We’ve finally reached sixteen weeks of Memory Monday! I wouldn’t say this is a monumental achievement by any means because there are just so many anime to reminisce about, but it’s crazy to think that this has been going on for so long. Anyway, for those who have no idea what I’m talking about, you’re reading my weekly segment, Memory Monday, where I talk about an anime that has aired 4+ years ago. This is in no way a review, so don’t expect any excruciating detail about why or why not this series is worth watching. This list is mostly for nostalgic purposes, but for those who have never seen the show, it could serve as a gateway to sway you to check it out or not if you have the time to do so.
This week’s pick is Zero no Tsukaima.
There will be SPOILERS this week.
Number of seasons: 4
Number of episodes: 13, 12, 12, 12
Run Time: 24 minutes per episode
Personal rating: 5, 4, 4, 5
I cannot find any links for legal streams of Zero no Tsukaima. Sorry 🙁
I started to seriously watch anime about twelve years ago. By “serious” I mean that I started watching things that weren’t aired on Toonami or Adult Swim. I would actively search for new series that were airing or completed and try to watch them as quickly as possible to catch up to what I’d been missing up until then. It was around this time that I started getting into harem/ecchi and also found out about Kugumiya Rie.
I initially found her through one of her bigger debut roles as Uematsu Koboshi from Pita Ten, but what really made me remember her was her work as Alphonse Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist and then Shana in Shakugan no Shana. Her role in Zero no Tsukaima was just one of many very similar to it where she played a flat chested tsundere who eventually pined for the main character. In a sense, her work sets the precedent for the genre as well as a bar for what voice acting could be. Zero no Tsukaima was one of Kugimiya Rie’s bigger voice roles even though it wasn’t the most amazing anime. In addition, Zero no Tsukaima is one of the OG/premier harem/ecchi series in my mind. It’s mostly because it was one of the first series I had seen in this vein, but it was also one of the more successful ones even though critically, it falls short in many regards.
What it’s about:
Hiraga Saito is just a normal high schooler who’s walking around when suddenly he’s summoned to a magical world to both the surprise of him and the person who summoned him, Louise. At the school that Louise is attending, they have to summon a familiar to be their partner for the rest of their lives and Louise tried to summon the most amazing familiar to show that she is really not the worst mage in the academy. For her entire time at the academy, she’s had the reputation of being incompetent and only able to make things explode, giving her the name of “Louise the Zero.” So when she summons a human instead of a really cool familiar, she’s beyond frustrated and confused because it seems as if all she did was further perpetuate the belief that she is a failure of a mage especially compared to her very successful and talented sisters. As for Saito who was dragged to this unknown world against his will, he’s stuck in a perpetual state of confusion, not understanding what’s going on. His only choice is to try and find a way back home while helping his new master Louise, but little does he know that there’s more than meets the eye about both his and Louise’s powers.
Zero no Tsukaima is a harem/ecchi but actually preaches monogamy. It’s one of the few series that actually has a decisive ending where the main character chooses someone to stay with rather than just leave it to the imagination of the viewers. This doesn’t really stop the anime from taking every opportunity it can to tease the potential of other pairings even when the main character, Saito, begins dating Louise, but he never waivers in his affection and devotion for Louise. Unfortunately, Louise is easily jealous, hotheaded, and also a tsundere which is one of the worst and best combinations you could ever want in a romance. It’s the worst because every move you make that is for anybody but her, every second that you’re eyeing another girl, anytime you mention another girl, she’ll probably get mad at you which is exactly what Louise does. It’s also the best because that just shows how devoted the girl is to you, so as long as you show the same amount of devotion and affection back, you’ll have a great relationship.
Of course though, this being a harem/ecchi, they had to make sure that every girl got their own “potential” with Saito, but ultimately Saito still chooses to stay with Louise despite a pretty decent selection of girls who fall for him over the course of the series. The move to have Saito end up with Louise is one that I respect, but it just becomes annoying when they keep throwing girls at him throughout the rest of the series even after they get together because it just falls back into the same patterns that it used before and that just makes the series even more repetitive than it was before.
Half the series is SaIto and Louise getting into fights because Louise gets jealous, Saito gets mad that she’s overreacting, and then they both storm off and wait for the other person to apologize. Usually after they get into a fight with each other, something happens to one of the two of them (usually Louise) where the other has to go and save them. After that, they reconcile and then the cycle begins again later on. This formula becomes very stale even in the short span of the first season. It only makes it worse that they use the same formula each season without fail and it just gets more annoying and difficult to care. When they’re not fighting over something stupid, they might be getting closer to each other and being one step away from confessing their true feelings about each other (except in the fourth season because they actually get married and everything).
