The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Zero no Tsukaima

Title: Zero no Tsukaima aka The Familiar of Zero
Genre: Action/Romance
Company: J.C. Staff/GENCO
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 3 Jul 2006 – 25 Sep 2006

Synopsis: Louise de La Valliere is the dunce of her class in Tristein Academy for magicians. Several years of unsuccessful attempt after attempt at casting spells, each resulting in violent explosions, have earned her the nickname of “Zero Louise” from her classmates. However, on the day that her class must summon a familiar each for themselves, Louise summons a commoner from another world: a young boy from Japan named Hiraga Saito.

The Highlights
Plot: Predictable.
Characters: Shallow and ripped from Shakugan no Shana(1,2), yet still likeable.
Atmosphere: Refuses to take itself seriously.
Pacing: Rushed in the last few episodes.

Take a generic been-there, done-that premise, rip the characters straight out of a recent mediocre shounen action series and follow a plot that is as predictable as the rising of the sun and you have a recipe for a bad anime, right? Wrong. Zero no Tsukaima has a complete lack of originality and less depth than a backyard inflatable swimming pool, yet I couldn’t be more impressed with it.

People who have seen Shakugan no Shana will immediately recognize many familiar traits in Zero‘s characters, right down to the choice of seiyuu, which can easily lead to the suspicion that Zero‘s characters were pretty much lifted directly from Shakugan no Shana. But, as the series progresses, the audience may begin to see many obvious differences between the characters of the two series; the most important of which is that Zero‘s characters are far more likable. Saito particular deserves special mention; his headstrong and grounded nature makes him almost impossible not to sympathize with and incredibly respectable as a male lead. As is the case in most anime like these, he has a bevy of beauties after him, but this is one of those rare times where I can actually understand why.

It helps to have characters with likable persona, no matter how shallow they are, but Zero‘s greatest attribute is its refusal to take itself seriously. The atmosphere is quickly established at an almost counter to that which permeated through much of Shakugan no Shana: light-hearted and almost without a trace of gravity. The comedy is never brilliant, but more often than not very entertaining. Ditto the action sequences. In fact, ditto the entire series.

Don’t go looking for an intricate and unpredictable plot in Zero no Tsukaima: it’s not there. In fact, events become so predictable at times, it felt as if the show was purposely trying to spoil itself. The extreme use of heavy, blatant foreshadowing seen here is an example of poor storytelling, but it is quickly established that this series never intends to be challenging. The final three episodes are very rushed, owing to the fact that several volumes of the novel are compressed into a minimal amount of time, but even this doesn’t do a great deal to detract from the overall enjoyment of the series. Even when things appear to take a turn for the serious, they never completely do. Conflicts are resolved in ways so ridiculous one can’t help but find humour in them, which redeems Zero‘s flirtation with almost-solemn atmosphere.

I’ve seen my fair share of anime series, but to this day, the ones I get my most enjoyment from are the ones that surprise me. After being presented with what initially looked like a Shakugan no Shana clone with elements stolen from Escaflowne and Harry Potter, my expectations were pretty low. Needless to say, they were blown away. This is a lesson to series like Karin and Gokujou Seitokai on how to do a completely facetious anime right.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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