What They Say:
It’s 1940 and the world is in the throes of war. Germania has threatened to invade a small neighboring country, putting their princess in danger. But in the midst of it all, a mysterious power awakens. The last witch has come to the aid of the princess, combining magic and weaponry to take on enemies.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets the 5.1 bump. The show is one that works a good mix of action and dialogue where the action has lots of fun with the aerial fights. This lets the zooming around work well through the sound design as it plays with both the airplane side and what we get from Izetta herself and the more personal aspects of flying. The war side is treated pretty well with some good moments of impact as various scenes play out and it all has a sense of power about it. The show also employs a lot of good dialogue scenes from earnest and tearful moments that resonate well alongside the yells and screams amid the war or in flight. The bulk is more general material and back and forth that doesn’t engage in too much that stands out but all in all it comes across cleanly and clearly and without any problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first disc and three on the second. Animated by Ajia-do Animation Works, it’s a beautiful looking series that has a lot of cinematic appeal to it with the color design and fluidity of animation during the bigger sequences. The show has a lot of great detail in the character designs and particularly in the settings with some great attention to detail to the machinery of war. I love the character designs, particularly Izetta, and there’s some really strong fluidity in many sequences that helps to achieve that cinematic approach, particularly with the color design that’s used here. The encoding is just great throughout with clean and problem free material throughout that just looks great.
The packaging design for this release brings us a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case to hold the four discs between the two formats that’s wrapped in an o-card. In a welcome change of pace, the o-card and cover have different pieces of artwork with the key visual material. The o-card is my favorite with Izetta and Fine in mid-air together with great costume design but also a really neat and non-standard angle from which it unfolds, especially with the sun setting in the background. The case cover has Izetta in her white outfit riding the weapon while the background goes for more muted material showing off various locations and the acts of war. The back covers for both work the same image where it has the classified information paperwork spread across it with photos and details that reveal the summary of the premise, extras included, and shots from the show. The technical grid is clean and easy to read for both formats as well. While there are no inserts with the release we do get artwork on the reverse side that has the two leads laying in the water together with each getting their own panel.
Sadly, the only extras here are some of the Japanese promos as we don’t get clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series that aired in the fall 2016 season, Izetta: The Last Witch comes from writer Hiroyuki Yoshino and was animated by Ajia-do Animation Works. Yoshino has a lot of credits that go back starting in 2000 working on various episodes of series while getting his feet wet in the bigger picture of overall composition with titles like My-Hime and My-Otome as well as Code Geass. More recent works that factor into this series surely include World Trigger and Heavy Object, the latter more specifically, and you can see a blend of things here. The biggest influence for me, however, is So Ra No Wo To from back in 2010. So much of the atmosphere of that show feels present here that it’s like a curious extension of that world in a different way that left me wanting more of both.
While history buffs may get a bit frustrated with this series even while understanding that it’s playing in an alternate world, what we get here is a fairly clean look at the start of a second world war in Europe. It’s not going to get into the reality of the carnage and brutality, taking a wider view and a much cleaner one because of it, but it taps into a lot of the familiar basics before the expansion of it hit in 1941. At its core are two young women that will alter the course of everything because of a cherished series of childhood memories that involves Fine, the crown princess of the small nation of Eylstadt, who befriends a girl who own age when they were little named Izetta. Izetta had been alone for some time and living in a barn in a village where she was kind of tolerated as long as she didn’t cause trouble. It’s during this time that Fine discovers that Izetta is actually a witch, and supposedly the last witch, who grew up being told to hide her abilities as people would fear and destroy her. Naturally, Fine ends up simply finding her to be a great person and friend and that gives Izetta something in this world that she never had before.
While the two end up separated over time, they come across each other just as war is close to breaking out on a train where Fine discovers Izetta in a containment tube, having been captured. It’s a crazy series of events involving Fine being on a secret mission herself but it results in something beautiful as the two find each other again in this moment and escape into the forest below, though not before Izetta comes to life riding a long weapon as a broom and dealing with some planes that are attacking them. Izetta is presented as such an innocent here in a way, even though she’s had nothing but trouble all her life, and her regret in taking life is established early even though she knew it must be done not only to save her own life but also to keep her newly rediscovered friend in Fine alive. With that trust that began years ago as Fine never revealed who Izetta was, it’s easy to see why Izetta trusts her now.
What the series does from here is what’s interesting. While it does build toward a conclusion that makes it clear this is a one and done show, which works beautifully in my mind, it spreads a lot of good material throughout it that I can imagine some easy and fun manga side stories that can be told. Being a fan of alternate world stories like this, seeing the second world war come to a conclusion here years earlier and with a very different impact overall while still making it clear that there will always be wars, Izetta focuses on some solid aspects that lead up to that. I didn’t find the villainous side of things to work too well when it comes to some of the manipulations working behind the scenes, that does leave an opening for more at the end, I did like how it played out when it came to the main countries involved in all of this.
With Germania looking to expand and conquer all its neighbors to build a larger and stronger nation to establish its place in the world, the war itself plays out fairly traditionally but with more elements that felt like they came out of the World War I era if not earlier, particularly in costume design. I’m mixed on the decision to avoid dealing with the costuming and intensity of what reality presented out of Germany in Germania, but I can understand why they did it here as those that are orchestrating the war are dealt with in fairly human ways at times. That the war goes so well except for this small nation of Eylstadt, we’re able to delve into a new (if familiar) area and explore how they’re able to handle everything while the major focus of the war is elsewhere. At least until Izetta ends up in the picture and her public use of magic changes the nature of the war as she’s sought after both to control and to kill depending on the agenda of the moment. It also ends up causing a lot of mixed feelings among other nations because Izetta’s power allows her to manipulate anything she touches with the magic, such as being able to manually control missiles and other weapons. While the visual of her riding the rifle is great, it’s seeing her control the weapons and so many other things that strikes the most, particularly since early on she’s not exactly working with a plan and more by instinct until she becomes a more formalized component of the war effort.
Though the animation style and design and the setting really did win me over, what got me to be a big fan of this was watching the dynamic between Izetta and Fine. There’s a good foundation given to them in the childhood sequences that we see which translates well to them at this age where they know they need each other and Izetta will do anything for someone who saw her for who she is and not what she is, befriending her when nobody else would and saving her life. There are fun moments with Izetta adapting to living in the castle and some of the politics of the moment but she also takes to being a part of something, something that really needs her to help save the country. The serious material works well but it’s also balanced by some very heartwarming pieces throughout that gives the big final moment between the two young women together the exact right weight to it so that it feels honest and earned as they attempt to end the war.
Izetta: The Last Witch got a lot of attention for its initial visuals and promos before it aired and the show definitely works it in a great way. I love the look of the show from top to bottom, the quality of the animation as it deals with the personal and the big action moments, and I really love that it is largely a solidly self-contained work that gives us a worthy conclusion. While there are a lot of light touch elements to it as it’s trying to end this alternate world war earlier than it was ended in reality, the smaller focus while playing with larger than life characters hit that sweet spot and engages across the board. This is definitely an easy recommendation to make.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 27th, 2018
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.