Otakon2011: "Hetalia Paint it, White" - Premiere Press Screening
I’ve always had rather strong reservations about Hetalia. Not really because it is blunt with its material but because I didn’t think I would find the same jokes funny when they are used over and over again. The short episode length format was a smart move by the creators; for I feel silly in-your-face humor is best taken in small dosages. Unfortunately, this idea becomes nullified in the wake of a movie, Hetalia Paint it, White.
Hetalia takes the countries of the world and turns them into people that embody each nation’s ideals and culture to the best of their ability. This of course means taking the most outrageous stereotypes and utilizing them to their fullest potential in various situations that the characters get themselves into. In Hetalia Paint it, White Earth finds itself in trouble when an alien race (known as Pict) attacks and decides to take away all of the color from the world, leaving it emotionless and devoid of any similarities. The characters must put their differences aside and come together, a task much easier said than done.
The great thing about Hetalia is that it is very self-aware of what it is doing. The show isn’t hiding the fact that it is completely ridiculous and out of control, and instead it embraces this quality. Any viewer going into this series (or movie) should quickly realize what they are getting themselves into. Naturally this is going to drive certain viewers away, but at this point Hetalia has such a strong fan base it doesn’t matter. Another positive that deserves to be noted is that the references within the world of Hetalia are actually clever and sometimes very subtle. Laugh all you want, but Hetalia is not just about outrageous stereotypes being played out. The plot of the movie mixes well with the silly atmosphere of the show, with rainbow clouds floating around the world taking away the color from everything—an interesting take on the alien invasion for sure. For the most part the movie remains solid in the beginning. It is pretty funny to watch all of the characters panic as their plans fail one after the other and subsequently end up blaming each other. The ending itself is also satisfying, which was surprising because I genuinely did not know how the movie was going to end (and feared it would be a bad ending).
There are a number of things you shouldn’t do with comedy, and one of them is bore the audience. Frankly I am just not sure if Hetalia works in a movie format, because by the second half of Hetalia Paint it, White I found myself rather bored. The jokes had gotten stale (with a few good chuckles here and there) and the antics had just dragged on long enough. This is particularly evident when each nation tries to convince the Pict why the Earth should not be “destroyed.” In case you didn’t know, there are quite a few nations featured in Hetalia so this inevitably became a tedious task that slowed the plot down way too much. There is a lot of useless “filler” that could have been cut out of the movie.
To someone who is not terribly familiar with Hetalia the number of characters involved within the story is somewhat overwhelming. My problems with the second half of the plot stem largely from the fact that there are just too many characters, all of which have to contribute something. This results in a lot of jumping back and forth between areas, situations and characters dealing with one another. It is a lot to take in, and the comedy gets watered down due to the constant joking. Hetalia Paint it, White might have worked better by keeping the focus on just a select few characters, with others entering the fray every now and then. I do have to say that America, Japan and Russia were the stand-outs of this movie, producing the most laughter due to just how perfectly they represent their nations (a feature I am sure is true of the show as well). Just to note: if you get easily offended or can’t take a joke, Hetalia is not the series for you, because it has no problems with pushing the envelope.
I typically expect a comedy series to have less-than-desired animation, but Hetalia Paint it, White is actually pretty top-notch in terms of quality. The character designs flesh out the dramatic nature of all the characters. The design of the Pict also added to the humor, especially when a mob of them are running down a hallway trying to capture the intruders. I wish the editing had been taken down a bit, because the cutting back and forth between scenes became a bit too “in your face” at times. Credit also needs to be given to the voice actors, who all do an impressive job at pulling off the exaggerated accents to truly bring their characters to life.
In the end, Hetalia fans are definitely going to flock to this movie and they most likely will find the entire film hilarious. They’ve put up with the same jokes for plenty of episodes, so I am sure they can do the same with a film. That sounds cynical but it is true, and Hetalia has become a phenomenon that I am not sure I fully grasp. I can take the comedy in small doses, with episodes here and there in their normal, short format. Hetalia Paint it, White does have a lot of comedic moments, ranging from small smirks to full on laughs-out-louds. Had it been cut forty minutes shorter, perhaps it wouldn’t have gotten boring.