Shuumatsu no Izetta – 09

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This episode’s opening act painted a rosy picture: with Germania not attacking, Izetta continues to build her image across the world by assisting the resistance movements of territories Germania has conquered, and the narrating Lotte is hoping the good times keep coming. Fine even tells Izetta a ceasefire could be in the making.

I didn’t buy this rosiness for a second, since it’s already been established that Berkman has Izetta’s number and has merely been biding his time for an assault, both the map and the crystal are in enemy hands, and even Muller AKA Sieg Reich simply isn’t giving off very trustworthy vibes.

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A reckoning, then, was inevitable, and it comes later in the episode after Izetta ends up on the wrong battlefront and must be quickly transported to the right one. There, the one tactical advantage Eylstadt has over Germania—the White Witch—is taken away, by Germania’s own White Witch, a clone of Izetta’s descendant, Sophie.

The path that led to her creation is hastily told, as Berkman learns of Division 9’s research and cloning methods, and Izetta’s blood is gradually used to “awaken” Sophie from the doll-like clone. Eylstadt’s own recklessness with Izetta’s personal security indirectly led to Berkman’s success.

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At first, Sophie tries to appeal to Izetta’s pride and duty as a witch, telling her what her own family told her: using her magical powers to help affect the outcome of war between non-magical countries is wrong.

But when Izetta insists she must fight for her archduchess and refuses to stand down, Sophie ditches the nice guy act right quick, turning on a dime into Izetta’s enemy, and the two duel in the sky as Germania’s superior military runs the Eylstadt forces roughshod.

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Sophie ends up nullifying Izetta’s magic at a crucial moment, causing her to crash, then for good measure, employs magic chain bondage to crush Izetta’s insides. She’s taken prisoner, photographed and filmed for pro-Germanian propaganda, which is likely to kill morale in Eylstadt as well as anywhere where people oppose Germania.

Now that their “nuke” isn’t unique anymore, or even a threat to Germania, they’re free to attack Eylstadt’s capital, even bombing Fine’s palace. But the lack of chivalry in the assault mirror’s Eylstadt’s own desperate but ultimately foul play: when they couldn’t win with conventional warfare they turned to magic.

They put all their eggs in that basket, and now that basket’s been crushed and burned. It’s not looking good at all for Fine, Izetta, or Eylstadt.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 08

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Pretty much the entire time I was watching this episode of Izetta, much of which centers on Berkman’s adjutant, Ricelt, as he parachutes into Eylstadt to gain access to the castle where the ley lines map is located, I thought to myself, “why do I care about this guy?”

While I’m cognizant of the fact that war usually isn’t as simple as black-and-white, or good-vs.-evil, I still couldn’t muster any sympathy for Ricelt and the fate he succumbs to. And that made it hard to get emotionally invested in this episode at all.

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Forgetting the fact that he just happens to fall in a river just as Fine’s maid Lotte and Bianca are driving past…you know what, I can’t forget (or forgive) a coincidence of that magnitude, and I won’t.

Even in tiny Eylstadt, it’s ridiculous and extremely incredible that Ricelt would end up so close to these two, let alone that they’d so easily buy his half-assed cover story. Ricelt is only able to get as far as he does thanks (in part) to Bianca’s stupidity. This is war; any and all strangers who suddenly show up must be suspected, not flirted with.

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Speaking of flirting, the show’s fascination with Fine and Izetta as some kind of quasi-yuri couple continues, with Fine dressing up as a dashing prince and Izetta serving as her girly date at Lord Redford’s lavish birthday party.

There, Berkman manages to not only meet up close with Fine and Izetta, but his “date”, who looks drugged and/or genetically manipulated in some way, even manages to draw near enough to Izetta to kiss her, drawing blood in the process (blood Berkman will surely use for research on how to neutralize Izetta).

That intel and security is so inadequate and lax that one of the German empire’s most dangerous men can get so close to Izetta, and vanish just as quickly, doesn’t bode well for the future of Eylstadt.

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As for Ricelt, he and an inside man manage to make it to the basement of Eylstadt castle, snap pictures of the ley line map, and retrieve some kind of magical stone…but Bianca finally gets wise and Ricelt is caught red-handed. He stalls for time to let his colleague get away; Bianca shoots him, and another royal guard shoots the colleague.

And so, like Jonas, another young character I thought would have a greater role to play ends up dead, though the trouble he whipped up remains. Bianca, for her part, seems shaken up about the betrayal, but it’s not like they were lovers or anything; she’ll surely get over it.

