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Familiar of Zero: Rondo of Princesses Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

8 min read

Familiar of Zero Season 3 DVD Front CoverTechnically married, will Louise and Saito ever be able to truly formalize their relationship?

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?

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review:
Audio:
This release only has Japanese audio, which is available in 2.0. The mix is decent, with some nice directionality on the sound effects, but the dialogue stayed mostly along the center. I’m sad that Sentai isn’t following up the first season with dubs for the rest, but I understand the economics of it. The first season’s dub was done when the series was under Geneon’s label. Here’s hoping the series will sell well enough for Sentai to go back and finish the dub for the rest of the seasons.

Video:
This is a nice anime, visually. The characters are designed well, and some of the visual effects are really well done. The transfer appeared to be clean too, with no technical issues that I noticed. Colors are bright, and the lining is solid. It is a well done release.

Packaging:
The three discs for this release come in a single amaray case, with a center insert to hold two of the discs. The front cover has a shot of the main cast in various poses and series title in the middle. The back has a picture of Tiffania hugging her chest and looking embarrassed, along with the summary, some screen shots, and the technical details. It is a basic, but well-designed case.

Menu:
The menus are pretty basic in design too, though they are functional and fine to look at. The main menu has a shot of some of the characters to the left of the screen, with the episode titles listed along a black bar to the right and the submenus at the bottom. Like all Sentai releases, there is no play all, but an episode will jump straight to the next without going back to the menu, so one isn’t really needed. In a nice touch, a pentagram is used as the cursor for selections, which shows up well in white against the black background.

Extras:
There are only clean versions of the opening and closing sequences available on this release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having enjoyed the first couple of seasons of The Familiar of Zero, I was happy to see the third season arrive a while back. I like the characters and the setting, and I always appreciate when a harem-like series makes no bones about who the romantic interest really is. Saito’s teenaged mind might occasionally be drawn to the voluptuousness of other women, but Louise is the only girl for him. And when he makes his intentions known in the second season, and Louise responds in kind, I was very excited to see where it would go from there, because the series was threatening to go in some interesting directions that these shows typically don’t go. But, of course, we couldn’t have that, so misunderstandings separated them again. You know, because anime. So fully understanding the situation, I delved into Season 3 expecting more of the same, and that’s basically what I got (and really, there’s nothing wrong with that).

When Season 2 drew to a close, Saito and Louise got married in a private ceremony so that she wouldn’t have to die in the war unmarried. But then Saito tricks her into taking a sleeping potion and smuggles her into safety, taking her place in front of the advancing Albion armies to buy the citizens of Gothia time to evacuate. While Saito has the powers of the legendary warrior Gundolf, even an army 70,000 strong is too much for him to handle, and he is ultimately killed. After his body is whisked away by Derflinger, Saito is revived by what he figures is a passing fairy and is able to return home to the academy.

After Saito’s death and return, the war with Albion is brought to a close, and Saito is offered the rank of Chevalier, raising him to the noble classes. His death, however, erases the magical contract he has with Louise, and with it, the powers of the Gundolf also disappear. With his inability to properly protect Louise and those around him, Saito turns down the promotion as he is not a magician either and would not be able to fulfill his duties properly. Instead, he takes accepts a mission from the Queen to try and find the fairy that revived him, hoping that her powers could be a boon to the country. In the process of the search, Louise is attacked by the human familiar of another magician seeking to harness the powers of the Void, and Saito finds himself inexorably drawn into another conflict surrounding Louise’s mysterious powers.

With all of the external plot surrounding Louise and Saito, the main thrust of the show still centers around the “will they or won’t they” concerning their possible relationship. Technically, they married at the end of the second season, but that concept is dropped pretty quickly as we move into this season (to be fair, despite their feelings for one another, it was a marriage of circumstance more than anything else). Instead, we get more of the same with them obviously having feelings for one another, but anime continues to happen, preventing them from fully getting together. The constant presence of the well-endowed maid, Siesta, and the addition of the even more well-endowed Tiffania to the party in this season gives Saito plenty of distractions and the very un-well-endowed Louise problems to worry about. Add in their differing social statuses, and the fact that he is technically her slave, and there are social concerns keeping them apart too.

As much as I have really enjoyed the show to this point (and I have), it’s really my main frustration with it too. As noted above, in the second season Saito declares his love to Louise with absolutely no hesitation, and she returns in kind. In fact, no matter what obstacles come in the way of the two of them, it always comes back to Saito reminding her how much he loves her and will always be there for her, but she can never seem to fully accept it at face value. I know it’s a trope of anime, and we’ll get more of the same of it in season four; believe me, I am completely prepared for it. And I will generally still enjoy it. But I also feel like if she could accept him, this series could do something really different and interesting. There’s enough other stuff to the plot that all of this childish side stuff isn’t really necessary. There’s a point in this season when Louise and Siesta are arguing over him, and they get in his face and tell him that he needs to make a decision about them, but I want to know how many times he has to tell Louise he loves her (and not tell Siesta the same) before they realize that he has, in fact, made that decision as well as made his intentions clear.

It’s funny, because I think his decisiveness is one of the strengths of this show; if he was a typical wishy-washy harem protagonist, none of this would probably bother me as much. But then I also wouldn’t likely like the show as much either, so I guess it’s a bit of a catch-22, in this case. All I know is that amidst the entertainment, it holds a decent frustration factor too. Here’s hoping that by the time season four (and the series as a whole) ends, there’s some kind of resolution to their relationship.

In Summary:
I have really enjoyed The Familiar of Zero to this point, far more than I ever figured I would when I started the first season last year. But the constant back-and-forth with Saito and Louise’s potential relationship is starting to get a bit old. I really feel like the series could be something different and better if they would just pull the trigger, but I know that’s not the norm in the genre. I’m just hoping that we’ll see some kind of conclusion when we get to the end of the final season. But even with my griping, this has been one of the more enjoyable harem titles I’ve seen in a long time. So regardless of the outcome, I’m looking forward to seeing season four. It might seem weird after the griping I’ve done in this review, but still I say: Recommended.

Features:
Japanse 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation.

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 12th, 2015
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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