Alternate history can be a fun exercise. What if the American Civil War had zombies? What if Marco Polo had a jet ski? What if you fought World War II with magic? That last one is the premise of Izetta: The Last Witch. The series is set solely in the European theater, although the continent is still somewhat drawn up on WWI lines, with the warring nations being a bunch of monarchies. The monarchy in peril when Izetta opens is Elystadt, aka the western end of Austria and maybe a bit of Switzerland, lead by Ortfine Fredericka von Elystadt aka Fine, a very tomboy-ish princess of the land. Technically her father is in charge, but he’s bedridden so it’s up to Fine to run things in the face of a growing war threat.
And by “run things” I mean Fine is a one woman army. Not only is she running most of the government services, she’s also her own intelligence service in the face of the Germanian war machine. We meet her in the process of arranging a clandestine meeting with other European powers via a train trip. Unfortunately, the train is infested with Germanian agents looking for her. There is also one very special Germanian, Izetta, under the care of Arnold Berkmann, Germania’s primary spy and/or lunatic in charge of digging up weird myths. Of course Izetta is no myth. Suffice it to say Fine quickly ends up absconding with Izetta back to Elystadt, just before Germania gives up the waiting game and invades. Izetta, now considered the White Witch of Elystandtian myth, naturally drives them off in a glorious display of…umm…mass murder by a 15-year-old? There are two problems, though: Izetta can only use her magic in certain areas, and her hair is awfully red for “The White Witch”…
Izetta is definitely an interesting production. The series tries to balance a grand war story with magic with catering to a target audience of people who like to stare at teenagers in flimsy clothing. There are several different instances of Fine and Izetta needing to run off in their very thin night clothes to converse deeply about some not-so-critically important topic, interspersed with pretty massive and rather bloody battle sequences. The show is not really the better for this tension, since the inter-personal stuff mostly ends up distracting from the more interesting war story, especially after the Big Germanian Twist! happens. There are also a couple of other Elystadtian characters who serve to eat up screen time and contribute very little to the story. Slightly more interesting are Seighard Muller, Fine’s spymaster who is not afraid of doing dirty work, the aforementioned Berkman, and a Germanian pilot named Basler who provides something of an “eyes on the ground” viewpoint, even if he is nominally “evil” for fighting for Germania. Berkman is mostly a perpetually smirking jerk, but he makes the most of being the bad guy of bad guys.
This leaves Fine and Izetta as the series’ only interesting characters, and that may be overselling Izetta a bit. She doesn’t seem to have any interior life at all and exists solely to make Fine happy. She never even expresses any anger except when Fine won’t let her fight. To be fair, other than Izetta’s Grandmother, Fine may possibly be the only other person to ever speak to Izetta. Fine and Izetta have a brief history from when they were kids that left some literal marks on both of them, so a certain amount of devotion by Izetta to Fine is understandable. Still, would it have killed the writers to give Izetta any other character traits? At least Fine gets some decent characterization even if it’s earnestly-loving-all-of-her-people-and-wanting-to-what’s-best-for-them-at-all-times. For what it’s worth (which is not much), the leader of Germania, Otto, shows up a few times to be entertainingly loopy.
Story-wise, things go pretty much as you would expect, including the cop-out ending. Pacing is initially pretty good, but around the time of the Big Germania Twist! the pacing goes to hell and never comes back. Maybe if they hadn’t wasted 2 episodes worth of time of characters no one cares about and who amount to nothing, things would have gone better. The big twist really needs to happen earlier, because there isn’t enough time left in the series to do it justice.
The animation alternates between absolutely spectacular and absolutely pedestrian. Some of the battle sequences are exquisite and others just go through the motions. All of the non-battle animation is boring as hell, except for when the animators get to strip some clothes off. They seem much more interested is drawing those parts for some reason. The set I got to review has no extras other than some TV commercials.
Izetta is certainly an interesting show with an interesting premise, but it could and probably should be better than it is. The spell it cast is slightly lacking.