When I first started watching Izetta: The Last Witch, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but the first episode certainly managed to draw me in and make me want more. The seamless progression among the first handful of episodes certainly helped to keep me coming back for me, as cliffhanger endings made me eager to see what happened next while also creating a solid sense of cohesion among the individual episodes. Even when this stopped being the case, the show managed to remain interesting and entertaining, and remained solid through the eighth episode. After that, things quickly deteriorated—but more on that in a moment. Let’s talk about Izetta’s good points first.
One thing I have to praise about Izetta is the artwork. Nowhere during the show’s run did I feel that the art was shoddy or skimped on. Now, I’m no expert on this category, so someone reading this review may feel obliged to call me on some detail that I missed. I fully acknowledge that I could be wrong; however, from my point of view, the art was spectacular. My only criticism would be Izetta’s face at the start of the opening credits. Something about it just seems odd, but since it’s just the opening credits (and since I pretty much always skip those), I won’t hold it against the show. Praise for the artwork must also naturally flow into praise for the battle sequences. Again, the artwork here is magnificent, as is the ferocity and intensity of the battles. There is no doubt that these characters are in the middle of a war, and the action manages to keep viewers on their toes.
Praise must also be given to the characters’ personalities throughout the show. While Izetta may be a bit two-dimensional—her whole story is about her gratitude to Fine causing her to put herself on the line despite it being taboo for a witch to interfere with human affairs—the rest of the cast certainly unfolds to be a bit more dynamic. Fine (by the way, there should be an accent on the e, but I have no clue how to make that happen in OpenOffice, so you’ll have to mentally insert it) is thrust into the position of Archduchess after her father passes, and must contend with the new responsibilities that come with it. While she is shown to be confident most of the time, her uncertainties—as well as her concern for Izetta—show through, as does a certain girlish charm that is revealed in her love of a certain bakery’s pie. Secondary characters, such as Germania’s Berkman and Fine’s counselor Siegfried, are slowly fleshed out throughout the series, some with deeper personalities and others with darker, depressing backstories. The show even manages to create pity for minor characters a few times, such as with a young soldier of Elystadt who finds out more information than he should. Character relationships are definitely a highlight of the show, so if you enjoy that dynamic, then you should at least give it a look.
Now, let’s start to work towards my criticisms of the show. First, let me reiterate that the first eight episodes were spectacular. The show managed to establish its backstory, as well as the magic system in the world. We find out that witches draw from ley lines, which are basically veins of magic throughout the world. If an area does not have a ley line, then a witch cannot use her magic. Given that Izetta is pretty much a devastating force capable of wrecking a whole army on her own, it was a good move to place some form of limitation on her. It also serves to challenge the characters, as they must keep this a secret and come up with ways to make it appear that Izetta is still using her magic even in areas where she can’t. The series also sets up a tragic backstory of the “White Witch”, a witch from Elystadt’s past who helped rescue the country once before. Plots to combat Izetta and to uncover the secrets of her power are also hatched, along with tragic love stories. By all accounts, this should have been a spectacular series. So what went wrong?
First off—and this is a spoiler, although probably not much of one—it is pretty easy to guess from the start that, somehow, Germania would acquire a witch of their own. This happens, although the identity of that witch is still a bit surprising. That’s not the problem—as I said, it is pretty easy to assume this development. The problem is that it comes straight out of nowhere. In episode 8, Izetta meets a strange women who bites her, drinks her blood, and passes out. This is weird, to say the least, but it sets the intrigue of what that will mean in future episodes. At this point, Elystadt had been enjoying countless victories over their Germanian foes. Then, in episode 9, Germania suddenly appears with their own witch, and out of the blue Elystadt is on the ropes. It was like the writers realized they only had four episodes to wrap everything up, so they pushed the fast forward button and skimped on any kind of build up. One minute Elystadt is superior thanks to Izetta, the next minute Izetta is being used to wipe the floor. Granted, there is an explanation eventually given, but it comes after the fact, instead of being foreshadowed, which would have at least made this development feel a bit more natural.
