This is a spoiler-free review of the show. If you’re looking to see my detailed thoughts on the plot, you can refer to this post. This is something a bit experimental for me, as I thought that both versions may be beneficial to different readers. I’m not sure how often I will create paired posts like this, but it is possible that I may do it for other seasonal anime if there’s some things I’d like to unpack and speak about.
Izetta The Last Witch is set in an alternate WWII where the ruler of Eylstadt, Archduchess Ortfiné Fredericka von Eylstadt (Finé) seeks to defend her small country against a Germanian invasion, together with the witch Izetta, who owes her a debt of gratitude owing to Finé helping her in the past.
The alternate world naming schema is a bit strange, as the countries are readily recognisable for their real-world counterparts, Germania for Germany, Britannia for Britain and so on. I realise that war is a sensitive subject, especially for Japan, but as it’s a fantasy world, there’s no reason why they couldn’t have named the countries something totally different (or even just gone for the ‘fake eastern European’ names which were popular in fiction written in the early 1900s). However, there’s been some thought into building up the late 30s/early setting, with the commoners wearing clothing similar to that which was popular at the time, and the weapons mostly being based on existing WWII weapons or plans for them. There’s also some great use of ‘news footage’, with black and white imagery and the flickering effect that is common in real news footage of the time. There were a few things which I spotted as being a little anachronistic or implausible outside of the obviously fantasy/magic elements, but overall there was an engrossing feeling of place and time created by the show.
As characters, Finé is a young and inexperienced ruler who seeks to do what is best for her country. She’s a little idealistic, but she has people around her who help advise her and channel her idealism into more practical outlets. Izetta is shown as having a huge debt of gratitude to Finé for saving her several years ago, to the point where she’ll do almost anything to help. She doesn’t feel confident in her own abilities, but she wants to do all she can for Finé and by extension for the country in spite of being told that witches shouldn’t interfere in the affairs of others. I found the protagonists both pretty likeable, although they definitely both seemed a bit starry-eyed and out of touch with the situation at times.
The soundtrack for this show was beautiful! There’s a mixture of orchestral music and some haunting choral pieces. The music works to enhance the feeling of the different moments in the show, and I especially loved the track which I’d associate with Izetta using magic (the OST for the show has not been released at this stage so I can’t name the track).
The visuals were quite competent, although not outstanding, with a lot of love being put into the battle scenes and Izetta flying. The dog fights seemed to be choreographed in a way that was engaging and fun to watch! I mentioned earlier how I liked the period-appropriate fashions and vehicles. There were also some sharp military uniforms. While I think that during real WWII, soldiers wore khaki on the whole to blend into the surroundings, the Eylstadt troops wore a charming blue uniform with red trim. This is nice to look at and I think that these sorts of flashy uniforms help to create a sense of solidarity amongst the soldiers and also make them stand out more, which is good visually for us as the viewer, although perhaps poor in a real war situation. I would say that Izetta’s costume design (quite scanty clothing) felt rather immersion-breaking, as it seemed improbable that such clothing would have existed in the late 30s and it goes rather against the fashions of the times. There was no particular story reason given for why she had to wear this clothing instead of just wearing existing clothing which could have been found in the castle. It felt like the only reason for this sort of costume design was to sell possible figures, which was a shame in an otherwise carefully crafted world.
The problem I had with this show was the story. While the concept of a witch defending not-Austria from not-Germany in WWII was very interesting, and the various elements were well crafted, the show seemed to struggle to use the elements to create a compelling tale. There were slow-paced, almost slice-of-life moments in this show which portrayed itself as being a tale of the underdog standing up against the odds, and they felt very out of place. The struggle of war and the tragedy of war seemed to be absent from this tale which was ostensibly about overcoming difficulties and self-sacrifice. There were also a lot of characters who felt like they didn’t get used to their full potential, and some who seemed to really have no purpose in telling the story at all (Elvira Freidman the stylist comes to mind). At some points in the story, the struggles of the Germanians to find information and beat Izetta felt more intriguing than the activities of the main characters, and while the show did portray some likeable and idealistic characters on both sides of the war, I don’t think that it was their intention to make the Germanians more sympathetic than the protagonists. Whilst there were some excellent moments in the series, I don’t think that the story was very good as a whole.
Overall, I feel like Izetta is a show which had some excellent elements; a great concept, pleasant visuals, an outstanding soundtrack, but owing to its poor storytelling fell short of what it could have been. I think if you’re less story-oriented than myself, that you may find it to be an enjoyable, albeit flawed watch, but I wouldn’t suggest the show for someone with similar tastes in anime to myself.