And somehow ends up a lot less interesting as a result.
The fact that Japan was on Germany’s side during WWII along with how we dropped nukes on them during said war really makes things uncomfortable whenever that country decides to dip their hands into alternate WWII fiction. Especially since they can’t demonize the actual Germans, so they have to call them names like Germanians or Britanians or Americans (oh wait) whenever they have to portray actual antagonists. Germanians who are pretty damn fluent in Japanese for a country that wants the world to be ruled by the master race, but what do I know about alternate history? Well I may not know much, but I do know that if you want to show your child a good entry in that genre, Izetta: The Last Witch is better left in that bargain bin where you found it.
The show is centered on a young princess named Fine and her attempts to stop the evil Germanians from taking over her country on the eve of this war that shares the same name as the world-spanning conflict of the 1940s, but otherwise has no relation to it whatsoever. Because in addition to all the usual changes that are made to the history in order to make a WWII story fresh after it’s been exploited by the entertainment industry like ten thousand times, we now have magic in this world. And I’m not talking about the cultish Hellboy/Conqueror of Shamballa/Maria the Virgin Witch religious magic, although it wouldn’t surprise me if the writers of this show took inspiration from that. This one deals more with basic witchcraft, except witches use anti-tank rifles to fly around rather than brooms and can decimate entire armies in ways that an entire army of Jedi would cry foul at.
Said witchcraft takes the form of a young red-haired girl named Izetta, a witch-in-hiding who was saved by Princess Fine in the past, and now that they’ve both grown up, Izetta vows to use her magical powers to help Fine’s kingdom win the war and launch a thousand yuri fanfictions in the process. However, the opposing Germanians are aware of the existence of witchcraft and vow to discover Izetta’s weaknesses in order to tip the war back in their favor. From there, the show basically spreads itself out way too thin, trying to juggle multiple characters, viewpoints, and genres all at once. In theory, this means something for everyone. In practice, this means absolutely no one is satisfied.
See, I know Izetta got a lot of attention from anime fans upon initial watch because it dumped a lot of elements that people were intrigued by to the point that they were interested in what it might become over what it actually is. Every time I read an initial positive impression for this show, they never praised anything resembling actual story direction, always concentrating on individual scenes or characters who seem likable and all that stuff that sends out warning lights that the show is going to turn to shit within a few episodes like 99% of all anime out there. Although to be fair, I didn’t expect the show to be as tonally inconsistent as it ended up being, dedicating entire episodes to the breast sizes of the females (because that’s totally appropriate to talk about during wartime, isn’t it?), only to shift to a no-name male soldier who ends up getting an early perish because he knew too much.
Since this is a war story, that means we have to sit through the usual boring “being a soldier is bad” storytelling with all the pointless deaths, men turning into monsters, and blablabla that I really hate about war fiction. But you know what’s worse than a war story that throws out its elementary school-level cliches like we haven’t heard them before? A war story that throws out its elementary school-level cliches, only to shortchange it with elementary anime cliches. I mean can someone explain to me why all the high-ranking soldiers that hang around Fine happen to be cute girls with big racks? Why exactly do I have to watch them trying to give Izetta a shower, and why exactly should I care about them getting their own episode when they have about as much impact on the plot as a malfunctioning cell phone? Didn’t exactly help that the episode itself was just plain bad, focusing on them taking care of a male soldier who happened to be on the opposite side, and anyone who didn’t see that ending coming has obviously never watched a war story in their life, and you should have picked a better one to start with.
The characters themselves are pretty generic. Fine is a headstrong princess who wants to serve her country and protect the people, and that philosophy isn’t challenged at all during the show’s runtime, making it hard to sympathize with any of the arbitrary struggles that she faces along the way. Izetta is pretty much defined by her devotion to her. Pretty much every other good guy is characterized the same way only they can’t lift tanks. And the bad guys are pretty much characterized by either “kill the witch” or “die soldier die”. Really, Fine is pretty much the only person who’s in a position to spearhead the story, but because she doesn’t take much action nor does she have her actions challenged, she’s about as qualified to guide the viewer as she is to run the country in general. Just about the only thing she really cares about is risking her friends’ lives, specifically Izetta’s, on the battlefield – and the majority of what qualifies as her arc involves her making sure that her witch friend is safe whilst dealing with a war that outsiders shouldn’t be involved in. That sort of relationship couldn’t carry a two-hour movie by itself. Why on earth would it be able to carry twelve episodes?
As for the magic angle, I think Izetta was actively trying its best to make it as bland as possible, because it hits all the usual cliches you’d expect from an anime gimmick thrown into a generally serious situation. It has limits so the good guys don’t get completely overpowered. It’s used for generic slapstick that no one over the age of eight would find funny. After initial usage, it’s never used with the same amount of efficiency again. Oh, and did I mention that the enemy side happens to have someone with similar powers? To which I respond with “how does that make any horse-fucking sense?”. If they had someone on their side who could use magic, why would either the writers or the characters need to devote so much time to discovering Izetta’s weaknesses in the first place when they can just send someone on her level who would definitely know how magic actually works in this world beforehand? And where the fuck did this girl come from anyways? I can’t recall her ever being foreshadowed prior to her initial appearance in the last third of this show, so the only possible answer I can come up with was that even with the Germanians discovering her weakness, the writers didn’t have an idea how to make a suitable final conflict so they threw Sophie in at the last minute.
One other way the magic in Izetta is misused is that the show ends up putting so much attention on the gimmick that it loses focus on the actual story that was initially hinted at at the very beginning. The final conflict is pretty much one big magic duel that has nothing to do with WWII and introduces a bunch of out-of-nowhere plot elements leading to a paint-by-numbers ending that makes Luke Cage’s finale look like Fullmetal Alchemist‘s (either anime adaptation). I should point out that Izetta: The Last Witch is made by a newbie studio who I know nothing about, but apparently doesn’t have any recognizable veterans amongst their ranks, because the animation in this show is absolute ass. Everything looks way too flat, the magic spells have no personality, and just about anybody could have directed this show. As such, don’t expect that final conflict I mentioned to be a suitable payoff for all the mismanaged elements that came before. And if you’re watching this show for the yuri, put away those virgin boners, because you’re not gonna get much of a resolution out of that either.
There really isn’t a single thing I can recommend Izetta: The Last Witch for. It only has one not-so-unique idea that’s only on-screen like half the time at best, and it failed to make anything interesting happen with it when it bothered to show up. The show is cheap junk food: unfulfilling and you feel kind of weird after experiencing it, but you can’t really describe why. My recommendation? Toss it into the same hellfire we threw Corpse Princess and that shitty Romeo x Juliet show and forget everything about its existence, just like we did with those shows.
- Should probably replay Valkyria Chronicles sometime.
- Actually, I think a lot of people were expecting this show to fall apart over time, so I doubt Izetta’s downfall created too much disappointment.