On top of this, there are several subplots that are started but never really carried to completion. Basler, a Germanian pilot and the only survivor of his unit’s confrontation with Izetta, is hired by Berkman and given a special, experimental plane that is supposedly able to keep up with the witch. Basically, he is set up to be something of a threat/challenge/rival to Izetta; however, he skirmishes with her once in his new plane, and then never fights her again; in fact, he is barely shown until the last couple of episodes, and he isn’t on the battlefield. On top of this, Elystadt tries to gain support from the Allies by showcasing Izetta’s power and proving that they can beat Germania with their witch ally. The Allies seem to be convinced, but at the end of that particular episode one of the world leaders is shown discussing the need to take out Germania and to then eliminate Elystadt because Izetta could pose a threat to the rest of the world. Again, this could have added a whole new dynamic to the show and could also have created a downside to Elystadt being public with Izetta’s power, but nothing ever comes of it. It’s not even mentioned again until the last episode, where Fine is able to assure the Allies that magic will no longer be an issue after Izetta’s final battle with Germania’s witch.
To sum up my issues with the plot, it essentially feels like the show was not allocated enough episodes. Perhaps if it had been given 26 episodes, or perhaps if the light-hearted episodes had been eliminated to make room for more plot-centric episodes, then more details could have been fleshed out, more conflict built up, and a better story told. That’s not even taking into account the ending, which I feel the writers went soft on. I don’t want to spoil anything, but one of the show’s central themes is Izetta’s willingness to sacrifice herself to the very end, and the way the show ends greatly cheapens that theme, in this writer’s opinion. There is also the fact that the writers seemed to cater to the shipping crowd, as there are many scenes that suggest a lesbian relationship between Fine and Izetta, but none that actually outright confirm it. Still, the shipping community will use something as simple as two girls hugging to imply lesbianism—how much more two women embracing numerous times, taking a moonlit flight on a broom, dancing together, and expressing their emotions to each other? It was like the writers didn’t quite want to go there, but they wanted to encourage the community to have their fun with it, and quite frankly it was just annoying.
At the end of the day, Izetta: The Last Witch settled for just being okay. What started out as an intense and interesting ride petered out to a rushed and unsatisfying ending. There was so much more that could have been explored about this world and these characters had the time and space been provided. I don’t know whether to blame the writers or whoever determines how many episodes a show is supposed to get. Maybe the blame is equally shared. I won’t say that Izetta is so bad that you shouldn’t watch it, but at the same time it’s hard to say that you should watch it when there are, quite frankly, much better anime out there. History buffs, at the very least, would probably enjoy watching it to make the connections between the real life events. The rest of us should probably stick to finding better fantasy anime.
Spiritual Content: Well, Izetta is a witch, which means she uses magic. Magic is a central element of the show.
Language: I do my best to maintain an accurate tally of curse word occurrences; that said, I’m only human, so my numbers may not be exact. I say that just in case someone decides to watch the show and actually count behind me. With that said, this is the language that I observed in Izetta.
10 “d*mn”, 2 “d*mned”, 1 “g**z”, 2 “h*ll”, 2 “b*stard”, 1 “cr*p”, 1 “manwh*re”, 1 “g*dd*mn”
Alcohol/Drug Use: There are a few scenes of characters drinking alcohol and/or smoking cigarettes.
Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: There is a surprising amount of fanservice in the show, although not enough to classify it as a “fanservice series”. The most common element is the fact that a lot of the women wear cleavage-revealing tops/dresses throughout the show’s 12 episode run. There are also a few bath scenes and other scenes that show women in varying states of undress. Bare butts are seen a few times, as well as bare breasts, although breasts are always obscured to some extent—at the very least, nipples are always covered in some way, shape, or form. Some breast jokes are made and Elvira, Fine’s “PR rep” of sorts, is shown to be quite a pervert. She uses the need to take Izetta’s measurements as an excuse to feel her up.
Violence: Since the show takes place during World War II, you can expect plenty of scenes of war time violence. Gunfire, mortar shells, tank and aerial combat all feature heavily. Soldiers are shot and killed countless times throughout the show’s duration.
Blood/Gore: Like the violence section notes, this is a show about war, so expect plenty of blood. Gore doesn’t really feature, so you won’t see intestines strewn about, but to some extent this art mimics reality—when people are shot, they bleed.
