Wands! Cloaks! A magic academy nestled in the mountains! Sound familiar? Yes, Harry Potter would most likely come to mind, but just take out the Voldemort aspect and replace it with a little ecchi fan service, a lot of romance, and a positive avalanche of cuteness. Zero no Tsukaima offers a playful jaunt into another world and casts a spell that will leave you very much charmed.
Louise, referred to as “The Zero” by classmates for her dreadful magical skills, accidentally summons a boy named Saito into her life. The out-of-place Japanese youth finds himself submerged in a completely different reality, where wizards reside in castles and boss around the peasants. Within this unique land (faintly modeled after pre-industrial Western Europe), Louise and Saito’s relationship builds with intensity and good pacing; daily quibbling turns into jealousy, blushes, and furtive glances, to eventually comprise a boiling cauldron of passion. At the same time, the duo confronts challenges of a whimsical yet problematic world, where thieves, revolutions, treachery, (bouncing boobs), and perverted men run amok. Both romantic and narrative elements are convincingly mixed into a lucid whole.
In many ways the story moves along like a Mozart work – and no, Zero no Tsukaima is NOT an attempted portrayal at classical music, but it’s the best metaphor I can think of. Like Mozart, the story is pleasant, linear, catchy, shallow, and light as a feather. It’s not mawkish or profound, and still for an unknowable reason, it benefits you to give it a try. Here is a plotline that promises nothing but gives you something sweet to digest, and in the end you find that surprisingly, your stomach feels satisfied.
Unlike Mozart, however, some of the progression in Zero no Tsukaima fails to make complete sense. Among the string of adventures that Louise and Saito undertake, a couple seem to have been pulled out of thin air, contrived in a hurry to squeeze everything into thirteen episodes. (I affectionately term these as “WTF” moments). Thankfully, such “WTF” zingers mellow out into engaging plot spurts that delicately tend to Louise and Saito’s blossoming romance. Although the viewer might not actively acknowledge the relational development, he or she can still “feel” the cauldron of love boiling closer to breaking point. Humor flickers in and out of the story like a faulty wandlight and draws strength more from the characters’ outrageous antics than from a clever script. While Zero no Tsukaima is certainly of lighter substance, you won’t be giggling every minute – though what it lacks in humor it fills in with total romantic kawaii-ness.
Light, faded colors, soft edges, and brief instances of visual beauty all reveal J.C.Staff’s characteristic style in Zero no Tsukaima. In many ways, the show cuts the image of Toradora!’s younger, cuter sister (though it does precede Toradora! by two years): It’s strikingly similar, not as developed, and more apt to escape parental scrutiny. Weaknesses exist: unsubtle color shading, overly simplistic character designs, and occasional lazy bouts with background movements; but the tone radiates such charm that they are easy to overlook. The important thing is that everyone looks adorable. Whether it be students, villains, animals, or adults, the animators carve each being into diminutive proportions that supply them with a distinctive doll-like impression. The main duo especially oozes with chibi-tastic delight.
The show boasts a relatively prestigious cast, including the “Queen of Tsundere” Rie Kugimiya as tough, soft, adorable Louise. Incidentally, she and Yui Horie claim main roles in Toradora! and execute them brilliantly (as Taiga and Kushieda, respectively), but here, their performances as Louise and Siesta fall rather flat in comparison. Both carry out their jobs sufficiently, as do the rest of the cast, but if you are accustomed to more involved voice acting with such seiyuu, the ones here will slightly disappoint. Satoshi Hino, however, impressed me with his endearing yet somehow sexy quality to Saito’s voice.
On the other side of the audio tape, Zero no Tsukaima equals if not surpasses her rival sibling in the soundtrack’s style, charm, and retention rate. The background music, while not particularly striking in and of itself, suits the circumstances and gives everything an added fantastical flair. What takes the cake is the closing theme, “The Real Feeling,” sung by Kugimiya herself and placing a capstone on Zero no Tsukaima’s utter cuteness.
Ever since I made the jibe of Zero no Tsukaima being Toradora!’s younger sister, I cannot stop paralleling the two. The perpetual comparison cannot become any more evident after one looks at the characterization of Louise: Wavy, curtain-like hair, eyes that slant downward, tsundere qualities – she is the predecessor to Aisaka Taiga from Toradora!. Actually, I take that back. Louise is the predecessor to Taiga, with the edges of her personality cut off. Indeed, the budding witch enjoys brandishing her whip, but compared to the “Palm Top Tiger,” she is nothing more than a pink-haired pygmy puff. She isn’t particularly mean to begin with, but as Cupid’s Arrow digs deeper into her exposed royal belly, she develops into a mostly helpless girly girl. While the show lavishes attention on her and Saito’s dynamic relationship, it sweeps the Louise as her own character under the rug.
