「ゼロの使い魔」 (Zero no Tsukaima)
“The Familiar Of Zero”
After 50 episodes spread out over 4 seasons, the Zero no Tsukaima anime series has finally come to an end. I’m going to try not to wax nostalgic, so let’s get on with this last episode. The final battle against the Ancient Dragon was done fairly well, with the requisite number of harrowing events, close calls, and reversals-of-fortune. That said, it lacked the “epic” quality that the finale of a long running series should have. Zero no Tsukaima has featured a number of wars, with the balance of power on Halkeginia hanging in the balance multiple times. Compared to that, a fight against a mindless beast with high MR and a penchant for snacking on void mages just didn’t stack up. The stakes didn’t feel high enough, and of course this threat only popped up a few episodes ago, rather than being continually alluded to for a long time, as was the case with Joseph. In fact, this final confrontation was far outshone by the one featured in the first three episodes of this season, which easily places among my Top 3 arcs of the anime.
Furthermore, there were mood problems. J.C.Staff kept in the peppy OP, which destroyed any tension that was heightened by the first minute of the episode. They also kept using the twinkly screen sweep, which wasn’t appropriate for such dramatic events, nor was the same old up beat eyecatch music, and the fanservice eyecatch that went along with it (as much I enjoyed that particular one). There was also the insert song. While I liked the throw-back to season 1, it’s still a peppy, optimistic, harem-comedy type of song, not the driving, powerful, dramatic-action song we needed here. I found myself comparing it to when Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann‘s OP was used as an insert song during its final episode, and compared to that, Zero no Tsukaima’s effort came up seriously lacking. And yes, I know that’s a horribly unfair comparison to make, but I never claimed to be fair! Besides, these are all long-running problems with this series, so while they weren’t surprises, I always held out hope that J.C.Staff would transcend their past for this final episode. Guess not.
There were also (I’m almost done with the criticism, I swear) a number of events that were worthy of some eye rolling. Saito managed to steal a jet with no obvious trouble, and completely off-screen; his eclipse plan worked, despite there being no evidence that magic is used on Saito’s world (that is, Earth); Saito’s Lifdrasil powers were completely depleted with no apparent ill-effects, when a simple “he didn’t use it all up” would have sufficed, etc. etc. It all smacks of an anime original ending which wasn’t adequately planned for, which I do believe is exactly what we got. Mind you, I’m willing to cut J.C.Staff a little slack in this area. They were supposed to have all the light novels to work with, but author Yamaguchi Noboru got cancer, which is an extremely understandable reason for not hitting your deadlines (I hope you keep getting better, Yamaguchi-sensei!). Still, the problems remain.
But all that said, it still felt good to see all of the protagonists working together. It still felt good to see the students of the Magical Academy fighting alongside the Elemental Siblings, for all the nations of Halkeginia to fight under battle-queen Henrietta’s command, and for the Elves to join the party in the nick of time. Whatever the problems, it still felt good for Delf to come back, for Saito to fly to the rescue, and for the enemy, no matter how inferior it was to past ones, to be vanquished. But most of all, it felt good to see Saito and Louise’s wedding, because whatever your personal feelings are about Louise, it’s been abundantly clear (over this season especially) that the two of them love each other. While I love a good harem show, I hate for them to end forever on an indecisive note. Love Hina was fun throughout, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as good if Keitaro hadn’t picked Naru in the end. Same thing here. I feel there was much lost potential, but whatever its faults, I enjoyed seeing this series finally come to a close. Also? Saito and Louise going back to Japan so that Saito can introduce her to his parents was really sweet. D’aaaww! That little epilogue was my favorite part of the episode, by far.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – A comedy ends with a wedding, a tragedy with a funeral. This was a comedy. May you be happy together, Saito & Louise. #ZeroNoTsukaima
- Irukuku / Sylphid is the second best familiar in the series, behind Saito. Yes, the other void mage familiars can suck it! What has Julio ever done again? Irukuku is the clear winner. Of the silver medal, that is.
- There were a lot of parallels with the first season finale. Not just the insert song OP, but Saito and Louise flying around in a plane together. Ohandalso, battle-queen Henrietta. You can never have too much battle-queen Henrietta.
- It takes balls to propose to a girl in front of the rest of your harem. It was very sweet, though…as was ecchi-thoughts Louise :3
- Not much of a ceremony there, guys. What happened to the animation budget you had last episode? Still, we got to see the most important part. D’aaaww!
ED & Epilogue
When the first season of Zero no Tsukaima was announced, a much younger Stilts had the following mental process: “I enjoyed Shakugan no Shana. This new show has the same male and female lead seiyuu, so maybe it’s similar. It’s also a magical fantasy story with an ecchi bent. …SCORE!!” Since then, the series has had something of an erratic run. The first season was solid, but there was some slipping after that, culminating in a third season that was almost completely dominated by ecchi fanservice, at the expense of the plot. So it was that when this fourth and final season was announced, I was excited, but cautiously so. After all, my faith in J.C.Staff had long since taken a beating, and one more blow could have killed it forever. I hoped this one wouldn’t be it.
So, how’d they do? Eh, alright. If that sounds half-hearted, it’s because it was. The first three episodes of this season were fantastic, and, as I mentioned earlier, now easily rank among my Top 3 arcs of this entire series. Joseph was such a good villain, a complete monster in human form that can make you wonder if any of the people you know at work, school, home, or who you pass on the street could be as irrevocably twisted as him. The rest of the season had some good moments, some comedy, some fanservice, and some harem hijinks that made me laugh out loud and which I’ll remember fondly (Louise and Henrietta’s onsen duel, anybody?). Still, the final Ancient Dragon arc was clearly an anime original one that was tacked onto the end to provide some degree of closure. It did that, but not up to the level that this series deserved. I think this season would have benefited from a few more episodes, but I’m not sure it could have made proper use of a full 24, so that + the light novels not being finished may have hamstrung the effort.
Still, Zero no Tsukaima will be a series that I will remember fondly. It may have not exactly lived up to expectations, but there were some good laughs, some good fights, and plenty of oppai to go around…even if half the time they were Louise‘s, hah! So yes, I enjoyed this series over all, and as I’ve said many times before, isn’t that the whole point?