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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Zero no Tsukaima (The Zero Familiar or "Zero's Familiar")

As a note from now on, I'll give my translation of the name and then write the licensed name in quotes. Zero no Tsukaima is another anime based on a manga. Yes, it's another shoujo anime, don't wail on me.

It's about a magic academy in an alternate universe. In this other world, people can use magic and all magicians are ranked on how many elements they can control. From this academy is a noble whose magical skills, or lack there of, have earned the title of Zero Louise. For Louise, it seems that whatever magic she attempts to cast ends up in smoke, or in this case an explosion. Having unable to successfully cast one spell, the nickname Zero Louise seems to have stuck. There's one problem however. To become a full-fledged magician, one must be able to summon a familiar as a rite of passage. Everyone worries of what atrocity Louise may summon and to her and the acadamy's dismay, or surprise, she summons a Japanese boy from Akihabara. Thus begins the tale of a witch with what appears to be no magical power whatsoever, and a reluctant boy that refuses to be Zero Louise's familiar and adapt to the other world.

Just from looking at it, the production values are very high. Characters are very defined and the conglomerate mass known as everyone else has a different face and what may be different personalities as well. You have your two protagonists and their supporting characters, but you can't really tell (or perhaps you can because they didn't assign a voice actor for everyone. Almost everyone had a separate voice though...) who they are until you begin to see them reappear. Animation is fluid, though I admit, after a while Louise's explosions seem to occasionally look half-assed. I don't blame them, after a while it does get boring.

The story is unique. While the basic outline is very typical, the major details change the plot very much. Yes, it does fall under that "Inuyasha" category, but you really have two plots brewing. Since there are two protagonists to this story, one would expect that one submits to the other but neither do, and so the main plot is broken up into
A. why Louise can't use magic and what is the purpose of her summoning Saito
B. How can Saito find a way back to his homeworld.
Then there's a third one in the background that involves the world.
The story's good, it gets repetitive at times it's interesting to see the reverse of what's usually the case.

Voice acting is solid. You have Rie Kugimiya (Shana from Shakugan no Shana, Nagi from Hayate no Gotoku, Kamyu from Utawareumono and Alphonse from Full Metal Alchemist)and Satoshi Hino (Yuuji Sakai from Shakugan no Shana) doing the protagonist's voices. The other actors are just as solid with their parts as the protagonists and you have a large variety of characters that gives the academy a better feeling in general.

The music while very good is something I have to object to. Shinkichi Mitsumune, the guy who did the music for Mahou Sensei Negima, also composed the music for Zero no Tsukaima. There's only been about a one year gap between both projects, but the moment you listen to Zero no Tsukaima's music, you hear it. Many progressions and melodies are very similar, if not some directly ripped from negima, and often I get the feeling as if Zero no Tsukaima is really the extended version of negima. Don't get me wrong, the music's great. He add that "regal" tone to the general premise but his uses of violins is very prominent.

The overall story progresses a bit slowly. It's great overall and there are somethings that kinda hit me in the face as I stared agape, but some of the individual episodes felt a bit like filler. Probably necessary filler, but filler nonetheless.

Great production values, decent-good storyline. Far beyond average however.

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