Set during the opening stages of World War II in a world just a little different from our own, the story follows Fine, the first princess of the small alpine country of Elystadt, in her attempts to save her country from Germanian invasion. By the end of the episode, she gains the help of a witch, Izetta, who she befriended back in her early childhood. With the Germanians having rolled across the border of Elystadt, her mission to gain the assistance of Brittania failed, and her companions dead, she’s going to need all the help she can get. The help of a witch (based on the title, the only witch), especially one reputed to be capable of wiping out an infantry company, might give her a fighting chance.
The premise of the show interested me when I first heard about it, and based on the first episode, I think we’ve got a winner. The show looks and sounds amazing, they’ve done an excellent job at establishing the world, and the pacing is spot-on. It doesn’t hurt that Fine herself is a character that it’s hard not to like – a strong-willed decision maker that remains focused on her task, but who is also empathetic and capable of strong emotion. Neither a femme fatale nor a pampered aristocract, she occupies the desirable middle ground of “characters we can understand and sympathize with”.
The show also looks and sounds really good. When Izetta fires up her magic for a dramatic rescue near the end of the episode, the music perfectly conveys a sense of wonder. A sequence in which scenes of the Germanian invasion of Elystadt are contrasted with the sound of a beautiful opera piece is also of particular mention. I could describe the art, but a gallery will probably do it better justice:
Another thing the show does well is in establishing itself firmly in its time period. While this world of Germania, Brittania, and Thermidor going to war isn’t quite the Europe we know, it’s effectively the same in a broad sense. The show uses faux fimreel footage to great effect in doing this.
Effort has even been taken with background items, like the newspapers.
It’s the kind of attention to detail I really appreciate, and the hallmark of a show that wants to “get it right”, so here’s hoping they keep it up.
I also want to mention the rapid pace the show keeps up, because it accomplishes a lot in the first episode without making it feel rushed. Right from the start, there’s a thrilling battle on a train.
This is followed by a slower scene in a local inn where we learn more about Fine’s motivations.
Then it’s off to the opera to negotiate with the Brittanian ambassador (this is also where the scenes of Germanian invasion occur).
Following that, Fine is kidnapped and is being flown off when Izetta is awakened, ending with an action-packed midair rescue.
Somehow, all of this fits within the first episode, and it feels more like I’ve seen a short film than the beginning of a story. I’m quite excited for what comes next. Before I sign off, though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give special mention to the sneering Germanian officer that kidnapped Fine and was trying to take her back to Neue Berlin before Izetta showed up.
He cuts an excellent villainous figure, even if it is a short-lived one, but what really makes it is his ridiculous customized sidearm.
“Who Dares Wins”? Stay classy, Germania.