Saito comes across as pleasant, brave, occasionally rash, and most importantly, a breath of fresh air. For once, we see a boy who actually deserves the interest of multiple girls. The females themselves, while entertaining, largely rut into stereotypes and fail to develop sufficiently: Siesta smiles and smiles, Tabitha burrows her head in a book from beginning to end, Montmorency enjoys a brief episode of glory, and Kirche appears and re-appears like an annoying wet dream (yes, wet dream). They all become nicer to each other, but that’s about it. In the end, Zero no Tsukaima decides to spend its limited time not on the individual characters but on tying them together to make the product stronger than it would have been otherwise.
The important thing to remember is that despite its weaknesses, Zero no Tsukaima avoids pretentious complexities and is capable of providing solid entertainment. It does not make for a particularly intellectual viewing, but in many ways that’s what is so refreshing about it. With all the similarities the show shares with Toradora!, it gave me something Toradora! did not: Some good old fun.
Story - 6
The story is set in a fantasy world reminscient of Harry Potter, but this story is a little different. It takes place in a wizardr school in a different planet. It starts off by introducing Louise Francoise de la Valleire, a wizard who can cast no spells successfully, earning her the nickname "Zero" from her classmates. One day, the class are asked to summon their familiars, who is to be their lifelong partners and servants and it is a chance for Louise to prove that she is a capable wizard. What she summons is a normal japanese boy, Saito Hiraga and thus the story begins.
Although, it is an interesting premise, I found that it isn't as nearly captivating as I expected it to be. The main character, Saito's aim is to return back to his world but eventually this changes throughout the story.
Animation - 5
The animation is mediocre at best and this hardly ever changes, even in the action and detailed scenes. It is plain and old and tries nothing new. Personally, I wasn't too bothered by this but I wasn't impressed with it either.
Sound - 6
Again, there is nothing wrong with the OST, it generally fits the atmosphere and works well but isn't too memorable. The opening isn't good as many of the other anime out there. I was very disappointed by the english dub, it was, frankly, terrible and I would recommend you steer clear of it.
Characters - 2
This is where my biggest problem lies. Saito is your typical harem/shounen character, brave, protective and never wanting to give up so nothing special there. Louise, however, is a horrible person. She is always constantly making demands and is highly egocentric, thinking that she can get whatever she wants, just because she is of the Valliere family, even though she can perfom zero magic. Her relationship with saito is strange. Now, I have no problem with tsunderes, but this girl makes her familiar (who is a human being), sleep on the floor, eat mouldy bread and "punishes" him by whipping him. That's not love, it's just downright abusive. Louise's flat chest and saito washing her panties is a constant gag throughout the series and it gets painfully stale after a while.
Overall - 4
It's not an anime I would recommend, unless, you love Harry Potter style fantasies but frankly, if you do, there are so many better anime you can watch.
If you do want to watch a decent magical fantasy, I recommend the magi series and fairy tail.
Louise is a student at a Harry Potter-like school for magic on a distant world. She is known as "Louise the Zero" because of her consistent failures in the magical arts. During one exam, she summons Hiragi Saito, an average Japanese student, as her familiar. This was a really enjoyable series, with classical tsundere-boy tensions, love triangles, political intrigue, and fantasy action-adventure.
Ok lets start out small.. I LOVED THIS ANIME!!
Now to the serious part about the review of this anime:
This quickly became one of my favorite animes of all time, in fact within the first couple of episodes I was hooked. The characters are all very charming, the world they come from is just full of adventure and fun, the animation is bright colorful and crisp. The character development is fairly paced. There is a wonderful blend of comic relief while at the same time having plenty of time for the serious parts of the storyline.
I could see how it could get a little annoying at times but I saw those times as hilarious. Main character does have a tendency to beat the other main character a lot with a riding crop. The sex symbol of the anime tends to go after the main character at every chance. Yes this is a harem anime. Now some might say only having 2 chicks is not a harem anime.. Well check out the other 2 seasons of this series and you will understand!
Season one is the only season that has a dual audio out there, this is actually one season that there is nothing wrong with the english dub. They actually did it quite well. This story has a lot of simularities with Slayers in the comedy aspect, but I think the characters were better developed in this series!! Definatly at least worth checking out the first couple eps to see what you think for yourself!!
First Tsundere I've ever watched and it really got me into Tsundere self, I would reccomend Tsundere lovers to watch this because its hilarious and it has some deep feelz aswell.