Thanasis is a writer, editor, and professional geek. He usually writes about what he thinks he knows about the struggles of studying languages, surviving as a creative soul, and socializing as an extroverted introvert.
I love alternate history stories. When I was a little child I read Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. I was captivated by that what-if story. What if the Germans actually won the war? What if the Japanese were the first to make the atomic bomb?
Anime is not a stranger to alternate history plots: Code Geass, Strike Witches, and Makoto Shinkai’s (director of Kimi no Na Wa.) The Place Promised in Our Early Days).
I was excited about Shuumatsu no Izetta since the first day it was announced in June 10. Now it’s finally the time to witness the story of Izetta, the last witch!
Japanese Title: たたかいのはじまり, Der Anfang der Schlacht
The anime is set on an alternate Earth just before the start of World War II. Izetta is the last surviving witch of a clan that has the power to manipulate any object they touch. Izetta finds herself in a small Alpine kingdom called Eylstadt where she meets Princess Fine. She pledges to protect both the princess and this little paradise from the invading forces of Germania.
The series is produced by Ajia-do Animation Works. The opening theme is Cross the Line by Akino with bless4. The ending theme is Hikaru Aru Basho e by May’n. It is scheduled to run for twelve episodes.
Lady Fine is the princess of a small country south of the Germanian Empire, Eylstadt. We see her in the opening scenes accompanied by a Pembroke Welsh Corgi that looks too much like Eir from Cowboy Bebop, staring at a red-haired girl floating in the air. Magic.
The world is at war. We learnt all about it in an American 1940’s style television show which reminded me of the recap section of Legend of Korra. The black-and-white program told us all we needed to know about the two opposing forces, Germania and the Allies led by Britannia, and the upcoming invasion of Eylstadt. The date, 1939, sets the series at the same time as the real World War II. Of course, the differences are many: the names of the countries are changed (France is Thermidor, Livonia still exists), Britain has a king instead of a Queen with their prince named Henry, Germania has a different flag and salutation, and magic exists. Some things, on the other hand, remained the same: the technology level is roughly the same, architecture and fashion are roughly the same, opera and classical music are still the tunes of the era, the language of the Germans is German and they are again the bad guys, if you count special Germanian forces Bergmann who looks like a guy you would like.
Lady Fine is a tomboy princess who wants to protect her country. As she is on her way to meet with a Britannian Lord to negotiate military help, she is apprehended on the train by Germanian soldiers. Train sequences are always exciting, especially when they are executed brilliantly.
It’s the trust of the people that keeps me alive
Long story short, Fine failed in securing help as the Germanians have already started their invasion of Eylstadt. She is captured and escorted by plane to New Berlin, Germania’s capital. They never make it to Germania though since Izetta, the red-haired witch we saw at the beginning, wakes up from her slumber in a top-secret capsule retained by Germanians, destroys the plane, and saves the princess from free fall after magically enhancing a gun and uses it as a broomstick. I don’t know about you, but that scene was all the evidence I needed to convince me that this series is going to be awesome. I am overly optimistic.
War and Opera: Clever contrast always makes the individual parts shine. Yellow letters on a black background, an angelic face on a killer, a ray of light in a pitch-black room, opera music playing on top of war images. As Fine learns of the Germanian invasion, the scene changes to the Eylstand border where the Germanian war machines are dropping their bombs as the singer at the opera house where Fine is continues her song. Sun Tzu once wrote a book about the Art of War, but I doubt if there is any art to such a cruel act.
Izetta: A witch in a box. Fine could not have asked for a more wonderful gift than this. Izetta seems like a powerful witch that will help Eylstadt to defend its borders against the Germanian forces. And she looks cool riding on a gun instead of a broom. It was kind of convenient that she happened to ride on the same train as the princess she once knew, but that’s your Deus ex Machina for this episode. Maybe they’ll have the chance to explain it on later episodes, but I doubt it.
Alternate Naming for Countries: France is called Thermidor. Thermidor was the eleventh month in the French Republican Calendar. The month was named after the French word thermal which comes from the Greek word ‘thermos’ which means heat. Livonia, the first country Germania invades, was a real place. It was a region of north-central Europe in southern Estonia and northern Latvia. In 1918 Livonia was divided between Estonia and Latvia. Westernia is probably Switzerland, but I am not sure.
German Language: There was a lot of German in the episode. The salutation ‘Sieg Reich’ substituted ‘Hail Hitler’ and it means ‘Victorious’. Eylstadt’s flag motto, ‘Ich bin tapfer und bin fromm’ means ‘I am brave and pious.’ Even the names of the episodes are written in both Japanese and German.
Diplomacy: Lady Fine’s diplomatic meeting didn’t go as she expected, but her skills as a diplomat were evident. She had her gambling chips ready and she was willing to sacrifice herself to come to a deal that would ensure military aid. Diplomacy is a game of wits and Fine played it adequately.
Fearless Leader: Fine is the archetype of the devoted leader. A tomboy princess that will go to extreme lengths to ensure her kingdom’s survival. She is not emotionless; she suppresses her own needs until the day that she will have succeeded in her mission. Even though Izetta’s name is the one in the title, it is Fine that dominated the first episode.
Shuumatsu no Izetta is the first episode I’ve seen this FALL 2016 season and I must say that I am impressed. The soundtrack followed the action closely, and even though the animation was not the best I’ve seen lately, it was fluid and steady throughout; it was at a level that could easily be held for the duration of the twelve episodes. We haven’t had the chance to invest too much to any other character than Fine, but her scenes were carefully placed in such a way that we can relate to her struggle. The writing also played a very important role in setting the plot and Fine as the tough underdog princess that’s going to oppose the great Germanian Empire. We all love an underdog story.
This series is probably going to be what it seems: a tomboy princess and her incredibly powerful witch companion kicking some Nazi ass. Not that I object.
This was an enjoyable first episode. It had just the right scenes to convey the necessary information needed to set the plot. We know where the action takes place, who the antagonists are, what’s in stake for each of them, that Fine knows Izetta, and how the plot is going to move forward. Nothing more, nothing less.
I am certainly rooting for Eylstadt. How about you?
NEXT TIME: Scars and Gunfire, 傷跡と銃声と (Mit Narben und Schüssen)