Review/discussion about: Shuumatsu no Izetta
Most anime have an English-translated title. Makes it easier for an American like me to better understand an anime and what it will potentially be about from the get-go.
Shuumatsu no Izetta’s English title is Izetta: The Last Witch. More than likely, this review will be the last time I ever think about – let alone write about – this show.
As the Germanian Empire threatens to encroach its neighboring lands, Ortfiné Fredericka von Eylstadt (or Finé as she will be called from here on out), a princess of the peaceful kingdom of Eylstadt, seeks to stop their terrible onslaught. In her charge, she is abducted. But, fortunately for her, her childhood friend Izetta, who also happens to be a magic-using witch, saves her from her predicament. From there, Izetta (the anime) starts its climb.Izetta, Die Letzte Hexe
And its early climbing is promising thanks to a solid start. The prospect of feuding countries and the politics therein. Mixing the magical elements with realistic warfare. A caring relationship between witch and princess. It was all ready, constructed as a tower that the anime scaled, reached the top, and stood upon. Leaping forth to reach some metaphorical strong footing.
But it never made it, falling far and hard and without grace.
The show’s grand level of incompetent writing beyond the first four episodes causes it to slip multiple times during its running start. For whatever reason, the anime sees fit to include an alarming number of contrived events that prevent the narrative from maintaining sound structure. A secret conversation held out in the open. Murdering a soldier in a forest. An old man working for Germania. The second half of the red stone plot device conveniently appears.
Often, these scenes occur with an odd amount of isolation. Almost as if the anime formed its plot without care and was practically forced to make certain events happen in such nonsensical ways.
The best, most bizarre example is at the ballroom dance. Izetta and Finé separate themselves from the festivities, only to have Berckmann bring the doll-like corpse of the evil witch Sophie with him so that she could steal some of Izetta’s blood with a forceful kiss. It’s unnecessarily contrived and random, and it doesn’t help that the others don’t seem to make a fuss afterwards about what was clearly an insane happening.
That scene also demonstrates one of the other extreme shortcomings of Izetta: sexual content. The anime constantlyseems to think that it needs an ecchi scene here or there to help parachute its story. In reality, these scenes puncture the seriousness the setting and situation strive for, making it easier for the anime to reach terminal velocity.
Again, some examples work better than others. For instance, in episode six, the ladies of the estate try to fit Izetta into one of Finé’s gowns (and one can probably already guess where this scene is going). Izetta doesn’t fit into it because of her large breasts, so Finé, fraught with envy, looks around at the huge chests of the other women. And she speaks the following line: “Is there really a way for a small, poor country to win against the overwhelming size of an empire?”
That’s right. She uses her boobs to make a metaphor about the literal war they are currently fighting.
There are more scenes, too. Elvira fondles Izetta’s breasts to “understand” her measurements. Ricelt barges in on a naked Bianca in the tiring I-heard-you-screaming-so-I’ll-open-this-door-without-knocking-or-asking-first cliché. Sophie’s chains wrap around Izetta, constricting her body in such a way that makes her capture nothing short of an amateur BDSM skit.
Disregarding even the contrivances and this ecchiness, Izetta continues falling. Later episodes in the season feature major time skips that compound the aimlessness of events. Months fly by, the anime glossing over large parts of the war and different aftermaths. Even its delivery, done through narration by Finé’s maid Lotte, fails at being a natural progression. Her words are less an explanation of what has happened during these skips and more like the creators giving a lame excuse as to why entire sections of the show were skipped.
It also has a few attempts at side plots that ultimately miss their emotional cues.
Bianca shoots Ricelt, but the scene doesn’t have the weight it should since they only knew one another for a couple of days at best.
Basler, the only pilot to survive Izetta’s attacks while she escaped with Finé at the beginning of the season, gets brought onto the investigation into Izetta by Berckmann. Basler is even put onto the secret sector of the Germanian Empire with a shiny new plane to boot. But he loses again during the defense of their carrier ship, he fails to kill Berckmann, and he presumably perishes in anticlimactic fashion.
Sophie emerges as a real threat to Izetta and the world at large. Unfortunately, her backstory is delivered almost always as a set of still frames that do not convey much information. As such, she and others are forced to go on long, ranting expositions that impede whatever emotions are shown.
