War’s brewing and Saito and the gang are in the mix..
What They Say:
Hiraga Saito was just a typical Japanese teenager when he was accidentally summoned to become the familiar of Louise Francoise Le Blanc de La Valliere, whose magical skills were so poor that she was called Louise the Zero. Now, however, Saito’s distinguished himself as a hero while Louise has started to get a handle on her ability to use Void magic. More importantly, Saito is now Louise’s familiar of his own free will. So, has that made any difference in their “professional” relationship?
Well, let’s just say that it’s still so full of ups and downs that it ought to be a thrill ride attraction – a really rickety thrill ride attraction filled with dangerous objects like riding crops and things that explode messily. That doesn’t mean that they’re not ready to spring into action the minute the newly crowned Queen Henrietta is kidnapped, but with a new war brewing will they be able to find a way to work together that doesn’t end with Saito getting the wrong end of Louise’s stick? Or will Louise still end up hurting the one she… has a “professional relationship” with?
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this series is presented with its original Japanese language track only as no dub was previously produced for this series. The mix is in stereo and is encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The opening and closing songs are the strongest pieces in terms of overall presentation while dialogue and action effects are nicely placed throughout, but never all that heavily or distinctly. The action has a bit more oomph overall when it hits of course and there’s something of a louder presentation overall compared to a lossy presentation, but it’s one that works well in giving it a bit more impact. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and in listening to all twelve episodes in Japanese, we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is only on one disc so we get all twelve in a row, which works well enough since there’s only one language track. Animated by JC Staff, the show definitely looks better than I expected it to even though it’s just under ten years old as it has a slick and modern enough look overall. The transfer for the show definitely looks great here with lots of bold and bright colors that come across very solid in presentation and the darker areas hold up very well as well, with no noticeable breakup and nothing in terms of serious noise or problems. The show looks like it could fit in easily with the new season of series that are out there and that’s a big plus in its favor.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds both discs against the interior walls. The front cover goes for a decent mix where there’s a bland background that has a decent layer of darkness to it that balances out the character artwork in the foreground. The foreground gives us several of the main characters with Louise in the front and center in a smaller form with Saito alongside her, which works pretty well. It’s not a hugely bright and colorful piece, which is where I think it should have gone, but it looks decent and has that dash of magic about it. The back cover goes for a very dark background that doesn’t have anything to it but that works nicely with some of the framing aspects with its white aspects. The top gives us the basics with a season listing and a cute tagline while below it we get a lengthy premise summary. The episode and disc count is listed clearly as are the extras, which is just to the right of the shots from the show and some cute Louise artwork. The rest is rounded out with the usual production credits and the technical grid that lays it all out clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release works off of the color design of the front cover nicely as we get the navigation along the right with the same framing as the back cover but the front color covers of a black background with very appealing reds and blues with a dash of white for the selections themselves. It’s standard style design where we get the episodes by number and title and submenus for languages and extras as needed. The left of the screen is given over to character artwork, which is really nicely done as it uses some great illustration style artwork of several of the girls in various uniforms. It’s very bright and colorful but not in a glaring or heavily painted kind of way. THe detail is fantastic and it has good contrast with the darker and bolder colors of the menu navigation itself..
The extras for this release are pretty basic but are decent as we get the clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The release last year of the Familiar of Zero with its first season was the kind of welcome release because of what it represented. While that season saw a DVD release many years ago before Geneon closed down, it seemingly closed off the avenue of more seasons making their way over. With Sentai releasing that season, and taking time to see if the numbers would work, we’ve got the second season here, albeit without a dub. I had enjoyed the first season of the series in the couple of times that I had seen it so I wanted to see more of it, especially since there’s four seasons overall. With a good number of light novels and material out there, there’s plenty of story to tell and having new seasons released between 2006 and 2012 definitely makes you a bit more interested since not many shows manage to pull that off.
