’d be doubly-fitting because walking by the aforementioned rallies (or group photo sessions) felt like wandering into a really bad joke - - a live performance art piece to parody just how weird otakus can get. Actually watching this show feels like being on the butt end of some really morbid satire that its fans aren’t even in on. It's like SOUTH PARK's targeting anime again this week by coming up with the creepiest premise possible to have otakus getting fanatical about.
Seriously, tell your friends and your family that there’s a show with this (actually advertised) logline - - “Imagine the Axis powers of World War II as a bunch of cute boys.” Then tell them this show actually went ahead and cooked up some screwball jokes about Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany - - I'm sorry, I mean the "cute boys" - - rounding up Jews. Reactions aren’t likely to run the same as those times they shake their heads over HAMTARO. If you want to downplay how real history can still very touchy for very many people, think about a show that gives the same "cute boy" makeover to, oh say... the Ku Klux Klan.
Maybe the show would dodge the issue by asserting itself as satire, but this ain't exactly ANIMAL FARM here. It’s not really criticizing these aggressor regimes, nor even aiming to make much of a point. The creative impulse seems to be about the same as the one that produces slash fan art of Hiei and Kurama; a impish fascination with these big, bad men that sorts itself out by playing with them like Barbie dolls.
I watched about eight or ten micro-episodes (I lost track) because the show’s parceled out in micro installments that sort-of, kind-of evoke "edu-tainment" like SCHOOL HOUSE ROCK that rush through lesson plans as hurriedly as kids' short attention spans can stay along for. This means that the graphic-heavy intro and the outro (where the cute boys do, in fact, goosestep to fanfare) run on screen so many times that you get a taste of what it must have been like to be in the audience of a propagandist brainwashing screening. You know, kind-of like the ones that were typical in the eras these cute boys are supposed to evoke.
The repetition made me feel a little dizzy. Enough to make me finally follow through on an urge to puke that I'd had from the moment I started watching this horseshit. What a terrible, tone-deaf joke.