In the Treisting school for magic, the name of Louise Francoise is famous – for failure. Without one successful attempt at magic to her name, everyone eagerly awaits what spectacular unwanted results will come of her attempt to summon a familiar. And as far as everyone can tell, she lives up to her reputation: instead of a creature of some magical nature, she summons Saito, a Japanese boy of her own age. A human, and therefore not bound to her will as a proper familiar, he is every way the failure anticipated, and she takes it out on him unmercifully. But the marks on his hand aren’t normal either, and some of the staff think they know what it is. If so, there are a lot of surprises ahead for Louise, Saito, and everyone who thinks they know them. Especially Louise. Summoning a human familiar is bad enough, but falling in love with him is just ridiculous…right?
Kuyimiya Rie as Louise Francoise Valliere
Hino Satoshi as Hiraga Saito
Inoue Nanako as Kirche
Sakurai Takahiro as Guiche
Horie Yui as Siesta
Inokuchi as Tabitha
Kawasumi Ayako as Henrietta de Tristain
Romance, Comedy, Fantasy, Adventure
Zero no Tsukaima aired from July 02, 2006 till September 24, 2006
Zero no Tsukaima has thirteen episodes, plus two sequels. The second, at the time of this review, is in the midst of airing.
Ah – unexpected love. It comes without our realizing it, softly changing our lives – not. Unexpected it may be(to the characters), but it is neither soft nor subtle, heralded by hissy fits and bouts of beatings with a riding crop and orders of extra laundry duty. Frankly, I found the representation to be kind of tasteless. However, if you find blatantly oversized female accessories a plus rather than a gag, the constant presence of perverts and half-assed sexual passes amusing rather than wince-worthy, and you are okay with a lead male character that not only allows a petite pink haired little tyrant to beat him with a horse crop, but cringes and runs around the room when she tries, you might like it better. Personally, however, this series rates a two.
Okay, characters first. Female Lead: Louise Francoise. Long haired, short tempered, and very proud, her attitude is actually pretty sympathetic when you consider that she has had to spend a year already as the ‘Zero Louise.’ Mocked by everyone, befriended by no one, her pride has been all she had to stand on for some time. Male Lead: Saito. Tousle haired, taller in height but shorter in personality force when compared to his temperamental taskmaster, his attitude, and what he is and isn’t willing to put up with, seem to change depending on whether the producers want to be comic or serious. He has a way of switching between being your typical spineless harem male and being a guy with few options but still conscious of his human pride. Kirche – enter the fan service. Flame haired, a flame familiar, and a flaming approach to dating, she fall into steaming infatuation with Saito the first time he does something right, and tags along ever since. When she’s not trying to seduce him – and she is equipped for the role as only an anime character can be – she can actually be quite useful, and she certainly isn’t always a shallow, shameless competitor to spur on Louise. Tabitha – extreme quiet girl, and for some reason, best friends with Kirche. Go figure. A very powerful mage, her silence helps conceal the fact that she is probably the strongest student attending. And finally, Siesta – the real competition. A maid, so no airs, and pretty (aren’t they always?), whose very honest liking and admiration of Saito is something that attracts him all the more for the fact that his default status with the aristocrats and his mistress is something like a dog that can understand English – er, Japanese – and carry laundry. The rest you can meet in the show, if you watch it.
Plot flow, and general handling…oy vei. It takes till episode eight for any hints of an overall plot to show itself, which is the point where it actually intrudes, since of course there isn’t much time left at that point. That’s supposed to be where the climax starts, not the emergence. To compensate, the emergence and climax almost blend together. That itself isn’t necessarily a problem. After all, the series precept leaves plenty of room for some nice character development, as Louise and Saito pitch basic human dignity against the utter disappointment and humiliation he represents to her. You could have easily made seven very nice episodes dealing with all that – but Zero no Tsukaima opts for filling them, by and large, with episodes that have all the substance of cotton candy. The first two episodes are actually the best. The entirety of the first episode is taken to cover up till the summoning, actually a good thing, since you get a clear snapshot of Louise’s life and standing. Thanks to that, you have the basis to understand why she treats Saito the way she does. The second episode does a good job of establishing both Saito’s situation and allowing Saito to establish his human dignity. You need to be able to respect your main characters, and episode two deals with this well. Unfortunately, the rest of the series took such a shallow approach that not only does this not do any good, but it could even be considered a waste of airtime. All that those two episodes took such pains to establish went to pieces when put against the repeated use of the horse whip. It crosses a line of human dignity that simply cannot be passed off as comic. Someone willing to use a riding crop on a human so constantly for such petty reasons is someone I cannot sympathize with, and someone who not only allows it but cringes like a puppy, I don’t want as the hero.
Eventually, the plot kicks in and puts an end to the horrifying fillers(three through five, seven), but depth of any sort never quite makes it to Zero no Tsukaima. The handling as a whole was blatantly geared towards a sequence of sequels, and characters relationships advanced to the dance routine ‘one step forward, one step back.’ That is, every ‘resolution’ was almost immediately taken back so nothing would change. We’ve all seen this before: I hate it. And I certainly have better things to do than watch two sequels rehash the only worthwhile part of the story concept until even it loses all flavor.
Fan service, blatant sexual humor just within acceptance for the targeted audiences age, comedy based on being bossed and tossed around by every pretty girl in the area – does this series miss a trick? I am aware there are people for whom this is the description of a dream anime. To them I say: have a ball. But the rating in this review is a two.
Final Rating: 2/5
This review was brought to you by Z.N. Singer
Info such as cast and airtime were taken from ANN’s encyclopedia listing. All else is and always will be the origination of the author.
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