A manga in which the 40 countries that participated in World War II are personified in a highly satirical way as high school kids hardly seems a likely candidate to become the next big thing from Japan, but there is no doubt that Hidekaz Himaruya’s Hetalia: Axis Powers has already become a cosplay sensation and gives every indication that it will be this year’s equivalent of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or perhaps even a cult hit of even greater magnitude. Next Tuesday the rubber hits the road as Funimation will release the Hetalia Season 1 anime series, and the first volume of the Hetalia manga follows on September 21st (though it has been available for a month online at Tokyopop’s Zinio site). ICv2 caught up with Cindy Suzuki, Tokyopop’s product manager for Hetalia and asked her about Tpop’s plans for the brand.
Have you planned any cross promotion of the Hetalia manga and anime with Funimation?
Yes, we have. We’ve been working closely with Funimation, and they’ve been such a great partner for quite a while now. We’re actually doing a bunch of fun social media contests and activities next week with lots of neat and exclusive Hetalia prizes provided by Funimation. Check out the Tokyopop Facebook page for more details to come (www.facebook.com/Tokyopop).
How has the response at Zinio been to offering the digital version of Volume #1 for $5.99? How does it compare with other T-Pop titles available on Zinio?
Hetalia definitely has a huge fanbase so it’s off to a good start. The Zinio program is great because through well-known brands like Hetalia, we can bring about more awareness to our other favorite titles.
Do you have an updated total for the number of participants in the Hetalia cosplay contest on Facebook?
The final numbers were around 500~600. The contest lasted for about a week. Submissions poured in and didn't stop during that time. We’ll be sure to have other Hetalia-related fan-submissions so be sure to be on the lookout.
Are you anticipating that Hetalia will be Tokyopop’s biggest release of 2010?
It’s probably the title that has the most passionate fanbase in our current lineup so I’m hopeful it will do well. We had a lot of other hits this year like
Do you think it has a chance to be as big as such T-Pop hits as Chobits, Love Hina, or Fruits Basket?
I think Hetalia is a totally different animal. What draws people to Fruits Basket is different from what draws people to something like Hetalia. The market is also very different now so it’s hard to gauge.
Why do you think that Hetalia has developed such a major following so quickly?
It was definitely a combination of things including timing, controversial title/content and a unique, memorable way of storytelling among many other factors that contributed to its success. Hetalia speaks to so many different groups in such a way that’s never been done before. People are extremely amused at how Himaruya-sensei portrays all the different countries and their relationships, and the fans enjoy picking apart what they believe to be true and/or false. Furthermore, being in manga form, the material is friendly and easy to read, but the content is also very deep, very clever and challenges the reader to look into things they either don’t understand, never heard of or don’t agree with.
From the perspective of the Japanese, they absolutely loved how the countries were anthropomorphized into these quirky characters with such strong personalities. It seems this is what they love the most. When I spoke with the Japanese editor of Hetalia, she said it’s the first time Japanese people have seen anything like this. She also said that
Do you plan to put out any ancillary Hetalia products? Vol. 2 is set for December, when is Vol. 3 due?
We’d definitely like to put out ancillary Hetalia products. We actually created a promotional “Hetalia Flag” for the Tokyopop Tour, and they were insanely popular. Fans go crazy over it, especially because you can’t buy it. We’d love to put out more products like this and other Hetalia-related publications. Stay tuned. And yes, Volume Two is set for the end of December, and Volume Three should hit stands in June 2011.