Other Negative Themes: Although it is never explicitly shown, there are plenty of scenes to imply more than friendship between Fine and Izetta. The way the two women look at each other, speak to each other and, in some cases, hold each other certainly suggests something more, although it feels more like pandering to the shipping fanbase than anything; otherwise, you would think the writers would have just been outright with the relationship if that was their intention.
Positive Themes: The biggest positive theme in Izetta is that of self-sacrifice. Izetta dedicates herself to helping Fine, simply out of gratitude for all that Fine has done for her, and Izetta will stop at nothing to fulfill the Archduchesses’ dreams, even if it means death.
Izetta the Last Witch is set in an alternate Earth where World War II has broken out. Much like in our own world, the enemy is the Germans (Germania in this world) and….that’s about it. Everything else is basically unique to the world of Izetta. The story follows Princess Fine (there should be an accent on that e, but I have no clue how to make that in OpenOffice, so….), the princess of the small country Elystadt. Fine is on her way to negotiate terms with another country for protection against Germania, but of course her enemies are onto her, which leads to a chase and fight scene throughout (and on top of) a train. During this time, Fine discovers an odd coffin with a girl inside. As the episode progresses, we find that Fine and this girl share a connection from the past.
This is a first episode done right. There is enough information given so that we can understand the state of the world, but not so much that it feels like a giant info dump. At the same time, the episode maintains a good pace on the action with gun fights, political intrigue, and the like. Although some more parallels between the real World War II and this alternate reality would have been nice, the show doesn’t seem to suffer for it and, in fact, one wouldn’t even know that it was meant to be WWII in another world if one didn’t read it on Wikipedia.
Anyone who is particularly sensitive about blood or nudity may want to proceed cautiously. There is a good bit of blood in some scenes as men are killed, and there is a shower scene with Fine. While the nudity isn’t sexual, it also doesn’t leave much to the imagination, though the detail is no greater than that of a Barbie Doll. If these things are not issues for you, then I would recommend giving Izetta’s inaugural episode a chance. You just might find a favorite for the season.
A Christian Perspective:
Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
So I’m probably stretching it a bit to use this verse, but I’m going to try to make this work. In the beginning of the episode (and at other points throughout), we see that Fine had met and saved Izetta when the two were children. As a result, when Izetta wakes up, she immediately recognizes Fine and comes to her aid. Because Fine did not neglect to show kindness to Izetta, she was able to get out of an otherwise hopeless situation. True, she didn’t show “hospitality” to Izetta, in the sense that she didn’t invite Izetta into her home, but she did show concern. Don’t get me wrong, the crux of Christian service and care should not be to gain something from somebody else. We should do to others what we would have done to us (Luke 6:31) and we should service in humility because that is how Christ lived, but the added bonus to being kind to others is that it sometimes comes back to us in unexpected ways. Perhaps Luke 6:31 would have been a better starting point for this whole section….
Language: 1 “d*mn”
Alcohol/Drug Use: None
Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Princess Fine is shown naked in the shower/bathroom, then briefly in her room before changing; an opera singer wears a cleavage-revealing dress; Izetta’s dress flies up and shows part of her butt; the ending credits have the princess and Izetta in white dresses—the princess is lying in a somewhat provocative position while Izetta’s dress shows cleavage
Violence: Princess Fine’s guards have a shoot out with some German soldiers; one of the Princess’ guards is shot; German forces bomb military compounds while ground forces fire back; the Princess’ second guard is shot twice; the Princess is shot
Blood/Gore: There is a slight amount of blood from the guard’s gunshot wound; the second guard bleeds and leaves trails of blood on the wall; Fine’s arm bleeds; a flashback shows Fine’s side bleeding
Other: Izeetta uses magic to float, to blow up a plane, and to fly on a gun
The first portion of Tales of Zestiria the X wraps up with plenty of blood and action to satisfy any action fan. Alisha’s fate manages to be one of the biggest draws of the episode, although Sorey’s encounter with the Lord of Calamity certainly shouldn’t be dismissed. In terms of plot, the anime still follows the game, although at this point it is to the most bare bones degree. Sorey still confronts the Lord of Calamity and afterward heads toward Rolance, but that’s about it. The whole Alisha/Rose alliance never happens in the game (in fact, Rose doesn’t even become more than a supporting character until after the first encounter with the Lord of Calamity), Sorey doesn’t struggle with malevolence (to the best of my knowledge), Alisha’s status as squire has already been established and revoked by this point, and as far as I remember, her squire status did not enable her to see the Seraphim.
