Shuumatsu No Izetta – 01-04 Review
It’s strange when moments like this happen. The tone of the series is very at odds with this action-imagery as it’s more about morals than anything else.
Shuumatsu no Izetta 01-04: World Wars are bad. But shit happens sometimes, right? In this particular alternate universe, Germany takes on the mantle of villainy once again. Eylstadt, a little country in the mountains, is supposed to be its next victim. But Eylstadt has two weapons: One is the princess Fine who doesn’t seem to have any flaws and the other is the last witch Izetta who conveniently is also a super-powerful witch (and naturally Fine has saved her life at some point).
Fine seems to do everything right so far and Izetta is ignoring every piece of advice she has gotten from her grandma. But hey, what can go possibly wrong…?
It’s a bit disappointing how the series is already foreshadowing a magic system that is conveniently built around melodrama. Bad emotions produce bad magic, good emotions produce good magic: It’s a simplistic excuse for letting the magic do whatever suits the plot/story at the moment.
Is war evil? It’s a simple question and it’s easy to find a moralizing answer for it. But watching series like this one I wonder how much the writers have thought about war. It’s very unlikely they have experienced war themselves, so the best you can hope for is historical awareness/knowledge. What makes this thinking so relevant in this case is how this alternate-universe-version of WWII talks about war and why people are fighting in it.
The most obvious struggle you could find in any story is the one between good and evil. And here you have one kingdom steeped in traditions and an expanding, aggressive nation founded on science and ruthless ambitiousness. After having established that, the next obvious question is of course: What makes the good guys good and what makes the evil guys evil? Surprisingly despite the WWII-comparison the characterization of evil has been strangely broad so far. Warmongering and cartoonish villainy is all the bad guys seem to show as evidence of their wrongdoing so far. At this point, the series seems to care more about making the case for why Fine is the standard for everything good in this series.
Responsibility has emerged as the central theme of the series after three episodes and Fine, the intrepid princess/queen, embodies the idea of responsibility to a ridiculous degree. Fine’s presence in the series can be easily described as overbearing. Everything she does or says has something to do with responsibility. More than idealistic, she seems to be a representation of the ideal itself. Fine’s responsible to a degree you’d expect her to be a character in some Arthurian legend or something. She’s everything a princess/queen should be like. I can’t think of a single action or line of dialogue that made her seem selfish or exposed a vice of hers. She’s noble to such a ridiculous degree that she wouldn’t even ask her witch-friend Izetta for help because it would go against Izetta’s vows and despite the fact that she’s the only one who could save the day. And when Izetta goes against Fine’s wishes, she accepts it and then just cries out of relief because Izetta hadn’t gotten hurt. With that kind of perfect character running around, how could the series not be all about her?
There isn’t any debate going on over what should be done and why. Fine’s a flawless moral compass and her little witch-girlfriend is the ultimate weapon. So, where’s the drama in that? And while there is drama, it feels strangely perfunctory at times. The war-imagery is a pastiche of everything you’ve probably already seen in some war-movie at some point with more gore and/or pathos. But with Izetta’s power and Fine’s flawless morals, the whole thing starts to feel like the series is crying over spilled milk. It seems like a trifle that’s just there to inspire melancholy. What motions the plot is going through produce reliable drama but little story. Because the story is just an ideal wading through mud while remaining unblemished.
World-peace!? I guess, we now know why Fine is such a flawless character…
In these four episodes, Fine/Izetta are problem, solution and quite literally the raison d’état at the same time. And state-business is a tricky thing in this series as it’s deeply nationalistic. Of course, that’s a weird stance to take for the series when the villains are pseudo-Nazis/pseudo-Kaiserreich (from WWII and WWI respectively). The bad sides of nationalism are what created Nazis in the first place! Naturally it’s hard to argue against nationalism when the good guys are led by a character like Fine who’s everything you’d wish to get from a monarch. She would sacrifice everything for her country – and so the country is willing to do the same for her. Personally, I really didn’t like the exchange in episode 02 where Fine was like “I’m not any more important than any soldier here.” but later the lieutenant said to Izetta something like “It’s nice that she thinks that but she’s worth more than any of us and that’s why we’re willing to die for her.”. All this idealistic talk of sacrifice and equality the princess offers just reinforces the traditional power-dynamics of that kingdom. Nobody listens to the princess and says “Yeah, she gets it! Everybody matters! Not just royalty and other blue-bloods!”. Instead they just admire her for saying “progressive stuff” and then react to it by saying “That’s SO cool what you said there! That’s our princess for ye! She knows her stuff! This nation’s great!”. It’s conservatism instead of progressivism that dictates the impact of the princess’ passion.
What most drama revolves around (and it’s heavily tied to the question of responsibility as well) is the question of Izetta’s involvement. Her powers are considered to be dangerous and you get the usual line of logic arguing for obscurity instead of trying to use them. Together with hints at the danger of her powers, the series has already dropped more ominous hints than facts about the story behind the White Witch. Izetta’s struggle is also about responsibility. But unlike with Fine her struggle isn’t about being responsible; it’s about justifying her irresponsibility. She isn’t supposed to tell people about her witch-powers, she isn’t supposed to use them and instead of fearing that she becomes the White Witch 2.0, she wants to follow her path.
If one world could describe the series, it would be “acceptable”. Nothing in this series stands out as being particularly bad and yet it doesn’t quite nail the WW-storytelling. It’s a series about a brave princess and her witch kicking the asses of an evil invader – and so far, there doesn’t seem to be much more to that idea than that. Shuumatsu no Izetta, for better or worse, is exactly what you expect it to be.
- I wonder how many more times we will hear good guys talk about how they would like to give their life for Fine.
- What do you think, the odds are that Izetta isn’t the last witch after all…? Or that Germania figures out how to use the ley-lines to power super-mechas…?
- When they were talking about the weaknesses of the Witch-powers: Will it become a plot-point that she actually can’t be everywhere at once? She can win one battle but there are usually multiple battles happening at once in different places. And Eylstadt can’t win against Germania in a normal fight.
- I really hope the next episode will have more action. The dialogue is okay but besides exposition and people praising Fine not a lot of substance is happening. Also, Izetta has a maid which is… I mean, who cares!