Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
Shuumatsu no Izetta is an original anime produced by newcomer studio Ajia-Do for the Fall 2016 season. Early hype promised a unique spin on World War II with a red-haired witch riding a big fracking gun to battle. The PV and visuals hinted a classy production that could easily become a hit. The spin was unique, the production was classy, but Shuumatsu no Izetta failed to hit the right spots because the result was a mediocre show that just could have been much better.
Shuumatsu no Izetta takes place in an alternate version of World War II. In 1940, the most powerful military nation on the planet, Germania, turns its invading eye to the neighboring country of Eylstadt. The crown Princess Ortfiné Fredericka von Eylstadt (Hayami Saori) is determined to do whatever it takes to protect the small Alpine country from falling into the hands of Germania. The solution to her problem is her childhood friend Izetta (Akaneya Himika) with whom she reunites after a failed attempt of Germania to kidnap the princess. It turns out that Izetta is last remaining descendant of a lineage of witches and has the power to protect Eylstadt from the onslaught of tanks and planes. Izetta pledges her allegiance to Fine and the small country of Eylstadt and uses her powers to protect both the princess and her ideals.
The story has so few implications that at times feels static and uneventful. The first couple of episodes set an interesting premise: a small insignificant European country is able to withstand the military might of an overwhelming monarchy with the help of an overpowered witch. It’s a story full of potential.
The reasons that it failed to deliver are evident. First, it very quickly abandons the fantasy war setting to focus on the relationship between Fine and Izetta. Dogfights give their place to pie-eating, tanks to boob-gropping, and the horrors of war to the horrors of marketing. I was expecting more political intrigue, more morally grey areas, and certainly more battles. I wanted the warfare and magic that the show promised me, not the unnecessary injections of fan-service and sexual innuendo between the two protagonists.
Instead of using the premise to build on the characters and deliver something meaningful, for many episodes hardly anything happens. The battles are scarce and the diplomacy between the war faring countries rare. What the show did portray in an interesting way was the use of propaganda and the manipulation of the media.
Second, the plot’s contrivances were too many to ignore. If I had a penny for each time I felt that a development in the plot was too convenient to be true, I would be writing this in my new six-storey mansion. Due to these conveniences, the story of the White Witch was drained of meaning and personality. If not for a couple of subplots involving side characters, the show could have spent its entire predictable narrative goggling the homoerotic relationship between Fine and Izetta.
Enough bitching about the story and the plot. It’s time for some praising.
Shuumatsu no Izetta was the first work of studio Ajia-do, and, boy, they did focus on making the anime as impressive as possible. While the visuals did waver in quality at some points, the fluctuations were minimal and the art kept its quality throughout the series. The villages, backgrounds, alpine scenes, and castles were wonderful. The small historical details, like the black and white films and papers (just two examples of their great attention to detail) added to that feeling of romanticism we usually associate with that period and which was also evident in Shuumatsu no Izetta. World War II enthusiasts must have drooled over the accurate models of trenches, tanks, planes, and infantry. And those dogfights; I haven’t felt such excitement with air combat since the last time I played Ace Combat. Everything from the explosions and the generic combat scenes to Izetta fighting on her anti-tank rifle look beautiful. If you came to the show seeking European wartime imagery then you are in luck. That’s one thing that Shuumatsu no Izetta delivers.
Hint: You can take a look at our episodic anime reviews and the Themes and Trivia sections for more interesting information about the things that the title got right (or sometimes wrong.)
If I had my own anime awards, Shuumatsu no Izetta would certainly have won the award for the best soundtrack of the season. I think that it’s the debut work of the composer, Michiru, and, damn, she did a good job. Its association to the scenes is perfectly matched. There is a mystical and magical feeling to it that is frequently infused with exciting rock riffs and loud overdrive guitars. I liked it so much that I might even go as far as buying the soundtrack when it’s out. The hype-inducing opening theme, Cross the Line, was one of the better of this season (even if a little pop-rock to my ears) and the mesmerizing piano melody of the ending theme, Hikari Aru Basho e, was a nice contrast that let each episode end in a melancholic tone.
Alternate History: In alternate realities and What If scenarios the historical events usually play very differently. In Shuumatsu no Izetta though the only real differences have to do with the names of the countries, their political systems, the fact there is magic in the world, and the atomic bomb being replaced by a magic bomb.
Fate: The anime plays a lot with the concept of fate and how history is doomed to repeat itself.
Weapons of Mass Destruction: One of the main themes of the series. Shuumatsu no Izetta explores the consequences of such weapons with Izetta being one of them.
War: If only fleetingly, the anime tries to explore war and its horrendous effects on humanity. A few characters even go as far as to question the logic behind armed conflict and the dehumanizing aspects we usually associate with the enemy.
Don’t forget to check our episodic reviews for Shuumatsu no Izetta for many more Themes and Trivia.
Shuumatsu no Izetta is a peculiar title. Overall it leaves much to be desired, yet the premise and that feeling of lost potential kept us glued on the screen. But being glued to an uninteresting plot with flat characters could only add to the building frustration. Shuumatsu no Izetta failed to deliver on what it initially promised (or at least at what we assumed it promised) and yet I am sure that it won’t be forgotten that easily. It will just become another example like Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: an anime that could have been good, if only…