Izetta: The Last Witch/ Shumatsu no Izetta / Izetta, Die Letzte Hexe
Now streaming on Crunchyroll Premium
(as well as all the usual dodgy anime sites)
The drawbacks to spending too much time hanging out on social media are well known, but the occasional benefits should also be noted. Like running into a fan-storm of anticipation when a kewl new thing is set to break — especially when the property lives up to the hype.
Izetta is way kewl. Astro Nerd Boy has an excellent summary of Ep1 (some spoilers) and appreciation up on his site [http://anime.astronerdboy.com/2016/10/izetta-the-last-witch-01.html ] and notes how, unlike many current properties in contemporary Japanese animation, Izetta is not a derivative product adapted from a manga, a light novel or a game; part of a media mix strategy to sell a crap-load of otaku crap to otaku. Just wait a few weeks. I have a feeling that it will become one of those rare efforts, where an original story anime serves as the anchor to a product flood. It is that good.
“a tomboy princess steals a lesbian magical girl from the nazis #izetta”
–Twitter: “muro @kisomuro Oct 1
Well, not-quite nazis…
Princess Fine (Fi-ne) of the Principality of Elystadt is in a desperate situation. It is 1940 in alternate-universe Europe and even though Germania missed its Trump moment, it still has an Emperor (maybe they didn’t miss it and the deranged art school dropout crowned himself?), a very large mechanized military and a really vicious case of lebensraum. So much for IATT bulletin 1147.
The story team’s decision to scrap some of the usual nazi drag, while retaining all the 1940’s military tech and germanic ambience recalls Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky and it’s “Teutonic Knights”
Note the gold-plated Lugers the alt-gestapo operatives carry.
Very Teutonic Knight.
The inscription, favoured by the British SAS is an odd choice. The German motto on the flag of Elystadt is a better touch:
“ich bin tapfer und bin fromm”
Elystadt is also ethnic-Germanian-ic (it seems to be coincident with western Austria, through to Liechtenstein, the latter of which also has a two-color horizontal barred flag) and is full of deep-wooded magical germanian-ic forests. His Germanian Emperor-ness wants their occult mana as well as Elystat’s precision machinists. His agents have already captured and sealed up a young red-haired witch in a very steam-punk-ish containment pod (reminiscent of Branagh’s Frankenstein). Princess Fine, while on the run from Germanian agents had previously bumped into it. Her second encounter, captured, on a cargo plane and menaced by rape-y alt-nazis is enough to wake Izetta, unseal the pod and blast the back end off the plane. In a Ghibli-esque moment, the princess and the woken young witch plummet through the debris-filled air.
…Along with a handy-dandy honkin big anti-material rifle. Hmmmmmm… A distinct lack of broomsticks, Hmmmmm… Damn! This thingy has cold metal in uncomfortable spots. Oh shit right:
It seems the princess, or perhaps some long past ancestor who looked just like her, once saved the young witch (or some long past ancestor who looked just like her) from the usual angry peasant mob.
Twitter explains this trope quite succinctly:
“You swerve to avoid a squirrel. Unknown to you, the squirrel pledges a life debt to you. In your darkest hour, the squirrel arrives.” –Twitter (var.)
Just in case it hasn’t snuck up and beaned you on the head yet, Izetta is built with a good helping light yuri subtext. The character notes, per ANN, give us:
“If I am promised to the princess, then I will fight for her sake.”
Once again the Twitter commentary is pithy:
“Sometimes, I think people float in the air with sparkles secretly hoping they’ll eventually be seen. #izetta” –Elel @HolyAjora
Other Twitter-ratti have noted Izetta’s Raiders of the Lost Ark vibe. As well, the fan-service, though light so far, is just enough for class-s soulful girl-friendship yuri; too much grope-y skinship would necessitate a boy hero main character’s embarrassed gaze. As well as a mob of beer-serving, dirndl-clad, cleavage-displaying moe-blobs. What we might fail to notice in all this is how our Princess has just acquired her own cute and very devoted kinetic energy weapon. Izetta can control and direct anything she touches; she is a magical-girl railgun. It might take her a while to level up from sending swarms of jousting lances into Stukas and Messerschmitts to something more logistically practical:
Wonder if she can do one-meter iron rods at mach 6? †
Some limits are going to have to be imposed on Izetta’s powers lest the war conclude in Episode 2 with a rain of hypersonic gothic cathedrals dropped from low orbit on alt-Berlin.
Personally, I feel that while a measured response against a mechanised alt-nazi empire’s war machine might be heroically romantic, it is a poor strategy. Kill it with fire! Similarly, if magic sparkly forest sprites stall out the baddies’ plane and drop a gold luger into your hands, best to start shooting alt-nazis while you can. Without hesitation. Most European royalty were trained from childhood how to so react. It was a tough neighbourhood.
Sadly, turning Izetta into a psycho lesbian magical-girl WMD would lose the chance to recycle a shit-tonne of WWII movie and anime battle-girl tropes. That also means that Princess Fine cannot be too bloodthirsty. Resolute, heroic but not cold-blooded. The challenge to the story team is one of restraint; You could really stuff this thing to the rafters with every last toy in the prop room. They must also take care to avoid the shonen-ish ever-escalating destroy-everything magical battles of doom treadmill: that gets stale fast.
I give you this on my word of honour. You are now free of the need to watch D-Gray-man: Hallow. K-rist! What a stinker. I think the idea was to turn the boy lead into some kind of fujoshi pain-fetish-toy; he keeps getting battered about and losing limbs. Otherwise it is endless new characters with ever-levelled up powers, poignantly tragic flashie-backs, angry brooding glances from dude #2 and random magical battle destruction. It also suffers from story discontinuity, cardboard characters, secret occult factional intrigue and a bad case of woobie. I had no idea they still made anime this bad.
Did I mention Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards?
Ok, it was kind of interesting way back in 1977, but the filler footage… Gehhhhhh! Could have been cut to 19 minutes. Oh what the heck, roll it:
Anyway; don’t do magic vs quasi-nazi war machine that way.
Meanwhile Izetta has fine animation, good pacing and at least two, probably more heroic female characters. Heroic guy characters too, although Hime’s guys (so far) keep getting shot. Joker-Game style inscrutable spies and sneering villains. An extra helping 1930’s decor and oak panelling. Frilly costume drama princess gowns for those who might want some. The writers and producers might even be angling for women viewers. The fanservice x ballroom gown ratio in the next couple of episodes should tell how serious they are about this. Did I see a Taka-ish woman Elystadt palace guard officer in the preview clip?
This will make for a fun 12 weeks if they can keep up the pace.
† Assuming a 5cm thick 1 meter iron rod accelerated constantly to a terminal velocity of mach 6, impact energies in the range of 40 – 60 MegaJoules can be anticipated. “For comparison, 50MJ is equivalent to the kinetic energy of a school bus weighing 5 metric tons, travelling at 509 km/h (316 mph).” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railgun]
Magical Girls are not to be trifled with.