I’m going to be flat-out honest at the get go here: this idea is a bit of a stretch. Okay, maybe a magnificent stretch, but I’m going to run with it here and see how it pans out. Who knows; I might be onto something.
It was only the other day I finished blitzing my way through an anime that started out great, but rapidly devolved as the episodes went by (there’s been a few theories as to why, my best guess is budget reasons). And if you’ve taken the time to watch Izetta: the Last Witch, you’ll probably also have your own opinions on how the series went. In the interest in hitting my main point in a somewhat timely fashion, I’m going to skip ahead of the summary and assume you, reader, are at least already aware of the broad strokes of the story.
By the time I had finished watching the series, I had mixed feelings about everything. The ending was expected, but not satisfying. The character arcs were bland, which was disappointing because of the promise they showed. The final clash itself was underwhelming, except for a few surprisingly savoury moments (I mean, seriously, Izetta uses the Eiffel Tower as a spear. And need I go any further with the phrase: Train Whips?). But most puzzling for me by the end of it was that something felt oddly familiar with the whole story.
Not the oddly familiar in the sense that it followed a typical plot progression, rather the main strokes of things felt uncanny and some of the views expressed by watchers were strange. I didn’t pay it much mind because my friend immediately distracted us with a new anime, Made in the Abyss, so I rapidly forgot about it for the remainder of the day.
Disclaimer: Made in the Abyss is hella good. Give it your time.
It wasn’t until Monday night, actually, when I was trying (unsuccessfully) to fall asleep that several things clicked in place. The thing that struck me as uncanny and all too familiar was the relationship between the two main characters of the anime and two other main characters from a film trilogy.
Specifically: the relationship between Izetta and Princess Hime was very reminiscent of the relationship between Samwise and Frodo from Lord of the Rings. Bear with me: it gets weird but makes more. I hope.
All through the anime, it is very clearly shown that Izetta adores Princess Hime and is willing to go to any length for her; fighting against the poorly renamed Germainains’ tanks and soldiers single-handedly. She even takes a bullet for her at one point; or something like that anyway. And the fondness goes both ways: Hime openly expresses that she has no shortage of affection for her unsurprisingly well-endowed companion, and relies on her as a source of strength to keep going against an overwhelmingly industrialized and powerful enemy army.
Taking things from the fans perspective, which I have gleaned from reading a couple dozen viewer reviews, it’s a borderline Yuri relationship. For those of you who don’t know what yuri is: I encourage you to Google it with the Safe Search off. You’ll either thank me, or curse me to the nine hells; I’m not really sure which. Point is, though: many mannerisms shown by these two characters are shown to be not only playful, but flirtatious. And I think that, for the first few episodes anyway, this was the intention of the writers. But as the series goes on, things kind of change direction and the show places more emphasis on the platonic love these two characters share.
This is where I bring in the Lord of the Rings. I’m seriously hoping by now you’ve watched the movie, reader; it’s been over 16 years by now. Get on that, would ya?
Recall to the kind of relationship shared between Samwise and Frodo. While it’s been a few years (read, almost two decades) since I last read the books, but I’m inclined to think that the intention of JRR Tolkien, and by extension Peter Jackson, that the friendship shared between Frodo and Samwise is that of brotherly affection. And while our modern audiences can view some of the ways these two characters interacted with one another as homosexual in nature (which could make for a fascinating debate one day, but not the one I’m trying to make currently), it is largely agreed upon by peoples that this is not the case.
This is where we reach a weird, implied double standard in how we view these two pairs. There are many instances of both our duos showing intense affection or compassion with one another, and moments where the only thing spurring the one on is the strength of their traveling companion. But when we are presented with the hobbit pair, we as a society default to “Brothers in Arms”, where the girls are seen as a failed attempt as lesbianism.
I’m trying to tread lightly on this topic because I am poorly equipped to discuss the finer nuances of gender perception in society as reinforced by traditional and modern roles; hell, half the time I’m barely equipped to talk about what I had for breakfast.
We’ve been seeing a growing movement for better handled gender roles in movies for a while now; a very poorly constructed sentence that I now immediately regret typing. What I’m trying to say there is that there is a bigger push to have movies that defy the standard gender archtypes we typically see portrayed. And I’m all for that, even if I can’t express it with a moniker of eloquence.
And while I can certainly understand that a single anime comparison cannot do justice to the breadth of the argument, I think we can agree that any time you can find a point of interest that makes you think is an overall positive result.
So yeah, that’s the long and short of it. Like I said, the comparison was a bit of a stretch, but I’m sure were I given more time to go over both pieces in greater detail I could probably draw some other analogies. For the time being, I will leave it at this though.
Note from Self: this might have been the flimsiest outro I’ve ever written in my life. I am ashamed.