Otakon 2011: Hetalia – Bob Shirohata and Sasanuma Akira panel

Shirohata Bob has directed various well loved series such as Gravitation, Diamond Daydreams, Let’s Dance With Papa and the smash hit series, Hetalia Axis Powers, Hetalia World Series and Hetalia the Movie, Paint it, White!.

Sasanuma Akira has lent his voice to many wonderful anime and game titles over the years, Some of his most well known roles include Link from the Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess and Super Smash Bros., Dearka Elsman in the Mobile Suit Gundam SeeD Series, and as Austria in the internationally beloved Hetalia Axis Powers, Hetalia World Series and Hetalia the Movie, Paint it, White! ~Otakon guest info

The panel opened with Sasanuma Akira apologizing for not being able to speak in English.

    Sasanuma: I apologize in advance that neither Bob nor I speak English and we don’t have much of a listening comprehension for it.

    Shirohata: But we were in the audience for the previous panel, the Hetalia Mock UN and I saw there was a love for Hetalia and we were very happy to see that.

There were some love confessions throughout the panel but besides that, the Q&A portion opened to the audience. The staff manning the mics were Hetalia cosplayers which added to the air of the fandom.

    Q: Will Seychelles have more screentime?
    Shirohata: Seychelles is one of the characters that I would like to give more screentime to on the assumption that the series goes on.

    Q: Will the series continue because it ended after season 4?
    Shirohata: Currently, that is to be determined. But I certainly hope that there will be more Hetalia in production.
    Sasanuma: Austria doesn’t get much screentime either unless there’s more Hetalia. *audience laughs*

    Q: In general, what is your favorite video game? In Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which is your favorite dungeon?
    Sasanuma: My favorite video game is the PSP game called Hetalia. *audience laughs* Especially, Seychelles in the PSP game. And my favorite dungeon? Dungeon! Dungeon?!? Mmmm…I have to say I don’t like dungeons. Which part do you like?
    Fan: My personal favorite is the ruins from The Temple of Time.
    Sasanuma: *laughs* I didn’t expect a Zelda question.

    Q: *in Japanese* Sasanuma-san, what is your favorite line in Hetalia and can you say it to the audience?
    Sasanuma: It must be, ‘You idiot!’ And specifically, I love saying it Prussia. *audience laughs*

    Q: Shirohata-san, did you ever expect the Hetalia anime as webcasted to be popular outside Japan, in other countries?
    Shirohata: It was not foreseen, but since there are so many world characters, we were a little nervous about the reactions. I’m glad that Hetalia got a lot of fans.

    Q: Sasanuma-san, have you been to Austria? If you haven’t, is there some place you want to visit?
    Sasanuma: I have not been Austria, but when I saw a tv travel show about Austria, that made me really want to go. This is actually my first time traveling outside of Japan. Its really sinking in how isolate you are if you don’t speak the local language. I had trouble ordering coffee this morning. *audience laughs*

    Q: If we’re going to see more of Finland, Hanatamago and Sweden together like they were in the webcomic?
    Shirohata: Like the answer I gave perviously, I certainly hope the series will continue on. There are so many more characters that I would like to give screentime including Hanatamago.

    Q: Could you sing ‘Marukaite Chikyuu’ for us? *audience cheers*
    Sasanuma: *laughs* Let’s sing it altogether! Can someone give me the lyrics? Let’s start the singing to claps.

I don’t need to mention how cute it sounds for Austria to be singing the song live. Many fangirls died happily that day. ^_^

    Sasanuma: This is much more embarrassing then I thought it would be. *audience laughs* But it was fun.

    Q: There are lots of complex characters in Hetalia. Who is your favorite besides Austria and why?
    Sasanuma: As a character, I like Great Britain and I’m closest to the seiyuu who play Prussia and Russia. And as for female characters, I like Hungary. *audience awwws*
    Shirohata: I love all the Hetalia characters, but if I was forced to choose, I would say Hungary because it’s a ‘she’ *audience laughs* and the same for other female characters like Liechtenstein, Ukraine, Belarus and Seychelles.

    Q: If you could take 3 countries to an izakaya, who would you take and what kind of drinks or food would you order for them?
    Sasanuma: *with confidence* German, beer! *audience cheers*
    Shirohata: Japan, sake. Russia, vodka. Prussia, Prussian beer.
    Sasanuma: That’s exactly the national stereotypes. *audience laughs* And by the way, I love beer the most as a beverage.

    Q: Have you ever read Hetalia manga? Which scenes did you get most excited about to animate in the series and are there any scenes from the manga that if you get another season, you would animate in the future?
    Shirohata: Yes. The scene is actually episode 1 of the anime and vol. 1 of the manga, which is the world conference. That could only be something done in Hetalia so that was something I really looked forward to doing. If there were more of Hetalia, ‘Nekotalia’ is what I want to do more.
    Sasanuma: I have a question for Shirohata. When does Austria get to be a member of the world conference? *audience laughs*
    Shirohata: Sometime.
    Sasanuma: *very solemnly* Thank you very much!

    Q: With personifying countries, what is the feeling you get having the idea of countries, histories, war…what has that meant to you? What does Hetalia mean to you as you’re working on it?
    Interpreter: Is that in context of looking at world affairs and situations and what we might want to corporate into the story?
    Fan: Yes.
    Shirohata: We made Hetalia with the feeling that regardless of what is actually going on in the world, the world of Hetalia is a world of utter peace. The countries of Hetalia fight, but they make up and have fun. And that is what we want to see in the world as well.

