Shuumatsu no Izetta – 12 Review

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You just gotta love this series for its “subtle” commentary on history.

Shuumatsu no Izetta 12: It’s all or nothing for Eylstadt! Germania has a nuke! And the only thing that can prevent its use is (of course) Izetta!

Coincidentally, though, she has just received a power-up that allows her to battle the clone-witch…

Review:

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Why is it that Eylstadt seems to be solely responsible for the existence of witches? It’s another contrived idea of this series how the only supernatural factors are tied to Eylstadt (thereby making them responsible for them).

As a series, Shuumatsu no Izetta is a series that has a good story-idea at its heart. Between war, responsibility, sacrifice and guilt the series’ story always show a constant awareness of what it wants to talk about. And tonally the characterization shows awareness of that as well by having an equal number of villains, heroes and those who are caught in the crossfire of the former two fighting. Add to that an alternate-history-WWII-setting as a solid foundation for a somewhat historical epic adventure and you wonder where exactly things have gone wrong here.

Contrivance is the watchword in this series certainly. Whenever a plot has to explain how the story from point A to point B, it can come off as contrived. By cutting corners, the plot comes off as odd (in a “Wait, what just happened?”-way), unrelatable (in a “That character wouldn’t do that!”-way) and/or unbelievable (in a “That doesn’t make sense!”-way). To avoid that, there’s exposition, characterization and world-building. The reason Shuumatsu no Izetta fumbles nearly all its narrative opportunities at every turn is that most of what happens in its plot seems contrived.

Let’s start with the setting of the series. You’d think a series that has a rich trove of tropes and story-ideas in the form of the real history to rely on would have a more refined perspective on history and politics. Instead, the series throws out historical references left and right without showing any self-awareness and understanding of their context. What this leads to is a weird mishmash of references from WWI and WWII without the series making it clear what exactly is going on in this series’ world. Germania as the bad guy simply is bad – and that’s it. Beyond the nationalist wet dream of a small nation like Eylstadt taking on the entire world, the series’ definition of evil is limited to a vague rejection of Germania invading other countries.

Vagueness describes the series pretty well in another regard as well: Scope. For example, what is the series implying about the USA-equivalent of this series’ setting? You really get the sense in the last episode that the writers consider them to be the next bad guy. So, Eylstadt is good, Britannia is good, Germania is bad, Atlanta is bad – and the series doesn’t tell you why. Especially because of the real-world-connections this bad world-building comes off as awkward. Without any hint of self-awareness, the series is making a lot of judgment-calls here.

The feeling that the series has way too much on its plate for it to handle can also be seen in all its various modes of tone. You have the personal adventure-journey from the first episode where Izetta and Fine are fleeing (which also started the very basic relationship-arc of Izetta and Fine), then you get the war-storytelling (complete with a soldier-character in the form of Jonas) and there’s also spy-intrigue (with Rickert and Berkmann). Oh, and there are the political elements of whenever the nations are meeting up to discuss the fate of Europe. But it all ends in a battle-shounen-esque supernatural battle between two witches. Just by listing all these very different storytelling-modes, you can easily recognize why the plot felt like it was constantly drunkenly stumbling around.

It’s simply ridiculous to think about how the series started and how it ended in this episode. You gotta remember: It started with a brave princess suddenly being reunited with her witch-girlfriend just in time to not only save her but also help her protect her country – and it ends with two witches having a Dragonball-esque battle over the Atlantic Ocean, so that the princess’ country wouldn’t get nuked. Whoever the lead-writer for this series had been has fucked up big-time. Just by knowing how the series begins and how it ends, it’s glaringly obvious how the series’ plot must have gone off-the-rails at some point.

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So… I guess, it does pay off to be egoistic.

Without the series having any specific awareness of why anything was happening in this series and starting out with its epic World-War-setting, it was understandable hard for the series to raise its stakes after the series had quickly done the whole “Izetta saves the day”-thing. The series’ first attempt to drag this out were the ley-lines and having a whole episode about how in some places Izetta couldn’t use her magic. But beyond that, the series didn’t have anything to raise the stakes – except, of course, to introduce another witch. There’s nothing organic about these plot-developments and you can just imagine some dude sitting in the writers’ room saying out loud “I guess, this could happen next, right…?”. There’s no confidence in this plot as all-over-the-place as it is. It’s like someone wrote a page of short notes about what he thinks the series is about and then gave it to a bunch of writers who couldn’t care less about what the hell is happening in this series. Because you can see some central ideas (as I’ve described in the last review) that show some creative intent. But the execution of these themes is absolutely terrible.

Ultimately this makes Shuumatsu no Izetta a pretty forgettable series. Despite the strong presence of the series’ themes throughout the story you never get the sense that the series has anything of note to say. In fact, quite the opposite is often the case as the series covers complicated historical and ethical issues in broad strokes for the sake of a mostly contrived plot. The cast of characters remains woodenly one-note throughout which makes a lot of drama predictable. And what you’re left with is a fairly ludicrous series.

Episode-Rating: 4.0/10

Series-Rating: 4.5/10

Random Thoughts:

  • This series’ idea of international politics is ridiculous.
  • Both Berkmann and Izetta survive for no reason. Berkmann simply doesn’t get punished for his misdeeds and Izetta gets rewarded for her sacrifice. But both cases can be characterized as a deus-ex-machina.
  • The fact that this series’ epilogue is a rather lengthy narration should tell you all you need to know about this series’ storytelling-quality.

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About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on December 28, 2016, in Anime, Reviews, Shuumatsu no Izetta and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. This show has kind of the quintessential anime storytelling problem – the kernel of a great idea, “How might a witch have upset the balance of power in WWII?” – blown apart by lazy, shabby writing. If anything, you’re being generous to a narrative that seemed more interested in cramming in boob-grabbing jokes and yuri-teasing than making its story either compelling character drama or an interesting exploration of war, peace and the balance of power.

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    • Yeah, I’m a little more forgiving in that regard because I think there’s more in this series than just a kernel of a great idea. The themes it wants to focus on are also a good idea (ie. sacrifice, responsibility, guilt) – but the rest…

      Thinking about it, sometimes it isn’t just laziness, it’s cluelessness. Like something’s happening and the direction/writing focuses on the wrong things because there’s seemingly no awareness whatsoever of why that scene is happening and what it’s there for. It’s like one good writer had all the ideas and then a whole room of idiots butchered those in execution.

      And the yuri… I mean, they teased pretty hard, didn’t they? I’m not sure you could even call that subtext anymore.

      Like

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