After the fun events of the first season, we got all the foundations for how things work with Saito in this world, stuck as Louise’s familiar and surrounded by a number of women that he’s obviously quite interested in. The character dynamic between him and Louise is obviously the driver here because she’s really grown to like him, and we know he likes her as he’s said it rather plainly overall, but because of their stations she’s not able to really do all that much with it. While there’s a familiar refrain throughout the season in how the two interact, it’s one that certainly generates the laughs along the way as she’s always getting after him for his wandering eye and mental state, particularly since he’s ogling those like Siesta and others with their large chests. Suffice to say, he gets beat up a lot and grouses about it, but it doesn’t change his behavior. This is pretty much a standard throughout the season here, though we get a bit more with Louise realizing she does care for him more and more by the end of it, but with no real changes to their dynamic.
The story focus for this season is one that’s spread across the whole set and it largely works in smaller tales while establishing the overall concept of what it’s about. With Henrietta having moved up to being the queen now after the events of the first season, there’s a push to war that’s growing among those towards Albion for all sorts of slights, real and perceived. Henrietta’s not exactly in favor of any of this since she doesn’t want to go to war, but her advisors are surprisingly forceful at times about it with how the press her about it, talking about how she’d be viewed as weak, how it’ll give cause for their enemies to become bold and that she has to view the big picture. Henrietta’s also feeling conflicted about things because of the loss of her childhood love that she wanted to be with from Albion, but what we see is that he actually survived and has come to run away with her. That doesn’t work, as one would expect, but it puts Henrietta into such a bad position that she has to slowly cede more to the advisors and eventually war is the order of the day.
Amid all of this, the stories we get provide for some larger background material as well as some character pieces that work. For Louise, she gets caught up in her family issues again as her sisters are bringing her back home as they don’t find the Institute to be safe anymore since there are those there that are pushing for a war footing as well. The family side has its moments, especially since Saito is even further down the ladder here with them as they’re all strong and dominating types, and there’s obviously moments where he makes a mistake or two that causes some problems. The family angle pops up throughout the season since Louise is not one to back down herself overall, though she’s deferential which is good to see at times, though their father is the one with the weakest role. Still, you do get to see how they all get to know Saito more and you can see how that makes an impact overall, even if their main view of him is still that of a servant and little real thought towards him beyond that.
There are various moves made against the kingdom of Tristain and that helps to keep things moving. Part of what drives it is that there’s story material that goes back twenty years to how the makeup of the kingdom changed and some of the tricks employed for some to gain power behind the scenes. A lot of this comes through the captain of the Musketeers with Agnes, who was caught up in some real destruction in her childhood that caused her entire town to be wiped out through a particularly malicious intent that is slowly revealed and unraveled here. Agnes has a strong way about her overall here with how she handles herself, and we don’t see Saito really getting into her, but there’s a solid working relationship between them that starts to delve into it all. While a lot of what we had in the first season was all about the present, this one explores some of the past and how it impacts the present, which is also driving the war.
While we do get this war footing as a kind of overall piece to it, a lot of the show still sticks to its traditional areas. We get a lot of time spent with some silly magic, classroom aspects and the fanservice angles such as Saito always staring at those with larger chests that are out there in the open. The lighter side of the show works as well as it did in the first season and that fun is definitely there throughout. Even the time spent with Louise’s sisters didn’t bother me like I thought it would because there’s a good feeling in how they all interact. It also helps that we spend a good bit of time overall with Agnes throughout it and she brings a more serious edge to it without delving into it being so harsh that it just nullifies the character. It helps to balance things overall while providing a clear connection to the war aspect itself that pushes to the forefront regularly.
The second season of the Familiar of Zero definitely serves as a solid continuation from the first season, particularly if you’re watching the evolution of the relationship between Louise and Saito. But it also works, in a lighter way, to showcase Henrietta’s challenges in rising to power and dealing with the threats being pushed on her in regards to Albion. This season moves between these two main story points well enough while making sure to have fun in between but also some wacky adventures and some time with Saito flying his plane too. It all moves more seriously towards the end in an effort to deal with the war front itself and that provides the biggest drama here, but I also liked that Agnes became a solid addition to the show without it being forced into her just being another member of a potential harem. I found myself at the end of this liking the Saito and Louise pairing more, but I’m still foolishing pulling for Siesta.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 10th, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.