Difference in Perspective: Digital vs. Manga Announcements on Hetalia

I got two press releases on the same subject recently, but it took me a minute to figure out they were talking about the same thing.

Hetalia: Axis Powers Book 1 cover
Hetalia: Axis Powers Book 1
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Tokyopop came first, announcing “Happy Hetalia Day! October 24 — a day for Hetalia fans, by Hetalia fans. How wonderful!” (I had no idea the book had its own holiday as part of the fan culture and cosplaying.) The meat of the announcement was that from now until then, you can download the first chapter of Book 2 through comiXology for free.

That’s a nice teaser, demonstrating that Tokyopop understands the fan culture and is recognizing a day special to them, especially since the print book isn’t due until the end of the year. Then I got the comiXology announcement, which said

To show our appreciation to our community who strongly and loyally supported this series for so long, comiXology in collaboration with TOKYOPOP will be giving away the 7th issue of Hetalia for FREE until October 24th at 11:59pm PST.

Seventh issue? What’s that? I looked more closely at the Tokyopop release, and then it clicked: “Hetalia Volume 2 Chapter 1 (called Issue 7) is available now for download at comiXology!!” Manga volumes don’t fit into an online app designed for American comic issues, so they had to map the books into smaller units based on their chapters. I’d started reading the first book, but the strips are so episodic and scattered, interspersed with other bits of material, that what chapter structure there isn’t obvious.

Language matters. It’s these kinds of small but confusing adjustments that demonstrate who the target audience is, and isn’t. The question of how well digital is suited for longer-form comics, those more mature (or at least lengthier) stories that show better the medium’s potential, is still to be determined.

As for Hetalia itself, I haven’t found myself getting back to it. I found it hard to tell the characters apart and not my kind of humor. As Kate Dacey put it, it seems pointless. I enjoyed reading David Brothers’ take on it more than the material itself.

5 Comments

  1. I feel sort of the same way about Hetalia. While writing that piece, I realized that it works much better as the sort of thing you see occasionally, rather than absorbing in big chunks. Outtakes on sites or “Hey, you’ve got to read this bit!” from friends (which is how I was introduced to the youtubes) seems like the best route. Some of the jokes are great (I really enjoyed the anachronistic Japan jokes), but taken all in a burst, it overstays its welcome a little bit.

  2. Yeah, I wish this had run as a webcomic in translation. They did that with Neko Ramen, and I think it worked well. This would have been another good choice for that.

  3. Probably what could’ve lessened the confusion would’ve been if they announced a free preview of the “seventh Chapter”, instead of issue.

    Likewise, I prefer the anthropomorphication of Afghanis-tan better than the Hetalia version. The historical information is right next to the chibi caricature strips, and is still relevant. One historical fact that I’m sorry to see that was left out was that Canadians and Australians were more feared by the Germans than any other nationality because they were absolutely CRAZY on the battlefield. You’d never guess, given how much of a lightweight they’re considered in world politics nowadays.

  4. The characters are cute in chibi form, but otherwise…it’s not a series I’m wild about.

  5. […] to do so — Viz, for example, has an iPad app, and Tokyopop has been experimenting with various vendors. In fact, I hadn’t previously been aware of Square Enix as a publisher, since their […]

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