    Q: If you have least favorite character in Hetalia, who would it be?
    Shirohata: There is no such [thing]! *audience applauds*

    Q: What is your reaction when Korea raised a fuss about their character and having it pulled from the anime?
    Sasanuma: As Austria, I thought ‘Yay!’ because I’ll get more screentime. *audience laughs*

    Q: What do you like about America so far? What is your favorite part of it?
    Shirohata: This is my second time in the States and I just got in last night and am trying to figure out what to go see in Baltimore. And trying to figure out what free time in my schedule is.

    Q: I’m asking this on behalf of my friend, Mary who couldn’t be here today. She is a big Austria fan. Can you please say something to her in Austria’s voice?
    Sasanuma: I think it might be a little troublesome if I say things like ‘I love you’ so I’ll say this: ‘Mary, you idiot! You should’ve been here!’ *audience applauds*

    Q: I want to ask about the transition of the manga Gravitation to the anime series.
    Shirohata: These days, it’s not an uncommon genre title, but back then, it was a rare type of anime so I was very excited to work on something like that.

    Q: In vol. 4 [of Hetalia], there was a strip that has alot of character development, and I was just wondering if there was any chance at all for it to be animated.
    Shirohata: Assuming the series continues on, I would very much like to incorporate it.

    Q: *Russia cosplayer* I have a question about character songs. I would like to know if my lovely character will be getting more character songs because I would love to hear their lovely voices. Da? *imitates Russia’s laugh*
    Shirohata: That is something I look forward to myself.
    Fan: *mean voice* You better!

    Q: Hetalia is probably more for a general audience. Would you consider Hetalia is a fujoshi anime? Would you ever make directorial decisions pandering to fujoshi? What is the demographic of the audience? My guess would be mostly female.
    Shirohata: I certainly hope that Hetalia would be enjoyable by everyone. There would be something for everyone to enjoy. I do know that Hetalia is very popular with the female fans. But I do hope and intend that Hetalia is enjoyable for all ages and everyone.

    Q: I know that you’re unsure if Hetalia will continue or not, but will we ever get to see Austria or the other countries that France has played is April Fool’s day/Christmas rampage prank onto in the anime?
    Shirohata: I don’t know.

    Q: If there is a country you would like to be made into a character that hasn’t in the series yet, what country would it be?
    Shirohata: Hong Kong.
    Sasanuma: Well it doesn’t matter who I want to see, as long Austria gets screentime. That’s all that matters. *audience laughs*

    Q: *in Japanese* Sasanuma-san, I know that you are very popular for voicing Austria right now, but how did you originally got to act on the roles? Did you audition with the director?
    Sasanuma: Most of the cast for Hetalia was auditioned, but I wasn’t. Before the anime for Hetalia, there was a cd drama that was made. The [cd] label wanted me to do Austria then and so I continued on as Austria.

    Q: I really enjoy alot of your BL drama cds. I want to know if you can say how can you prepare for those kinds of scenes? *audience laughs* Can you share a funny experience while recording on those scenes? If you can’t, it’s fine.
    Sasanuma: *laughs* Well, it might get a little crass, but okay. First of all, the work to prepare for a role is the same regardless whether or not it’s BL or Hetalia. I guess you want to hear what it takes to prepare for a love scene. Since I had no real life experience with another guy, *audience laughs* my senpai told me to mentally subsitute my partner with a girl and play out the role. *looks at me and speaks as Austria* You idiot! *audience laughs*
    Fan: It had to be done.

    Q: Did you watch the Hetalia anime in English?
    Shirohata: I didn’t.
    Sasanuma: Unfortunately, I didn’t.
    Fan: I watched both and I love both, but I noticed the English tend to be a little more… *trails off* Rougher?
    Sasanuma: It might be because the Japanese nationality. As a Japanese guy, it’s hard to order one cup of coffee, that reflects the national character.

    Q: What was the most troublesome ‘Chibitalia’ scenes?
    Shirohata: There was nothing that was difficult.

    Q: If today was Valentine’s day and you could give one of the characters chocolates, which one will it be?
    Shirohata: Since I’m a guy, I have a hard time imagining myself giving chocolate gift to someone.
    Sasanuma: Belarus!

    Q: If your life was in danger, which Hetalia character would you pair up with to get your way out.
    Shirohata: Italy.
    Sasanuma: Germany.

    Q: What is your favorite part about being a voice actor? A director?
    Sasanuma: For me, the best part about being a voice actor is that being able to act out with other voice actors for work. To be involved in the creation of work that entertains alot of fans.
    Shirohata: I’m usually in the studio working on the storyboard and I can only imagine will this scene actually get a laugh or cry from the audience. When I do get an audience and I find out if my scenes work out the way I intend it. Those are the best moments.

    Q: What is your favorite series in anime? To your response to not seeing Hetalia in English yet, we will have copies for you!
    Shirohata: Ashita no Joe.
    Sasanuma: Naruto, Bleach, Shonen Jump anime, Gintama, Kero. There are to many for me to say.

    Sasanuma: Since time is almost up, I need to ask a question to the audience. Who is your most favorite character in Hetalia?
    Audience: *screams various names* Austria! Italia!
    Sasanuma: Thank you!

    Shirohata: I had fun at this panel, thank you for coming today. *audience applauds*

As everyone stood up to leave, Sasanuma-san left with a resounding….

    Sasanuma: *in Austria voice* PASTA!