Dies Irae – 01

There wasn’t much I liked about Die Irae’s episode 00, and not much reason to continue with it—other than the fact 00 was a prologue and the first “regular” episode might totally different, better, or more promising.

Well, this first episode certainly is different; totally different. We’re now in modern-day Japan, following Fujii Ren, a regular high school kid, around as he’s discharged from the hospital after a fight with his best friend Shirou, who then dropped out of school and ran away.

After almost dying in an epic rooftop fight, Ren’s friend Ayase Kasumi (who he calls BAkasumi) thinks he’d enjoy going to a sword exhibition, but then they come across a rusty guillotine that shouldn’t be there and both of them get freaked out. Ren, in particular, has a vision of a beautiful woman flying out of the guillotine.

He awakens in his room, which we learn Ayase can access at any time from a hole in the wall. Her room, Ren’s, and Shriou’s are connected this way. Ren has another vision in which the blonde woman sings a song about beheading people, then finds himself locked into a guillotine, and his head goes flying with a fountain of blood. When he wakes up screaming, sirens can he heard outside: someone has been murdered…by beheading.

His other female friend Himuro Rea spends a good deal of time teasing Ren before telling him she and someone named Sister Riza saw the body. She mostly wants to make sure Ren’s okay after leaving the hospital.

As much as he may want his high school life to go back to normal, Shirou’s absence, the physical and emotional scars he left, and these sudden visions and real-life murder all conspire to prevent that normalcy from returning, perhaps ever.

Finally tying this episode into the prologue, we begin seeing some of Heydrich’s supermen/women appearing in the city, apparently ready to sacrifice it for the sake of their lord, believing nothing they do, not matter how awful, will be seen as a sin in the eyes of that lord.

So yes, this episode was pretty different from the first. Was it better? Hard to say. It at least fleshed out its characters a little better, but Ren, Kasumi and Rea aren’t anyone we haven’t seen in anime a hundred times over; both girls laid on their shtick pretty thick.

It remains to be seen if impending doom makes them anyone we met this week more interesting. The bottom line is that more questions arose here than were answered. On one hand that’s frustrating; on the other, a part of me still wants to watch on to see what happens…time permitting.

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Dies Irae – 00 (First Impressions)

Dies Irae takes people from real-world history (namely Reinhard Heydrich and Karl Krafft) in the midst of a real-world conflict (WWII) and mixes it up into some kind of occulty Nazi X-Men-type milieu. And while the metal soundtrack was very apropos, much of the episode was what Heydrich initially aimed to be: boring.

That boredom arises from a lack of a strong character to root for. If you’re going to give a fictional character the name of one of history’s greatest monsters, well, I ain’t rooting for him, whether his mini-arc in this episode somewhat resembles Kotomine Kirei’s or not. There’s also an introduction to a good number of people with long flowery names who don’t make much of an impact.

It’s a jumble of overly-baroque (and in the case of the floating skeleton cities, somewhat silly) settings and thin characters with unclear motivations. Krafft seems to have tried and succeeded to bring out Heydrich’s full potential, leading to the creation of a badass nazi kill squad, with the aim of—wait for it—“creating a new world.” “Loving and destroying” are also the same thing, don’t you know.

Yeah, not sure I’m feeling Dies Irae. Episode one, still to come, may be totally different, and succeed where zero failed to hook me…but I won’t hold my breath.

Shuumatsu no Izetta – 03

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Eylstadt’s antiquated, outmatched defenses are brought to the brink against the mighty modern Germanian war machine, and Izetta places us right in the trenches to experience how dire the situation is. A young private is tense before the action even starts; and then all of a sudden his commander is dead, the landscape has changed, and the air is full of cries of pain and despair.

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Fine’s forces are receiving a drubbing, and a rout is all but certain. Her frustration with the ineffectiveness of their defense is compounded by her heartbreak that so many must give their lives, simply to buy time. Yet she has the presence of mind and the discipline not to send the forces she still has out to die in a blaze of glory. She may not like how she has to pay for it, but she needs time for the civilians to evacuate and for new lines to be established.

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It falls to Izetta to do something about this horrible, hopeless situation. Against Fine’s wishes, Izetta enters the battle, and quickly turns the tables, using old jousting lances from the medieval castle as projectiles to take out the Germanian Stuka dive bombers one by one. She manages to take out the last plane with the lance she’s riding, timing it just right so she lands on the stump of it rather than fall to her death.

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She’s stunned by the landing, but quickly springs back into action, right around the area where the private we met is fighting. He, along with the other surviving soldiers, bear witness as Izetta moves her assault on the Germanians to the ground, fighting with a desperate intensity that buoys their spirits.

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This is the best battle of Izetta yet, showing the witch using her powers in creative ways, employing ancient weapons to bring down marvels of modern warfare. The Elystadt armed forces simply can’t compete by playing by the same rules as the Germans. So it’s good their patron saint has arrived to flip the game board over and shred the rulebook.

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Thoughout the Germainian advance, stall, and eventual defeat, we cut to their headquarters, where army and air force generals keep a bottle of champagne on ice for the eventual announcement of their certain victory. But Izetta has thrown their entire prosecution of the war into chaos. A who squadron of Stukas and a company of tanks are simply gone. They popped the cork too early; one general’s glass falls to the ground and shatters.

Meanwhile, after enduring so much death, destruction, and despair, the troops rally around Fine and the second coming of their White Witch, their morale and hope for the future suddenly restored. The nervous private who watched it all leads the men in singing a powerful anthem of victory. Fine didn’t like how Izetta risked herself and defied her wishes, but she can’t deny the results were tremendous.

I imagine relatively “easy” victories such as this will be few and far between; the Germanian leader and those scientists are unlikely to let the military be caught off guard again. And as powerful as she is, Izetta is not invincible; it only takes one well-place bullet to kill her, just like any other girl. But for now, let the men sing.

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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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