Izetta The Last Witch
Just recently I finished "Izetta The Last Witch". I have to say my initial take jumping in was a skewed one. Given the era and setting of this story taking place in a semi-modern alternate universe of World War II I was expecting to be treading upon eggshells. The fact of how actual real world events transpired during WWII this really can make things uncomfortable. Somehow by namesake alone I was intrigued enough to watch this series. Now lets jump into the review shall we.
Europe is on the brink of World War. As the forces of Germania lay waste to the rest of the region, conquering it with few to stand & oppose them, while the country of Elystadt struggles to hold out. But without a strong military force to combat the enemy’s advance, there’s little hope they can hold out for long. Finé, princess of Elystadt, sets about securing aid for her country in their time of need. As the Princess sneaks out across Europe, she finds herself hunted by Germania’s intelligence forces, bent on capturing her and bringing about an end to Elystadt’s defiance quickly. But perhaps there is another savior of Elystadt, a magical little girl Finé once met as a child. Whatever happened to that witch she met on that fateful day?
The story executes well, with plenty of urgency while still taking the time to clue viewers in with enough detail to remain engaged. Often with alternative history stories there’s either an overabundance of information to make sure viewers understand how things are different, or very little information under the assumption that viewers are familiar with the general history and can simply fill in the blanks. Izetta actually does a great job of striking a balance. It’s also not strictly about the princess escaping Germanian forces the whole time either – it’s divided into three distinct segments that help flesh out the persona of our fierce female lead as well as introduce a number of possible antagonists. This was handled beautifully early on, however it began to unravel and I personally felt if this were a 24 episode instead of 12 the series as a whole could have been much better. Given more time to develop and build upon character weaknesses could've done so much for this show.
Most of the characters I felt were rather generic. You'll quickly realize who the main character's are in this tale. The first is Princess Finé. Headstrong she wants to serve her country and protect the people, and that philosophy isn’t challenged at all. This makes it difficult to sympathize with any of her hardships.
The other main character as you have likely guessed is Izetta. The nominal main character who met Princess Finé when they were children. Prior to the beginning of the series, she attempted to keep her witch heritage a secret by traveling around different countries with her grandmother, which made her shy and self-conscious which is displayed several times through out the series. With the outbreak of the war she devotes herself to Finé's and Eylstadt's protection, thus breaking her taboo not to use her powers openly. She strongly believes in Finé that she'll be able to bring peace to the world. You can pretty much define Izetta by her devotion to Finé.
Fine is pretty much the only person who’s in a position to lead 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. These elements make it hard to carry the story. What also hurts these otherwise likable characters is the fan service. It's awkwardly presented and rather unnecessary considering the series tone. It doesn’t help that other humorous offerings portray Finé or Izetta as far less composed and intelligent than before, making them seem far more inept and silly. There’s a way to do comedy right here, but Izetta takes the most pandering and basic approach which I felt didn't flow with this show.
I'd like to talk about the other characters but honestly I chalk them up as pawns. You don't really gravitate towards them because there consistently overshadowed by Finé or Izetta. All the other characters have remained quite stereotypical and their influence on the story extends little beyond acting as pawns to drive the narrative forward. The maids are expectedly funny, the generals plotting and harsh. The villains of the piece were surprisingly ill-defined, with only a handful of scenes to even educate us on what they’re working towards to counter Izetta.
Art & Animation:
The animation for Izetta is spectacular. From the beautiful European-styled villages to the detailed machinery of bombers and tanks, the world of Izetta is brought to life with the same attention and care as many high-budget anime films. The quality isn’t preserved solely for large scale either; character details such as facial expressions and body language are sharpened to fine point.
For starters, the animation just works. From the landscapes, the tanks, planes, and even the primitive air craft carrier, and everything else looked in the series. Great care was taken in modeling the machines of war after actual World War II vehicles and weapons. As such, scenes depicting fighters in the sky or tanks rumbling across the land look quite good.
The premise of the story is rather good. I like the notion of alternate Earth stories where history plays out differently. Having done so many reports on World War II, having Izetta: The Last Witch set during World War II was a nice innovative direction to take.
However this was as far as what I saw & felt worked for the show. What didn't work for me was with only twelve episodes, the writers do what they can in mirroring the real World War II while allowing us to explore the changes in this world. Despite this, I’m not sure it was handled correctly. By the time the series ended, I became disconnected from it. The final episode ended in a rather anti-climactic way, leaving me feeling unsatisfied.