Hetalia is a series that I had come to enjoy over the course of 52 bite-sized episodes, for a number of reasons. I was a fan of the stereotypically quirky characters that each embody a different country, the historical nods, and the context notes that often made me a bit more historically aware. It’s by no means an excellent series by my standards, but it was worth the laughs that I got out of it. How does the movie compare to the series?
Not very well, I’d say. The film tries to transform a show composed of several mini-skits within each 5-minute episode into a full-length movie. The movie adaptation attempts a plot, something that was rarely attempted within the show, through the creation of ambiguous alien invaders. The premise of the movie revolves around these invaders, and their transformation of the earth and it’s people into white blobs. This forces the axis and allied countries to band together, which I suppose was the ultimate reasoning behind the appearance of Aliens in a comedy series that typically reflects, references, or parodies history.
Now, what I came to expect from the series was rather sparse in the movie. Humor. I can honestly say that I only laughed a few times in the movie, whereas each episode of the show was good for at least a chuckle. Sadly, one of the funniest gags was a running gag from the series that involved Italy’s white flag, rather than a creation of the movie itself. Indeed, several of the jokes seem to be carried over from the series. History itself is also lacking, as very little can be seen in the film, and the contextual notes that I appreciated so much are non-existent (aside from one in a clip from the show)
This leads me to what is perhaps my biggest beef with the film. About 5 minutes in, I realized that what I was watching was familiar. Very familiar. It was so familiar because I had seen it before; it was a direct clip from the show. It turned out that the rest of the movie was laden with these direct clips as well. About halfway through, I started timing these clips and the distance between them, and I was kind of shocked. Both clips of the film and clips from the show ranged from 2-6 minutes, and they would alternate. It’s entirely possible that up to half of the film was composed of old material, with how these shots alternated. At the very least, old clips composed an unsettling amount of the movie. It’s obvious that a full-length film couldn’t be made, and that these scenes are just there to boost the running time.
If I had to name a redeeming factor of the set, it would have to be the extras. It comes with a bet more than the FUNimation standard. There are quite a few notes that explain subtle references in the movie, as well as a commentary that I have yet to check out. Unfortunately, the most entertaining of the set so far would have to be the 3 minutes of bloopers. Watching voice actors flub their lines and swear their hearts out is always great.
Overall, the movie isn’t terrible, but it isn’t very good either. Fans of the series will see quite a bit of re-used material distributed throughout a weak plot. Non-fans will be confused, as they see confusing clips spontaneously interrupt a loose narrative without any warning. The film is best on the shelves of collectors that have to fill a gap in their collection. Otherwise, it should probably be ignored.