The Familiar of Zero (ゼロの使い魔 Zero no Tsukaima?) is a fantasy and comedy-oriented series of Japanese light novels written by Noboru Yamaguchi and illustrated by Eiji Usatsuka. The story features several characters from the second year class of a magic academy in a fictional magical world with the main characters being the inept mage Louise and her familiar from Earth, Saito Hiraga. The series has been adapted three times as an anime series. The first season aired in Japan between July and September 2006 produced by the animation studio J.C.Staff and directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki. The second season, entitled Zero no Tsukaima: Futatsuki no Kishi, was directed by Yū Kō and aired in Japan between July and September 2007. A third anime adaptation, titled Zero no Tsukaima: Princesse no Rondo, is produced by J.C.Staff, with Yū Kō as the director, and aired on Japanese television between July and September 2008. A manga version drawn by Nana Mochizuki began serialization in Media Factory's manga magazine Monthly Comic Alive in July 2006.
On April 21, 2007, Geneon announced that they have picked up the English dubbing rights of the first season of the anime series and will be under the title The Familiar of Zero. The announcement was made at the 2007 Anime Boston convention. On July 3, 2008, Geneon Entertainment and Funimation Entertainment announced an agreement to distribute select titles in North America. While Geneon Entertainment still retains the license, Funimation Entertainment assumes exclusive rights to the manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution of select titles. The Familiar of Zero was one of several titles involved in the deal.
The Familiar of Zero follows the adventures of the protagonists Louise and her familiar Saito. Louise is a second year student at the Tristain Academy of Magic. In this world, those who can use magic are either mages or nobles, and those who cannot use magic are known as "commoners" or "plebeians".
Louise is terrible at magic, and can never use it the way she wants to, as her attempts of using magic ends up as a general explosion. She is given the nickname "Louise the Zero" by her classmates, due to the inability to use any of the four common magic elements, whereby a mage's power is determined by the number of elements they can use ranging from a single element, one (dot mage), two (line) three (triangle) and four (square). Early in the school year, the second year students summon their familiars; this is considered a special ritual where a mage summons their eternal protector and partner, which usually is some sort of magical creature. Louise manages to summon a human commoner named Saito Hiraga, leaving her totally humiliated. Due to the sacredness of the ritual, Louise is left with no choice but to reluctantly accept Saito as her familiar. She proceeds to treat Saito as any other familiar only worse, making him sleep on a bed of hay and beats him with a whip for little to no reason, among other things.
One day Saito challenges a noble who disrespects commoners (Guiche) to a duel. Saito is beaten badly at first, but once a sword was put in his hands, Saito gained a mysterious power. The strange letters on his left hand began to glow and his agility and strength enheightened. With his new power, Saito is able to defeat the noble in the duel and even receive an apology he was supposed to give. Louise and Saito's relationship's develop during the course of the story to the point where they risk their lives to save the other. Though, Saito is usually the one to do so since Louise is almost always the one in danger. At one point in the story, Saito confesses his love to Louise, but she doesn't believe him until much later. Together they face many mysteries and uncover unexpected truths, including the nature of Saito's mysterious power, and the truth behind Louise's inability to cast magic.
- Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière (ルイズ・フランソワーズ・ル・ブラン・ド・ラ・ヴァリエール Ruizu Furansowāzu ru Buran do ra Variēru?)
- Voiced by: Rie Kugimiya (Japanese), Cristina Valenzuela (English)
- Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière, third daughter of the noble family La Vallière who owns the north-eastern territory of Tristain, is the main female character. She is a second year student at the Tristain Academy of Magic. Louise is a terrible mage who is often scorned by her fellow classmates because every spell she casts fails, so she is nicknamed "Louise the Zero" after her zero success rate and zero attributes. This has led her to be very bitter and occasionally cruel.
- At first, she treats Saito like a dog, making him lie on a straw bed, beating him, and generally treating him as sub-human. Louise at first hates Saito, but over time, grows fond of him and eventually falls in love with him. However, she continues to violently mistreat him and abuse his natural patience and friendliness. When she thinks he has perverted thoughts about other girls, or is jealous of or mad at him, she beats him with a whip or blows him up with her magic.
- Eventually Louise discovers that her failure in performing magic of any of the four basic attributes is because, in fact, her magical affinity is with the rare and powerful Void element.
- Saito Chevalier de Hiraga (平賀才人 Hiraga Saito?)