Overall, it almost feels as if the writers are trying to rewrite the deeper details of the story. Even if this isn’t true, the development of the anime’s story is certainly a little more cohesive than what it was in the game, and the greater focus on Alisha is likely a much welcomed change for fans of the game. One of the biggest complaints that people had when the game first released was how little Alisha actually figured into the story, despite her prominence in promotional material. On top of that, the way she was written out of the greater part of the story within the game felt pretty weak. This time around, we see Alisha reach a point where she becomes a stronger character, and her establishment as a squire feels a bit more justified, although it will be interesting to see how things play out concerning Rose with these new developments. Either way, it makes me glad to know that there is a second season coming which will (hopefully) tell the rest of the story, because the anime has certainly dealt with some of my complaints concerning the story so far.
A Christian Perspective:
I’ve probably used this comparison before, but Sorey’s struggle with malevolence is symbolic of our struggle with sin: although we have the power to overcome it, we still have to be wary of it pulling us in. To take this episode further, though, we can liken the Lord of Calamity to Satan, especially as he challenges Sorey to see how well he can handle the large swarm of malevolence attacking him. We have no hope of overcoming sin in our lives without relying on Jesus and His work within us.
Alcohol/Drug Use: None
Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Symonne’s outfit is a bit fanservicey
Violence: Soldiers are blown back by a Seraphim’s attack; Sorey battles the Lord of Calamity and a hellionized human
Blood/Gore: Blood on and around Alisha’s body; blood on Alisha’s clothing; blood on the battlefield
I have to give credit where credit is due: the anime handling of the “war” between Hyland and Rolance feels much more fluid and serious than the game’s handling of it. I’m sure this is partially due to the fact that, in the game, the story is basically progressed by the player, so in between cut scenes you can either fight as much or as little as you want before jetting off to the next major plot point, but in any case it definitely gave a strong sense of how visceral the battlefield was, and the new additions to Sorey’s Shepherd powers definitely gives a new dimension to the story, as well. On the Alisha side of things, I truthfully don’t remember how it went down in the game, but I believe the anime adaptation gave her much more courage in how she went about things. The whole encounter between Alisha/Rose and General Landon’s forces was especially tense, and the conclusion of that fight was certainly a new take (although not entirely unexpected given some of the dialogue leading up to this point). Dezel’s pseudo-introduction was also pretty epic.
If I had to criticize some things, I would say that the onset of this war still came out of nowhere, much like in the game, although we did know that Alisha was butting heads with some of the other people in power previously, so it’s at least not totally unexpected. I would also question the reference to this as a war, since there has only been one battle so far and, if the anime follows the game, it will be the only battle, at least for this first war. I suppose that’s a bit nitpicky, but one of my criticisms of the game was in regards to how the story flowed at points. The anime has mostly fixed this, but some things still feel like they could have used a bit of polish. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if the anime is bold enough to take a different approach with Alisha’s fate, and seeing the Lord of Calamity’s introduction in the next episode is exciting enough, if only to see how he will be handled compared to the game.
