Izetta: The Fairy Tale That 2016 Slept On | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 12-episode fall 2016 anime “Izetta: The Last Witch,” animated by Ajia-do Animation Works, directed by Masaya Fujimori, and based on the original story by Hiroyuki Yoshino. 

Image result for izetta the last witch the white witch


Die Letzte Hexe: The Last Witch

Back during the ages of old, a witch with pristine white hair wielded her powerful magic to protect her country of Elystadt, defending its people until her last dying breath. Years later in 1939, militaristic giant Germania invades a neighboring country, plunging Europe into a devastating war. Boasting far superior technological prowess in this industrial era, Germania sets her sights on Elystadt, a significantly weaker alpine country in the way of Germania’s great conquest.

To make matters worse for the tiny country, Germanian soldiers capture their princess, Ortfiné “Finé” Fredericka von Eylstadt, as she is heading to a decisive meeting with Britannia. When trouble aboard the transport plane breaks loose, another piece of precious cargo, Izetta, the last witch alive, escapes. Recognizing Princess Finé from a childhood memory, Izetta transforms a soldier’s rifle into a flying “broomstick” and rescues Finé.

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Now reunited with her princess, Izetta pledges to protect Elystadt from the clutches of Germania—just as the White Witch of legend once did—and with the last surviving witch on their arsenal, Elystadt hopes to turn the tides against the imperialist war titan.

Original projects excite me. There’s nothing more freeing than hearing a studio trying to bring together a story from the their own combined passions, and then seeing the results. Izetta was no exception. While underwhelming in its finale, Izetta provides a magical spin on a historical setting where a world war is fought . . . by a witch.

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What if a World War had a Witch?

Izetta is a bumbling little mess of emotions and crimson hair. She’s kind and overly humble, but often disregards her own well-being for the object of her affection: Princess Finé. Speaking of, our Princess of Elystadt herself is quite the noble woman. Just as Izetta, she’s loyal to her countrymen and responsible to a T. Respect is another quality that runs deep in the Elystadt family’s lineage (or at least the legend has us believe), but trust me when I say that Finé is the genuine article.

The two are a power duo, and many of my favorite scenes don’t revolve around the engaging combat, but rather the quiet nighttime conversations that are exclusive to the pair. Although they act selfishly so as to preserve the others’ safety, Izetta and Finé are undeniably a cool couple bound together by lore and destiny.

Aside from Izetta, Finé, and a young Germanian spy boy named Ricelt, none of the characters’ motives felt resolved, however. If this were an adaptation of a larger work, then I could understand why some details might’ve gotten left out. But Izetta is an original story with an entirely original cast, and to have interesting characters that serve little more purpose than to act as mere decorative pawns is a crime. If one character’s role can be performed by a separate entity and the story pans out the same way, then that’s a sign you should probably rethink your character count.

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Banking on Design: The Art of Izetta

Ajia-do isn’t a studio known for producing the most outstanding works (the most noteworthy to me being Emma: A Victorian Romance‘s second season), but they definitely did Izetta justice. The magical dogfights featuring Izetta flexing her powers are super fun to watch, as she enchants a variety of guns, swords, and missiles to fly by her side and “aid” her. All of the CG armaments gliding around the battlefield are well animated, and the background villages, landscapes, ballrooms, and regal offices are splendidly colored.

Speaking of colors, the character designs are surprisingly detailed and ornate, especially Ortfiné’s. BUNBUN’s light novel-esque character designs mirror the quality of Abec’s works of Sword Art Online fame. The hauntingly gorgeous ED theme “Hikari Aru Basho e” by May’n features the beautiful original artwork in an elegant slideshow fashion. As for the rest of the music, Michiru delivers wonderful militaristic anthems for on and off the battlefield. Overall, the soundtrack supports both the dramatic and the more lax moments of the series fairly well.

bunbun izetta

For dub fans, Funimation’s got you covered with another high quality English script. Mallorie Rodak brings a nobility to Princess Finé that is very reminiscent of her lovely work as Space Battleship Yamato‘s Yuki Mori. Derick Snow’s young boy voice for the soldier-spy Ricelt was, wow, perfect, and Jad Saxton’s Sophie makes for a wicked antagonist, even if I dislike the character. I found Skylar McIntosh’s Izetta to be the weakest performance here, but even then I grew to enjoy her natural naivete that fits so well with the role.

The End of Magic and Fantasy

Amidst the hype of the incredible fall 2016 anime season (which included Drifters, Bungou Stray Dogs‘ 2nd Season, Haikyuu!!’s 3rd Season, and the phenomenon that was Yuri!!! On ICE to name a few), Izetta slipped by the radar fairly undetected. Its flashy moniker and simple yet exciting world-wars-meets-magic premise was pretty well received by fans that somehow didn’t have enough that season to chew on, although few stuck around for very long. (Don’t worry Izetta, I made time for you back then.)

After the first stunning and smart six episodes, the promises and high stakes let on by this thrilling first half see a weak follow-up (and even weaker conclusion) come the end of the story. The introduction of a villain, aside from the uninteresting Germanian emperor, in the latter half serves more thematic purpose than anything else. That is to say, the addition of an actual antagonist to directly oppose our titular witch doesn’t make this story of war any more exciting.

