Izetta: The Last Witch
When Germania starts invading their neighboring nations in their aim for global domination, Eylstadt rests on the brink of war. Being a relatively tiny nation, it is merely the stepping stone for Germania to invade the Romulus Federation, and so, Ortofiné Fredericka von Eylstadt is on her way to Britannia to spur the allied nations into taking action. She is eventually captured and put on a plane that happens to transport someone who turns out to be a very important person in Finé's life; the witch Izetta.
Being the last of a long line of witches, Izetta offers to protect Eylstadt, using her powers to fight Germania's gigantic machinery of war. By doing so, however, she breaks a promise to her late grandmother about never using her powers to interfere in human affairs, though she did so because Finé had saved her life once before.
Izetta: The Last Witch was a show I had been looking forward to watching ever since I read about it. It sounded like just the kind of pseudo-fantasy/pseudo-historical adventure that would be exciting and fun to watch. Well, as much fun as something based on a rather grim part of history could get.
In that, this show both sidesteps the issue a bit as well as dives in, head first. Izetta's "Germania" -- and yes, most of the countries has been renamed, if not all of them -- wastes no time throwing themselves into a massive-scale invasion. Stylistically, the Germanians look very much the part. As does all the hardware being thrown around, be that planes, tanks and even uniforms worn by the Germanians themselves. Various warfare concepts, like the German's method of "Blitzkrieg" is used, plus the general order of all things, like the invasion starting with Poland and then escalating from there. Everything about this should look fairly familiar to people who has seen other series or movies centered around the second world war.
On the other hand, the Emperor of Germania -- the person spearheading the whole invasion -- is clearly NOT Adolf Hitler, but rather a much more dapper and sinister-looking bearded fellow named "Otto". Missing is also many other rather infamous Nazi Germany characters, most of which has been replaced by vastly milder, but still very nationalistic personalities, quite willing to commit atrocities for their homeland. Curiously, Germania has plans on invading the Romanian Federation, where in the real historical event, they were allies.
Then again, we also have witches, so one probably shouldn't expect Izetta: The Last Witch to follow historical events too closely. Most of the stuff going on here -- at least the parts that are based on real-life past events -- are easy to follow, even by those who hasn't done much research on the subject. There is some equipment nerdery going on, particularly when it comes to millitary equipment, which adds some nice touches to this show, and supposedly, Otto's counterpart, Adolf Hitler, was quite interested in the occult too. Finé and Izetta even visits Sognefjord, which was a small touch I rather appreciated, particularly since the map of the fjord as well as the backgrounds that represented said place looked all nice and authentic.
Izetta even has one hell of a fireball for a main lead. Ortofiné -- mostly referred to as "Finé" by her friends and some of her subjects -- definitely takes after a long line of strong female lead as seen in various Studio Ghibli features, as well as shows like 12 Kingdoms or Snow White with the Red Hair. Her opening scene as an adult is basically a chase inside or on top of a moving train and ending with a rather crazy stunt initiated by our tomboy Princess. On top of that, she proves to be quite the diplomat, if necessary, and at the risk of going completely overboard, she is also quite loved by her subjects. And I mean all of them. She's a bit of a borderline poster child for peace and integrity, and it's my guess that they gave her that weakness for pie to tone down the M. Sue a bit, lest she'd come across as completely perfect.
Compared to that, Izetta herself is weirdly servile. She had met Finé when they were both children, first when Finé happened upon her while she was flying over a lake with her magic, and then later when Finé protected her against a lynch mob who wanted to kill her because they thought she had set fire to a building with her powers. It's probably not the sole reason why she's so servile, apologizing for every little thing even the most petty person would just brush off without a comment. While she is the last of her kind, and a quite powerful witch to boot, her life seems to mostly revolve around Finé, which eventually turns her into a propaganday tool and a warning towards the Germanian forces. She doesn't really get much of any personal development, which is weirdly at odds with most of the other characters in this show, even less featured ones. Granted, Finé carries a rather significant scar that explains that devotion, but I had still hoped for more characterisation for her.
Even some of the Germanians get more development than Izetta, which almost puts the show at odds with itself. One of the younger Germanians, Rickert, is easily one of the most sympathetic characters in the show to find himself on the side of the enemies and a nice counterpart to the wine-sipping Otto and his unrelenting evil ambition, or Arnold Berkman's sceming ambiguousness.
From a storytelling standpoint, Izetta: The White Witch is generally pretty good, but can get a bit much at times. Turning to World War II for your framework when you want to have something to fight against that doesn't conjure up too much guilt when demolished isn't entirely uncommon, but Izetta rides that "freedom vs. opression" horse a little hard. Finé is a paragon of virteous beauty, all tall, slender and crowned with long, blonde hair. Dutiful to the extreme, she is the "loved by all" Princess, the eventual leader of a small, extremely idyllic country where everyone looks towards the future and everything else that makes this portrayal a bit hard to digest, even if you agree with the general sentiment.
