What They Say:
Their relationship has been building ever since she first accidentally kidnapped him from Earth, but even with all they’ve been though together, are Saito and Louise ready to take their relationship to the next level? The answer, sadly, will have to wait, as once again events in Halkeginia are running out of control and Saito and Louise find themselves, along with several other Void Mages, pressed into service to save the world.
And while any mission involving Void Magic is sure to suck at some point, the suck-age is certain to be compounded by the fact that one of the mages they’ll be working with is the amply endowed elf Tiffania. Who may have designs on getting familiar with Saito herself. Betrayals, reversals and the inevitable side trip to the hot springs lie ahead as the evil plots get plottier, the dysfunctional relationships get even more dysfunctional, and lots of stuff goes BOOM for only vaguely justifiable reasons
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 2012, 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 kept to just one disc for the monolingual presentation, giving it more than enough room to work with by not having that additional track. Animated by JC Staff, the show definitely looks very good as it uses the designs and elements we’ve had since the beginning, but with enough touches to give it 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 the disc against the right interior wall. The front cover goes for about what one might expect with a series like this as it has the main girls in Saito’s life, and Saito himself as well, sitting around in their pajamas with big eyes and smiles. It’s set against what almost looks like a plate, but it’s just a mildly creative magical rune design. 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 and Tiffa 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 Louise and Tiffa together, with a little more sneaking in around the edges, but mostly just going for some fun fanservice and good looking character designs. It’s very bright and colorful but not in a glaring or heavily painted kind of way. The detail is solid 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)
Going into this season of the series is one that has a bit of a bittersweet taste to it as it was done prior to the death of the original creator, Noboru Yamaguchi, but has a sense of finality about it in a way that most shows don’t. The previous seasons worked a fairly decent standard template to tell its tale, seeding smaller stories against the bigger picture, and there’s a sense of that here too as it goes on. But there’s also this feeling about it that the smaller stories are more distinct, less about the bigger picture of the arc, and more about bringing the characters to something resembling the close of a chapter. There’s certainly more places the show could go after the season, but from what we get here it’s something that brings a sense of finality about it as well.
The opening arc is a decent enough one that brings Tabitha/Charlotte into play as Joseph, the “incompetent king” from Galia, has opted to set things in motion to gain the upper hand in the always simmering and ongoing strife between kingdoms. Part of that comes from the growing number of Void oriented individuals there are that are gathering around Henrietta, so it’s not a surprise that someone would make a play. While it’s not stated, it’s also easy to see that those manipulating things behind the scenes would push for this as well in different ways to make things escalate. Naturally, this does bring Saito and the others in to deal with Joseph and what he represents, but also because Tabitha is caught up in it due to her lineage. The fight between Joseph and Saito is definitely well done and has a good flow about it, giving each of them someone different to deal with compared to past fights. In the end though, it’s all about moving Tabitha up the chain, at least eventually, to taking over Joseph’s kingdom and righting it so it’s where it should be to be a proper partner/neighbor in the world.
The main theme of the season though is, of course, the relationships between the main characters and Saito. Because of what Saito accomplishes with Joseph, Henrietta gives him lands, making him a noble in essence, which does help ease some of the problems with Louise and their chaotic romance. It also sort of opens things up for Saito and others, but honestly, none of them feel real when you get down to it beyond Henrietta’s interest, and even there we know there’s too many traps to keep the from truly connecting with each other, no matter how much that feels right in so many ways. With a bit of a lightly out of the way region given to him, one that has had many people leave it in order to go to more populated areas, Saito gets to become a minor lord there and has people and lands to take care of. It’s a proper place for him at last, a place to call home, and one that he does take to decently. Of course, Louise really takes to it, being of nobility herself, and she sets about getting things going, though thankfully not in a cruel or truly overbearing way. Both are just excited in their own ways.
There are, naturally, a lot of silly moments along the way. And in a sense, this is what draws me to the show more here as it progresses. While there are story elements at play, as the show strips away some of the supporting cast and it focuses more on Louise and Saito, there’s a greater sense of fun about it and the two of them naturally get closer. Even when we get the obligatory silly outdoor bath episode, where Saito instructs on how to build such a magnificent thing, it’s not totally just to ogle the girls, though that does get done a fair bit. It’s something that’s just plain fun in how it unfolds. But it also allows for Louise to push back towards Henrietta, as she appears on the scene as well, which comes after an episode that revealed a secret magical passage that allowed Henrietta and Saito to meet, which naturally lead to Louise seeing it and getting rightfully upset. A lot of the things that cause problems between Saito and Louise tends to be Louise’s overreactions to what other people do to Saito before he’s even aware of it, so it was good to see that when Saito is actively involved, even surprising himself really, that Louise gets more involved.
Of course, the show has to go bigger for the final arc after dealing with an elfen issue that involves Saito and Tiffa being kidnapped and spending time together. The final arc wants to go through a transformative moment for the region with an ancient dragon coming to life again and threatening everyone’s existence. It’s something that feels forced and awkward, and the dragon itself never really gels in a way that makes you feel anything about it other than a force of nature striding across the land. But it puts everyone on the same page to fight back against it. That has some good moments to it as we see it all come together, but it also goes for that awkward angle of Louise sending Saito away so he doesn’t get caught up and killed in it. With the idea of her going with him back to Earth to get a proper fighter jet, she instead closes off his return and leaves the fight to everyone else but Saito.
Admittedly, this does lead to decent material, but the way it unfolds is just awkward. With Saito trapped back on Earth, he struggles with what Louise did, but you know he’s going to get back, particularly when he doesn’t go back to his family to reconnect there. That has a great moment at the end of the series, but here it’s about finishing what he needs to do first. Now, how he gets a highly advanced military jet and takes it into the solar eclipse that combines with Louise’s magic being used in her world to transport him? Well, you can write off some of that as the runes and contract between the two. But that doesn’t cover the theft of the jet. It’s just plain goofy. I mean, really goofy. But it does make for some quick and minor aerial combat with the dragon and a combined effort by everyone to deal with it. So it does pull things together, but you have to suspend disbelief in a huge way.
As a sense of closure, working what it does at the end here is definitely welcome, with Saito back and making it clear who he really loves. Of course, Saito has basically said this numerous times throughout the show’s run, though to varying degrees, but Louise wasn’t one to listen, believe or trust it because of all the other things going on. So seeing it come together here where their crazy up and down will they or won’t they aspect comes to a close, well, it clicks well for me. It’s rare to have characters in anime go the distance, if they even fully admit feelings or get that first kiss, but with the playfulness we’ve had throughout, getting them married and looking like things will end up happily ever after is definitely a very big positive for the show and the right kind of way to bring things to a close here.
While the Familiar of Zero wasn’t a show in its first season that wowed me, I had fun with it and lamented that it never got the chance to finish properly at the time. Sentai’s acquisition of the original season and its release of the subsequent series, which took awhile to get done overall, is definitely worth it in the end. Especially if they get together and put out a great little box set for the four season run. This season has a slightly different tone about it, a smaller one in some ways as it tells its tales like it’s part of a collection of short stories, but it still knows how to end big and really ride that dragon for all it’s worth. In the end, I’m definitely a fan of Louise and Saito, frustrations and all, because it looks like we really do get that happily ever after for them, and for the fans, which is definitely a very big positive.
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: July 14th, 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.