Does Familiarity Breed Contempt? Or Has This Zero Finally Found Her Hero?
What They Say
Between her poor spellwork and long name, the other students at the Tristain Academy of Magic have taken to calling poor Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière, “Louise the Zero.” Things only get worse when the students summon up their familiars, because while others receive fantastic creatures like dragons, Louise summons a normal teenager from Tokyo! While Louise may be stuck with Hiraga Saito, and Saito’s stuck with the lousy life of being her familiar, maybe there’s more going on than meets the eye. Maybe Saito’s not quite as normal as everyone thinks, and Louise just hasn’t figured out what she’s good at yet. In fact, they might even have the makings of a great team once they start to get ‘familiar’ with each other! One of anime’s wildest romances is unleashed in the ultimate complete collection of THE FAMILIAR OF ZERO!
Familiar of Zero is an interesting anime in that only one season was dubbed. The rest is all in subtitles. While I admit that this is annoying, at least the subbed version is consistent in quality from start to finish. What’s more, the voice acting for the sub is quite extraordinary. The VA for Louise is none other than Rei Kugimiya, who earned the nickname Queen of Tsundere due to her many tsundere roles in anime. It was actually her role of Louise Francois and Shana (Shakugan no Shana) that earned her this title, and she’s played many tsunderes since them.
The bluray complete season of Familiar of Zero is altogether and impressive production. At 49 episodes, there’s no diminishing in the quality between seasons. There are some issues when you pause. For example, the series might skip a bit when you begin again. However, I can’t foresee too many reasons to pause your watching outside of a bathroom, and those are best done between episodes. The subtitles were synced up fairly well to the voice acting. I’d say the video quality for this series is an overall strong contender in the anime field.
There’s no actual packaging for this release. The case is the standard bluray case. It’s thicker than most because this is a complete series as opposed to a single 12 episode season. The front features Louise and Saito, the two main characters, within a blue and black background. So does the back, but they are smaller to accommodate for the anime description, screenshots, and video information.
Oddly enough, while the menu is basic, the artwork on the menu selection page is phenomenal. Each disc allows you to select an episode to begin from. Some of the discs have 9 episodes, while others only have 3. There are also the special selection features, which generally have extras like clean OP and ED theme songs.
The extras are sadly not as good as the anime itself. Most of the discs only feature the clean opening and closing theme songs, along with a “check out what other anime Sentai is releasing!” video. There’s only one OVA for the end of season 3. It’s a beach episode. Of course.
For romance/harem/isekai buffs, Familiar of Zero is probably the most fullfilling anime you will ever watch—unless you’re not into loli characters. Or tsunderes. Or violence against committed against the protagonist for perceived slights. Or protagonists who actually deserve having the crap beaten out of them. That said, I actually enjoyed this series a lot.
It starts off with a fairly average beginning. Louise Francoise is a noble who sucks at magic, like, she really sucks at magic. Her nickname is Louise the Zero because she has never successfully cast a spell in her entire life. This leads to the day of the summoning ceremony, in which mages summon their familiars. These familiars seem to come in a wide variety of types. Everything from a mole, a frog, a salamander, a dragon, to even a giant floating eyeball has been summoned in Louise’s class. It seems this summoning ceremony is sort of like a right of passage for mages. The summons is bound to their master through a ritual and serves their master for their natural life.
Louise, of course, summons something out of this world… or rather, out of her world and from our world.
She summons a Japanese teenager. Of course.
Saito Hiraga is a normal teenager from Japan. Given that he’s been summoned to another world, he is admittedly confused and not accustomed to all the customs of this new world, which causes a lot of problems early on. In fact, I’d say his lack of understanding causes a lot of problems throughout most of the anime. I’ve always had some issues with Saito. While he doesn’t seem like a bad person in season 1, his personality seems to become increasingly perverse during seasons 2 and 3. This may have something to do with how he has grown more accustomed to living in Halkeginia, the world he was summoned to, but part of it feels forced, like they did this despite it being against his character for the sake of adding harem shenanigans and comedy.
The first season is a bit rough, as it deals with a teenager who was summoned to another world against his will suddenly becoming the familiar for an abrasive girl who can’t use magic. Saito and Louise don’t get along at first. This is understandable. Not only is Louise a noble, but she’s also a failure of a mage. Nobles are fairly stuck up in this series—most of them. They don’t treat peasants very well, and in fact, peasants are basically treated like second-class citizens. Louise has the added baggage of being considered a failure among her peers, which means her personality is not only typical for a noble, but has a defensive quality as a result of constantly being teased by the other students. Of course, Saito, being a familiar, is treated like a dog by Louise. She beats him many times in this anime, throughout most of seasons 1, 2, and 3, and even a bit during season 4.
Even if the humor is very hit and miss, the story and development of the characters themselves is what makes watching this series so worth while. It starts off with the very basic “teenager is summoned to another world” plot. You’ve seen this done before. Of course, Familiar of Zero is sort of a predecessor for what would later become the standard isekai genre, so while this anime wasn’t the first to have done it, you could say they did it before most other anime. However, throughout the course of the series, Saito and Louise have to deal with a lot more emotionally intense and plot driven events than what a good portion of sent to another world anime deal with. This isn’t just about an otaku being summoned to another world and feeding the harem. During the first season, Saito and Louise have to travel to another country that is experiencing a civil war on orders of the Princess of Tristain—Henrietta. There they suffer betrayal and their country soon becomes a target for the faction who rebelled against the nobles of Albion. The second series deals with the war between Tristain and Albion. The third and fourth seasons follow a very similar vein in how the story unfolds.
Each season starts off with a combination of humor and fanservice, and then the second half tends to deal with the more serious moments. It’s very formulaic in how the anime progresses. I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing, but it does make the series more predictable as a result.
Ultimately, where I think this anime really shines is the blending of romance and harem elements.
However, for all the fanservice and harem shenanigans that this series has, Saito and Louise are the main couple. By the time season 4 rolls around, the two have already become the established OTP (One True Pairing) canonically speaking. They get their own house and have confessed their love to each other several times. For a fan of romance—actual romance and not walk around each other for several seasons and never progress in your relationship romance—this is probably the best part of the story. Not only do they share numerous kisses throughout the anime, which I like, but, arguments and stupidity aside, they begin acting like a true couple the longer the series progresses. This is especially prevalent in season 4 when the two get their own house.
The only thing I’m not sure about was the last 3 episodes of season 4. The ending to this series felt rushed and half-hearted compared to everything else, like the director couldn’t figure out what to do and just went with, “I know! Let’s add a dragon final boss and call it done!” I hear the original light novel author, Noboru Yamaguchi, died before completing the series. This may have been what ultimately caused the anime ending to feel lackluster compared to the rest of the series. There are also numerous plot threads that were never resolved.
While I wouldn’t say this is the best anime to have ever come from Japan, I can say that this is an excellent example of what the isekai genre could, and should, be. There are many isekai anime out there that never reach the quality of storytelling this series did. Part of that is because this anime got 4 seasons. With 49 episodes to tell its story, this is one of the most complete series you’ll watch. Most light novel adapted anime only get 12 episodes. Of course that means most series are incomplete. Familiar of Zero is one of the few light novel anime that has a conclusive ending.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: Ndecember 19, 2017
Running Time: 1250 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
55″ Class AQUOS HD Series LED TV LC-55LE643U, Generic Bluray Player