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Prior to this reveal, the series was building up to one big narrative conclusion: that war is bad. It’s not novel, but it certainly fits. Seeing as how there are radicals, spies, and heavy losses on both sides of the border, I would’ve been quite satisfied if Izetta had held a more neutral position.

But then they go ahead and say, “Aha, this new villain is TRULY evil,” and any hopes of an appeal to the enemy side are lost in the muddy trenches. Maybe that kind of story works for you, but I just wasn’t a fan of the big baddie because it didn’t feel like the finale Izetta was building up towards. As an original tale, you could’ve gone anywhere . . . and this is what you decided on? At least Izetta looked great soaring high in the sky on that rifle of hers—I’ll certainly miss our little witch and her magic, even if just for that.

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I, for one, am glad we saw the magic. It may not seem like much, but I think the fairy tale of the White Witch who appeared in modern times left something good inside the hearts of people all over the world. — Izetta, the last witch


Afterword

It’s been three years in the making, and it took receiving a physical copy of the Izetta Blu-ray as a gift from my brother to finally make the time for a rewatch and give this series a proper review. Even if I was disappointed with parts of the ending, the final sentiment of leaving magic behind and looking towards the future will always bring a tear to my eyes. More than not, I’m so happy this project became realized by the production team behind it—it’s a noble little piece, and an achievement in my eyes. Izetta: The Last Witch receives the “Coffee” rating, a title that you, eh, might enjoy, but I wouldn’t recommend like crazy.

Were you one of the few who stuck around to see the end of the magic, or did you bail out of the plane halfway like Finé did in episode one? Let me know, because literally no one talks about this series! Really, the show is kinda dumb, but it’s fun popcorn material if you just want to turn your brain off. On another note, I’m in the reviewing mood, so I’m hoping to churn out a few more before the inspiration passes! So, until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

16 thoughts on “Izetta: The Fairy Tale That 2016 Slept On | Review

  1. I enjoyed the early episodes and liked the introduction of the characters. However, the ending was not good. The other side getting their own witch and the magical battle, it all just felt outside of the story they’d been creating. It would have been cooler to see the opponent figure out someway to neutralise Izetta and see her overcome it for the final, or to see the inspiration she’d created catch on and momentum in the war naturally turn against the enemy. With the ending it has, despite the many points early on in the series that are interesting, I just don’t really want to watch this one again.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The earlier episodes were really something, weren’t they? I remember watching it as a simulcast and anticipating what each week would bring. But the ending does fall flat, and I’m glad you called it out on it too.

      I thought adding in a witch to the opponent’s side was an incredibly weak plot point, despite how genius the characters think it is. It took everything that was charming about Izetta and flushed it away. Given the political intellect the series possessed at the beginning, I was hoping for a conclusion fought with brains, but what we got was all brawn.

      It’s a disappointing ending, that’s for sure. While I enjoy the bittersweet sentiment on giving up on magic forever, I could’ve thought of ten other ways to end the series besides a battle of might. Thanks for sharing your thoughts—I totally agree with many of them.

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. I really enjoyed Izetta. I found my interest wane a bit when Sophia showed up, but after thinking about it, I think she was necessary.

    SPOILERS FOLLOW

    I’ve always been a fan of stories that deal with government cover-ups. In this show, the government appropriated the story of the White Witch and turned it into something heroic. In realty, they turned on and betrayed Sophie. It’s no wonder she was out for revenge.

    Contrast that with how Finé treated Izetta (even now, I can’t help but think of Finé as Izetta’s princess!). The stakes were the same. The witch was going to have to be sacrificed. But Finé didn’t trick her; Izetta willingly embraced it because of her love for her princess. That was the thematic core of the whole story. Sacrifice, willing given, made all the difference in the world.

    Closing that loop, showing how a leader like Finé could redeem her people, and showing what a partnership could produce (as opposed to trickery and bad faith), was the show’s thematic cornerstone.

    Remember the scene of Finé, on her knees, sobbing at the sight of the pillar of light that marked the spot of Izetta’s sacrifice? That’s good stuff.

    I’m not sure why the latter half felt a little less interesting. From an academic and craft perspective, I want to understand. Karandi might be right — the method of introduction might have been weak. Maybe it needed more foreshadowing? Some kind of buildup?

    But I do know the emotional impact that last episode had. That was something special.

    It had a pretty good soundtrack, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is so much valid criticism and praise alike here. Where to start!

      I agree that the show was setting itself up for something much smarter than perhaps the finale ended up being. There’s lots of thematic contrast going on here between the White Witch of legend and the White Witch of modern day, which you seem to have picked up on as well.

      Sophie was out for revenge—there’s no denying that. But I also think Sophie was jealous of how free Izetta was. Free in terms of obligation, action, and loyalty. Finé made sure to never put Izetta in a crappy situation unless they both agreed to it willingly. If the series had highlighted more on these contrasts and the differences between how the witch was manipulated back then compared to how she is allied with them in the present (adding in that jealousy imbalance), I think that would’ve been a much better intro to Sophie than simply “I hate humanity because they betrayed me.”

      Finé’s expressions in that final fight (and throughout the series) are truly heartbreaking. The two really are bound together by something stronger than historical ties, and that may be the most important sentiment of all here!

      And yeah, it looked good AND sounded great, no issues there!

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. It would seem that there was a lot more to Izetta than the community realized at the time. I only hope it doesn’t fade from our hearts too soon now!

      Like

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