A Christian Perspective:
The most obvious Christian parallel I can think of in this episode is the subject of spiritual warfare. As the battle rages on and the death toll rises, we are shown shadowy specters floating above the battle field, courtesy of Sorey’s eyes. While he and the Seraphim can see all of this, the existence of these beings is completely unknown to the soldiers below. It is unclear whether the specters are also driving the soldiers’ bloodlust, but we do know that the violence and killing are causing the malevolence. Regardless, the point I want to make still stands: there is another dimension to life that we aren’t always aware of, and very few of us ever see. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the majority of Christians probably go their entire lives without actually seeing into the spiritual realm (and some will argue that this is impossible while others will argue that it is a spiritual gift; I’m not here to get into that). It becomes easy to be complacent about that which we cannot see, and that is what our enemy, the devil, wants. If we become complacent, we become easy targets, because we let our guards down. Ephesians 6:12 states “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Similarly, the battle in Tales of Zestiria seems to be spawning (and as a result, perhaps further fueled by) spiritual beings, though the soldiers only see the enemy forces in front of them. We must be on our guard at all times so that we are prepared for the foes that present themselves to our naked eye as well as those that will present themselves in the unseen realm. We must “Put on the full armor of God, so that you [we] can take your [our] stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11)
Spiritual Content: Ghostly specters hover over the battlefield
Alcohol/Drug Use: A man holds a glass of wine; several Rolance men are shown holding glasses of wine; Rose takes a glass of wine from a servant
Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Shiller makes a comment about Ian’s breasts, prompting Ian to grab her own breasts (clothed, no nudity)
Violence: Soldiers are shown crossing swords; scenes of further sword fighting, arrows raining down, catapults launching burning pitch, and explosions; Alisha and Rose fight off soldiers
Blood/Gore: A soldier is stabbed with a sword, and blood splatter follows; further scenes of blood splatter as soldiers are injured and killed on the battlefield; the soldiers that Alisha and Rose fight bleed
After we see Sorey and Mikleo working to purify Marlind’s water source, we get to meet the Seraph who was the drake from the previous episode. In this way, we find out how Seraphim can become corrupted by malevolence, as well as the original form and function of Seraphim within human society. Much of this information stays the same from the game, so if you’ve played it then this shouldn’t be particularly new information. From here, the episode begins to set the stage for the first war that will take place in the narrative, with Alisha and Sorey discovering the plans when Alisha’s troops are ordered to mobilize. While Sorey wants to accompany her, Lailah does not believe it’s a good idea, and Sorey quickly discovers why when he (conveniently) discovers a hellionized human, which is apparently the first one he comes upon in the story. This is a huge shift from the game, because you discover a hellion in the form of a child fairly early on there (not to mention the Scattered Bones member who had attacked Sorey’s village at the beginning of the game).
The whole system of the Shepherd’s purification seems to have been deepened with this adaptation. For starters, by purifying a human, the Shepherd seems to take the malevolence into himself. As far as I can remember, this was not the case in the game. Additionally, by purifying a human hellion, the Shepherd is able to see what caused the hellionization in the first place, and through this we find out that Sorey can even purify the souls of the dead. All of this was not in the game to the best of my memory, and while it does make the anime feel a little less like an adaptation and more of an alternate retelling, it does add to the overall weight of the Shepherd’s task, so it is definitely a good change. Other differences include Alisha and Rose’s meetings, both with Rose acting as a Sparrowfeather and as a Scattered Bones member. Again, as far as I can remember, the two don’t cross paths in the game until after Alisha has left the party and Rose has joined, but again, this sets the stage for a potentially deeper character relationship, and so it isn’t necessarily bad, unless you want a completely pure adaptation. All in all, the stakes are being raised as we enter into the last few episodes of the show, but fret not! A second season has been confirmed for 2017!
Atakk mentions how he’s seen entire villages disappear, albeit small ones, disappear, and that it always starts over a tiny thing in the beginning while Sorey’s party is discussing the corruption of Marlind with Rohan, the guardian Seraph of the village who had been a drake in the previous episode. Now that Rohan is healed, Sorey’s party is asking him how Marlind reached such a state. While he doesn’t remember, he believes it is something small, like the theft of a book. This is the basis for Atakk’s comment, and it is very reminiscent of how sin works in our lives. It starts out as something small–an innocent search on Google turns up an unexpected image, which sparks the desire to see more; a simple glance or accidental brush against a coworker sparks a flame that leads to infidelity; etc. This was certainly the basis for King David’s affair with Bathsheba recorded in 2 Samuel 11. King David happened to catch a glimpse of Bathsheba bathing, which sparked lust within him, leading to adultery and then to David conspiring to murder Bathsheba’s husband, which he ultimately succeeds at. In the end, this all then leads to the death of the son that Bathsheba birthed as result of their infidelity. One glance lead to a multitude of sin and the loss of two lives. The theft of a book lead to the corruption and plaguing of a city within our anime. In both cases, something seemingly insignificant lead to damage and destruction. We would be wise to monitor our personal lives and to deal with the “little” things as they crop up, rather than brushing them off as “no big deal” so that we don’t find ourselves one day mired in the fallout of a situation that could have been easily avoided if we’d dealt with our wrongdoing at the very beginning.