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As for that trouble, it would seem some random old man ends up with the camera containing photos of the ley line map, as well as the purple-pink stone. Yet again, someone is in just the right position at the right time to propel the plot forward…and I care even less about this old guy than I cared about Ricelt.

Keeping the pressure high is the fact the Atlantan (i.e. American) ambassador promises Fine and Izetta that he’ll recommend his government send troops, but doesn’t tell them that he considers Izetta to be nearly as great a threat to Atlanta as the Germanians, if not a greater threat. As such, those troops will be sent to take down both Germania and Eylstadt; not exactly what Fine wanted.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 07

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After a dull and appallingly animated opening scene where a bunch of old white guys from all over Europe (plus “Atlanta” AKA alternate-America) contemplate what to do about a new German aircraft carrier, their host Lord Redford introduces them to Fine and Izetta, with all the requisite magical theatricality.

The two don’t just come hat-in-hand, asking for troops, but with something they can do for them: Izetta will destroy the carrier, giving them one less thing to worry about (and commit precious resources to).

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In what can probably be better described than as a “quasi-yuri” scene, after Fine teases and tickles Izetta they lie in bed together in their matching lilac negligees, gazing into each other’s eyes.

Fine repeats her guilt about asking so much about Izetta, but reiterates the importance of being useful to their allies; Izetta repeats her total commitment to Fine in all things. We get it, show: they’re very close. The two girls were, at least, far better drawn than all the stodgy men at the beginning.

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Also well-animated (and staged): Izetta’s operation. With two Lancaster bombers as her escort, she takes command of four 760-kg torpedoes and heads to the fjord base where the carrier lies. We get some simply stunning views of her streaking through the air with her four ballistic buddies.

Alas, to her horror, the carrier isn’t there when she arrives: it’s started out to sea, and an ambush awaits her, led by the grizzled ace Basler in a shiny new inverse gullwing plane. Between him, the other fighters, and a cloud of flak from other surface assets, Izetta’s complement of four torps quickly dwindles to two.

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Though Groman assured her she’d need all four to sink the carrier, she uses the last two in a clever way – sending one straight down, missle-style into the weak elevator area, and the other into the fuel supply. It’s mission accomplished for Izetta, but little does she know both Berkman and Ricelt accomplished their mission too.

The carrier was nothing more than bait, set to lure Izetta into an area with highly variable ley lines. Berkman observed sudden losses in Izetta’s magic as she flew through the invisible variations (she’s apparently unable to sense them).

Now the enemy knows (or is pretty darn sure) of her weakness. With that in mind, it looks like Germania came out on top on this one, since the carrier was essentially doomed anyway.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 06

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While most of Izetta and Fine’s scenes this week are kept pretty lightweight, the episode also demonstrates how precarious Eylstadt’s situation remains despite the early success of the White Witch’s unveiling. It also shows the lengths to which the enemy will go to learn of Izetta’s weakness, and the lengths to which Sieg will will go to stop them.

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As Berkman gains access to the Empire’s ultra-top-secret “Division 9” research “workshop”, Elvira attempts to stuff Izetta in a tight corset, then makes her practice dancing with Bianca. Finally, Fine and Izetta “disguise” themselves as townfolk in order to sample some desserts from a cafe Fine used to sneak off to before she was Archduchess.

Suffice it to say, this is extremely reckless behavior during a time of war, even if their disguises were any good (they were not). The episode tries to have Fine pass off their exposure as a good thing, furthering her popular tomboy image and such, but I wasn’t buying it; this whole detour to the bakery was nothing but problematic.

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It’s Sieg who serves as audience surrogate when he says gently but firmly, “no more” to Fine regarding sneaking off into town. She’s not a precocious tomboy anymore, but the leader of a country that still hangs by a thread. One of the frays in that thread is swiftly dealt with thanks to Sieg and his crack counter-espionage team.

That means the death of Jonas and an uncertain fate for the Germanian spy who didn’t gain any information. I enjoyed Jonas as an everyman on the front lines to this point, but unless Sieg was as ineffective at protecting Fine’s interests as Bianca was this week, Jonas’ death warrent was signed the moment the spy knew he knew something.

