“For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” —Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring
The war between Elystadt and the Germanian Empire initially sees Elystadt take the upper hand as Izetta continues to provide support from both a combat and morale perspective, but the Germanians manage to utilise their own technology in creating a witch, Sophie, as well as a terrifying new weapon that they aim to use to force the world into submission. Determined to help Archduchess Finé fulfil their vision of a world where people can choose their own futures, Izetta steps out onto the battlefield once more and hold off Sophie, while draining the magic from the world so Witches no longer present a threat to contemporary civilisation. This action reduces the conflict to one fought entirely with conventional weapons and the Allied forces eventually mount their equivalent of D-Day, landing on the beaches of Normandy. Emperor Otto commits suicide shortly after, ending the war, and in the end, it seems that Izetta managed to survive the titanic explosion during her climatic showdown with Sophie. This brings Shuumatsu no Izetta to a close — this season’s other alternate history anime proved to be an entertaining watch, whose take on a familiar theme, substantial amount of world-building and exploration of the mechanics behind magic is dulled by its short runtime.
In presenting Izetta and Finé’s interactions with one another in response to the war’s progression, it becomes clear that Shuumatsu no Izetta strove to suggest that application of a supernatural force in an ordinary world would have far-reaching consequences on its inhabitants. Izetta’s intervention in the war, though allowing Elystadt forces opportunity for victory over superior Germanian weaponry, also draws their desire to devise an equivalent weapon, as well as alienating the nation from the rest of the world. The interplay between magic and non-magic is also a query that is often brought up in discussions J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings: some have wondered why Gandalf, being an Istari, could not have simply used his magic to aid the Fellowship in their quest. Tolken himself has mentioned in his earlier stories that this was intrinsically a poor choice — the Valar expressly forbade the Istari from using their magic in Middle Earth because the consequences would have been tremendous. During the First Age, in the War of Wrath, the Valar rode into battle against the dark lord Morgoth, and while victory was achieved, entire continents were ravaged. Presumably, the Valar subsequently vowed not to intervene in Middle Earth directly with power, instead, guiding their inhabitants with counsel. This is Gandalf’s modus operandi: in conjunction with his extensive wisdom, Gandalf effectively guides the Fellowship’s characters towards their futures, similar to Finé and Izetta’s own wishes to have people decide for themselves what their futures should entail without the intervention or aid of magic. In both cases, there are terrible costs for using magic, hence the Valar and Izetta’s grandmother holding the belief that magic should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. In Shuumatsu no Izetta, Izetta’s own use of magic comes at a great cost: besides shortening her lifespan with the magic stone, the victories achieved through her initial actions only served to escalate the war and potentially would have earned Elystadt additional foes. It is only using magic to reject magic that peace is attained, keeping in line with Tolkein’s proposition that magic is not the end-all towards achieving a goal.
One of the major shortcomings of Shuumatsu no Izetta is ultimately its short length: spanning only twelve episodes, the time span was not sufficient to delve into additional elements that would have given the other characters greater impact within the story; Finé and Izetta both have motivations and actions consistent with their beliefs as a result of having the most exposition time, but the other characters come across as being more simplistic. This is especially apparent in the case of Berkmann and Bisterfelt, whose roles as antagonists could have been enhanced by giving them a more substantial background. Giving the different characters screen time to develop their roles means that the protagonists’ raison d’être become much more relatable to the audience, and similarly, for the antagonists, might also add weight to their cause that leads the viewer to wonder whether or not the antagonists are also people, each with their own stories and goals. Such humanistic approaches do much for war stories by emphasising the human sides often forgotten amongst explosives and gunfire (an excellent example is found in the 2002 film The Pianist, where Wehrmacht Officer Wilm Hosenfeld spares and provides food for Jewish pianist Władysław Szpilman). However, in spite of its short runtime and thus, being unable to explore the different characters’ backgrounds further, Shuumatsu no Izetta manages to do a reasonable job with the time that its been given.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Originally, this post was meant to only have twenty screenshots, but in the end, I decided to go with thirty since, even though this means an extra fifty percent of effort required to finish it, it means that I can include some of the fanservice shots within the discussion. Admittedly, only a sixth of the screenshots in this whole-series talk actually deal with combat, but that is because for me, the messages in Shuumatsu no Izetta deal more with people and how they address the issue of power, rather than military hardware itself.