Alcohol/Drug Use: None
Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Maltran cleavage
Violence: Sorey fights a hellion; Alisha squares off with the Scattered Bones
Blood/Gore: Blood beads out from a small wound on Alisha’s neck
This episode presents a familiar scene from the game: Alisha and company need to reach the infected town, but the bridge has been washed out, thanks to an angry spirit (though they seem to be oblivious to this). To my knowledge, the progression of events differs at this point, as I believe in the game Alisha sent for Sorey to see if he could do anything to help them, while in the anime Alisha and some of her team set off to find another route, with Sorey and his party coming across the bridge by other means. Regardless, we are still treated to an epic battle to quell the waters. As a side note, I also found it humorous that when the subtitles used the term “drake”, the characters were literally saying, “dragon puppy”. I may not understand much Japanese, but those were clearly English terms. That’s not a criticism of the translation at all–I just found the term “dragon puppy” to be amusing and thought it worth sharing in case anyone missed it.
In terms of original content, the episode brings about the end of Mikleo’s quest and his subsequent reunion with his friends, but not before he rescues and befriends a Normin. Those who have played the game will remember the Normin as 50 individual creatures that each represented one of the 50 attributes that could affect your weaponry. The anime seems to have adapted this by having the Normin basically buff whatever stat it represents via magic while it is with the individual. In this case, Mikleo encounters Atakk who, as the name may suggest, is able to boost the Attack attribute, which we see played out when he buffs Mikleo and makes him capable of dealing more damage. It will be interesting to see if this plays more of a role in the remainder of the series, as such an implementation seems to have the possibility of making the characters too overpowered.
Adapting elements of video games into a non-gaming environment is always interesting, as many gameplay elements wouldn’t necessarily make sense if the characters were actually doing them (when you think about it, most of the stuff that either gets cut or adapted–like weapon enhancement–the player actually does while the character remains stationary). So far, Tales of Zestiria the X seems to be doing a fine job with the elements that it included, and the stuff it has cut doesn’t seem to matter. The weapon enhancement system was frustrating in the game–I, for one, am glad that they didn’t try to adapt that within the anime!
A Christian Perspective:
Matthew 6:1 – Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
One scene in this episode actually had two possible outcomes within the game–namely, the bridge scene. Within the game, you could choose to repair the bridge during the day, when there were people around, or you could choose to wait until nightfall, the reason for the choice being that people may not react well to seeing Sorey’s powers on display, since they wouldn’t understand them. I chose the daytime option, because I wanted to see what would happen as a result. While it doesn’t affect the story beyond this point, it did cause people to withdraw from Sorey. The anime, on the other hand, shows Sorey repairing the bridge at night, when no one is around. While the show doesn’t give a reason for this–and while the connection I’m about to make probably isn’t what Sorey intended–I did see a reflection of how we as Christians are supposed to behave.
You’ve probably already constructed the point in your head between the verse and my long lead-in, but as Jesus says in the verse above, we as Christians should not do our good works in order to be seen by men or to receive attention from them. The translation I used specifically says “righteousness”, but other translations use verbage along the lines of “good deeds”. The point is, we shouldn’t do our good works for the purpose of being seen by others. That’s not to say that others won’t see us–that’s almost impossible, especially if you’re serving people–but that should not be our goal at all. If we do good things so that we can be praised by men, then we have no reward in heaven because we’ve already received the reward we wanted; however, if we do our good deeds for the purpose of glorifying God and pointing others to Him, then He will reward us when the time is right.
Language: 1 “d*mmit”
Alcohol/Drug Use: None
Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Maltran cleavage
Violence: Sorey armatizes with Edna and battles two hellions; Sorey and company do battle with a drake