- Voiced by: Satoshi Hino (Japanese), Jonathan Meza (English)
- Saito Hiraga, the main male character and primary protagonist of the story, is from modern-day Earth (specifically Tokyo, Japan). While walking down the street a portal opened in front of him, and when he touched it he was sucked through, landing in the Tristain Academy of Magic. At first, Saito had no idea where he was, and was thoroughly disoriented. His attitude is generally carefree yet he blows up easily when anyone he cares for is in danger, particularly Louise. Though he at first wishes to return home, he adapts to his strange new situation relatively quickly.
- There are runes inscribed into Saito's hand as a result of his being bound to Louise. They read geboundolf or Gandalfr (ガンダールヴ Gandāruvu?, actually "Gundolf"). These runes glow when his Gandalfr powers activate. As a Gandalfr, a familiar who exists to protect a Void Wizard, Saito has the ability to use any object that was made with the intent of being used as a weapon at an extremely high level of skill. He also becomes significantly stronger, faster and tougher. This physical augmentation fades more or less instantly when he stops using the power, which can result in him falling unconscious if he had been previously wounded. He is said to be the left hand of god.
- His partner, the talking sword Derflinger, was also the partner of the Gandalfr six thousand years previously. Saito protects Louise with a passion, a result of both his duty as a Gandalfr and his feelings for her. He eventually falls in love with Louise, despite the abusive way she treats him.
- Tabitha/Charlotte Helene Orléans de Gallia (タバサ/シャルロット・エレーヌ・オルレアン Tabasa/Sharurotto Erēnu Orurean?)
- Voiced by: Yuka Inokuchi (Japanese), Jennifer Alyx (English)
- Tabitha is a quiet girl who is a classmate and the best friend of Kirche, as well as being Louise's classmate. Throughout the series she is almost always reading a book. Later it was revealed that the name Tabitha is an alias; she is in fact Charlotte, daughter of the King's murdered brother, and the rightful heir to the throne of Gallia. Her specialty is wind magic. She is also a chevalier knight, which is the lowest rank of knight. Her familiar is a nature dragon named Sylphid. She also develops feelings for Saito after they rescue her from Bidashal.
- Kirche Augusta Frederica von Anhalt Zerbst (キュルケ・アウグスタ・フレデリカ・フォン・アンハルツ・ツェルプストー Kyuruke Augusuta Furederika fon Anharutsu Tserupusutō?)
- Voiced by: Nanako Inoue (Japanese), Lauren Landa (English)
- Louise's well-endowed classmate. Fire magic is her specialty—drawn from her strong passion for love. The territory she is from has long since had a dislike for the La Vallière family. She flirts and has dated many of the academy boys. Kirche's schemes and aggressive invitations for Saito, her latest victim, to sleep with her, even though he is obviously against it, leads to him getting hit by Louise due to her overwhelming jealousy. She later moves this crush onto Professor Colbert, whom she had financially helped in building Ostland. Her familiar is a salamander called Flame. She was expelled from her last school and was almost forced into a marriage to an older man by her parents. Kirche frequently appears with her closest friend, Tabitha, to help Saito and Louise out of the daily trouble they get into.
- Guiche de Gramont (ギーシュ・ド・グラモン Gīshu do Guramon?)
- Voiced by: Takahiro Sakurai (Japanese), Nicholas Manelick (English)
- Guiche is one of Louise's classmates. Despite being in love with Montmorency, he is a conceited playboy. He comes from a royal family. He always carries an artificial rose with him, the stem of which is his wand. He also likes to dote upon his familiar, a giant mole named Belldandy. His specialty is earth magic.
- Siesta (シエスタ Shiesuta?)
- Voiced by: Yui Horie (Japanese), Xanthe Huynh (English)
- A maid at the academy. She has a crush on Saito, and treats him very kindly. Although bearing witness to a possible relationship between Saito and Louise and its accompanying sharp up and downs, Siesta believes she can provide Saito a more gentle and caring relationship and love. Although timid, her love for Saito draws her to take increasingly confident actions to win Saito's love, including reticent lying following an unveiled a rather pathetic seduction attempt, and donning various costumes to attempt to win Saito's affection. Siesta is actually descended from a World War II Japanese pilot who was stranded in Tristain after flying into a solar eclipse along with another airplane which managed to return to Earth.
- Henrietta de Tristain (アンリエッタ・ド・トリステイン Anrietta do Torisutein?)