- Correspondingly, I’ve chosen to focus most of my screenshots on the human element of Shuumatsu no Izetta rather than the weapons and hardware. Here, Elvira Friedmann, Finé’s personal tutor, is feeling up Izetta with the goal of trying to accurately determine her dress size, resulting in Izetta’s mien taking on hues consistent with those of embarrassment. This information is later used to craft a white dress for Izetta such that she may fully take up the mantle of being the White Witch of Elystadt.
- At Finé’s coronation, Izetta is asked to publicly make an appearance, where she demonstrates the scope of her powers. The citizens of Elystadt are delighted: they now have a figure who offers them a fighting chance against the Germanian empire, and becomes as much of a propaganda figure as an asset to the Elystadt forces, representing hope for the common people.
- Germanian Emperor Otto is modelled after Adolf Hitler and Wilheim II in manner, but is presumably named for the Holy Roman Empire’s Otto. Unlike Valkyria Chronicles‘ Maximilian Gaius Von Reginrave, who was fighting for the sake of revenge, Otto’s war of conquest appears to be fuelled by little more than his own megalomanic whims to rule the world. He immediately takes an interest when Izetta announces her presence, having long believed the legends about Witches; like Maximilian, he believes that their power is essential to his aims.
- Izetta is immediately deployed on missions to liberate territories held by Germanian forces, and since her last operation at Coenenberg, flies into battle with dedicated lances that are magically accelerated to punch through contemporary tank armour. Despite her overwhelming performance on the battlefield, Izetta’s magic is revealed to have limitations: she can only wield her powers in special areas running along “Ley” lines, where magic is channeled.
- In order to deceive their enemies, Elystadt decide to stage an operation in an area where the Ley lines do not run, making use of deceit to give the sense that Izetta can wield her powers anywhere. The operation results in the destruction of Germanian forces, but it is also shown here that there is a spy amongst the Elystadt forces who tries to interrogate one of the soldiers, Jonas, for information. To keep Izetta’s secret safe, Müller, one of Finé’s counsellors, executes him.
- Izetta is voiced by Himika Akaneya, a relatively new voice actor whose roles I’m not too familiar with. Finé is voiced by Saori Hayami: she plays Tari Tari‘s Sawa Okita and GochiUsa‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain, amongst others (Sword Art Online‘s Sachi and OreImo‘s Ayase), and Bianca, lead of the royal guard, is voiced by Aya Uchida (Kaede Furutani of YuriYuri, Himawari Shinomiya of Vividred Operation and Strike Witches The Movie‘s very own Shizuka Hattori). Lotte, one of Finé’s maids, is voiced by Nao Tōyama, who I know best for her roles as Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujo and the Kongō sisters in Kantai Collection.
- An often-presented convention in anime is the idea that clothes belonging to another character become tight in the chest area when worn by another character, resulting in much jealousy from the clothes’ owner. It was a little surprising but amusing to see Finé in less than fine spirits after the realisation that for her own role, she’s outmatched in assets by Finé and Bianca. On a completely unrelated note, the Shuumatsu no Izetta soundtrack is set for release on December 21, along with the Brave Witches soundtrack, and naturally, I look forwards to hearing both.
- During the Second World War, Britain ran tests to determine whether the nation could weather a total cut-off of supplies from U-Boat assaults and found that they were capable of doing so, although in reality, supplies from America meant that rationing was not as severe as simulated. In Elystadt, the conflict has similarly limited supplies, so something as simple Finé sneaking out with her entourage for some cherry pie becomes an adventure of sorts.
