Familiar Of Zero Series 3: Rondo Of Princesses (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 296 minutes approx.
Okay who was it? Who asked for third season of Familiar Of Zero? Own up!
Whether we want it or not, the adventures of long-suffering Saito Hiraga and his tsundere mage boss Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière continue with more of the same fantasy and fan service hijinks.
Making up the actual plot part of this twelve episode outing, the series exercises some sense of continuity by bringing back the antagonist from the second adventure, the mysterious but dangerous Void Mage Sheffield. Unfortunately just like in its predecessors, this storyline is relegated into the background for the most part to explore the frivolous harem aspect of the set up which of course is of greater importance because boobs.
In fact this is exactly how the series opens, with Saito copping a feel of the much mocked non-existent cleavage of the foul tempered Louise, as they embrace to celebrate Saito’s return from the dead at the end of season two. Nothing like starting as you mean to go on. However this moment of passion is interrupted when it is noticed that the rune marks on Saito’s hand were fading, indicating that the contract between him and Louise that makes him her familiar, is at an end.
This only becomes a serious concern for Louise when Saito is knighted and the former inn server Siesta, who is in love with Saito, is made his personal maid. Siesta thinks this means she can now make a move on Saito, which angers Louise as she is in love with Saito herself but refuses to admit it, making her such an easily unlikeable character.
This tug of war over Saito’s affections takes precedence over the main issue of Sheffield’s attacks on Tristain Academy in search of another Void Mage (guess who that is) and is exacerbated when the woman who saved Saito’s life arrives at the academy, a top heavy (natch) half-elf half-human girl named Tiffania Westwood. Oh and she fancies Saito too because of course she does.
To be fair, Tiiffania’s arrival does bring with it a serious tone as she is forced to keep her Elvish appearance (i.e. her ears) hidden to prevent discrimination from the others as humans have always looked down of the Elves. This doesn’t quite go to plan when one snooty mage berates Tiffania for wearing a hat in her presence and not prostrating before her. Saito naturally steps in to stop this bullying and Tiffania eventually reveals her true self and wins over the other girls (the boys were already won over by her ample bosom).
However this is only fleeting and what could have been a fertile plot development to give the show such much needed credibility is concluded inside one episode. After more seemingly spurious ribald shenanigans we get the seeds of a bigger story when one of the lesser featured mages named Tabitha – the softly spoken one with glasses – is attacked by Sheffield the others rush to her rescue. But Sheffield has a powerful ally in her master Joseph, the current king of Gallia and Tabitha’s uncle.
True to form of this franchise the episodes focused on the main story are actually quite enjoyable and deliver on both drama and action. It is just a shame we are forced to sit through so much incongruous drivel to get to the good stuff. Even when an episode does has something of importance to share or offer some insight into a character to explain their backstory or motives, it is usually sandwiched in between some silliness involving Louise blowing Saito up over an innocent misunderstanding with another girl.
And even when the story does get going writer Nahoko Hasegawa and director Yū Kō – following the original light novel material from Noboru Yamaguchi – always bring it back to the tawdry side of things. An example of this comes when the group are trying to infiltrate the town of Al Hambra where Tabitha is being held and they disguise themselves as a travel theatre troupe. If you are thinking this involves the girls all wearing ridiculously revealing outfits then you know your anime.
Proving equally infuriating is Louise and her every changing attitude towards Saito, taking tsundere to a level of obnoxiousness hitherto unseen. Quite why the idiot should be in love with her when all she does is abuse him over the slightest thing then cries privately because she wants him so badly is a puzzle even Alan Turing couldn’t figure out. I defy anyone watching this (if you are brave enough) to not want Siesta or Tiffania to be Saito’s love interest over Louise.
This set also includes a bonus OVA entitled Seduction Beach which I am sure needs no further elucidation and whatever you are imaging from that tile you are almost certainly correct. This is a standalone affair with no ramifications to the central story but would have fit into the main series run anyway, since most of those episodes ignore the main story too!
Aside from the proliferation of new female characters to make Saito’s life with Louise and ongoing misery of misunderstandings and abuse this third animated instalment offer very little that is fresh or original. Granted the final chapter ends with a surprise development which leaves the door open (gulp) for a fourth season but all things considered, this is business as usual for returning viewers.
The frustration continues with Familiar Of Zero: Rondo Of Princesses spraying its potential to deliver a fun, action, fantasy comedy up the in favour of aiming at the lowest common denominator. It is not that the material is inherently bad per se, it is simply neither original nor largely congruent to the promising stories they are supposedly built around.
I am aware there is an audience for this kind of show and more power to them but if substance is what you seek chances of finding it here are, well, zero.
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black