[Synopsis]: In 1940, the world is racked by its Second World War as the powerful military nation of Germania turns its attention towards the small country of Eylstadt. The crown Princess of Eylstadt, Ortfiné Fredericka von Eylstadt (Hayami Saori), does what she can to defend her meager country but in doing so falls into the hands into the hands of the Germanians. Through this series of events, Finé is reunited with her childhood friend Izetta (Akaneya Himika), the last remaining descendant of a family of witches. After escaping, Izetta pledges her magic and loyalty to Finé in order to defend Eylstadt against the encroaching forces of Germania and to realize the ideals of her dear friend.
At its heart, Shuumatsu no Izetta revolves around the pair of Finé and Izetta with a light interest aimed at the show’s fairly extensive supporting cast. Their friendship makes a lot of sense within the story. Finé came to Izetta’s rescue as a child and showed her kindness when nobody else would. Though Izetta saw her magic as something that made her an outcast, Finé was enamored and enchanted by it and these things gave Izetta a great deal of admiration for her. To Finé, Izetta represented somebody who saw her for who she was – someone who appreciated her outside of the context of her royalty. Within this give and take between the two characters, the groundwork for their personalities and their relationship is pretty good.
Finé herself is strong-willed, idealistic, and fully embodies the kind of self-sacrifice and poise of a just ruler. She puts others first at every turn and most of her dialogue is spent agonizing over the fact that because she herself doesn’t have the power to protect her country, that she must risk the well-being of her friend Izetta. Her conviction and care for her people is endearing but at the same time she presents such a paragon of idealism and devotion that she often comes off as kind of bland and cliche. Her unflinching loyalty to the people of Eylstadt consumes her to the point that the only significant characterization that remains is that she is a ‘good person’ and that she cares for Izetta. Though she has these issues, watching Finé struggle to come to terms with what needs to be done is a compelling part of her character.
While Finé can at times be a little uninteresting, Izetta, the titular witch of the show, features this quality to a more extensive degree. She adores Finé, her personality is kind and innocent, and that’s about it. Almost all of her time is spent staring starry-eyed at Finé and wanting to do her best and pay back the kindness she once received as a young girl. Izetta herself is somewhat symbolic of Finé’s penchant for sacrifice and how she empowers herself. In the same way that Finé laments having to send her soldiers off to fight the war, she must send Izetta out onto the battlefield if she wants to have any chance at victory. This conflict of interests is what drives their relationship but whereas Finé becomes more interesting because of it, Izetta remains the same, earnest character she always was. She becomes wrapped up in the characterization of a more interesting person and between her overwrought simplicity and total lack of development fails to become an engaging character in her own right.
While the two central characters have their ups and downs, the rest of the cast is woefully uninteresting and impressively forgettable. Despite hosting a relatively large cast of characters, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that couldn’t be entirely summarized by a one-word description. There’s a maid, a pilot, a spy, a reporter, a captain of the imperial guard – the list goes on. They just have no depth or personality to them whatsoever and so when the focus of the show turns to them to be interesting or meaningful, their scenes fall utterly flat. The Germanians are about as typical of a depiction as you can render of Nazi-Germany and the motives of the antagonists present in the story either don’t make much sense or don’t matter in respect to the story at large.
Shuumatsu no Izetta boasted a visual style that at times wavered in quality but was for the most part fairly consistent. There were lots of pastoral backgrounds, villages, and castles and so the setting itself looked pretty decent. The show as a whole often came off as major WWII fan-service in its depiction of trenches, tanks, infantry, and dogfights. If you came to the show seeking European wartime imagery than Shuumatsu no Izetta delivers. The explosions look fantastic and the general combat looks pretty good as well. There are a number of action scenes and battles throughout the show but they are far too infrequent in their appearance to carry it through some of its more mind-numbing friendship-building scenes. For what it’s worth, Izetta flies around on an anti-tank rifle which is probably the most compelling image in the entire show and the most representative of the show’s duel subject matter.