With one problem taken care of relatively easily, Sieg leaves it to Fine and Izetta, travelling by flying gun on a circuitous route, to persuade the powers meeting in Britannia to do something about the Germanians, preferably before they unveil a secret weapon of their own from Division 9.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 05

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Fine’s coronation is also the stage chosen to unveil Izetta to the world, and it’s fun to witness medieval ritual juxtaposed with flashing still and movie cameras of the modern era, just as it’s fun to watch Izetta take care of business, wiping out the modern might of the Germanians with magically enhanced medieval weapons.

The first stage in Eylstadt’s strategy to, well, survive, is to make the world know and believe who and what Izetta is. But neither the Germanian king nor Major Berkman doubt whether she’s real. The king wants her, badly, while Berkman wants to cut Eylstadt’s propaganda off at the knees by identifying and exploiting Izetta’s still-unknown-to-the-enemy weakness.

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While fun, the merging of eras is also jarring, just as it’s jarring to see Izetta unleash hell against the Germanian army in front of cameras, then return to the palace to be praised like a good girl who finished her chores. It’s a lot for Izetta to handle, but she has promised to serve ad protect Fine with her dying breath; she’s not the kind to back down just because things are tough…or weird.

More than anything, Izetta is a witch who has been used dwelling in the shadows and edges of the world. Now she’s the exact opposite: a global celebrity with a fairy tale story so compelling that the people want to believe. Not only does Eylstadt want them to believe, they need them to do so, in hopes of gaining powerful allies against Germania.

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If this is to be merely a 12-episode show, I’m pleased with the generous pacing so far. Not only is Izetta unveiled and placed into immediate use in order to quickly build up her public persona as a magical force of resistance against a no-longer invincible-looking enemy, but the enemy strikes back just as fast, advancing on the Veile Pass – a place with no Ley Lines for Izetta to draw from.

The Germanian King’s adviser Eliot is sure to remind his majesty that the reason they’re invading Eylstadt is to gain supply routes between them and Romulus (i.e. Italy), not merely to capture a witch. This pass is part of that route. As it happens, Private Jonas is assigned to its defense, which won’t include bombings due to a.) the thick fog and b.) the fact the pass is worthless without intact roads to use.

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Sieg Reich and Fine’s royal guards (who are all or mostly female special forces) draw up an intricate plan that serves to hide Izetta’s inability to use magic, by drawing upon stagecraft and showmanship in a battlefield setting.

A dummy Izetta is flown behind a plane, lands on a ridge, and is replace by the real Izetta (refusing to let them use a body double), who must talk a big talk before planted bombs are detonated, taking out the advancing enemy.

It works far better than it should have, thanks to an abundance of luck in both weather and geography. But conditions won’t be so favorable in every Ley Line-less area the Germanians target, so even though Berkman hasn’t found Izetta’s weakness yet, doesn’t mean he won’t eventually.

It may happen far sooner than Eylstadt thinks, thanks to some bad luck: Berkman has a spy posing as an Eylstadt officer who happens to be in the same outfit as Jonas. There’s every indication either he or Jonas overheard Schneider talking very loudly about Izetta’s weakness by a creek.

That’s the kind of carelessness that can lose a war, and I’m not optimistic Izetta won’t be re-captured by Berkman at some point.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 04

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Word of Germanian defeat and rumors of a reborn White Witch travel all the way to Neu Berlin (where it seems they successfully built the Volkshalle) and the Germanian leader, who is excited by the news of a witch in modern times.

For the record, these guys don’t seem as bad as Nazis, but they are most certainly bad guys: arrogant bullies who pick on their weaker neighbors as part of a larger plan to dominate the continent and likely the world. Their power must have a check to avoid wholesale death and suffering.

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So far, the show seems intent on keeping that potential check, Izetta, as modest and grounded as possible, befitting both her past status and her debt to Princess Fine for saving her from a mob. Izetta takes nothing for granted: not the bed she wakes up in, or the cheerful maid Lotte who is assigned to her.

Little does Izetta know that just by being there, she’s basically threatening to usurp the right-hand-woman position currently occupied by Bianca, who is still suspicious of Izetta’s abilities and motives. However, when Lotte slips off her stool and Izetta gets konked on the head by a stone jug, Bianca feels responsible for the injury.

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This episode lacks any big battles, but sets the stage for an entirely new battle Eylstadt must fight—and win—to have any chance at peace: the PR battle.

To that end, Fine appoints her Grand Couturier, Lady Elvira (Hanazawa Kana in an adult role)—a kind of alternate-WWII version of Effie Trinket—to help polish Izetta’s image as the famed White Witch and saviour of the country. Elvira is also very handsy; quite inappropriately so.

