Here is my point: Axis Powers Hetalia is a minefield of potential offense, and its fans should stop denying this. Let me state this bluntly. It is a light-hearted comic by a Japanese author centered on characters representing the Axis Powers during the era of the World Wars. I'll repeat that, bolding the problematic parts. It is a light-hearted comic by a Japanese author centered on characters representing the Axis Powers during the era of the World Wars.
This is roughly equivalent to a white American or European making a comedy film about anthropomorphized commerce, with the main character being the slave trade. And never actually mentioning the enslaved Africans themselves.
That brings me to the main point of my post--a particular argument against Hetalia's offensiveness that I want to smack down hard. It goes like this: "Sure, Hetalia focuses on Germany, Italy, and Japan during the era of the World Wars, but it sticks to light-hearted subject matter and never mentions things like the Holocaust! So it's not offensive after all!"
No. This does not make Hetalia less offensive. Writing about kawaii tsundere Nazi Germany and never mentioning the Holocaust is itself offensive. You can't take the context of one of the greatest atrocities of human history, remove all reference to the atrocity itself, and say that makes it okay. It leads directly to shit like this in the fandom.
If you enjoy Hetalia, go ahead. I understand why people do. Personally, I am turned off by the art style, lack of female characters, and comedic tone. I love the idea of anthropomorphic representations of countries, but I have no interest in whitewashed versions of them. If I'm going to read something based on international history, I want to explore the dark stuff, too (this is why I have more respect for some Hetalia fanfic writers than I do for the author of the comics himself). And this is my point. Stop using the lack of dark stuff as a shield against accusations of offensiveness. Erasing war crimes is as bad as making light of them.
I am not saying Hetalia is the only canon to ever do this. After all, there are great swathes of fiction celebrating the birth of the United States without giving any thought to the genocide that preceded and continued taking place alongside it. Those things should be called out too. But I am saying that what seems to be the favorite excuse of Hetalia fans--"but it doesn't mention the Holocaust! It's just for fun!"--is no excuse at all.
So that brings us back to what I said earlier: the canon and the fandom are both minefields. Understand this. Expect it. Tread carefully. Oh, and when someone sets off a bomb, don't cover your eyes and pretend they have nothing to do with you. You are all playing in the minefield together. Some of you know that it is a minefield and treat it accordingly, while others blunder around in their Nazi get-up leaving hurt and disgust in their wake. If you deny that the bombs are there, you're contributing to the hurt even if you aren't one of the ones performing Nazi salutes in public.