Speaking of fan-service, Shuumatsu no Izetta features a surprising amount of it in the form of suggestive camera angles and unnecessary nudity scenes. While it doesn’t appear too frequently, the early mid-section of the show becomes rather bogged down with this extraordinarily out of place content. Izetta just doesn’t bill itself as the kind of show where this kind of sexualization feels necessary or meaningful. The first episode establishes political intrigue, war-centric imagery, magic, and drama. What follows is awkward and very tonally disruptive, going as far as to sexualize Izetta during combat scenes when she should be most appealing and engaging.
The central narrative of Shuumatsu no Izetta is pretty straightforward. The Germanian empire seeks to invade the land of Eylstadt and Finé does everything she can to stop them and save her country. With the appearance of Izetta and the powerful magic she wields, the rules of combat are fundamentally changed. Suddenly, this small, nearly insignificant country which lay at the mercy of its attackers stands a fighting chance as it rallies behind Finé and Izetta who strongly resembles a famous witch from the county’s folklore. It’s a promising start but the show ultimately fails to capitalize on what made its story initially appealing.
The failing of Shuumatsu no Izetta’s story is twofold. What starts out as a promising blend between WWII European wartime and magical fantasy quickly becomes dull and uneventful as the focus of the show turns away from politics and warfare and towards the antics of Izetta, Finé, and the supporting cast. The scenes of battlefields, tanks, and planes are quickly forgotten in place of scenes about bathing, eating pie, and incessantly going on and on for episodes at a time about whether or not Izetta should fight on behalf of Eylstadt. In this respect, Shuumatsu no Izetta should have quite literally stuck to its guns. What made the show interesting was its take on warfare, magic, and the historical intrigue of its depiction.
This subject matter doesn’t run the length of the entire show but it really bogs down the early episodes when it would be most important to be developing something meaningful. Moreover, hardly anything happens for long stretches of time. The battles are highly infrequent and the developments between Eylstadt and Germania happen very intermittently. One bit of praise I will give the show is its use of propaganda and information warfare which is only spotlighted upon for a brief time but which captures a bit of Shuumatsu no Izetta’s earlier magic.
Though the show eventually arrives at its ultimate conflict somewhere in its later episodes, the other thing that really hamstrings the story is just how many plot contrivances it has. Too frequently are characters sent out of their way simply for the sake of manifesting some crude development down the line. It feels unnatural and often involves the show busing itself with its supporting cast which leaves each of those respective scenes completely drained of meaning and personality. Simply put, the bulk of the show is spent investigating the relationship between Izetta and Finé and at other times attempting to spin some sort of story out of the show’s other far less interesting characters. The story is predictable to a truly unfortunate degree and never really shakes its propensity for behaving in the most obvious of ways even as it winds down.
The soundtrack of Shuumatsu no Izetta is actually quite an interesting one. Some of the tracks fit better than others but for the most part they attempt to distill the show’s sense of magic and war through various orchestral styles, occult singing, and occasional rock influence. The music gives Shuumatsu no Izetta a kind of unique sound which works to its benefit however some tracks don’t fit into the scenes as well as others which can leave them feeling out of place.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
It’s easy to write-off Shuumatsu no Izetta as a case of wasted potential and it’s certainly true that the show doesn’t take its image of a rifle-riding, magical witch in World War II quite far enough but for the most part I feel the show hit upon most of what it could have done – albeit poorly. Themes of helping yourself through others and self-sacrifice give the two central characters some thematic significance but also contribute to the show’s more stereotypical elements.
I gave Shuumatsu no Izetta a 3 because it was uneventful, poorly written, and its cast was exceedingly under-characterized. Though it spent a great deal of time investigating the relationship between Finé and Izetta, their dialogue felt repetitive because Izetta was such a simple and unchanging character. A handful of plot contrivances sapped the story of any meaningful developments and as a whole the narrative itself was just dull, pointless, and far too predictable.
If the premise of a witch flying around in a WWII setting, dodging gunfire and upending tanks sounds appealing then, despite its faults, Shuumatsu no Izetta will probably still deliver. Its depiction of war is a pretty entertaining one though it hardly apologizes for the show’s other many faults. Outside of its specific premise appeal, the show doesn’t have much going for it and probably isn’t worth watching unless you’re in love with the idea itself.