To give Izetta some credit here, it at least avoids the common betray-the-helper trap. When the kingdom of Eylstadt starts to lose, they don’t blame Izetta for introducing magic. Rather, they risk their lives to save the woman who has already saved them previously.
Sieghart’s death also demonstrates some awareness on the show’s part. He hesitates to kill an enemy soldier when said soldier reminds him of the young man he permanently silenced in the woods with a gunshot to the head. His hesitancy earns him an equally fatal demise.
Its history-based narrative helps, too. Some of the factions. The importance placed on propaganda. Summits involving the reveal of nuclear warfare. The elimination of magic from the world through Izetta’s final act. Much of this content blends well enough with the otherworldly elements of the anime, preventing future unfairness and aligning itself further with its semi-historical context.
Yet these updrafts quickly turn into doldrums when the audience realizes that that “final” act wasn’t final. For, as is shown, the anime doesn’t even have the guts to kill off Izetta when she clearly died. The show even pretended to allude to her passing in the epilogue. Which, by the way, also has a time skip right near the end just to make Izetta’s recovery more plausible.
And no, no amount of full-circle narrative creation with Finé walking through the woods to meet Izetta, just as she did as a kid, can save whatever this mess ultimately became when it finally hit the ground.
Izetta doesn’t have too much to harp on or too much to praise when it comes to its visuals.
Most of Izetta’s (the witch’s) sequences are filled with a lot of movement. Flying on her makeshift “broom,” controlling her lances, and using her magics demonstrate as such. She zips about the battlefield, flipping over entire tanks and literally throwing half of the (broken) Eiffel Tower.
The show tries at times for more cinematic flair, like when Izetta and Finé’s images reflect off a lantern or when the lights of heaven shine down behind Izetta as she summons forth the “gnomes” of the mountain. But an odd shot composition during Izetta and Finé’s last flight together as well as a horribly drawn hand of Finé’s in episode six that somehow got past production offset its flair.
The character designs are slightly better off. Finé’s slender figure, golden hair, and purple eyes give her a regal look with ease. And Izetta’s ample assets, red hair, and just-as-red eyes draw the attention of everyone in their world just as much as her magics do.
Looking further into Izetta’s penchant for red, her color choices complement Finé’s quite well, coinciding with the strong bond they share. Finé often wears green, Izetta obviously red, and, on more than one occasion, they both choose white. Together, it almost gives off a Christmas-y vibe. A sense of merriment and good tidings that matches the words and love they constantly gift each other.
Unfortunately, the gear the Eylstadt soldiers wear is shockingly bland thanks to a dominating light-blue color choice. But some of the other designs have their place. Berckmann’s shaggy hair, round spectacles, and dark-purple overcoat turn him into one shady investigator. And Bianca’s decorated attire and short, black hair give an attractive, studious look.
Lastly, Izetta doesn’t have the most enthralling set pieces, and it relies a bit too much on the CG route during a few of its battles. Again, nothing ever stands out as gross or problematic. Double again, nothing ever stands out as interesting or involved either. Altogether, the visuals are what they need to be for the anime and not much else.
(As one final side note, the anime cannot even stop itself from including sexual content in the visuals for its OP. Therein, a twirling, naked Izetta fills the screen roughly halfway through when it was simply not needed.)
Much of Izetta’s character focus centers on Izetta, Finé, and the close connection they share.
Izetta and Finé have known each other since childhood. Finé once walked upon Izetta using her magic in a wooded area, and, from then on, they remained fast friends. But it wasn’t before long that nearby villagers grew wary Izetta’s nomad status. To the point that they attacked her – possibly with the intent to kill.
Finé would have none of that, though. She protected Izetta, throwing herself between the angry mob and the scared, docile witch. Finé earned a scar that day, a symbol of the love she holds for her dearest friend in the world. And, from that moment on, Izetta dedicated herself to the future queen, vowing to fight for and help her in all that she does.
They don’t stay together during their early teenage years. Izetta traveled with her grandmother to train her magics, and Finé headed home to mature into the country’s next leader. But, when they reunite on their escape from Germanian aviation, Izetta begins to repay Finé, saving her and her men from early deaths on more than one occasion.