- Voiced by: Ayako Kawasumi
- The Princess of Tristain. She is loved by her nationals and is also an old friend of Louise. She is very envious of Louise, even though Louise looks at her with respect. Later, she becomes the queen of Tristain and leads the defense against the Albion invasion after the assassination of the Albion prince Wales, with whom she was in love. She also seems to have developed a trust for Saito.
- Montmorency Margarita la Fère de Montmorency (モンモランシー・マルガリタ・ラ・フェール・ド・モンモランシ Monmoranshī Marugarita ra Fēru do Monmoranshi?)
- Voiced by: Mikako Takahashi
- Montmorency is one of Louise's classmates. Like most Tristain nobles, she has a great deal of pride. She has an affinity for the water element, and her familiar is a frog. It is shown that she cares deeply for Guiche, her boyfriend, though acts indifferently when she is expected to act romantically. She has skill with creating various potions, including a prohibited love potion.
- Halkeginia (ハルケギニア Harukeginia?) is the continent that the story of The Familiar of Zero takes place on. Halkeginia's social structure is similar to the feudal class systems of Europe in the Middle Ages, with magic-users being considered nobles.
- Tristain (トリステイン Torisutein?) is the nation in which the majority of the story takes place. It is a small monarchal country located in the northwest of Halkeginia. It is under threat from Albion. Tristain is home to a highly acclaimed magical academy which attracts students from nearby countries known as the Tristain Academy of Magic.
- Militarily, the country is weak, with only a small permanent force, which forces it to make marriage alliances with other countries. The capital city is Tristania (トリスタニア Torisutania?).
- Germania (ゲルマニア Gerumania?) is the largest kingdom in Halkeginia, and is also regarded as the strongest in terms of military might. It is regarded as a more barbaric and down-to-earth type of country, with its men considered to be brutish. Gemania is located to the northeast of Tristain.
- Gallia (ガリア Garia?) is another kingdom in Halkeginia, located to the southeast of Tristania. Germania is on its eastern border, in the Alden Forest. It is the second largest country in Halkeginia. Within the Gallia Royal Family, murders and assassination attempts have led to an unstable royalty. There is a city named La Rochelle in the mountains, which is a major port.
- Albion (アルビオン Arubion?), nicknamed the white country, is a floating island nation which is in a period of political strife. According to the storyline, a group of nobles known as Reconquista initiated a coup d'etat against the royalty, and over the course of the story, succeed in killing the entire Albion Royal Family. Cromwell, the leader of the Albion rebellion, seeks to spread his power elsewhere, and begins by attacking Tristain.
- Romalia (ロマリア Romaria?) is a holy empire, located to the south of Gallia.
- The nobles of Halkeginia are magi, otherwise known as wizards or magicians, and must use a wand or a staff to cast spells. Not all magi are nobles as some have given up their nobility to use their magic for thievery or to work as mercenaries.
- There are four primary magic elements: fire, water, wind, and earth. Magi have an affinity to one of those elements. There is a fifth element, the legendary lost branch of element, known as void. Magi can combine different magical elements or even stack the same element on top of itself to make spells more powerful. The power of a mage is determined by how many elements he or she can combine. There are four ranks of magician based upon this factor. Those who cannot combine any element together have the first rank, which is symbolized as a dot. Most magic students are in this class. The ability to combine two, three or four elements together leads to a magic user being referred to as a line, triangle, or square mage. In myths, there is a fifth rank called pentagram mage.
- One of the major themes is that humans and technology from Earth displaced into the world of Halkeginia are considered to be highly magical since Halkeginia itself has relatively primitive science and technology. For example, a magical item called the "Staff of Destruction" is, in reality, a human-made Vietnam-era M72 LAW rocket launcher. Other examples of Earth technology, often weaponry, appear throughout the story.
The Familiar of Zero began as a series of light novels written by Noboru Yamaguchi and illustrated by Eiji Usatsuka under the original title Zero no Tsukaima. The first volume was published in Japan on June 25, 2004, and as of July 2010, 19 volumes have been published by Media Factory. A side-story, Tabitha's Adventure, initially available as a cellular-phone online serial, has been released in three published volumes to date. Seven Seas Entertainment licensed the series in 2007 under the title Zero's Familiar, but put their light novels line on hiatus and have yet to release the novels.
