While Hetalia’s “older teen”-rated humor is steeped in broad stereotypes, the exaggeration is muted by the artist’s visual decision to make each country handsome young men. (If the personification for Italy had been a rotund caricature of Benito Mussolini, for instance, the jokes would have a whole different feel.) Himaruya’s art, originally done for web comic publication, occasionally appears a bit washed out on the page, which works against some of the characters’ expressions at times. Much like Neko Ramen, the first volume shifts between four-panel vertical gag strips and short stories that are laid out in full-page comics format. In general, the latter strips prove more engaging since the artist provides them with a stronger sense of time and space. In “America Cleans Out His Storage Room,” for example, we’re shown the Yankee personification as he gets rid of the gifts that England gave him as a child: there’s an evocative flashback to the War of Independence that goes beyond simple gag work.
But make no mistake, silly simple jokes are Hetalia’s primary reason for being. Nothing wrong with that. Just don’t plan on using this book if you’re writing a paper for history class, kids. . .