Shuumatsu no Izetta is an anime from late last year. It was written by Yoshino Hiroyuki who did some work for Code Geass & Kuroshitsuji. He also wrote the anime adaptation for Dance in the Vampire Bund, which was pretty dreadful. The studio behind it was Ajia-Do, which I remember from Magic Tree House. So, with this staff the series could go either way. Let’s find out how it does, shall we?
Our narrative is set in an alternative world at the beginning of World War II. Princess Finé of Elystadt is going to the allies to plead for help against the Germanian forces. She and her guards are being chased by Germanian soldiers when she spots a strange capsule on the train. She tries to open it but the Germanians find her before she can. She and her guards manage to escape, but she’s taken prisoner after reaching the Britannian minister. She’s taken aboard a plane with the mysterious capsule when it opens, revealing a young red-haired girl who Finé knows very well, Izetta. Izetta uses her magic to rescue Finé and their struggle against Germania begins.
There are some relatively minor story issues. First off, there are some contrivances. For example, there’s a character who learns a secret because two higher ups in Elystadt’s military are discussing it outside where anyone could overhear them. Surely, they are strategic masterminds. There’s another case where a Germanian spy happens to make friends with a couple of supporting characters who he randomly encounters without knowing who they are and he makes friends with them in a very short time just to try and make a confrontation betwixt him and one of them more dramatic. It doesn’t really work. The length is also a bit of an issue. There are some really good ideas that really could have used more time to be properly fleshed out. The secret of Elystadt’s original White Witch, the death of Finé’s father very early on, the political gambits that Finé takes to try and save her nation. Frankly, there are enough ideas here that the series could have been twenty six episodes without ever feeling like it was dragging and the pacing wouldn’t have had to be so rushed.
That being said, when you factor in the time constraints, the series is really well written. It has strong sources of tension that get explained as well as one could reasonably expect them to be in a twelve episode series. The series is good at touching on all the beats that it needs to, even when there are ones that could have benefited from greater extrapolation. I also appreciate that every plot point comes into play. There’s a scene where a certain character dies for the sake of a state secret and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be important but then it comes into play for two different plot points later. The way the series brings propaganda into play is superbly handled. It’s certainly a series that keeps you engrossed with every episode ending in a way that makes you curious about what comes next.
The characters are the biggest strength of the series. Most of the supporting characters are well enough fleshed out to have verisimilitude. Which adds gravity to the situations. Sophie is a compelling character, particularly when you learn the truth behind her hatred of Elystadt. The best part of the characters, however, is Izetta & Finé’s relationship. It is expertly handled with a strong back story to illustrate how they got to the point they’re at when we first see them in the series and with a good degree of development over the course of the series. They’re both strongly fleshed out characters and having a very powerful dynamic only serves to highlight their best, and in a few cases worst, qualities thanks to the ways they interact with one another.
The artwork in this is largely excellent. The backgrounds are quite lovely and there’s clearly a lot of work put into the various military gear, outfits and animation. The one complaint I have with the artwork is that some of the scenes cross the line into crass fan-service. Which can be distracting when they’re trying to have a serious scene.
The entire vocal cast does well. There aren’t any weak links in that regard. The strongest performances come from Akaneya Himika & Hayami Saori. The two of them really manage to sell the chemistry between their characters. Amamiya Sora is also really good in this. We can thank Michiru for the music. Which is excellent.
There’s a lot in this series. This is one of those anime that’s technically not shoujo-ai, but might as well have been. There are a lot of scenes where the artwork and atmosphere give the impression that Finé and Izetta are going to start passionately snogging and then the scene will have to shift before the rating goes all the way up to Rx. Finé cross dresses at one point, seemingly just so she can dance with Izetta at a party. There are also some indications that Bianca would be interested in turning their relationship into a poly-amorous one and there’s a former journalist turned tutor who seems interested in the pair of them as well. There’s a maid, Lotte, who seems interested in Izetta. I wonder if these two meet a lot of other women who are interested by coincidence or if Elystadt’s royal family just hires a lot of lesbians by design.
Shuumatsu no Izetta certainly has its narrative flaws. It’s got its contrivances, it can be somewhat crass with its fan-service and it really would have benefited from a longer run. That being said, there’s a lot to like about it. The tension is strong. The characters are nicely fleshed out. The dynamic between our leads is amazing. The artwork largely looks legitimately lovely. The acting and music are strong. As a whole, I found it highly endearing and rather enjoyable. If you’re interested in seeing a WW II fiction that factors in magical powers and escapes being classified as shoujo-ai by a minor technicality, this one is for you. For myself, I give it a very respectable 8/10. Next week I’ve actually got a short request to look at, it’s going to be Sakamichi no Apollon.