- Finé watches as a pair of Handley Page Halifax bombers take off, carrying Izetta to her next mission and reminding me of photographs depicting B-25 Mitchell bombers taking off from the deck of the USS Hornet. If Shuumatsu no Izetta had been a story written by someone in the West, Izetta would be a wizard or warlock and Finé would have depicted as a love interest outright. I think that, had Izetta been a male character, Shuumatsu no Izetta still would have worked.
- The Battle of Sognefjord, though seen as another opportunity to prove Izetta’s great worth against the Germanians, is in fact a cleverly-prepared exercise to determine the limits of Izetta’s power. By using the incomplete aircraft carrier, Drachenfels, as bait, and allowing its destruction, Berkmann confirms that there are places where Izetta cannot operate. The end battle was a thrilling one as Izetta weaved through heavy anti-air fire, and despite losing most of her ordinance, she manages to mission-kill the carrier.
- I’ve heard some folks suggest that the Battle of Sognefjord resembles the Rebel Alliance’s attack on the Death Star, but I fail to see the similarities, since the carrier Drachenfels is not even close to the Executor (much less the Death Star) in strategic value. On the topic of Star Wars, I have plans to see Rogue One in the near future — I am particularly excited to see Chirrut Imwe, who is played by Donnie Yen (whom I know best for his roles in the Ip Man films).
- Rickert Bisterfelt infiltrates Elystadt with the aim of rendezvousing with the Germanian undercover asset, and shares a conversation with Bianca here. Bisterfelt is surprised that their enemies are seemingly ordinary, and in a much longer series, the dynamics between him and Bianca could have been explored in a much greater capacity to tell a smaller story in Shuumatsu no Izetta either about how love surpasses devotion to a cause, or vice versa.
- I believe it was around here where I decided that Bianca was my favourite character of Shuumatsu no Izetta: despite her skill as a royal guard and the fact that anime clichés in general seem out of place in this anime, she is subject to the classic “guy walks in on her while bathing” routine. I never got how this is possible in general, since people check thoroughly what rooms they’re returning to before they open the door, and since at most accommodations (save the dicier ones), keys will only unlock the door to one room.
- At a masquerade ball, Finé and Izetta encounter Berkmann with a white-haired girl who bites Izetta, drawing blood. As it turns out, the Germanians have managed to clone the original White Witch, but owing to difficulties, never managed to activate her consciousness until they learned that blood might be the key. Because cloning in general remains a highly experimental field (the most sophisticated organism ever cloned remains the sheep Dolly), human cloning remains confined to the realm of science fiction because of complexities in primates posing unacceptable risks to the clones’ health.
- Ultimately, while I draw comparisons between Shuumatsu no Izetta and Valkyria Chronicles‘s anime incarnation, I believe that the latter had the advantage of a much greater length to explore the different characters’ backgrounds (even if the anime form of Valkyria Chronicles did come across as being melodramatic in several places). In my discussion for Shuumatsu no Izetta after three episodes, I remarked that this was a series that would require twenty four to twenty six episodes to really touch on everything.
- By this point in time, the Elystadt forces have developed specialised lances and spears for Izetta. Izetta summons her weapons by saying oide (お出で), which I’ve heard used by Mocha in GochiUsa to coax Rize out into being cuddled, and if memory serves, Chiya also tries to lure out some feral rabbits in this fashion. In general, when I hear Izetta say oide, my mind drifts towards how characters from the Universal Century are prone to saying “funnels!” whenever deploying their funnels. Seemingly superfluous, there is a logical reason to do so: armed forces do so to alert their allies about the imminent firing of a weapon (examples include “fox two” to indicate firing infrared-guided missiles and shouting “frag out” for tossing a grenade).
- It seems Izetta’s blood is the special sauce that gives the cloned Witch a consciousness. Inheriting the original White Witch’s memories, the new Witch, Sophie, vividly recalls her betrayal by Elystadt royalty and vows revenge. Making use of a magical stone, she defeats utterly Izetta when the latter’s magic is depleted and hangs her out in the open for the Germanians to claim, but Elystadt forces retrieve her and over the course of a few months, allow her to recover from her injuries.
