WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 1 of Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World, "The Encounter of the Two Nations' Ultimate Weapons," now streaming on Funimation and Hulu.
A romance that has members of two opposing sides who struggle to maintain a relationship is a common yet tragic tale. The story of Romeo and Juliet is one of the most classic examples. The tension that blooms from such a romance typically builds up to a climactic ending, either through attempting to change the state of the world or by trying to escape said world. In the current Fall anime season, Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World is setting up such a tragedy.
The two main characters in this anime come from fantasy places that are built upon different philosophies. Iska is a knight who comes from the Empire, a society that is built on scientific advancement. In protecting the members of their nation, the leaders of it see witches as a mortal enemy and plot to eliminate of pureblood witches that have a lot of destructive power. It's due to their reliance on Iska's abilities that they free him to defeat the famed Ice Calamity Witch.
While the Empire attempts to capture certain witches during their war, Iska seems to have a somewhat different view of them. When Iska was promoted to the status of a Saint Disciple he acted against the Empire's wishes by freeing a detained witch, which resulted in him being imprisoned for a year. While his exact motives for freeing this witch are left unclear, he displays a sort of courtesy to those that he meets on the battlefield. The fact that he didn't try to capture the Ice Calamity Witch and gave her the chance to escape instead reflects this sentiment.
Meanwhile, the Nebulis Sovereignty is a land that is home to witches with magical powers. Our other main character, Alice, appears to be someone of high standing in the Sovereignty. Her goal is to end the persecution of witches, uniting everyone together in peace. However, her way of achieving that is to conquer the Empire along with whoever stands in her way.
The war between the Empire and the Sovereignty is a constant trading of blows. The Empire builds reactors in locations so that they can develop weaponry and solidify defensive lines. However, when these army bases are made, the Sovereignty later destroys them. It's partially due to this that the war has gone on for as long as it has.
While Iska and his compatriots are on the move in the series premiere they uncover a plan from enemy witches to launch a surprise attack. As far as common soldiers are concerned, they merely delay Iska's group. Using the weapons available to them they take out an entire witch squad before they attract the attention of the Ice Calamity Witch (Alice) and her maid. When Iska and the Ice Calamity Witch confront each other on the battlefield, the two of them exchange blows with neither of them completely overpowering the other. While none of them can land a lethal hit, Iska does get several smaller wounds from her ice magic. It's during this exchange they exchange names.
Alice eventually retreats from the battlefield, but even though neither is defeated she still technically finished her objective. With her ice magic, Alice freezes the nearby reactor the Empire was developing. As Iska couldn't do anything to stop her, he claims a technical victory as a result.
The moment of peace after their battle is definitely an indication of what's in store for Iska and Alice's future. As it turns out, not every part of the world around them is engaged in the same war. A location called Neutral City, for instance, serves as a place where both witches and members of the Empire can visit freely. Not knowing that they would both be there, Iska and Alice end up watching a play there about a tragic romance between two knights. The acting moves Alice to tears while she becomes invested in the characters' struggle. And, as they later realize that they were sitting near each other bonding over the same thing, the anime hints that an eventual romance is on the cards between the two of them.