Fine is coronated before the world’s assembled press, and reveals Izetta as a reborn White Witch who will protect Elystadt. Shortly thereafter, Izetta destroys a Germanian battalion at a riverside town, also with the press in attendance. The Germanian Emperor, excited rather than dismayed, orders Berkman to find a way to counter and capture her. The Germanians then launch an assault into an area where there are no leylines, and the country’s royal guard comes up with a way to make it appear Izetta still commands her magic and routs yet another advance.
Episode 5 continues the breakneck pace of the show thus far and packs a LOT into 20 minutes, and I’m extremely pleased with how it’s doing. The coronation looked great, and Fine gave a strong speech.
There was quite a bit of interesting contrast on display, too. The elders in their anachronistic outfits, the use of a ceremonial sword, and Fine’s outfit were set against a backdrop of floodlights, flashbulbs, and Izetta flying around on a new anti-tank rifle. It’s a great visual aesthetic for a tradition-bound country trying to come to grips with the modern mechanized world that is pressing in.
Speaking of that new anti-tank rifle, it’s on thorough display during Izetta’s attack on the riverside Germanians.
Izetta makes short work of the Germanians, taking out an armored battalion with magically enchanted lances and planes with a set of swords, once again subtly highlighting the old vs. new aesthetic. She’s also able to infuse the bullets in the gun with magic for some kind of massive deathblast, adding a bit more to her repertoire.
On the Germanian side of things, there are also some interesting developments. Berkman, the special projects guy from the first episode, has been charged with capturing Izetta by the Emperor.
Now, watching anyone, even a villain, trying to figure out how to take down a seemingly invincible foe can make for some very strong entertainment (see also: the good parts of Aldnoah.Zero), and Berkman doesn’t waste a minute. While he doesn’t know about the leylines, he’s sure Izetta is not invincible.
He also finds the single fighter pilot that survived the fight with Izetta and drafts him into what is starting to sound like a special anti-witch unit.
Finally, he sends a spy into Elystadt’s army to see what he can find out. I like his approach to the problem, as it’s both methodical and practical. Berkman is definitely shaping up to be the main adversary of the show, and here’s hoping they keep him as interesting as he was this episode.
This brings us to the focus of the second half of the episode, the Germanian assault on a non-leyline area. We’re introduced to a set of tertiary characters in the form of the royal guard, a group of dedicated and highly skilled young women that set up a convincing fake magic display to drive off the Germanians.
It’s a clever ploy, combining a dummy Izetta being towed by airplanes, snipers using soft pellets to knock soldier’s guns out of their hands at Izetta’s “command”, and a demolitions-fueled rockslide that finally convinces the Germanians that this magic business is the real deal.
Unfortunately, despite this being a very strong episode, it’s not perfect. As Dan has called out before, there’s a definite difference in quality between machine and man in this show, and every once in a while the “man” side of the equation loses out hard. Look at this poor guy.
Still, someone give whoever is in charge of mechanical design for this show a medal, they’re really putting in the extra time.
The static backgrounds in the show are also worthy of praise, and most of the character shots look good, so it’s more a passing problem than anything serious.
Of particular note this episode are a series of German propaganda posters that pass by as Berkman and his assistant walk by. These do an excellent job of filling otherwise dry dialogue, and also remind us of the time and place the show is set in. I don’t know if the German is any good, but the posters as a whole do a good job.
Of somewhat greater concern than the occasional oddly drawn character is how the show is setting up the way in which Izetta’s secret will get out to the Germanians. After the battle with the fake magic, the bald Elystadt general guy is yelling at the intelligence guy for not telling him about the plan. First off, yeah, what’s going on here? Why wouldn’t you tell the leader of your armed forces about this highly timing- and placement-dependent plan? But get a load of how the general decides to do his yelling.
Holy WOW, guy, are there any other state secrets you’d like to shout into the woods? Maybe the location of all your troops or the key to decode all your communications? Of course this exchange is overheard by Jonas, the boyish soldier Izetta nearly fell on in the battle at Coenenberg (and who now kind of obsesses over her), and of course the Germanian spy is already looking to talk to Jonas. I’m still looking forward to how Berkman’s plans come together, and am overall very positive on the show, I just wasn’t expecting everything he needed to fall into place so neatly and… contrived-ly.