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Familiar of Zero: Rondo of Princesses Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Familiar of Zero Season 3 Blu-ray Front CoverThe threats after Louise continue to grow.

What They Say:
Getting married and then dying would put a damper on most honeymoons, but Saito is made of stouter stuff than most would-be stiffs, and having been miraculously restored to life is a definite improvement over being dead. Unfortunately, as a result of his recent resurrection-al activities, the runes which bound Saito to his master, Louise the Zero, appear to have faded away. But will the fact that he is no longer contractually obligated to be Louise’s Familiar lead to the two of them getting more “familiar” now that they’ve tied a different kind of knot?

If Louise can’t learn to control her problems with premature explosions, the answer is probably not. Things only get more complicated when Siesta gets appointed to be Saito’s personal maid and everything goes completely out of control when the overly endowed Tiffania, who’d previously nursed Saito back from the dead, implants herself into the story as well! Will this full frontal assault on twin fronts be too much to handle? Will Saito and Louise’s relationship get “runed” yet again?

The Review:
Audio:
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.

Video:
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series and OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second plus the OVA, giving it more than enough room to work with since it’s a monolingual release. 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.

Packaging:
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 brighter sky background this time around which gives it a lighter and more engaging feeling. The foreground gives us several of the main characters with Louise in the front and center, though this time Saito doesn’t make it onto the cover at all. It’s decently bright and colorful piece that feels like it recovers a bit after the darker cover we got for the second season. 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.

Menu:
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 states, including swimsuits on the second disc. 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..

Extras:
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 Familiar of Zero had a pretty decent second season overall with what it wanted to do in expanding the scope of things after the first season did all the heavy lifting of introducing this world and the main characters and conflicts. The expansion largely continues here, and continues in some larger ways as well – Tiffa, I’m looking at you – and that helps to make this more of a fully realized place, albeit in the light way one expects from a light novel. The series continues to be enjoyable and light overall, but at the same time it makes me crave for some more serious novels to be adapted instead of the steady stream of light novels. Surely there are those worth adapting, yes? But anyway…

This season works in a fairly expected way in terms of structure that’s similar to the second season. The main arc is given some lip service early on with a couple of nods here and there before it goes bigger towards the end, though even then it’s just a waystation along the larger storyline. With Sheffield serving her master as best as she can by trying to draw out Louise and another mysterious Void user that she’s convinced that Louise is hiding, Sheffield plays a long game to achieve that and other goals that involve setting various nations tilting towards each other. What it mostly ends up doing though is that when the plan falls through after bringing Tabitha on board through coercion, Tabitha ends up in essentially house arrest in Gilmia and that has the gang going to rescue her. Honestly, that’s the main thrust of the plot at hand. It’s essentially a single or two episode story that’s scattered throughout before it goes bigger at the end with the rescue and some of the complications of pulling off said rescue. Story is light here. The little nods along the way aren’t bad, but they’re certainly not meaty or meaningful overall.

So where does that leave us overall with the season?

In very familiar territory. The show deals with the events of the previous season within the first two episodes as Saito has now found himself unbound from Louise after he died and was then revived in the forest some distance away. That gives him freedom, and a lot of pause and uncertainty for Louise now that she’s lost her hook on him. Interestingly, there’s a lot of concern over her attempt at causing a summoning again because they’re rare to begin with and getting the same creature a second time is unheard of. The potential for some deeper exploration of magic is there, but it falls very short of doing so. There’s also potential to explore a freed Saito at this stage and whether his attraction and interest in Louise was because of the magical bond. That does get touched on a couple of times, but it’s so light as to not truly be touched in a way. There’s a sense from Siesta that there’s opportunity to be had here and she definitely gets more aggressive this season. But in the end, it’s all wrapped up and back to normal in the first two episodes. Which is sadly to be expected.

A lot of the season deals with the fallout from this as Louise is even more uncertain about her relationship with Saito and gives off some very mixed signals about wanting to be taken by him and wanting to dominate him completely to ensure he understands she’s in charge. Louise has a lot of fears rumbling about in her and they’re issues that truly need to be dealt with, but it’s played for laughs and silliness in order to truly draw out the will-they-or-won’t-they aspect of it all. Which is certainly familiar enough, but here in the third season we’re still in essentially the same situation as the first season. There’s some minor growth, but Saito has been largely faithful to her from the start and all the situations have been misunderstandings that he’s been truthful about, but she’s refused to listen to. Saito comes across as sympathetic whereas Louise I just want to put into serious therapy.

With some of the usual events going on here, we get a lot of silliness and expected subplots that happen, which are typical to most series. And yes, that includes a hot springs event. Admittedly, that has a lot of fun to it and I enjoyed it. This season also brings us the character of Tiffania into full play, as she’s the half-elf that revived Saito and Saito was intent on finding her along the way in order to thank her but also see if she can help some. She gets drawn into events and provides for some fun, and some racial divide that’s glossed over after an episode or two as well. But her greatest asset and problem is the size of her breasts. That has all the girls envious and it really, really has Louise self conscious because of how much value she places on that. That makes for a lot of rough spots for Tiffa to face, especially since the guys all want to get closer to her and the girls seem really threatened by her. Again, all familiar, right down to her sweet and naive personality. So you can map her arc in your head in an instant.

As much as I complain, there are also some really fun things. And a lot of that stupidly enough comes in the OVA. Yes, I’ll gripe about the hot springs episode mid series and then talk about how much fun I had with the beach/seaside OVA. Sue me. With the class trip to someplace boring canceled, the group heads to the shore where we see hey have early 1900’s swimwear, much to Saito’s chagrin. What helps change things is that the principal has a chest that’s full of swimsuits that came from Saito’s world. And he’s worked a plan to use them as part of the water purification ritual. So we get a lot of changing montages, uncomfortable girls wearing things they don’t like and a lot of drooling guys that can’t believe it. It’s actually a lot of fun because they go all out with it and as a one-off piece with no impact, it’s not trying to shoehorn in things that don’t believe. It’s an expected fanservice OVA, but one done right while still pulling up short when it comes to outright nudity.

In Summary:
The third season of Familiar of Zero moves right along with the real main storyline of the whole property itself, that of the relationship between Saito and Louise. Yes, there’s some nudges about the bigger events, but if you believe that all of that is the main thrust here, I’ve got access to this world to sell you. Louise and Saito get a little closer here as she’s a bit more bold and he’s a bit more honest about his feelings, but we’re mostly in the same cycle we’ve been in since the first season. But now more characters are involved, Siesta is getting more aggressive and Louise views Tiffa as more competition even though she plainly isn’t. The gags are familiar, but the familiarity also breeds its own kind of enjoyment because it is largely well executed. This is the kind of series where it’s like returning to visit old friends and seeing they haven’t changed. Yes, it could be better, it could be more engaging, but you’re hard pressed to fault it too much for being what it is.

Features:
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: May 12th, 2015
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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