Their relationship is not based on where they come from but rather who they are as people. Izetta doesn’t care about Finé’s rank. Instead, Izetta only sees her as the kind, caring girl who was there for her when nobody else was. In similar fashion, Finé doesn’t care that Izetta is a witch. Instead, Finé only sees her as the thoughtful, wonderful girl who holds tremendously special powers.
Throughout the season, both Izetta and Finé demonstrate resolve but in different forms. Izetta puts everything on the line, breaking her sacred taboo (of not using her powers) and risking her life (to help Finé). In turn, Finé relies on Izetta, acting as the ruler she must be by putting her country and her people before her best friend.
While they do not face any conflict between each other (e.g., a falling out, sparring ideologies), they do encounter personal strife. Izetta at one point fails, forcing her to use the power stone that, unlike everything else thus far, will definitely kill her. And Finé, having pushed Izetta to the brink, sees error in her judgement as well as her own inability to do much in her position except run during danger.
Otherwise, Izetta and Finé support one another as best they can. Not in a political or warring sense but rather in an understanding sense. Multiple times throughout the season, the two share conversations and moments, sometimes of an intimate nature, that reinforce the relationship they hold together. Izetta looks after Finé as she recovers from their daring escape. They talk within the secret witch’s cavern about what Izetta wants Finé to do. Their final talk as they fly beneath a starry nighttime sky and through a tranquil forest.
Izetta and Finé are by no means stellar characters, but, given how the plot plays out and simply comparing them to the rest of the cast, they are one of the stronger parts of the anime.
Speaking of the other characters, they are on the lower end of the execution line.
Perhaps the worst among them are the so-called villains from the Germanian Empire. Chief of that country and chief of the worst, Otto does almost nothing besides wear a fancy outfit, sit on his throne, and stand outside for a bit. He has a blind advisor that provides small snippets of wisdom, and he has a keen interest in the occult. But, given how he has no significant scenes and thus zero impact, it’s tough to call him a relevant character let alone a prominent antagonist. Made even tougher by his lame, off-camera death.
Berckmann is marginally better but still unimpressive. He acts as an investigator, following leads and organizing information for the Germanian Empire. While he evidently does a lot more than Otto, he still carries an air of worthlessness about him. He shows up where he needs to, and he knows how to play the game, but his involvement for the first three-fourths of the season doesn’t extend beyond being the guy who is smart and can get the job done.
His defection does add a twist to the path he had taken up to that point, but his explanation that he only looks out for himself does not stick all that well when his switched loyalty comes off more like an easy out to get Finé and crew inside enemy territory.
Sophie is the last of the true villains in Izetta, and, arguably, she’s the best of the three if only because she has a stronger motive and because she actually does something tangible. Alive once more thanks to scientific advancements within the Germanian Empire, Sophie seeks nothing less than revenge against Eylstadt, the kingdom that betrayed her unfairly and unjustly, leading to her unfortunate death.
Unfortunately, like the other villains, her character has a problem. Namely, she arrives far too late into the season (officially appearing in episode nine). While Germania’s secret laboratories and otherworldly work were hinted at, as was the legend of the original White Witch, Sophie doesn’t have enough time to stand as anything else besides the only “realistic” obstacle that could thwart Izetta.
Interestingly (and perhaps surprisingly), these villains, alongside Izetta and Finé, manage to explore a relevant theme to the anime. A theme on benefitting one’s self or the goal at large.
The best example comes from the parallel held between Sophie and Izetta. It’s hastily put together, meaning it’s not the smoothest connection possible, but Sophie’s relationship with her king mirrors that of Izetta and Finé’s. In both cases, they would do or are doing everything for the other, but, in the end, the one of royal descent must suffer through sacrificing their beloved witch for the greater good.
That’s something Finé struggles with constantly. Whether it’s right to put her best friend through torment and pain to save her country. For, while it’s easy from an outside perspective to choose to help the many over the few – and in this case just one – making that decision when someone more than dear is on the line is almost impossible.
And that’s where Izetta and Sophie differ. Where Izetta greets death (but not really) with a smile because she believed in Finé and the greater good, Sophie devolved into nothing but a big ball of hatred who cared neither about herself nor anybody else. Granted, she was betrayed by her partner, and she was subsequently burned alive, so it does make sense why she would be so mad. But her inability to understand what her king suffered through highlights her stance well enough.
