A world of magic. A classic creation of fiction that inspires all of us here in the mundane world to dream a little bigger. Sure, we can’t fling fireballs or whip windstorms out of an ornamental stick, but we can have some fun here and there. Still, it’d be pretty sweet to have that kind of awesome ability. It’s not like that could ever cause chaos in the world, especially when imbued upon high school students…you know what, I changed my mind. Combining hocus pocus and hormones may just be the worst idea ever.
Louise the Zero is back. Having survived her trying ordeals with the help of her unfortunate, yet amazingly skilled familiar Saito (the highschooler magically plucked from Earth), she has learnt…I’m not sure what. Ok, so in episode numero uno, Saito has managed to upgrade himself from sleeping on the floor, to sleeping in Louise’s bed (no, not in that way). Luckier still, Louise has also promised to stop calling Saito a dog and put away the riding crop she uses to whip him. If you haven’t seen the first season of this series, then that last sentence may make it seem like Louise is the aggressive type. If you have seen the series, please find the people that haven’t and tell them their assumptions are correct. Perhaps the most aggressive iteration of the tsundere archetype that I have ever seen, Louise also has the added “benefit” of being able to create explosions at will. Sure it showcases her lack of control with the magic arts, but I honestly don’t think anyone on the receiving end of her fury cares about finesse.
(PS That whole thing about Louise giving up the violence towards Saito lasts all of 5 minutes)
As most of her screentime is centred around the outwardly aggressive portion of her personality, Louise comes of as rather unlikeable for the most part. Look, I understand the character trope, but the violence is usually balanced out by some nicety here and there. Apart from a few fleeting moments of lucidity, all she does is injure Saito, then wonder why he doesn’t understand her feelings. Even an open declaration of his emotions aren’t enough to pierce through Louise’s intense jealousy, instead resulting in more explosions. Probably some whipping too. This series also really kicks up Siesta’s position as a rival love interest, with her more actively seeking out Saito. Given this, and Louise’s treatment of him, it’s hard to see why Saito wants to be with Louise. Sure they have their moments, but for the most part their relationship is just a chaotic sequence of jealous rants, especially after the introduction of the charming Julio, a sparkling bishounen with an eye for Louise (and every other female in the series). Look, for all I know you may find their loyalty to each other endearing, but to me the balance between humorous overreaction and tender affection was just off and came across as frustrating and annoying.
Leaping off this love/hate bandwagon for a multi-episode stint, we are given a new story through Agnes, a loyal servant of the Queen. The only survivor of a terrible massacre years ago, she has become a skilled warrior with a desire for revenge against those who razed her hometown to the ground. Though it felt a little out of place in a series such as this, I found Agnes quest to be the high point of this season and her the most interesting character to watch. The emotional conflict that she suffers in one particular episode marks the most memorable moment in twelve episodes. Unfortunately, once her mini epic is concluded, Agnes is immediately pushed out of focus and, for the most part, forgotten. This is also a problem that affects Kirche and Tabitha pretty severely, having received massively downgraded roles come this second season. In her first appearance, Kirche was a major romantic antagonist for Louise, attempting to seduce Saito with her…femininity. This time around, she turns up fleetingly to help out, before vanishing again for a large chunk of time. Not exactly what I would call an effective use of a previously introduced character, not that the newly introduced ones fare that much better.
As far as visual elements go, this series is one where design surpasses animation. Whilst characters possess their own unique style (if they qualify as main cast), the fluidity of their movement is less than stellar. This fact is highlighted by the action sequences which showcase the beginning of an action, but not the execution. So expect to see the beginning of a sword swing, then a guy on the ground. As one might expect, this severely dampens the flow of combat and drains most of the drama along with it. This tactic is taken up a notch in regards to the war being waged within the confines of the series, as near all of the climactic conflicts occur offscreen, far from the love life of Saito. This has the overall effect of rendering the entire battle surprisingly inconsequential, whilst also opening the doors for the “fighting is wrong” argument that so many characters voice. Speaking of voice, I’d also like to throw out a warning/notice that, despite what the DVD cover says, this series only features Japanese audio. Not that it provides bad vocals or anything, the labelling is just misleading.
At the end of the day, The Familiar of Zero: Knight of the Twin Moons is…something. Not quite a love story, not quite a wartime drama, not quite…anything really. Trying to pull itself in more directions than is needed, the series just winds up residing somewhere in the middle of it all. Ideas that are hinted at are never fully explored, and those that do receive a decent amount of attention are brushed aside on a whim. The series just feels so obsessed with keeping the status quo it established in the first season, that it’s to afraid to undergo any substantial evolution. It’s really not until the final episode that Saito and Louise share a decent amount of genuine time together and even that is undermined to an extent. Just as can be said for a hundred unfortunate series out there, The Familiar of Zero possesses an interesting premise, with a weak execution. Also get used to hearing “dog” used as a derogatory term, because it does get used…a lot.
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