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.
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
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
Well, after two weeks (or is it technically three?) we finally rejoin Sorey and his friends as they stare down the barrel of a giant tornado. From within, they can see a dragon, which flees when Sorey stands his ground. Honestly, at this point, the story really begins to deviate from the plot of the game. Well, I guess that’s not totally fair. The characters are still moving towards the same results and locations, but the “how” of it is being completely redone. For example, in the game, Sorey vehemently opposes Mikleo putting himself in a position of danger in regards to the hellions, with Mikleo taking up a certain mantle (no spoilers) when Sorey is in dire need of help. In this episode, Mikleo goes off on his own to search for a way to help Sorey (in the game it comes while the party explores an area together), and Sorey only worries for a brief moment before accepting what Mikleo is doing. Also different is the fact that the dinner between Sorey and the noble (whose name I’ve already forgotten) has a much more sinister twist in the game. I believe this is where the first attempt on Alisha’s life is actually made, which was already bumped up to an earlier episode.
Regardless of these changes, the story seems to be progressing in the same general direction: Mikleo should soon be capable of helping Sorey in his quest, and Sorey and Lailah should be meeting a new main character based on their location at the end of this episode and the not-so-subtle hint in the episode preview. One thing I hope to not see is the writers catering to the Sorey/Mikleo shippers. The game never gives any indication that there is anything besides friendship between the two, and that’s simply the way it is, but of course some people can’t accept the idea of two guys being friends (or in this case, more like brothers). Perhaps I’m just on edge, but some of the dialogue in this episode seemed like it was trying to suggest a potentially deeper relationship (Lailah commenting, “You like Sorey that much, huh?” on top of the montage near the end of the episode). Hopefully I’m just overreacting and this is nothing, because it is honestly a pet peeve of mine when people try to make characters gay when they aren’t, and it goes even further when the writers try to respond by making it official or semi-official, when it was never the case to begin with.
A Christian Perspective:
One thing that stands out in this episode is the fact that humans used to be able to see and speak with the Seraphim, but overtime they lost the ability due to unbelief. Similarly, mankind used to walk with God in the Garden of Eden (see: Genesis 1-3), but because of our own unbelief (see: Eve believing the serpent over God) we, too, lost the ability to directly interact with (and presumably see) God. It’s interesting to see this reflected in a story that likely has no Christian background, given the small number of Christians in Japan. It almost seems like we are subconsciously aware of how separated we are from spiritual things, and how our imperfect human nature will inevitably cause us to mess up any relationship we have with the spiritual when left to our own devices. Of course, the Seraphim are not infallible, so this isn’t a perfect comparison, but there were enough similarities there for me to draw this comparison.
Language: 1 “d*mmit”
Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Maltran shows cleavage
Alcohol/Drug Use: Sorey and another character drink what could be wine
Violence: A hellion attacks humans; Sorey drives his blade into a hellion
This entry picks up right where the previous one left off, with Velvet preparing to face off against Oscar. The action in this episode is intense, and in typical anime fashion we find out plot relevant details thanks to the characters spewing exposition during their battles. I’ve always wondered how they carry on a conversation from opposite ends of the battlefield with the sounds of combat, magic, dragons, and such raging around them…..but that’s the magic of anime for you. In all seriousness, though, this episode makes it a little easier to connect to Velvet, as some of her backstory is revealed, and we find that her imprisonment was actually no fault of her own, but rather the result of what appears to be a corrupt government. It also helps that I checked the Tales of Berseria Wikipedia article, as I now know that the story takes place in the distant past of Zestiria’s world. This would potentially explain why the only thing the two seem to have in common is the malevolence. It also stands to reason, then, that the events of episodes 5 and 6 will shed some light on events that will happen in Zestiria. Judging by the episode preview, we may rejoin the titular cast in the following episode.
Honestly, as a fantasy anime, this episode had everything you could want: swords, magic, dragons; however, I am concerened that Berseria just released in Japan, and won’t release worldwide until next year. How much of the story is going to be spoiled for us by this? I imagine that right now, all we’ve seen is what would amount to the beginning of the game, but if connections are made between Berseria and Zestiria in the anime, then will that spoil part of Berseria’s plot? I know this isn’t a direct reflection on the anime, but it would be a shame if the story of the game was spoiled either in part or in whole as a result of this endeavor. Admittedly, it was a nice change of pace to see new content since I have played through Zestiria already, but I just hope the cost for said new content won’t be too high when I finally get to play Berseria.