Even Otto and Berckmann, for all their troubles as antagonists, follow this theme in their own way. Berckmann cares not for the many; he cares only for himself. Ricelt’s death doesn’t faze him, betraying his country didn’t concern him, and contacting the CIA was a no-brainer. As for Otto, he is similarly selfish, but he still fights for his own empire’s greater good. He does so evilly, but it still counts.
Sadly, many of the other characters do not receive much attention. Elvira, the fashion lady, is mostly there for ecchi purposes. Jonas, the soldier that Sieghart murders, just has his family photo. Elliot, Otto’s blind advisor, has wisdom to share, but he just stands around the whole time.
However, considering that this tale is that of Izetta and Finé’s, giving these women the attention over the side characters is a smart move. One of the only ones in the whole anime at that.
Izetta backs itself with a surprisingly strong original soundtrack that mixes the magical with the orchestral. Female choirs chant, preceding the falling, rising violins and whimsical harp playing, to achieve fantasy. Blaring trumpets and fierce, heavy drums signal threats and danger on the horizon. The OST even throws in a circus-like tune that accompanies the rarer lighthearted moments. A fitting piece given some of the unbelievable happenings that go on during the show’s era.
The opening track for the anime perhaps leans too much on the rock front, providing something very loud and very fierce. Almost to the point that it doesn’t quite fit the tone of the show itself. Still, the vocal harmonies, the hard guitar riff with drum fills in the middle, and the dropped music in the beginning and the unknowing flourish at the end give the OP a noticeable amount of flair.
In comparison, the ending track goes the complete opposite direction tonally (which sometimes happens with OP-ED pairs). Strangely enough, it also goes too hard tonally. That is, Izetta was never the dramatic doomsday show that the piece seems to argue. Nevertheless, it’s a rather solid track. The slow, deliberate piano. A couple of English lyrics. Thundering drums. The ED is beyond gloomy in all the right ways.
As for the voice acting, it sees no notable performances save for Himika Akaneya as Izetta. While the kindhearted witch didn’t deliver emotion or dialogue to any grand level, this role marks one of her first major ones in the business, and so she deserves at least some recognition.
While action-oriented anime are not my go-to choices, a few of the battles were still interesting to me. Izetta’s escape with Finé showed off some blood magic, and her first official fight at Coenenberg had her controlling swords, flipping tanks, and shooting her rifle. It’s a shame, then, that her magic didn’t evolve much (if at all) the further along the season progressed. The scenarios certainly did – taking down a carrier ship, squaring off against another witch – but it was essentially more of the same.
And I’m all for ecchi content – so long as it has a time and a place. But a quick shot of Izetta’s butt or her getting stripped naked for a bath doesn’t really need to be in this show where seriousness, magic, and historical influences reign.
As for Izetta and Finé themselves, they were cute and fun when the situation allowed it. But they weren’t anyone special to me. It didn’t help that their relationship wasn’t as quirky as I would have liked it. But they at least had some implied yuri feelings.
If I had to pick my two favorite parts from the show, they would be a non-character and a couple of words. First, Finé’s puppy named Dorothée. Her jumping in the water and sneezing made me smile. Second, the fact that they called the U.S.A. the “United States of Atlanta.” An unintentionally hilarious name that bumps up the show ever-so-slightly in my eyes.
Shuumatsu no Izetta fails to take advantage of its solid start, causing it to fall and hit the ground in a not-so-pretty manner. Its story devolves into a mess, its villains are unimpressive, and its content simply lacks entertainment. Its English translation should really be Izetta: Doesn’t Last.
Story: Terrible, while the initial episodes establish a tower for the narrative to properly leap from, contrived events, unnecessary sexual content, time skips, poorly handled subplots, and a lame ending prevent it from reaching strong footing and instead plummet it towards something unacceptable
Animation: Fine, while the visuals are neither strong nor weak, Izetta’s battles showcase a lot of movement, and her and Finé’s designs are nicely complementary
Characters: Fine, Izetta and Finé share a close bond, a theme on selfishness versus the greater good exists, but the villains are horrendous
Sound: Fine, okay OP, good ED, good OST, and okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, “The United States of Atlanta” was the best part
Final Score: 3/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3