The Familiar of Zero has been adapted three times into an anime series by the animation studio J.C.Staff. The first season aired in Japan between July 3 and September 25, 2006, and contained thirteen episodes. Geneon licensed the rights to release the English language edition of the first season under the title The Familiar of Zero, but soon after they dropped out of the US market, the anime would later be licensed by Funimation who announced that they would be releasing it in English as part of an agreement between them and Geneon at Anime Expo 2008. The first season box set was released on November 4, 2008.
The second season under the extended title Zero no Tsukaima: Futatsuki no Kishi (ゼロの使い魔 ～双月の騎士～?, lit. The Familiar of Zero: Knight of the Two Moons) aired in Japan between July 9 and September 24, 2007, containing twelve episodes. A third season, also containing twelve episodes, entitled Zero no Tsukaima: Princesse no Rondo (ゼロの使い魔～三美姫の輪舞(プリンセッセのロンド)～?), aired on Japan's Chiba TV between July 6 and September 21, 2008, and Arts Central in Singapore between July 10 and September 24, 2008.
The TV and DVD versions of the first two seasons are the same with some bonus trailers and other short clips. However, the TV version of the third season was censored to some extent. The frames became dark and/or blurry when some provocative scenes took place. The DVD version also has an unaired original video animation episode.
Music and audio CDs
The three anime seasons used two pieces of theme music each; one opening theme and one ending theme. The first season's opening theme is "First kiss" by Ichiko, released on July 26, 2006, and the ending theme is "My True Feelings" (ホントノキモチ Honto no Kimochi?) by Rie Kugimiya, released on August 9, 2006. The second season's opening theme is "I Say Yes" by Ichiko, released on July 25, 2007, and the ending theme is "Suki!? Kirai!? Suki!!!" (スキ!? キライ!? スキ!!! lit. Love?! Hate?! Love!!!?) by Rie Kugimiya, released on August 8, 2007. The first seasons original soundtrack was released on August 23, 2006, and the second seasons' soundtrack was released on August 22, 2007. The third season's opening theme is "You're The One" by Ichiko and the ending theme is "Gomen ne" by Rie Kugimiya.
Both the first and second seasons released four character song albums each. The first CD is for Louise and Saito which is sung by Rie Kugimiya and Satoshi Hino. The second CD is for Montmorency and Guiche which is sung by Mikako Takahashi and Takahiro Sakurai; the first two CDs were both released on September 6, 2006. The third CD is for Kirche and Tabitha which is sung by Nanako Inoue and Yuka Inokuchi. The fourth, and final CD from the first season, is for Henrietta and Siesta which is sung by Ayako Kawasumi and Yui Horie; the third and fourth CDs were both released on September 21, 2006. The first CD for the second season is for Louise which is sung by Rie Kugimiya. The second CD is for Henrietta which is sung by Ayako Kawasumi; the first two CDs were both released on October 10, 2007. The third CD is for Siesta which is sung by Yui Horie. The fourth, and final CD from the second season, is for Eleanor and Cattleya which is sung by Kikuko Inoue and Kotomi Yamakawa; the third and fourth CDs were both released on October 24, 2007.
Two audio dramas were released for the second season. The first is a compilation of radio drama episodes from The Familiar of Zero Internet radio show Zero no Tsukaima on the radio: Tristain Mahō Gakuin e Yōkoso and was released on July 25, 2007. The second album is a drama CD featuring the characters Louise, Kirche, and Tabitha—voiced by Rie Kugimiya, Nanako Inoue, and Yuka Inokuchi respectively — which was released on September 5, 2007.
A manga series illustrated by Nana Mochizuki began serialization in the Japanese seinen manga magazine Monthly Comic Alive on July 27, 2006, published by Media Factory. As of February 2010, seven bound volumes have been released by Media Factory under their MF Comics label. Compared to the anime, characters appear younger in the manga. In Indonesia, the manga has been licensed and released up to volume three by Elex Media Komputindo, under the title The Familiar of Zero.
A visual novel under the title Zero no Tsukaima: Shōakuma to Shunpū Concerto (ゼロの使い魔 小悪魔と春風の協奏曲?, lit. The Familiar of Zero: Goblins and the Spring Breeze Concerto) was developed by Marvelous Interactive playable on the PlayStation 2. The game was released in limited and regular editions on February 15, 2007 in Japan.
Notes and references
- Official website (Japanese)
- J.C. Staff's The Familiar of Zero website (Japanese)
- Official PS2 game website (Japanese)
- Seven Seas Entertainment's official website for the light novels
- The Familiar of Zero (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopediacs:Zero no Cukaimako:제로의 사역마