The time is pre-World War II and the setting is a European-like imaginary world. A large-scale war erupts and bloody battles are taking place throughout the world. Eylstadt is a small country that lacks a strong military force and natural resources. Finé, who is the crown queen of Eylstadt, decides to use a secret weapon against larger countries, in a time where battling against larger countries was unthinkable. The secret weapon is a witch named Izetta, who uses her magical force to fight. The young witch Izetta is the last survivor of her kind, and is notable for her burning red hair.
Set in a story-world similar to 1940’s Europe we follow the story of Finé, Arch Duchess to the small European principality of Eylstadt as she evades capture at the hands of the forces of Germania. During her struggle Fine reconnects with a memory from her past – A white witch named Izetta, the last of her kind. Izetta was Finé’s secret childhood friend and owes Finé her allegiance. For her love of Finé, Izetta breaks her vows of obscurity to defend her and her country against the overwhelming strength of the outside invaders. But her powers in the area are limited, and slowly the Germanian Empire begins to suspect this and starts searching with the witch’s weakness.
Izetta takes place in an alternate universe version of World War II. Princess Finé is our fiery, tomboyish protagonist, whose determination to save her people powers her through episode one like a pretty, violet-eyed force of nature. Germania’s ambitions threaten Izetta’s small home country of Eylstadt, so she meets with a representative of Brittania to discuss what she can do to solicit Brittania’s protection.
The titular Izetta is a tiny red-haired witch who possesses uncertain magical abilities, at least one of which is to fly. Capable of wiping out entire battalions, Izetta has been taken captive by the Germanians and put on ice… until she wakes up, pulsing rainbows, using a rifle as a broomstick and rescuing the Princess. Soon after this, because the two women have a history together (Finé saving Izetta’s life after an angry village mob were advancing on her), Izetta agrees to fight for Finé and protect her small country.
The artwork and design of the characters, particularly Izetta and Finé, stand out amidst all the industry, tanks, weaponry and soldiers. They have a bit more colour and a softness and glow about them that always keeps them at the forefront – a bit of fantasy design within all the historical backdrop. Speaking of the backdrop, the World War II themes accompanied by an operatic sound track sets this exquisitely drawn anime apart from the others in the mainstream. Dramatic and emotive, this series has all the ingredients for it to become an all-time anime classic.
But it’s not all war, death and girls flying around on rifles. We also have scenes where we see Izetta trying to come to terms with living inside a kingdom rather than travelling around outside of villages with her grandmother. She finds herself struggling with royal decorum, corsets and life at court, including learning how to do things like dance and become more perceptive of people and their intentions. There are spies from other countries studying her every move, trying every trick in the book to find the fatal flaw in the powers of the white witch now they know that wars cannot be won with just armies and artillery. There are plenty of enemies of Eylstadt that don’t see the strength of its young Archduchess and her mysterious red-headed friend.
For its gentleness and magical realism, as well as its female protagonist, Izetta reminds me of Flying Witch, especially when the anime takes a break from political plotting and fighting to show us some scenes of Finé and Izetta just being young girls – trying on dresses, learning to dance and going through town with disguises on so that the Archduchess can eat at her favourite café. The art style throughout is reminiscent of Snow White With the Red Hair and the storyline is kept on-track with a whirlwind of political points and counterpoints, betrayal and magic. It’s an easy anime to get absorbed and quite nicely melds two very different anime genres with surprising ease.