I almost failed history class in junior high. The closest thing I took in high school to a real history class was Greek Mythology. I took Art History in college because it was a prerequisite (and sucked at that, too). Now, years later, it took an anime to get me into this stuff.
Izetta: The Last Witch is a story that takes place during an alternate world’s World War II. The young witch, Izetta–the last of her kind–is reunited with her childhood friend, Finé, and fights to protect Finé and the Dukedom of Eylstadt. The background is 1939 Europe and the German–*ahem*, Germanian march of war across the continent. Fun stuff for history buffs, something that I decidedly have not been.
While I may know the overarching details from general cultural osmosis and news articles with Wikipedia links, I never really found WWII “fascinating” per se. Sure, history is interesting and important to know, but I never got into it, you know? Checking tactics? Memorizing the model numbers of war planes? Knowing the name of the field officer responsible for the Malmedy massacre (Joachim Peiper)? Knowing what to call the bunker where Hitler died (Führerbunker)? Those have always been nuggets of information to look up, not know offhand for me. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a German Tiger tank and a… a… Well, the Tiger was the only German tank I knew of.
WWII and other military-related themes have often showed up in various ways within anime. However, I’ve never really understood some of the obsessions that people can have. Tanks, warships, planes, guns… All of these have found their way into anime culture in one way or another. But for me, they were always window dressing for the characters and plot.
In comes Izetta: The Last Witch, and right from the beginning, I noticed something different. Watching the images of the advancing tanks, the bombers in the air, the realistic way in which the anti-aircraft fire arcs upward through the air, I found myself glued to the screen. I could almost smell the machine oil in the tank treads, and the mud on the soldiers’ boots. Suddenly, I’m in. I’m game.
Now the details have become important. Now I find myself looking up the model of the anti-tank rifle Izetta flies in the first episode (Russian PTRS-41) and spending hours looking through Wikipedia pages. I’m more interested in an aerial dogfights than some of the character-establishing scenes later on.
My interest in the details has come to the point where I’m beginning to worry that I’m enjoying Izetta for the wrong reasons. For me it’s not a mystical story of a brave witch with the background of WWII, it’s a WWII story that happens to have a real witch in it. Then again, perhaps that’s how most WWII buffs see these things. Izetta: The Last Witch has opened up a new world for me.
Izetta: The Last Witch can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.