- Witches primarily use their magic in Shuumatsu no Izetta as a means of manipulating and moving objects under their control, whereas the Valkyrur of Valkyria Chronicles derived their power from being able to fully utilise the mineral ragnite, bringing forth highly destructive energy and channeling its force to perform supernatural feats. Because magic is an inherent part of the land in Shuumatsu no Izetta, it can be stored and released for use later, as Sophie demonstrates here.
- Despite her situation, Izetta manages to maintain a cheerful, optimistic disposition; so as long as she’s got Finé, she feels she can continue to do whatever it takes to help Finé out. A cursory glance shows that I’ve spelt Finé’s name in this post with the “e acute” rather than with a conventional “e”; on a Windows computer, this is accomplished by using alt-code 0233, but I’ve always found it tricky to work alt-codes on Windows. On Mac OS X, an “e acute” is as simple as holding down the “E” key and choosing the symbol one requires.
- Izetta’s devotion to Finé is remarkable: she’s willing to put her own life on the line if it means that Finé’s goals are realised. After Germanian forces storm the bunker where Finé is hiding out and threaten to execute all inhabitants if Finé does not surrender herself, Izetta activates the magic stone that Müller’s been holding onto and handily defeats the Germanian forces. Meanwhile, Berkmann betrays the Germanian forces and asserts that he works for whomever will guarantee his safety, giving up secrets of the Germanian military. It would have been nice to see his background and how that ties into his current belief system, but that ultimately boils down to Shuumatsu no Izetta not having enough time to really portray everything.
- The Elystadt government soon learns that the Germanian empire has managed to use Sophie’s power to create the equivalent of an atomic bomb and plan on tipping a V2 rocket with the warhead, using it to wipe out Elystadt’s capital. Finé’s despair face is hilarious even though it should not be, and it takes a slap from Izetta to set things right. Notions of Nazi Germany having access to atomic weapons are not new in fiction: in a trailer for Wolfenstein: The New Order, Blazkowicz narrates “they beat us to the bomb; no one knows how”, and German weapons felled America. While the Third Reich did indeed have a nuclear weapons programme, their designs were hampered by human and material resources. Had they succeeded, the resulting weapon would have been smaller than the bombs the Americans tested, and would have likely driven the Americans to push the Manhattan project with even more intensity.
- Finé and Izetta share one final peaceful moment together in the nearby mountains above the clouds before Izetta sets out to stop Sophie, while Finé herself heads to a conference with the aim of dissuading the Allied forces from giving in to Germanian demands. I spent the past two days struggling through a cold which imparted drowsiness, aching and coughing, and with the weekend here, I finally had a chance to really sleep it off today. By around mid-afternoon, I had recovered sufficiently to go out for an evening dinner of a chicken steak with mushroom sauce on spaghetti, and because that was delicious, it seems that my cold is on the mend now, seeing as I can taste things. While I’m probably not fit enough to bench press my usual yet, I am in a reasonable enough condition to write this post, and with enough sleep, I should be ready to return to work on Monday.
- Anticipating Izetta’s arrival, Sophie is already in place to take on Izetta in a battle of titanic proportions. With Izetta’s desire to fight for common people against Sophie’s vendetta, this battle ultimately becomes the showdown between a past grudge against a yearning for a better tomorrow. I’ve noticed this since the days of Gundam 00, where translators return “fighting for tomorrow” or equivalent because of the phrase 明日 (literally “tomorrow”, in both Japanese and Chinese). This is compounded by the fact that “future” is 未来 (romanised “mirai”), and while functionally similar, I think that “future” is probably more appropriate in English, since it has a much broader application.
- For the folks who’ve missed my “Mail Sack” series, where I explain the origin of this blog’s name, I will reiterate the story. Owing to a naming conflict, I could not take the name “Infinite Zenith” when I started this blog, so I went with “Infinite Mirai”, partially inspired by Danny Choo’s Mirai Suenaga (and for which I’m still waiting for an anime adaptation to). This blog’s name thus translates as “Infinite Future”, and I rather like how that turned out, since I’m big on seeing where progress will lead humanity in general. Back in Shuumatsu no Izetta, Sophie shows no regard for allied forces and sends anti-aircraft vehicles into the air in her fight against Izetta. The battle is not easily captured in a static screenshot and would be better appreciated in its original glory.
