Familiar of Zero is a four season long anime based on Zero no Tsukaima – a light novel series penned by Noboru Yamaguchi, a talented writer who sadly succumbed to cancer on April 2013. The show originally aired in Japan back in the year 2006 and is finally available to buy in the UK courtesy of MVM Entertainment. At the time of writing the season one DVD set, which contains the show’s first thirteen episodes, can be purchased for around £20. Cancer, expensive DVD prices and a massive wait for the UK release? Jeez, this review has kicked off on a bit of a downer.
The show’s heroine is Louise Francoise Le Blanc de La Valliere, a second year student at the Tristein Magic Academy (so in a sense she is like Harry Potter only with pink hair and minus a penis.) Sadly for Louise her studies in spell casting are going as well as my efforts to pass A-Levels with respectable grades. All of her attempts at magic end up backfiring in an explosive manner, which has earned her the nickname “Louise the Zero.” Her latest failure in the mystical arts occurred during the familiar summoning ceremony were sorcerers are expected to call forth an animal companion. Instead of summoning something cool, like a dragon or salamander, Louise summons up a teenage boy from Tokyo named Saito.
For the most part the series deals with the pair’s volatile relationship. Louise is of noble blood and therefore expects her servants to obey her every whim without question whilst Saito, who has no interest in becoming a slave, regularly disobeys his master’s commands in favour of seeking a way back home. The clash of personalities leads to many comedic moments, such as Louise horsewhipping Saito for being tardy in scrubbing clean her undies. Thankfully the pair’s squabbles are not the only thing the series has going for it. Over the course of season one Louise and Saito will be tasked with confronting a thief who commands giant golems, performing covert missions at the behest of the royal family and even protecting the kingdom from an invading army.
Predictably, despite the antagonism between the two, romance does eventually blossom between Louise and Saito. It’s hard to believe, given the constant physical abuse she subjects him to, but hey who am I to question their love? Some viewers might even find their sadist/masochist relationship to be touching. This wouldn’t be an anime though if we didn’t throw a love triangle (or should that be square) into the mix. Even though the Louise/Saito partnership seems to be destined there are some bustier alternatives coveting Saito’s heart. The first of these is a maid named Siesta who happens to be one of the few people to befriend Saito upon his arrival in Tristein. The other love rival in question is Louise’s crimson haired classmate Kirche. She’s adept at casting fire magic and how should I put it… is a complete slut.
My rating for the first season of Familiar of Zero is a four out of five. Anime fans who like romances featuring a tsundere will get a kick out of it, whilst other viewers can still enjoy the show thanks to the setting, which offers plenty of Slayers like fantasy themed comedy with some light action. Anyone investing into the DVDs should however be aware that the series dips in quality after this promising start. From what I recall the show has a satisfactory finale, but to get to it you will have to wade through a lot of frustrating fan service and harem hijinks. Is this a trend with J.C Staff produced cartoons? I remember the same thing happening with Shakugan no Shana, whose excellent first season was soiled by disappointing follow-ups.