Shuumatsu no Izetta is a tolerable action-adventure yuri-exploitation alt-history WWII exercise, but I might as well throw all pretensions to the wind and instead follow Brave Witches, the latest loli-fanservice installment of the Strike Witches franchise. Or go whole hog on that thing with girls as battleships (or is it battleships as girls?)
After Episode 9, all that remains is for clone-witch to capture and mash on Fine-hime. Then Izetta will go nuclear and decapitate clone-witch-bad-“lesbian” with a flying fire extinguisher, because we all know that’s how its done from Shojo Sect.
I’m bored, I can’t get the Genshiken summary pieces to write themselves and the Nanashi no Asterism compare-and-contrast to Hanamonogatari essay is getting to be too long to read, its arguments too tenuous to follow. Fortunately, per recommendation of a senior blogger, I found a neato free online course on Modern Japanese Sub-Cultures, where I am making a pest out of myself (I hope not) by posting follow-up bibliography links in the class comment section. So far the instructors haven’t stomped me and I have lots of links to neato somewhat peripherally interesting academic papers from five-years of this thing.
And no, NOT spamming the course to drive readership to this site. Well behaved, I am trying to be. Learning something too. Never knew that studies of early shoujo manga had subtypes. One called “otometic” seemed to deal with ever-repeated “grow up, accept who you are and find affirmation in being your mundane self” bromides delivered to girl readers in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I suspect, given the shitty, no-happy-ending-ever nature of proto yuri tales that these old heterosexual chestnuts are being reworked in contemporary non-exploitative, sympathetic “story-A” yuri manga. Needs more research.
Meanwhile, I love how well Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name is being received, Here is a short Shinkai-produced Cram-School TV commercial that I fell in love with. A mini Your Name, minus body-swapping, all in two minutes:
When Spot (or is it Petey?) is captured by the evil dog-catcher, Spanky, Alfalfa and the gang put on a play to raise money to bail their dog out of the pound. Can they pull it off before the loveable pooch faces the doggy gas chamber?
Shuumatsu no Izettais not making it easy for me. I really wanted to like this thing but my interest is slipping. The plot is wonky; compared to a battle-fanboy exercise like Full Metal Panic or even Gate: Jieitai… we have Izetta riding her gun, explosions and then …. Stuff. Then they do some other stuff. Or something. At least Izetta has learned to make the big sharp things go fast enough to nail panzer tanks.
At one point over the weekend, I contemplated assembling a sequence of screencaps that would demonstrate how much Izetta‘s plotting owed to the ancient ALLYOURBASE internet video meme. The battle sequences in Ep3 also cried out for an AMV to the tune of Harry Belafonte’s Shake Senora.
(She come down in slow motion…)
The entire PR/ Ghost Army/ Joan of Arc Witch/ disinformation/ deterrence brainwave is a massive fail. A play to bail the pooch out of the pound.
Worse; If I wanted to start grinding on my particular limited patch of “gender theory” (why the straight boys and girls cheer on the faux-gay) there ain’t a lot of that here either. Yeah sure; yuri-esque pics in the ending credits, some skinship and fanservice and an off-the-shelf “they were BFF’s when kids, then separated.” Yawn. About as interesting as scanning a Twitter search for the show and finding comments that announce “It’s got gay, I’m watching it“.
So there ain’t enough interesting stuff on the battlefield and there ain’t enough yuri. Sure, two young women can just be friends too but they ain’t very good at doing that either.
Worse; 5 episodes into a cours of 13, there is no way in heck that Elystadt can end alt-WWII in time to save the day. So it is either “Our Battle Continues” or the US of Atlanta as well as the the democratic, non-colonialist, slightly liberal-left parliamentary monarchy of Alt-Nihon are both up to their fannies in hidden strike witches who are going to ride in (like Valkyries) to save the day and impose World Peace.
New Yuri World Witch Order. (I insist on cute witch hats too)
Which wouldn’t be too bad a way to fix this slow motion mess.
Right now Izetta is slowly drowning in a vat of vanilla and treacle.
The King Arch-Duke is dead. Princess (Arch-Duchess even if her subjects call her “hime”) Fine is now the ruler of Elystadt. Izetta gets a bath after waking up in the palace. She also gets beaned by some falling statuary and this is used to reveal her “kryptonite”: Ley Lines. (somewhat like the Japanese Power Spot fixation, an old chestnut in magikal fictions — Charles Stross loves ’em)
Some places have mana, some don’t. The capital of Elystadt is a dry hole, the ancient capital is overflowing with go juice. Avoid spells that spin a copper disc to hypersonic speeds while drawing magic to both spin and hold the disk together. Fear glass daggers.
Izetta, naif that she is, immediately spills all this to Fine’s war cabinet. Acknowledging that Izetta is a powerful force for Elystadt is no problem. Trying to figure out how to use her IS. Instead of turning her into a top-secret kinetic energy weapon the majority of those present are seized by the brain wave of turning her into Joan of Arc. Bad precedents aside, this gives the suspicious spy-dude a chance to introduce a further dodgy character, one who will incidentally crank the fan-service up to 11.