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Izetta reveals to Fine and her war council that her powers don’t come from within, but are dependent on a network of ley lines distributed through the lands. In some places, like the old capital, she cannot use her magic at all; in the old capital, the lines are dense, and the depths of the old castle they find a helpful map so they’ll know where she’ll be most effective.

That being said, Fine is keeping it the highest of state secrets that Izetta has any weaknesses at all: winning hearts and minds of both her own people and potential allies abroad is dependent on the lie that Izetta is invincible, and that is part of the burden both women must bear on top of  actually fighting and winning more battles.

With the enemy not only well aware of Izetta’s existence but having previously had her in captivity, we’ll see what countermeasures they’ll come up with. In the meantime, Fine succeeds her recently deceased father as Archduchess, with Izetta the White Witch by her side. There’s no turning back.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 02

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Thanks to Papika Izetta, Princess Fine is free from the Germanians, but they’re not out of the woods. An enemy patrol spots the smoke plume from their transport and before long the two girls are locked in an alpine dogfight that’s a feast for the eyes.

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Izetta sees no other choice but to break taboo and her promise to her granny and use her magic openly. The results are an astounding demonstration of her potential as a weapon against the Germanians, taking out three planes, but she runs out of mana before the lead plane is downed.

Enter a still-bleeding Fine, who reminds Izetta she’s not riding a broom, but a giant rifle, which they use to take out the last plane. After the sustained battle, Fine is out cold, Izetta’s tank is empty, and she has to ditch the gun and make for the Eylstadt fortress on foot.

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By good fortune Izetta encounters a force of retreating Elystadt survivors led by Major Obermeyer, and their suregon fixes Fine up while also tending to Izetta’s wounds. Izetta is loath to accept any help, favor, or comfort, and it all has to do with the old scar the doc notices on Fine’s side, for which Izetta blames herself.

As the first episode hinted, Izetta and Fine had met before, and it wasn’t a dream. Izetta isn’t some scientific specimen or non-corporeal supreme being…she’s just a girl. A girl who happened to be the last in a line of witches. Her grandmother noted she was the most powerful in generations, despite being the last, and so had to take extra care not to get tangled up in trouble.

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Things just didn’t work out that way, but it wasn’t all for naught: Izetta and Fine meeting was the best thing to happen to either of them, because they were the only ones who saw each other for what they were: not a witch to be feared or a princess to be fawned over, but two girls in need of best friends.

Fine received her side wound defending Izetta from an angry mob, doing as she’s always done: value the lives of others as much if not more than her own. She wants to save Izetta again by sending her away rather than using her, but Izetta won’t hear of it. She wants to be used, and she wants Fine to be the hope that drives her, just as it drives the desperate armies and subjects of Eylstadt.

Beginning with a thrilling aerial battle, leading to some vital backstory, and concluding with Izetta’s vow not to leave Fine’s side in the coming battles, this episode had a little of everything, and was as efficient in its storytelling as it was entertaining and moving.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: A period historical/military action drama taking place in an alternate world during the equivalent of WWII. Princess Fine and her tiny duchy of Eylstadt becomes the latest victim of the Germanian Empire’s campaign of expansion. She’s eventually caught by Germanian officers, but while en route to Neue Berlin, the legendary witch Izetta, also aboard the plan, awakens and saves her princess.

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Why you should watch: If you like historical anime that put a little twist on history (without getting to nationalistic about things). The tech here is strict WWII-era, with steam trains, dive bombers, and Luger pistols. The only fantastical element is Izetta, who will surely prove to be the one most vital to the survival of the protagonist Fine.

Fine is also voiced by Hayami Saori, is often called a “tomboy” by other characters, but is really just a badass who knows she survives because of the love of her people. Production values are slightly above average, and the score is fine.

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Why you shouldn’t watch: If you’re kinda period-pieced out by the recently-wrapped 91 Days, or if you’re a little put off by plot conveniences like Izetta just happening to end up not only on the same train as Izetta, but the same plane as well, some time later. Perhaps, however, they’ve been drawn together by some particular bond between the witch of Eylstadt and its leader. The bad guys are literally Nazis. Well, quasi-Nazis.

The Verdict: A sturdy and steadily-paced opening episodes for a show with lots of promise, with a strong female protagonist at its core. If you like the idea of a tough underdog princess and her witch companion fightin’ off some quasi-Nazis and fulfilling her duty to her small country of people, this show is up your alley. I’ll be following it for now, since it’s the first Fall show I’ve come across.

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