This was not a bad finale. It certainly does most of the things one would expect a finale to do, especially in terms of spectacle. Shuumatsu no Izetta pulled out all the stops to make witch vs witch fight actually interesting to watch. It didn’t have to be, since it’s really just telekinetics chucking stuff at each other, with the crescendo being two swollen red balls (I’m sorry, I’m sorry). So the key is in what they chuck. Little red pellets? Lame. Tanks, trains, and the Eiffel Tower? That is cool, especially if it upsets the French.
So yeah, the action was great. If we really think about it, this really was just the part of the war game where somebody flips the table over and starts throwing the pieces around, so it’s good that the action is at least worthy of the popcorn. No problems there. The problems that were there, though, were the same kinds of problems that had plagued the entire series. So I guess this is a good time to segue into my final impressions for Shuumatsu no Izetta.
Final Impressions ~ Fatal Flaw
Here’s an example: for the past few episodes now, Finé has been feeling very guilty about… something. She’s been bemoaning how terrible a power magic is, about how wrong she was for unleashing it on the world, and about how she’s responsible for setting things right. Okay, I understand why she’d be doing that. She needs to have an internal conflict, to show an arc of character growth, yada yada. Even if you think she’s being over-dramatic, you’re probably won’t think too much about letting her have her moment. That is, until you remember that the Germanians already had a zombie witch in their basement, were already prepared to mass produce her, and one of the reasons for them invading Elystadt was to further Otto’s witch obsession. I think you’re overstating your own importance in the entire debacle, lady.
Obviously, Shuumatsu no Izetta was trying to make a point about how humans cannot be trusted to not destroy ourselves, about power and responsibility, about how nukes are terrible. Honestly, I don’t mind what point a show tries to make, as long as it’s well thought out. In Shuumatsu no Izetta‘s case, it’s not really. While the physical conflict, the fighting, was generally well done, the moral conflict, the ‘why’ of the fighting, was far less so. It’s not that it didn’t try for one—it tried to juxtapose a lot of its characters, like Otto and Finé, Sophia and Izetta—but it ended up underdeveloped, poorly thought out, or just plain stupid. Here’s another example: Sophia finally reveals her secret secret backstory, about how it was actually the prince who betrayed her, but 1) I can’t believe she’d just take the wife’s word for it 2) we’ve never seen how she used to be in the past, so all we know of Sophia is that she’s powerful and unstable, so maybe the Inquisition actually has a pretty good point in this timeline. This is not even getting into the flaky bits of internal logic in Shuumatsu no Izetta, like how despite the alleged stigma against witchcraft the ‘heroic White Witch’ version of the story still managed to survive as the only popularly known version. It seems that when there’s only a line or two afforded to any given development, holes start to develop everywhere.
The problem is that when the logic and the messaging of a story falls apart, events and character actions start to feel arbitrary. Sure, perhaps events are arbitrary, but unless we’re fully embracing nihilism we usually look for some meaning in our stories. We want things to happen for a reason. Otherwise it feels like things happen based purely on the whims of the writer, and the man behind the curtain is revealed. So, in Shuumatsu no Izetta… why does Sieg have to die? Why does Berkman have to live? I’m sure Shuumatsu no Izetta was trying to make some point about something, but when its central moral conflict has been so weak it’s hard to make out what it’s trying to say. And for that matter, why does Izetta live? Despite the overblown martyr complex, despite all the assurances that getting rid of all the magic in defiance of magical thermodynamics and without blowing up the planet is a feat that will surely kill her, nope, not dead. I usually like happy endings, but I also want those happy endings to be earned, and this one wasn’t. Here, it feels like not even Shuumatsu no Izetta knew what it wanted, and just tossed the positive epilogue in. It feels arbitrary because it is arbitrary; nobody writing this show knows what they want, apparently.
It’s a shame, because there’s many other good things about Shuumatsu no Izetta. The action, again, is mostly done well with some detailed military hardware, despite art and animation failing at times between heavy scenes. The designs were another praiseworthy aspect of the visuals; everyone was dressed in great costumes, some even had multiple, and the uniforms were historical and fitting. And of course, we can’t go without mentioning the soundtrack, which while a bit short really held everything together. Even when choreography wasn’t the best, or when the dialogue was inane, the score could always be counted on to set the mood or elevate a scene. Its excellence is hard to overstate. So, yeah, many good things about Shuumatsu no Izetta, it’s just that the script turned out to be rather weak. And that’s, arguably, the most important part. Can good execution carry a weak script? Arguably, yes, but only to an extent. Shuumatsu no Izetta is by no means a bad show, and fairly entertaining, but never manages to rise much higher than that. Despite its obvious ambition, I fear that it will be remembered as little more than cheap entertainment. You don’t think too hard about it when watching, and when it’s over, you move on.