「ゼロから始める魔法の書」 (Zero kara hajimeru mahou no sho)
“The Grimoire of Zero”
And with that it’s all over. Certainly not the most explosive of endings this week as Zero tied up the main conflict of warring man and witch, but enough to yield a satisfying ending with room for more if desired. Thirteen ended up surviving after all—wasn’t entirely clear if he would—Zero reclaimed her grimoire, and the land is cleansed of magic. Well, mostly. A little fast and convenient for my tastes—particularly the final “battle”—but that’s peanuts next to the ending. Zero has it in for the fur.
Particularly impressive for me even in these last few minutes was the details. Zero’s magic system was already unique for the thought put into it, but the remark about the entirety of magic being sponsored by a demon? Deliciously ironic for a high fantasy, and really begs the question just what Zero sacrificed to create magic in the first place. Sucks for the mercenary too with the merging of souls, but there’s no denying Zero will find a way to keep her end of the bargain. And then we have Thirteen actually being Zero’s older sibling—seriously, who could have guessed that? It easily explains a lot of Thirteen’s behaviour though, and shows his guardianship was more important than initially apparent. A funny time to reveal these answers, but cannot fault Zero for giving them all the same. After all, this adventure has only just begun.
Barring the tongue in cheek Re:Zero sequel jokes at the start, I always anticipated Zero being a typical fantasy. The show certainly did not deviate far from this assumption either, featuring magic, conspiracies, and the usual ensemble of character types (beasts, evil sorcerers, righteous magicians), but offering enough twists to stay above the fray. Zero for example could have easily been a –dere derivative, but turned into a carefree, plainspoken girl with just a touch of cute naivety. She and mercenary got along well, teased each other perfectly, and always featured some organic—and hilarious—chemistry. Witch arms held high with waited breath? Only the mercenary would know what to do with that. It was just a unabashedly fun relationship to watch play out, particularly once Zero came to learn how much the mercenary meant to her and how he had never abandoned her. Not the absolute best character development mind you, but more than enough to keep me coming back for more every week.
What primarily helped Zero retain its strength, however, was its story. In general the plot was nothing ground breaking—banishing magic and saving a soul from its unwanted body, Fullmetal Alchemist is that you?—but its structure ensured success. Zero’s story was almost entirely self-contained, we received all necessary answers, decent conclusions for all major characters, and enough plot threads for potential continuations. Greatly assisting in this regard too was the pacing. Barring a few debatable moments in the latter half, Zero never particularly sped through its material, maintaining a consistent pace which revealed things when ready, and most importantly, when the audience was primed for the answer. The result was a show which never felt boring, something was always happening, and we received enough time to mull developments over such that rushing was never a concern. For any show this is not an easy accomplishment, it’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of dragging things out past their time, or speeding through “superfluous” details in order to reach the good stuff. No matter the weaknesses of Zero’s story, the controlled speed of its delivery deserves some praise.
If I had to find fault with the show though, it would be in the world building. Not for the details (ex. the magic/sorcery system, Wenias’ political factions) of course—I loved them—but rather the missed opportunities. The Sorcerers of Zero felt underused at times, lacking certain details or fleshing out which would have better meshed with the moral grey tapestry the show was weaving. Thirteen’s true identity too missed out on hints being dropped earlier for fostering a better sense of conspiracy and shadowy scheming. When we got so much information on magic itself—not to mention the Zero/mercenary flashbacks and Sorena’s history—it felt strange leaving out these components when it would have helped greatly in adding to Zero’s depth. It’s hard criticising this too much, however, when noting we could have received less and with worse quality. Given how well the show worked with what it had, such complaints are relatively minor.
While Zero may not be the best fantasy show to appear of late, I’m quite happy I decided to cover it. Generic sure, playing it safe yes, but boring? Not once. Zero made Mondays fun to look forward to, and I will definitely miss watching our little witch amble around with her king-sized body pillow. Sometimes you just want a simple story to experience, and for me Zero provided that in spades. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of shows like this.