- The oily, filmy residue in this screenshot is not a defect with the means I am using to capture aforementioned screenshots, but stems from Izetta using her magic with much more ferocity than before. The battle becomes increasingly personal as the two show down, fighting for different causes. Both Witches become battered and bruised during the combat, growing increasingly frustrated that their opponent is not falling.
- Anyone familiar with Selvaria’s Final Flame will probably be reminded of it as Izetta summons her magic to create a vast magic crystal with the aim of taking both herself and Sophie out. Not to be outdone, Sophie quickly creates her own crystal that merges with Izetta’s, causing a vast explosion that dissipates all magic from Europe and claims Sophie’s life in the process. Having anticipated that Sophie would prioritise their duel over the V2 launch, Germanian forces arranged for another Sophie clone to guide the rocket, but the removal of all magic causes the rocket, plus all stocks of the magical crystals, to fail.
- Emotion wells up when Finé recalls her conversation with Izetta, and with tears in her eyes, Finé asks the world leaders as to whether or not Germania can rule the world in the absence of powerful new weapons. Soon after, the culmination of Izetta’s duel with Sophie ends with a pillar of light extending into the heavens as magic is excised from the world. Izetta accepts her end, feeling that she’s done everything she can for Finé, and back at the conference, Finé’s composure disintegrates, thinking that her best friend is lost forever.
- In the epilogue, with the power conferred by Witches no longer relevant, Allied forces storm Normandy Beach and invade Europe by 1941. The Volga republic invades Germania after nullifying their non-aggression pact (a mirror of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact), and the combined offenseives turn the war totally against the Germanian empire. Like Hitler, Otto commits suicide in a secret bunker, paving war for the end of the war. The war in Shuumatsu no Izetta ends much sooner than World War II did, and the closing monologue suggests that Witches allowed the war to end sooner than it would have otherwise.
- I don’t normally offer screenshots in 1080p (they’re condensed to 640 by 363 to fit on the website from Flickr), so Izetta is not easily visible in this screenshot unless one zooms in on their screen, but she is alive and well, very much an ordinary human being now. In the care of Lotte, she lives in a cozy cabin situated at the pond where she and Finé first met, and Finé visits regularly in spite of her busy schedule to help preserve the peace in the world. In this single post for Shuumatsu no Izetta, I have not covered every single element about the anime that is discussion-worthy: that is only realistically achievable through an episodic review, and Jusuchin has done a phenomenal job of covering details in this anime in this manner.
Ultimately, Shuumatsu no Izetta proved to be an entertaining journey whose idea and execution made it something worth watching each week. Fans of magic and WWII-era alternate history will be right at home in this anime, and those who’ve played Valkyria Chronicles (or seen the anime adaptation) will find an anime with many parallels to the series: both are alternate-histories where magic feature prominently. While it’s shorter length meant that the characters’ goals and aspirations are not explained fully to be compelling, Shuumatsu no Izetta does a sufficient job of covering the details behind how magic works, as well as the lore behind Witches in history and how these elements together impact the way that Izetta and Finé plan their next course of action. The artwork and animation in Shuumatsu no Izetta is of a generally high quality (save for a few moments where characters are drawn without faces for LoD reasons), and the soundtrack, with its strong choral element, brings to mind the sort of mystique associated with Witches that feels right at home with something like Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The final verdict for Shuumatsu no Izetta is a relatively straightforwards one — for fans of alternate history mixed with magic, this one is recommended, and for general viewers like myself, Shuumatsu no Izetta earns a weak recommendation: the world is explained to a satisfactory extent so most things make sense, although the anime’s short length will leave the viewer wishing the series was a bit longer such that more elements could have been detailed.