At least Izetta, for her part, provides the means for some pretty exciting action sequences. Seeing her fly around on a giant automatic rifle while levitating swords or lances behind her in one of her first major fights is a real treat, up to the point where she starts throwing enemy tanks around almost barehanded. For all her self-depreciation, she is almost frighteningly capable, and even later, she shows herself capable to think on the fly and alter her tactics accordingly to turn defeat into victory. Granted, her usage of a rifle for means of transportation does give me some Strike Witches allusions, even if the two shows have little else in common outside of its Alternate WW2 framework, and even that is vastly different in the two shows.
One thing the two shows DOES have in common, much to my surprise, is its use of fanservice. Izetta doesn't have a lot of it, but what it does have is all the more at odds with the general tone of the show. As seriously as the show treats itself, it becomes all the weirder when the show suddenly starts making jokes about Izetta's breasts, including a scene where she is groped by resident Eylstadt tutor and journalist, Elvira Friedmann. A bit of levity is fine in even the most serious shows, and there is certainly a time and a place for fanservice humor too. It's just a bit out of place in this particular show.
Even beyond Izetta's near-propaganday quality (which the show seems a bit self-conscious about) and the out-of-place fanservice, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed with it. Part of the reason is probably because I expected more from Izetta. It certainly started out really well, and to its credit, it came to a pretty satisfying conclusion, even if a certain scene was a bit farfetched. Maybe I'm just disappointed because, for all the show focuses on Izetta and her power, we don't really learn a lot about her, or about witches. Izetta: The Last Witch has a lot on its mind, but not a whole lot of episodes to do it, and so, each little bit hurries through its content to make it in time for the next episode. The middle part of Izetta takes the brunt of this -- the visit to Sognefjord, while personally amusing and endearing for me, felt more like an aside than a small part of a larger story -- and more lighthearted moments only exacerbates the situation by eating away at what little time the show has, despite their importance in shows like this. It's not a catastropic flaw -- this isn't Galilei Donna-scaled story neutering, thankfully -- but it still takes a show down from excellence to being just good instead.
Shows like Izetta: The Flying Witch always puts me on the edge. I honestly enjoyed this show despite the many times it made me cringe. It's not quite as far removed from being an alternate version of WW2, though in this universe, Germany... that is, Germania... stands alone, and the war was started more as a generalized hunger for power rather than being a result of a far right wing political party managing to grab power in a poverty-ravaged Germany just past an earlier war, and it does dispense with portraying the worst of the dehumanizing events that took place during said war as well. For all the people from Eylstadt are portrayed as peace-loving peasants serving under a Princess they all love and adore, not everything their people do can be considered much better than what the Germanians are doing, even if it's all done on a smaller scale -- the whole "all's fair in love and war; especially war" thing, I suppose.
The main problem with this show is that, after having watched it all, I'm not sure what I was supposed to take from it. Izetta: The Last Witch does work as an action spectacle, or even as a story about friendship between a somewhat idealized Princess and her marginally ostracized best witch friend, and honestly, that's the main reason why you should watch it. As a historical drama, it's too far removed from the real event to serve as a good comparison, and far too propaganda in build to work as a cautionary tale, never mind how the show went about solving the problem with its final message. It was a bit too neat and clean, though heavy in self-sacrifice. It could have worked well as a pure action piece, except it's clear that Izetta had larger ambitions than that.
Still, I recommend Izetta: The Last Witch... with some reservations. Despite the rather clichéd setup of a small kingdom who more or less stumbles upon the means to free all of Europa -- or, indeed, the whole world -- from the grasp of tyranny through the power of magic and (mildly yuri-baiting) friendship. If I sound so disappointed, it's just because while I watched an endearing and somewhat exciting show, I had expected something more along the quality of Snow White with the Red Hair, or maybe even Beast Player Erin rather than Strike Witches, and I don't mean that as a knock against the girls of the 501 or the 502 -- they just invited you into their lives so you could have some fun and enjoy yourselves. Izetta: The Last Witch wanted to be deep and meaningful, but you kind of have to be in that "fight for freedom and the proper values" ship completely if you want to get into it, and I couldn't manage to put both my feet on that particular deck. It was a fun show, but it's not one to be taken very seriously.
Izetta stumbles pretty hard at times, but still manages to be a pretty decent show. The main problem is that it set some expectations it didn't manage to live up to, and you're going to have to let them go before watching this. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: I mentioned fanservice, but what it has is pretty mild. You get one instance of Izetta hand-bra-ing herself after one of the maid girls literally yanks her dress right off her, and there is the groping scene later in the same episode, as well as some commentaries and comedy about how Finé's entire staff are made up of very buxom girls, and she's envious of their buxomness. It just stands out a bit more since the show is otherwise relatively clean.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Izetta: The Last Witch © 2016 Ajiado, Asahi Production, Shūmatsu no Izetta Production Committee
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