FEATURE: "Izetta: The Last Witch" & the Hiroyuki Yoshino Effect

What does Izetta: The Last Witch have in store for us?

Following up on Frog-kun's article yesterday about some of the key visual staff for the upcoming anime-original series, Izetta: The Last Witch, today we're taking a closer look at a key member of the show's writing staff—Hiroyuki Yoshino, who's responsible for series composition.


Love him or hate him, there's no avoiding the fact that anime screenwriter Hiroyuki Yoshino has been involved with some of late night anime's biggest commercial hits of the last decade or so. From the best-selling Gundam series of all time, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, to the Macross franchise's massive 25th anniversary hit, Macross Frontier, to the beloved Code Geass, Yoshino has left his fingerprints on each of these series to various degrees. While he can't be solely credited for the successes of any of these series (or the failings of his less popular works), it's undeniable that his presence on any production is worth paying attention to.


So let's take a closer look at this controversial creator's resume and see what exciting things Hiroyuki Yoshino might have in store for us with Izetta: The Last Witch!


Izetta: The Last Witch


Before we get into that, though, what exactly does it mean when Yoshino is listed as being in charge of "series composition"? Well, the series composition role is, generally, the highest writing position an anime staffer can have on a production without being the series director. The series composer's role (not to be confused with the music composer!) is to shape the overall structure of the show's story—the main plot points, when critical character beats occur, etc. And, depending on the production, the series composer can be closely involved with the planning process for the show from the beginning or can simply be brought in further along in the production to help craft the narrative into something fit for television. Beyond planning, the series composition role also serves as a supervisor for the scriptwriters who create the actual scripts for the episodes (and often writes a number, sometimes even all, of those episode scripts).


As you can see, guessing at what exactly Yoshino's influence over Izetta: The Last Witch will be is difficult because of the variation in what the series composition role involves. This is especially true for Izetta, which only revealed its key staff earlier this month (usually, such information is unveiled much earlier) and has been quite quiet in terms of pre-show publicity, interviews, and the like that might have offered some insight into the creation of the show. But whether Yoshino's influence has been present since the inception of Izetta or later on, it remains a fact that he'll have a definite impact on the show.


Izetta: The Last Witch


I've haven't seen all of Yoshino's stuff, but I have seen a solid range of his works—including original TV series, light novel adaptations, feature films, and shows for which he's written episode scripts. It'd be impossible to cover all of them, though, so I'll focus on just a handful: Macross Frontier (TV anime: 2008), Guilty Crown (TV anime: 2011), A Certain Magical Index: The Miracle of Endymion (film: 2013), Strike the Blood (TV anime: 2013), and KanColle (TV anime: 2015).


If there's one production among this selection that makes me most hopeful for Izetta, it's Macross Frontier, the 11th best-selling anime since 2000 and one of my personal favorites. Yoshino's involvement with the production of Macross Frontier was significant, as he both served in the series composition role and wrote the scripts for all 25 episodes. As the staffer responsible for suggesting that the show incorporate harem elements, Yoshino's impact certainly can't be underestimated despite the fact that he worked alongside the legendary Shoji Kawamori throughout. Most notable in Yoshino's scripts for Macross Frontier is his ability to maintain consistent characterization of the main female characters, Ranka Lee and Sheryl Nome, building them into iconic, unforgettable characters. And, on the whole, Frontier is a operatic, over-the-top affair that, even when it's being dumb, never fails to be entertaining and memorable. It's a work of incredible spectacle and I, along with many others, love it for that.


For 2011's Guilty Crown, one of the most infamous anime original TV series in recent memory, Yoshino paired with another big-name director, Tetsuro Araki (Death Note, Attack on Titan, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress). Araki is well known for his overblown directorial style, and Yoshino's writing habits wound up a resonant, if perhaps ill-advised, complement. As with Frontier, Yoshino's credited contributions to the show were significant—series composition and writing the scripts for over half of the show's episodes. However, some interviews indicate that bulk of the creative conceptual work was done by Araki himself, meaning that, in terms of Yoshino's impact on the final product, it's likely his contributions to the show's wild story mostly served to magnify the effects of Araki's bombastic ideas. The reaction to Guilty Crown was diverse—some people loved it while others loathed it—but it seems that putting wholesale blame or credit for the show on Yoshino is misguided at best. Personally, I'm rather neutral on Guilty Crown, but there's no denying that the show has some tremendous highs and lows. It's a work of debatable overall quality, but it has an unquestionably magnetic ability to keep you watching.