Overall, the episode was well done. The action was intense and the visuals were great. I suppose the CG used for the dragon could have been better (it was pretty obvious that the dragon was CG while everything else wasn’t), but that’s really the only negative comment I can think of. We still don’t know how this will all piece together in the grander scheme of the story, so I guess we’ll just have to keep tuning in to find out.
A Christian Perspective:
Seres’ sacrifice in this episode can be a symbol for the Christian life. How so? Well, in this episode, we see that Seres believes so much in what she is doing that she is willing to die for it. Her purpose and goal surpass her desire to live. This reminds me of how we, as Christians, are supposed to value Jesus and His Kingdom more than our lives here on Earth. In Matthew 16:25, Jesus states, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Of course, not everyone will die for their faith, but we should value Jesus so much that we would be willing to do so if it is demanded of us.
Language: 2 “d*mn”
Alcohol/Drug Use: None
Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Seres and Velvet cleavage…or whatever term you prefer for Velvet
Violence: Velvet and several foes do battle; Velvet and other characters fight a dragon; a flashback shows a child being impaled
Blood/Gore: Velvet coughs up blood; a character is impaled and is covered with/sitting in a pool of blood
Other: Use of magic
Episode 4 may have ended with a cliffhanger, but episode 5 does not offer to resolve that for us. Instead, we open on a completely different scene featuring Velvet, the protagonist of the upcoming Tales of Berseria. I had previously commented on Velvet’s appearance in the opening credits of the show, so it seemed to be only a matter of time before she showed up. Unfortunately, without the context of the game, it’s hard to say what relevance this episode has to the overall story of Tales of Zestiria. We know that the two games are connected by previous information released, but to my knowledge the extend of the connection has never been revealed, which means that this episode is mostly shrouded in mystery. We are met with characters, terms, and locations that are completely foreign to us, and the episode does not do much to make the connections for us. Perhaps this will happen later, but for now we’re left scratching our heads. Hopefully this isn’t just an attempt to shoehorn some Berseria scenes in for marketing and instead an actual attempt at deepening the story of Zestiria. From what I recall, the only thing this episode mentioned that even connects the two is malevolence; other than that, there are no mentions of Seraphim, Shepherds, or anything else associated with Zestiria.
Connections to Zestiria aside, the episode itself is quite intense. More than likely, we are watching the beginning of the game animated, since it starts out with Velvet imprisoned, breaking out with the help of a mysterious visitor, and then attempting to escape off the island. New terms are thrown at us fairly quickly, but it becomes easy enough to at least gain a basic grasp of what’s going on. Again, hopefully all of this will serve to connect to the Zestiria story in a way that will make some elements of that story clearer and easier to understand. Unfortunately, as of this writing, we have no way of knowing that, so all that can really be said at this point is that this is an exciting episode, but it feels awkward and out of place since it was inserted right into the center of an ongoing story without any context or apparent reason.
A Christian Perspective:
My experience with the Tales series may not be extensive (my completed games include Graces F, Xillia, Xilla 2, Hearts R, and Zestiria), but one thing I have noticed is that the main characters tend to fall into a sort of “nice guy” trope, with Milla falling into more of a “naive girl” trope. It is usually easy to pull some kind of Christian message from these types of characters, if only because they generally don’t hesitate to help people. While I don’t have much knowledge of Berseria, this first introduction to Velvet may suggest a deviation from that pattern, as she doesn’t exactly seem warm, friendly, or nice. In fact, we’re introduced to her as she makes a break from prison with the help of a stranger. Granted, we don’t know her backstory yet, but based on first impressions she doesn’t seem to be a character with traits worth emulating. Perhaps this will change as we learn more about her character (which likely won’t be until Berseria releases), but as of now it is hard to pull any positive messages from this episode. That’s not to say it wasn’t an enjoyable episode, just that Velvet as a character didn’t present any traits that I felt were admirable or praiseworthy.
Alcohol/Drug Use: None
Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Velvet’s top covers her breasts pretty much just in the front; another woman’s top shows ample cleavage
Violence: Velvet kills some werewolves; Velvet attacks a woman; Velvet and a woman fight several guards; Velvet and another character cut down several guards
Blood/Gore: Noticeable blood splatter as Velvet kills the werewolves
Other: Velvet uses some kind of monstrous hand to kill; monsters are referred to as daemons; Velvet is referred to as a Daemoneater; a woman uses magic