Even after they get married though, the same problem happens on repeat— “Saito stop eyeing those boobs.” “I’m not Louise, what are you saying?” “Shut up, you dumb dog!” “Who’s a dog, you washboard?” *Bicker* *Bicker* Louise then pulls out her wand and casts an explosive spell in his face. What I just described was essentially 90% of the series. Does it sound familiar? It should because that’s the basis of a lot of harem/ecchi. The main girl always feels insecure and possessive of the main guy who is just an oblivious fool who tries to be friends with everyone but really only has eyes for the main girl. Zero no Tsukaima might have come earlier in this genre’s life style, but as you can see, nothing has changed in the 10 years since it aired.
Magic vs Science:
One of the “cooler” things in the series was the unexpected battle of magic vs science. Because Saito was brought into their world, it goes that interdimensional travel is possible and that Saito was not necessarily the first to have been brought to their world. In fact, they even find a fighting jet from Saito’s world that nobody knows how to operate, but since Saito’s special power in that world, Gandalfr, gives him the ability to use any weapon that he touches, he can actually pilot it and use it to fight a plethora of threats such as armies and even dragons. If you’ve watched Gate, you know how cool it is to see modern technology combat mythical beasts, and Zero no Tsukaima was basically no different. The mixture of science and magic continues in the series as one of the teachers at the academy is trying to learn more about the technology from Saito’s world. If I remember correctly, to fly the jet, he had to help make some fuel which was pretty interesting entertaining to watch because it’s not like any common person (much less a student) understands how to make fuel.
There were several more crossovers between the modern world and the magic world that Saito fell into, but some of them just fell into the more ecchi side (ex: hot springs). Eventually, the wonder and amazement of the colliding of two worlds becomes weakened and uninteresting because it just becomes so second nature. Contrast this to a series like To aru Majutsu no Index where the entire premise of the series is based on the conflict between the worlds of Science and Magic and yet it always feels fresh. This can probably be attributed to the fact that the main focus of the series wasn’t necessarily a fight between the two worlds (although at one point it becomes close to that), but one of the big things about the series was Saito and Louise fighting side by side. Lousie turns out to be the void mage and Saito is already one of the strongest familiars since he can wield any technology he touches, so there should be a focus on Magic working with Science, but that cooperation is missing.
Mountains of Plot:
One thing that Zero no Tsukaima definitely never lacked was “plot” and by plot, I mean boobs. One draw of the series had to be the numerous voluptuous women in the series. When I say numerous, I really mean numerous. They were either busty or not, there was no in-between. To my memory, there were maybe two or three flat chests and then the rest were all just ridiculously huge for no reason. It basically reminds me of One Piece where you’re either busty or you’re a guy. These mountains of plot served as no more than a distraction from the flimsy plot it tried to go through and to rile up Louise who was really insecure about not only having zero talent, but zero breasts.
My main complaint here would be that the series just focused way too much on this aspect and withheld any opportunity for diversifying characters. Most characters had to be differentiated by extreme characteristics such as different skin color, race, or stature just so that the majority of the female cast could retain their unnecessarily large buxoms. It’s already difficult to respect a show for adding a ridiculous amount of breasts to a show just to get more viewers, but it’s harder to respect a show that does this for four seasons straight and showed no effort of changing its ways. Of course, if this type of brainless progression is what you want out of an anime, then Zero no Tsukaima might be up your alley.
Should you watch it?
The draw of Zero no Tsukaima when it came out was ironically that it was relatively unique. It basically breathed life into the harem/ecchi genre showing that shows that didn’t have an amazing plot could be just as successful as long as you tug on the heartstrings and emotions of people who just wanted risque shows without it going all the way. But it’s 10 years later now and the same formula that it used has been implemented over and over again in too many anime. At this point, if you’ve seen any harem/ecchi, you’ve basically seen them all.
The strength of Zero no Tsukaima was that it offered an obvious monogamous relationship and was actually successful enough to go on for four seasons. The only problem is that even if it went on for four seasons, if the content is basically always the same, it doesn’t get much better. Watching Zero no Tsukaima is basically a waste of time at this point, but if you’ve watched it before, then at least you can reminisce in how generic it was and just how static all the characters in the series were. To me, Zero no Tsukaima is one of the “pillars” of all the harem/ecchi series out there. It might be old and I doubt many people in the new generation of anime might remember it, but it was one of the biggest and successful harem/ecchi series to have aired. Even though I can’t really recommend it, I will commend it for being one of the big influences in its genre.