Guilty Crown


The original feature film, A Certain Magical Index: The Miracle of Endymion (for which Yoshino wrote the script) is more or less emblematic of the trends I find both more intriguing and most frustrating about the kinds of productions Yoshino seems to be most frequently involved in. The story for the film was proposed by the original novels' author, Kazuma Kamachi, and has some intriguing ideas despite being plauged by being overlong, filled plot holes, and populated by original characters that fail to be compelling. The go-for-broke type of ending that shows up in many projects Yoshino's worked on reappears, but ultimately the film's characters and core emotional narrative failed to hit as deeply as they could have. Note, though, that most of these issues probably can't be laid at Yoshino's feet—and, in fact, his dramatic tendencies and sense of forward movement maybe even saved the film from being completely bloated and dull.


Strike the Blood is an interesting case in the Yoshino oeuvre, as its status as an adaptation means that his impact on the production is felt more at an adaptive, rather than a full creative level. On the whole, his series composition work on this light novel adaptation is more or less functional. Strike the Blood isn't really a show that's up my alley at all, but I found it a reasonably entertaining marathon watch, which speaks well of Yoshino's ability to maintain momentum within and between episodes, a trait that was present in his work on Macross Frontier and Guilty Crown as well. Most importantly, Yoshino had the good sense to preserve Yukina Himeragi's classic line, "No senpai, this is our fight!" That alone, as far as I'm concerned, validates his work on this production.


And, most recently, Yoshino wrote the scripts for three episodes of the anime adaptation of popular browser game KanColle, a fleet-raising simulator featuring battleships anthropomorphized as cute anime girls. Of his contributions, Yoshino's script for episode 3 of the series is most notable. In it, a certain character perishes, an occasion that prompted a massive outcry among Japanese fans because of the massive amounts of blunt foreshadowing injected into the script. Since Yoshino was only a scriptwriter (not the series composer) for KanColle, it's difficult to tell how much of the episode's controversial nature can be attributed to him—but it's perhaps telling that he was called in to write what was one of the clumsiest, most heavy-handed, potentially infuriating episodes of the show.




And so, with all that said, where does that leave us with Izetta: The Last Witch premiering in a few days?


Well, regardless of how deeply Hiroyuki Yoshino was involved with the planning of the series, I think we can expect a few things from Izetta based on the trends of the anime-original projects he's been called on to pen in the past. First, it's very likely going to be a dramatic, potentially even blockbuster-type story that has a good sense of momentum and episode-to-episode entertainment value. Happily, series director Masaya Fujimori has some solid experience under his belt as a director, so I'm betting he'll be able to mostly keep Yoshino's worse tendencies under wraps and use his skills to make the most of the exciting, entertaining qualities in Yoshino's writing. And so, while I'm not expecting Izetta to be a delicately nuanced character study, I wouldn't be surprised at all if it turned out to be a super engaging, fun-to-watch spectacle piece that mines its setting for great drama and action. Of course, we'll have to wait until the anime airs to find out for sure, but I'm certainly excited about it! I hope you guys will join me in watching it!


Are you guys planning on checking out Izetta: The Last Witch? How have you liked Hiroyuki Yoshino's other anime, and what are you expectations for his latest work? Chime in down below in the comments!

Izetta: The Last Witch


Isaac eases his compulsive need to write about anime on his blog, Mage in a Barrel. He also sometimes hangs out on Tumblr, where he mainly posts his drawing practice as he seeks to become a renowned idol and mecha fanartist. You can follow him on Twitter at @iblessall or on Facebook.

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