Then there is Fine’s personal bifauxen bodyguard. So far her job seems to be scowling at Izetta, driving her around and wearing a Taka otokoyaku costume.
“Do you weigh more than a duck?” .
Once she hears that Fine saved Izetta when they were young, all her suspicions vanish and she almost puts the royal limo in a ditch, so overwhelmed is she with emotion. Let’s hope that the PrincessArch-DuchessHime has a ninja combat butler somewhere nearby; so far her bodyguard needs work. Once the secret chamber in the old capitol’s castle is found and the Ley Lines map revealed, Izetta gets dressed up in a new boobage-displaying, thigh-flashing White Witch Returns ™ costume and gets to have a sweet hand-holding moment with Fine (who sports a far more serious royal costume) Some fans have noted that it resembles a wedding scene.
Meanwhile the big press conference looms.
Where to start?
The easy stuff first: Interesting that both Germania and Elystadt are variations on absolute monarchies. For a big-bad Hitler substitute, the Germanian Emperor is understandable. The absence of an Elystadt Prime Minister (maybe it’s that other old guy at the table?), diplomatic corps and/or sundry other government types in the war room is curious. No wonder the Elystadt troops are getting slaughtered. One doddering old dude runs the entire military, along with one spy and a few hangers-on. In contrast to all the military gear drag that the show has been flashing, the lack of Elystadt Command and Control, let alone governance is shocking. At least the Germanians had the stock “Longest Day” useless general staff milling around and making champagne bets and an absolute (-ly) despotic Imperial court.
Elystadt’s power structure would fail a family auto repair business. For a country it is laughable.
Next problem: fanservice.
Perhaps anime has already reached peak fanservice without anyone noticing it. On one hand, the fans, presumed to be fan-boys, are presumed to demand shower/ bath scenes, cleavage, butts and revealing costumes. The aftermarket for otaku trinkets howls for flashy magical-young-woman White Witch Returns ™ costume clad heroic action figures. More curious is the need to dress Izetta in a decolletage revealing short skirt with odd sandals within the castle. Her earlier hospital gown was a forgivable stretch, made up for by her later borrowed boy-shorts, army boots and uniform top. She was both fierce and fetching as she hurled tanks about. Does the animation studio not trust its material? Twitter Campaign: “Give Izetta warm clothing!”
Watching a video clip of Izetta flying formation with lances and destroying stukas (work on getting that twitter vid clip uploaded) complete with heroic chorale accompaniment brought to mind an older martial anime moment; the “Mighty X” instant in the preview teaser (episode 0) for Full Metal Panic The Second Raid. Don’t tell me that Sergeant Major/ Second Lieutenant Melissa Mao ain’t hawt as all heck because she is dressed to match her power and competence. Sure you can later slip her into a slinky evening gown, but only if you have a good reason. (Even so, one instance of evening dress was enough to forever fixate Kurtz Webber) You wouldn’t put Melissa Mao in a schoolgirl outfit when she is leading a strike team from her M9A Gernsbeck.
Or maybe you would have to, in 2016?
Final problem: yuri-ish shoujo-ai-ish forced innocence:
“Magical Girl Anne of Green Gables slaughters invading Nazis to save her childhood friend” is an intriguing premise for an anime. You can do a lot with soulful friendship between two young women, even if you make both characters nearly asexual and drop in plenty of carnage. Qualia The Purple (Murasaki-iro no Qualia) comes to mind; Gaku, given one small stupid power by a clumsy keter-class godling proceeds to work it across multiverses in a heartbreaking descent into homicidal monomania; all to save her cursed friend.
Once you start killing enemies, future enemies and potential enemies are a small step.
Gaku, in Child-homicidal-vengeance-magical-girl mode
Izetta is still charmingly naif, even as her kill count, per some /a/nons is over 50 by the end of the third episode. War is hell. Can you drop a soulful Class-S friendship between two young women into a blitzkrieg and have it walk out all fluffy and sparkling? Izetta wants to try, as long as possible. The show goes to absurd lengths to keep the happy couple innocent and “pure”. Izetta was a persecuted nomadic outcast. Fine as an alt-european aristo was raised to consider marriage and reproduction as acts of political economy. Neither would have much time or place in their hearts for conventional romantic mush.
Keeping this in mind, we can better situate (even if we don’t completely excuse) the ridiculous fanservice outbreaks in episode 4. Enter the very grope-y and at least polymorphously perverse alt-Amurrican tutor to Arch-Duchess Fine: Elvira Friedman.
OH SNAP!Pull the other one, it has bells on it and makes a pretty sound.
Notice me Sempai!
