Shuumatsu no Izetta – 01
Shuumatsu no Izetta is an interesting specimen, a mix of extremely cliche anime tropes and genuinely unusual material for the medium. It’s also quite handsomely drawn (Ajia-Do is a studio with which I am mostly unfamiliar), and refreshing in that it’s an anime that actually treats the Nazis as the evil bastards they were rather than glossing over an uncomfortable patch of history for the Japanese.
At heart, I think this original series is built around the ultra-conventional foundation of hyper-cute but tough teenage girls playing the hero – and really, a princess and a witch is about as standard as you could get. There’s the usual pointless fanservice and some moe pandering that undercuts the sense of realism the episode is otherwise quite good at building up. But we also get a pretty interesting premise that tacks closer to reality than most historical fantasy anime do (right down to the naming conventions). It’s certainly Germany running roughshod over Europe, Britain representing the last line of defense, and what seems very much like Switzerland as the home country of the heroine, Princess Fine.
But that’s where things begin to twist. Germany didn’t actually invade Switzerland (which doesn’t have an archduke for that matter, as far as I know), but in Izetta it does. The reason seems to be that “Elystadt” is the source of a myth that fascinated the Germanian emperor, the story of a white witch with massive powers. The political intrigue is well written, the action scenes are nicely staged, and there’s definite potential in this not-too alternate look at World War II. But I suspect it’s going to be a tug of war between the desire to pander and the impulse to be original, with the success of the series hanging on the result.
Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans 2nd Season – 01
The very popular Tekketsu no Orphans returns for a second season, bringing along with it the much-ballyhooed creative team of Nagai Tatsuyuki and Okada Mari. We’ll see if they can work the kinks out this time around.
It’s no secret that I had my issues with the first season of Iron-Blooded Orphans, especially the final arc. It’s quite galling to see stupidity and bad judgment rewarded (I would go so far as to call it bad writing), and the ending of the first season was as egregious an example as you’ll find in an otherwise competent series. The degree of chauvinism was pretty off-the-charts too, even by Gundam standards. There were some really interesting themes at work, but in the end a lot of potential was squandered by poor execution.
As for the premiere of the second season, it was fine. We got a general survey of the surviving cast, and nothing that transpired since the finale was too surprising. McGillis is still scheming behind everyone’s back, Gjallarhorn has largely collapsed since their humiliation, a humiliation which helped make Tekkedan pop celebrities. Princess Do-nothing is now running a mining company and acting as a sort of general social benefactor while staying out the public eye. And Tekkadan has a new generation of green recruits who’ve never had a taste of battle, and don’t realize that makes them lucky.
If there’s anything that’s encouraging in this first episode, it’s that the logical consequences of what transpired at the end of S1 haven’t been glossed over – and consequences are something Tekketsu no Orphans could use a lot more of. The decline of Gjallarhorn has left a power vacuum into which terrorism and chaos have spread. The success of Tekkadan has led to a new rise in popularity for both child soldiers and mobile suits – which flies directly in the face of what Orga says he wants to do. As for Mikazuki, he’s still pretty much doing whatever Orga tells him and arriving in battles just in time to save everyone’s asses. All in all their was nothing profound or Earth-shaking here, but this episode was a solid enough start.