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.
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.