Very funny. This will go a long way towards trolling/ committing a shout-out towards a certain senior activist blogger on all things yuri in Contemporary Japanese (and some western) Visual Culture (also; occasional web-marketing consultant) who will either consign Izetta to the “won’t ever watch this annoying shyte” pile or wade in and rip it apart to find out what, if anything works. Perhaps she will merely note it with amused tolerance. Stand by for a real-world master-class lesson in how to respond to commercial trolling.
And yes, a favourable review on a certain blog wouldn’t hurt Crunchyroll subscription numbers one bit.
Sapphic subtext aside, Ms. Friedman makes her appearance not only to highlight the possibility same-sex interest among young women but to serve as an obvious, worldly and slightly louche contrast between jaded, experienced desire and Izetta and Fine’s “innocence”. Also as chief costume designer and press flack, the odd impracticalities of Izetta’s new White Witch Returns ™ costume can also be laid at her doorstep.
And yeah, it is quite obvious that her and spy-dude are in league. I will howl Fire the Writers! if he is a Germanian mole, but he, and Elvira have to be sleeper agents for SOME other major intelligence agency.
I still think dropping cathedrals accelerated to mach8 on alt-Berlin is a sounder option than a PR blitz. And Izetta was attractive ’nuff in fatigues and shorts.
Yes, the puny Elystadt army is overwhelmed, yes, they are cannon fodder before the planes, bombs and tanks of the alt-Wehrmacht. Watch them die tragically, heroically.
Awwwww crap this is going on much too long.
Yes, 16 minutes and 16 seconds of episode time, if you want to be picky about it. Wait, what’s that? …Up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane…
Finally roused to action, Izetta skewers the alt-Luftwaffe and then descends to the battlefield to throw tanks around like the Hulk. The Princess is happy Izetta didn’t bug off. The enemy is vanquished! The troops cheer!
No pantsu shots. Must learn to accelerate antique swords to mach 6 lest they just bounce off tanks
Pacing in episode 3 seemed off, at least in comparison to the adventurous clip of the first and first half of the second episodes. I suspect that the grinding on the battlefield situation was a nod towards the military fans.
The defending Elystadt troop seemed decked out in WWI vintage French and Belgian -ish kit.
The over-confident alt-nazi general staff were right out of central casting. It would be interesting if in later episodes princess Fine takes a more active role in the defense of the realm, rather than simply standing as as figurehead to rally the troops, who mop up after Izetta hurls tanks around and shatters enemy planes. The one Elystadt general that we have seen came across as a doddering blowhard. A Princess with the tactical imagination of a field marshal would be a great compliment to a super-powered magical girl.
The story also requires some Izetta-kryptonite and spy vs spy skullduggery, if only to put a few more characters (seen in the PV) into play. Meanwhile
Look at the powerful duo.
Lets just hope the pace picks up.
Izetta and Princess Fine met and were friends for a brief time when they were young. The Princess saved her from a peasant mob and suffered a nasty wound to her side in the process. There are limits to Izetta’s powers and she was raised to hide them. The alt-nazis killed her family when they captured her; she will kill to defend herself. The alt-nazis have a foothold in Elystadt; Izetta managed to carry the wounded Princess to the relative safety of a retreating column of Elsystadt troops. Izetta pleads to stay by Fine’s side even as Fine tries to convince her to flee to safety. Meanwhile the alt-gestapo agents from the train resolve to hunt Izetta down. The story so far is a class-S young women’s fast friendship mixed in with a (quasi) WWII battlefield adventure.
Episode two of Izetta etc gives us the quick alt-nazi war footage by way of introduction and then jumps to some cheesecake in the opening credits. When the music fades we are back in mid-air with the Princess in
Izetta’s arms, just as we left them at the end of the first episode. The pacing is brisk and after a brief “whoa how do you fly this thing” near-miss with mountains, our two heroes find themselves chased by alt-luftwaffe fighter planes. Here Izetta shows that besides touching an object to control it, she can also splatter her blood on objects and exert powerful magic at a distance. Enemy planes fall to her ice shards after she lures them into chasing her close to the snowy ground. The Princess gets the last plane with a single shot from the anti-material rifle that they are riding. After they land safely Izetta caries the weakened Princess until they meet up with a column of retreating Elystadt troops. After some field first aid, the party holes up in a ruined mansion and the princess hears of how bad the war is going.
Episode 2 is relatively short on fan-service as the story begins to edge towards an adventurous tale of friendship between two young women facing an implacable foe; almost the stuff of traditional shonen fare. Only the opening credits drop in some odly out-of-place fan-service, along with plenty of tanks and guns. Izetta is a courageous red-headed young girl; the nod to “Red Haired Anne” [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/terry-dawes/anne-of-green-gables-japan_b_4899252.html] the western tale that showed that young women could have fast friendships without suffering terrible retribution (a la Flower Tales) from the fates, is obvious. Houston, we have a Class-S [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Class_S_(genre)] adventure; think “bromance” with young women (which has to be one of the more convoluted ways of describing the effect, but if it works, roll with it…) See as well: http://okazu.yuricon.com/category/history-of-yuri/page/3/